A lot of great things happened in 1907 – the 11th annual Boston Marathon was won by Canadian Thomas Longboat, the first automatic washer and dryer were introduced, digging began for the Panama Canal, and the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (Big Four) was formed with the Hamilton Tigers, Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Rough Riders and Montreal Foot Ball. But 1907 was also a great year for hair care.
In the town of Nacogdoches, Texas, a local barber by the name of J.L. Needham created a new hair tonic. The tonic, which he formulated and bottled himself, was sold under the name MAHDEEN – a reversal of his own last name Needham.
A photographer friend designed the label – ensuring it sported the image of an attractive girl with long dark hair (his daughter) to make the product as enticing as possible. The hair tonic became so popular that shortly after its launch; Needham added a shampoo to the line.
As the years passed, it became apparent to Needham that, in order to expand his share of the market across America, he would require an investing partner.
In 1913, a dynamic travelling salesman by the name of Frank S. Aikman – a Brooklyn, New York native – began making regular visits to Nacogdoches, where he stayed at the Banita Hotel. The hotel’s proprietor introduced him to the MAHDEEN products, explaining that J.L. Needham was looking for a partner.
Aikman seized the opportunity and purchased a controlling interest in the company, and shortly after Mr. Aikman’s partnership, the product labels were changed to reflect a more commercial product image.
By 1918, the year of J.L. Needham’s death, MAHDEEN Hair Tonic and Shampoo had gained national prominence – having a reputation for being sold at only the best barber shops - and had also made Frank S. Aikman one of the wealthiest men in Nacogdoches. In fact, Mr. Aikman became Steven F. Austin State
University’s (SFA) first great benefactor – giving a whopping $12,000 in 1924 ($153,000 USD in today’s economy) to build a gymnasium – and followed by subsequent donations totalling $25,000 over the next few years.
From 1918 to 1964, MAHDEEN hair tonic and shampoo continued to maintain its status as a leading national haircare product line, gaining a strong foothold in the emerging beauty parlour industry and, most surprisingly, doing it with only the original two products and in tandem with other major national brand competitors recognized today such as John Frieda and Redken - both of which gained strong market positions in the 60’s.
In 1964, Owen Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company with a specialization in dermatological solutions, purchased the MAHDEEN brand. Their new Med-Dan Dandruff Treatment Shampoo gave MAHDEEN a boost to the position of industry leader and made them an attractive acquisition for Alcon in 1972, creating further line extension opportunities.
In 1990, two ex-Alcon employees purchased MAHDEEN and the business was split between the US and Canada, with Canadian operations headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario and using all Canadian talent to produce and promote the products.
In February, 2011 MAHDEEN was purchased by a group of Canadians with a diverse range of backgrounds that enable this new management team to manufacture, produce and promote MAHDEEN with a successful new spin on these storied products and brand. Terry Shannon brings over 25 years of experience with one of the most successful professional hair care lines in Canada. His wife, Lisa Shannon offers 12 years of experience working as part of Canada’s flagship distributor for the same brand. Bob Shea, majority owner of Digital Edge Services Inc – a Mississauga Ontario based digital printing facility, offers over 25 years of print and packaging expertise and Jason Farmer, has more than fifteen years of experience in the print and graphic design industry – bringing the cycle of product development full circle.
Today MAHDEEN not only provides leading quality products to salons across Canada, but also endeavours to make a difference to the local communities they serve. The philanthropic partnerships they develop grow out of a recognized need that resonates with MAHDEEN’s owners and they strive to make a difference through donations of time, funding and expertise. In particular, the group wants to help children and adolescents develop into contributing members of society through mentoring and providing learning opportunities – both inside the salon and out. They accomplish this by partnering with established organizations that assist families who are unable to support there own children because of their circumstances. The objective is to give these kids the opportunity to develop their abilities - whether in the arts, academically, or athletically – opportunities that would not otherwise be available.
The good MAHDEEN hopes to do doesn’t stop there, however. With the simple addition of a positive, thought-provoking statement added to each individual product bottle or container, MAHDEEN strives to have a positive impact on anyone who uses their products each day.
Maintaining a clear environmental-impact strategy is part of MAHDEEN’s corporate mandate and they strive to manufacture, produce, package and sell their products in an environmentally conscious way. Each of MAHDEEN’s products is packaged in biodegradable or recyclable containers, and the ingredients used in their product formulations stay on the leading edge of breakthrough research and address the latest hair care concerns – such as reformulating their products to be sulphate and paraben free. MAHDEEN is proud to be as green as they can be.
The future of MAHDEEN is bright, but it’s also come full circle. As the new owners strive to make MAHDEEN a positive place to work and a leading product line to use and promote, they appreciate more than ever the brilliance of J.L. Needham’s original philosophy – that keeping things simple is the best strategy for success.