Black entrepreneur wins trademark battle against fashion giant Mango

A BLACK entrepreneur has won a trademark battle against fashion giant Mango.

Catherine Boakye, 52, is the founder of Mangotree Kids, an African-themed drumming workshop and educational business resource dedicated to providing black children with positive representations of their heritage.

WINNER: Catherine Boakye recently won her trademark battle against retail giant Mango

Ms Boakye began the process of trademarking her company name and logo in August 2020, after the business grew substantially during lockdown.

But in December 2020, the fashion giant opposed her trademark application, which left the mother of two from Croydon, south London, no choice but to fight back.

Speaking to The Voiceshe said: “I couldn’t believe they had contested as our brands are worlds apart.

“Mine is about empowering our children about their culture and they are a fashion brand and I don’t crossover to their market.”

Ms Boakye admits she was initially “intimidated” because Mango is “a huge company”, but said her business has so many unique selling points, which helped her believe she had a case.

For the past 17 months, she has been in a trademark battle with the retail fashion giant.

Ms Boakye told The Voiceshe reached out to Mango through her lawyer on several occasions to come to an amicable agreement but they failed to respond to her.

She said in late 2021, the retail company’s legal representatives contacted her with their suggested terms, which Ms Boakye claims would have stopped her business from “growing.”

She said: “They wanted to limit me to doing traditional and cultural costumes, which is what I did, but the whole idea to trademark it was so I could grow the business and expand.”

In March this year, her trademark case was heard and on March 22, Ms Boakye was informed that she had won her case in its entirety and is now free to trademark her business and expand how she always envisioned.

“I decided not to settle and me winning means I am free to grow the brand however I want,” she added.

Ms Boakye’s African-themed birthday parties are growing in popularity

Ms Boakye revealed it The Voice she was tempted to agree with Mango’s terms and conditions but said decided to share her story on Instagram instead.

She said she was inundated with messages of support and prayers from the black community telling her not to give up.

She said: “The words of encouragement from the community and my family made me continue and I’m so grateful for all of their support.”

Ms Boakye is of Ghanaian heritage and decided to start her brand after noticing a lack of African-themed products for children in 2001.

She juggled raising her children with a demanding job at British Airways, which allowed her to travel around the world, and she would always bring back cultural items for her son to take to school.

When Ms Boakye established Mangotree Kids, her key target market was nurseries and schools because she wanted to “impact” children’s learning, by providing quality toys and educational resources – which allowed young black children to have a greater sense of pride in themselves.

But due to the pandemic and several nationwide lockdowns she had to quickly adapt to school and nursery closures.

For Ms Boakye, it was the first time she could dedicate all of her time to her business.

She said: “With the George Floyd death people started to look at what was important to them.

Ms Boakye plans to expand Mangotree Kids with a new clothing line

“I really believe there was a conscious awakening within our community, because the Black Pound organization came about and people just wanted to buy black.

“They were avidly seeking us out.”

“I noticed although I wasn’t getting the trade because the schools were closed, I was now reaching the people I really wanted to reach and that was the general public and the black community,” she added.

During the pandemic, Ms Boakye’s business grew rapidly and she knew she had to trademark her business in order to protect it going forward.

She said: “I started my company, Mangotree Kids, in 2001, and when I did my research Mango Kids started in 2008, so I was already ahead of them.

“My company was registered in 2001, but it was just trademark that wasn’t.”

Ms Boakye told The Voiceshe has spent 20 years building her business from scratch and was prepared to take on the fashion giant to secure her business and its legacy.

“For twenty years I have been running this business and it is like my third child, because I am so passionate about what I do and I really believe in it,” she said.

Ms Boakye wants her story to inspire other black entrepreneurs and small business owners to “believe in their businesses”.

She added: “You have to be courageous enough and have belief in what you are doing and make sure you trademark from the beginning.

“If you believe in your brand and find yourself in a situation like mine, don’t be intimidated by big names, fight it.”

Ms Boakye is now focused on the next phase of her business, which includes expanding her African-themed parties and creating a brand new clothing range.

The Voice has contacted Mango for comment.

For more information on Mangotree Kids visit: www.mangotreekids.com

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