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Were the CWK Straight Plates a Scam?

Avatar • Nov 10, 2014

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We’ve written before about the CWK Straight Plates, a very promising invention that claimed to straighten natural hair without heat. A Kickstarter was started to fund the project and raised $24,000, far more than its initial $8,000 goal. However, the inventor, Kelechi Brand, has confirmed that she is refunding all project backers and that the CWK Straight Plates will not go into production. Jc has been following this incident and provides an update, re-posted from The Natural Haven Bloom.

Some of you have written to me about the CWK plates latest email. I am also a backer of the project so I did receive it too. In short Kelechi Bradley (the inventor) has confirmed that she will be refunding all backers and production and sale of the plates is not happening. This is related to someone contacting her advising that they have patented a similar product earlier.

I have read your concerns about the CWK Straight Plates. Specific questions that you asked included

1. Why were contradictory details being given out?
In CWK update 17 on July 16 2014, the moulds (molds) were reported as done and sample plates were produced. However, a few weeks later in CWK Update 21 on August 23 2014, the information was that the prototype mould needed to be modified and further testing would be necessary

Images of CWK Straight Plates — from Update 17/18

 
 2. Why were shipping details requested if the plates were not fully tested, made and ready for shipping?
Shipping details for investors to claim their rewards were requested by CWK on August 6 2014, and remained even after the August 23 update where information about the mould issues was given. Why ask for shipping details if the plates were not ready for shipping?

3. Why was the CWK shop still operational as late as Oct 22 2014 with the ability for potential customers to purchase items?
CWK Update 24 on Oct 22 stated that due to someone else claiming to have a patent on a device similar to the CWK straight plates, the production would be stopped. However the website CWKgirls.com had a live shop with the ability to purchase items.

The story
I have tried my level best to get Kelechi Bradley, the inventor of the CWK straight plates, on record to answer these questions but she has not responded to any of my requests for an interview. She did however respond to the email where I told her that the shop was still operational and that she needed to urgently close it. Her email stated that it would be closed over the weekend (ending Sunday Oct 26). I was then alerted to the fact that the shop was still operational on Tuesday the 28th by a blog reader and I wrote again to Kelechi about her shop remaining open when there was no chance of anyone getting a product. At that point I felt obligated to inform my readers that she may be running a scam after all. After this email, the shop was finally disabled with Kelechi giving me assurances that she is processing refunds and over 150 have been done (there are 529 backers in total for the Kickstarter, plus others on her own website).

So was it a scam?
I am on the fence. I  can see why certain decisions and lack of action can give it the appearance of a scam but I really do want to give Kelechi the benefit of the doubt as she has promised full refunds for every backer. Indeed if we all get refunds, it cannot be a scam as we all got our money back!

I think the project has suffered badly reputation wise because of a lack of experience in manufacturing, business, law and PR e.g

1. In manufacturing, it is common to have a working prototype that does not do well as a finished product. The updates should have clearly indicated that the products were in a test phase rather than reflect excitement that a product is near completion.

2. Shipping details should never have been requested until products were in hand. For a customer, requesting shipping details means that the product is ready to be sent. It was not the case in this instance as mould testing was not complete and it is just bad business to dangle carrots in the form of ‘Give us your address, we are ready to ship.’

3. Backers were never made aware of patent issues until the final email. If you are not a backer, the information is that someone else has produced a patent application number which was filed two or so months before Kelechi’s own application. This patent is said to relate to:

‘a device for the treatment of a tress of hair including two plates containing multiple apertures, joined on one side by a spine and secured by plurality of interlocking tines containing grooves with the function of providing an adjustable hold on a tress of hair, so as to allow wet hair to dry in an elongated state when held between two plates’

 
I think there is reasonable cause for the CWK team to want to see this patent in full. It is not clear if this has been done. A search of the US patents office does not bring up this patent (you can search by patent application date or wording) and therefore there is reason to doubt whether the patent exists. The terms and date of filing of Kelechi’s own patent have not been made public so once more, nothing more to go on.

4. Nothing has been done to stem the bad PR- there are active discussions about how the idea was stolen (here) or indeed how the whole project was a scam (LHCF, Lipstick Alley). Right now, a great idea would be start conducting interviews and answering questions frankly so that  the team at CWK Straight Plates put out their side of the story instead of letting wild statements run free and unabated.

I do truly hope that Kelechi and her team begin to take action as I maintain that this innovation has great potential. I certainly would like to see it get to market. I don’t want this to be another hair product / tool scam. I want the lessons to be learned and for the whole team to just do better! I’ll let you know when I get my refund!

What is your view — scam or no scam?

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About The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

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April
April
5 years ago

It’s not a scam. I wasn’t a backer, but I believe that maybe she didn’t do enough research on a similar product already being on the market. But if the other patent was filed for before hers, then there might not have been advertising about the product for her to know. I’m not sure but I wish her good luck in the future. I hope everyone is patient, who knows who is helping her to refund the money and disable this business venture. This seems like an honest effort that was just thwarted by the things that normally happen in… Read more »

Jc
Jc
5 years ago
Reply to  April

April, I do truly hope that this is the case. As a backer, I have no other option but to wait. I definitely hope to report some positive news!

fjkel
fjkel
5 years ago

Goodness, NJoy is the most annoying poster I’ve ever came across on these hair blogs, thank Kanye she was kicked off of LHCF-can’t believe a word she says. Back to the subject,if no patent can be found on the accuser,what’s the issue? Obviously it seems that its either expired or they lied. An expert in patent law needs to go over this case, something isn’t clean. And Gosh darn-it I want some straightening plates! This article is really unfair too. 1. You’re not an expert on the issue it seems (patents and all that jazz) and 2. You should wait… Read more »

Jc
Jc
5 years ago
Reply to  fjkel

I sometimes wonder whether we are reading the same article? I think you mistake objectivity with negativity. I am not going to write an article with a positive spin when critical questions are being asked and not answered. I present all sides of the argument, positive and negative. I am not going to ever blindly support anyone. These are the facts 1. I supported the CWK plates kickstarter on my blog with 2 separate articles. I was the first blog to publicise the kickstarter. No one asked me to, I liked the idea! 2. I personally put money into the… Read more »

Mai
Mai
5 years ago

I personally don’t think it was a scam…but, I do think that she has horrible business acumen. The lack of business plan, contradictory information, lack of and poor communication between her and her backers, and poor promo video. She also ended up getting a lot money, and it seemed like she just didn’t know what to do with it. Also as someone who works in tagging and metadata, it was very hard to find her website. I remember I would type in “cwk plates,” and her website never came up, and it should’ve have been the first result. I had… Read more »

Natural Coco
Natural Coco
5 years ago

I had this very same idea not 3 years ago. I did a patent search and yes, the patent office does have an application/patent for a very similar product.

Lu
Lu
5 years ago

Scam or no scam, we as naturalistas need to stop the ongoing pursuit of trying to make our hair do things it was not naturally designed to do. It is as if we are the modern day Ponce de Leon in search of the fountain of youth; instead, we turn to devices and mechanisms and methods that give us the illusion we desire. Stop looking for options/alternatives/fixes. Love what you have as it is and you will never be scammed. *Public Enemy voice: Don’t believe the hype!

ohhh
ohhh
5 years ago

It wasn’t a scam. It simply FAILED. That’s it. In entrepreneurship there are a lot of successes but a lot more failure. No one has to imply that she was trying to steal money. She just failed at this project. Also this was a “crowdfunder” on Kickstarter. You’re suppose to go in with the mentality that you are helping people fulfill a dream rather than just purchasing something. With that said, if you backed this project Kickstarter terms and agreements makes it very clear that if the project creator cannot deliver the reward then you are entitled to your money… Read more »

Chelley
Chelley
5 years ago

If it were a “scam” she wouldn’t be giving supporters their money back. You’re sensationalizing this by using the word “scam” in the article’s title. Shame on you.

Cherish Bomb
5 years ago

I agree with the above posters. This article is completely unfair. All I’m reading is a woman attempted to start her own business and was forced to stop just before she launched due to legal issues. How is it a scam if she is refunding money to supporters? Has anyone come forward to say they haven’t received their refund? No one has been cheated or swindled, according to the information provided. This article is nothing more than an attempt to stir up negative publicity by a seemingly disgruntled customer. BGLH is better than this.

http://www.2kinkyladies.wordpress.com

Fruttipebbles
Fruttipebbles
5 years ago

So glad I didn’t back these. I tried getting more info from the creator and she all but gave me the runaround. If people don’t get their refunds they can band together on a lawsuit but I would hope it wouldn’t come to that. I hope someone is able to eventually make these for us naturals, personally it would be a great help.

Lady Aradia
Lady Aradia
5 years ago

I could not find another patent for this that was not expired. I found one patent for a similar staightening plate that was long expired. If someone HAS a patent, would they please come forward. But I did hear accusations that another patent existed. I just see no actual evidence of it.

It can not be a scam if the inventor is agreeing to refund everyone due to this controversy.

Helen
Helen
5 years ago

I don’t think it was a scam — the fact that people are getting refunds at all is proof enough for me. I’m sad it didn’t work out as I am all for black women succeeding and I did back the project (although I doubt I would have used the plates more than once) and I hope that if she does decide to retool the plates and rerelease them it works out for her. I also agree with fjkel that this article is unfair.

Helen
Helen
5 years ago
Reply to  Helen

Additionally, the creator’s name is Kelechi Bradley, not Kelechi Brand.

Asjia
Asjia
5 years ago

It’s not a scam. It was just unfortunately not successful the first time around. I was a backer too and I DID get my money back. She sent the same emails out to all the backers with a set of transactions for Amazon to refund. Those emails are the same as the emails sent to Amazon. Amazon is taking their sweet time refunding everyone. Be patient is all I can say. Your money will be refunded like mine did.

Lo
Lo
5 years ago

I’m not going to assume it was a scam but I’m very curious as to why people are confident that it is not based on a statement from the creator that the money will be returned. A person can tell you they’ll do plenty of things and never do them. especially after the creator made a stated that the store would be closed on a specified date and it didn’t. And I don’t see how she’d get the full $24,000 refunded to 5oo+ people if her business obviously failed. I don’t know if anyone has ever been scamed before but… Read more »

Jasmine Armstrong
Jasmine Armstrong
5 years ago

It was definitely a scam the creator is selling the same product again under a different name and not responding to people who are still waiting for their refunds.

Astrid
Astrid
5 years ago

Wait, there are still people who were never refunded?

Traci
Traci
3 years ago

It is a scam. I recently “Ordered” online. If I had read this article prior I would not have. I am not receiving responses nor have I received my product. They took my money. It is a scam. That site is up, functional, and readily taking people’s money.

Roz
Roz
3 years ago

Buyers beware as it is a scam. I recently order the SSS Starter set/plates a month ago and haven’t received them or a response to numerous emails sent. If you post/comment on the Instagram to alert potential customers of the scam/fraud they will delete your post/warning. Hope this will assist any potential buyer in realizing she (Kelechi Bradley) is a crook.

co
co
3 years ago
Reply to  Roz

I should have research more about this company before ordered.. I ordered on November and haven’t received anything and I saw that many other girls are in the same situation because of some comments under their instagram posts. I didn’t suspect anything because their instagram account is very active and they post pictures of customers using their plates very often. Do you have an idea of what can I do to get a refund? They don’t respond to my emails, private message nor my comments.

Shanell
Shanell
3 years ago

Its a scam. I’m disputing my charges on my card. This lady is pathetic.

Shameka Brown
Shameka Brown
3 years ago

I ordered my plates in September and still have not received anything. Like the rest of you gals I have emailed, text and called with no resolution. I have disputed it with my bank and unfortunately they cant help because it doesnt seem as if the company exist. At this point I SAY WE CONTACT THE AUTHORITIES either in Houstin or Atlanta and file a report of theif. If enough of us do it then we can get this scammer stopped. Also, ladies please continue to warn others on Instagram, even if they delete it.…screen shot and use for evidence.… Read more »

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