Utah dad Shaun McKnight talks about family's YouTube business success with Cute Girls Hairstyles
Fishtails, flip-unders and fly-aways.
Most dads have no idea what these terms mean, let alone how they relate to hairstyling. But one Utah dad, Shaun McKnight, has decided to make his five daughters' hair his business.
Rather than heading to an office every day, McKnight stays home with his family of five girls and one boy to manage the business and technical side of the family's YouTube channel, Cute Girls Hairstyles.
But what's unique about this dad is the connection he's made with his girls, which is obvious when watching his own special episodes, "Daddy 'Dos." Although his wife, Mindy McKnight usually runs the show, Shaun also has been in the spotlight demonstrating easy hairstyles for fellow dads.
Doing his girls' hair is something many viewers have enjoyed and requested, but it has also produced some fun moments for McKnight.
"I was doing the hair for them," McKnight said, "and my third daughter, she was sitting on the counter in the bathroom. And when I finished she kind of turned her head and looked in the three-way mirror in the back and she turned around and smiled and said, 'You do hair good for a boy.'"
The McKnights' hair tutorial YouTube channel hasn't always provided such living circumstances for his family. But what started out as placing photos in a photo album to filming hairstyles and uploading them to YouTube has become the family business for Shaun and Mindy McKnight.
"Mindy was taking pictures to remind herself, and she put them in a little album so she could remember in the morning, so she did that for her own help," Shawn McKnight said. "And then when the albums were getting kind of tattered and torn because the girls were flipping through them, she decided she was going to upload them onto a blog."
The blog of pictures gained several consistent viewers and grew in popularity. It was then that Shaun McKnight began to record the hair tutorials and place them on YouTube. Their presence on YouTube continued to grow, but it wasn't until September 2012 that the family's business, Cute Girls Hairstyles, had become so large that McKnight left his job in order to pursue the channel full time.
"Neither of us imagined that this would be happening, and even further from my mind was that it would become my full-time job," McKnight said. "With a family of six it wasn't a discussion easily made."
Many things factored into the family's decision, especially the amount of schooling and work McKnight had already completed for his current career.
"I'd been through college and graduate school," McKnight said. "I had a very nice position that a lot of people would consider a dream job. But it was getting hard to manage both my employment and this on the side."
So it was early last year when Shaun and Mindy realized they needed to capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"The point that we knew that this would be good enough was when we were losing more opportunities because we couldn't react fast enough because I was in a foreign country or on a conference call for work," McKnight said. "The point is that we were losing enough money to compensate for my salary."
But the change wasn't just about finances. McKnight made the switch from his 8-to-5 day-job lifestyle to join Mindy and his kids at home.
"The ability to work from home is something that everybody would love to do, and the jump to do that I thought would be easy, initially," McKnight said. "You know, I thought, 'Oh, I'll get to spend time going on field trips with the kids.' But it has been an adjustment going from wanting to take a break at work to talk shop and basketball around the water cooler, to helping change diapers and running carpools and talking to kids all day."
But for the past seven months McKnight has grown accustomed to the changes in his life while gaining even more respect for his wife Mindy and creating a stronger connection with his kids.
"I can tell you this much: There were times in the past where I thought, 'Oh, my wife has it easy. She's at home, kids are napping and she can get done what she needs to get done, while I'm preparing for this presentation plus a call with the board,'" McKnight said. "But being on this side of it now, I recognize that being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job on earth."
As for his patience with girls and doing hair, McKnight said it was nothing new.
"I grew up with three sisters and no brothers, I was kind of exposed early on with a house full of girls," McKnight said. "It's not news — the only thing that has remained constant is that I've gotten very little bathroom time my entire life."
In fact, McKnight admitted that sometimes he has even been the one on the lookout for new hairstyles.
"I was taking my daughter to the orthodontist last month and one of the assistants there had a version of a braid that my wife had done," McKnight said. "She had kind of embellished on it to make it her own and I thought it looked pretty good, so I thought that Mindy would appreciate it. So I asked her just out of the blue, 'Hey, can I take a picture of your hair?' She kind of looked at me really funny, so I said, 'My wife is a big hair blogger, and we've got a big Instagram and would like to Instagram this photo if you're OK with it.'"
"We take it a day at a time because we don't know where we are going to be," McKnight said. "Opportunities are coming from pretty much every direction. We're very careful on how we analyze them, and we take those decisions as a family. We feel very fortunate that we're in the position where we are at."
Because of the growth of the YouTube channel, McKnight also expressed that it became possible to add two additional children to his family.
"Adoption isn't cheap," McKnight said. "I did well at my previous job, but not enough to pay for two adoptions and a car and to be able to have all the kids and finish our basement. So I would say the first 2 1/2 years of everything we made, 100 percent of it went to what we call completing our family."
Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She is a communications major and editing minor from Brigham Young University.
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