I am Mahisha Dellinger, the Founder of CURLS Beauty Brands.
I founded CURLS back in 2002. I was a newly natural mother that was searching for a natural option for her curly hair. I set out to create a product for women and girls with natural curls, gentle enough to use on a newborn baby, yet effective enough to beautify natural wave curls and kinks.
Back then, the options for textured hair was extremely limited - it was either chemical relaxers and perms or Jheri curl and hair grease products, I didn’t want any of that. I worked closely with leading Cosmetic Chemists to develop my award-winning brand that helps to empower women to embrace their natural hair textures.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
While putting myself through college I juggled my course load with an internship in the IT Marketing department at Intel Corporation. Because of my willingness to roll up my sleeves and exceed the “job description” as an intern, I was quickly offered a temp position at the Fortune 500 computer software giant. While I learned so much at Intel about separating myself from the pack through the sheer excellence of your work and was able to hone the self-discipline I’d displayed as a young “latchkey” kid preparing my meals and getting myself back and forth to school each day, I also knew that I needed to own my destiny and became an entrepreneur.
It is important to have a mentor in your industry ASAP - you’ll be surprised how much easier decision making is when you have a soundboard to bounce ideas off and an experienced guide.
But once a planner, always a planner: the ever-practical mother side-hustled my idea for high quality, organic and vegan haircare brand that nurtured textured curls that were gentle enough for my daughter to use. By day, I more than fulfilled my obligations at the notoriously rigorous, competitive Intel. But in every other available hour, I met with cosmetic chemists, web developers, and R&D specialists who helped me define and refine my industry-first formulas. In the spring of 2002, I flipped the switch on Curls.biz, and an eCommerce business was born.
For the next six years, we added to the product lineup and expanded into the salon channel of distribution. I had tapped an unmet need; women of color were so eager to leave the harsh chemical relaxers behind and embrace their natural texture that CURLS Beauty Brands has never been in the red. When I was approached by Target to help the massive retailer address the new natural direction in ethnic hair, my company’s growth skyrocketed. And today, In addition to its substantial salon business, CURLS Beauty Brands – which now encompasses products for the entire family - is in every major retailer, from “big box” stores like Walmart to Bed, Bath & Beyond, and CVS.
Since launch, I have created an inspiring presence in the beauty industry. CURLS Beauty Brands has received multiple editorial accolades including an Allure Best of Beauty award, Essence Best in Black Beauty Award, and many more. Over the last 18 years, CURLS Beauty Brands has become a go-to hair brand for some of Hollywood's top celebrities including Halle Berry, Yara Shahidi, and Zendaya. An inspiration to women everywhere, from all walks of life and of every ethnicity.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Getting funding to launch my business, and a lack of access to the information and resources needed to be a successful entrepreneur was a challenge for me. Despite having exceptional personal credit, I could not get a business loan. I had to use my funds and started smaller than I’d hoped and grown the company organically over time. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I was able to launch the brand on a smaller scale and was able to fail fast before we were really visible and heavily invested. I now advise all of my mentees to do the same.
I faced other challenges too. The over saturated natural hair care space proved to become a bit problematic in 2015. We doubled down on educating our consumers on the benefits of clean products, and our unique ingredient story. That is when we also launched our Blissful Lengths Liquid Hair Vitamin. All of the other brands had pills and capsules and we disrupted the category by providing a vitamin with a 100% absorption rate vs. 20% from a pill or capsule.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Rich Dad Poor Dad ― the #1 personal finance book of all time―Robert Kiyosaki challenged and changed the way I thought about money.
Score.org – My number one resource for all entrepreneurs! They offer free business classes, mentors, and resources needed.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Create a path to success! This must include a robust marketing plan and a business plan. I always say, failing to plan is planning to fail. I can’t stress how important it is to be prepared. Bad things happen when you’re stretched too thin or don’t have the bandwidth to fit everything in.
Don’t go it alone.
It's very difficult to succeed without help, be it from your partner, family member, or someone you hire. I have had to outsource tasks enabling me to be productive, we have 2 housekeepers, we have a cook, we used to have a nanny to help me when the kids were younger, I have an Assistant to run my errands and shop for me. Out of all of my resources, my biggest help - my biggest ally is my husband John. Without him stepping up with the rearing of the kids during the critical launch period, CURLS would not be where it is today. Also, it is important to have a mentor in your industry ASAP - you’ll be surprised how much easier decision making is when you have a soundboard to bounce ideas off and an experienced guide.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are currently hiring for a Graphic Artist. Digital Marketing Manager, Web Developer, Social Media Manager, and Office Assistant.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:
- Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
- Step by step guides on how to start and grow
- Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
- And much more!
Are you ready to boost your revenue?
Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!
Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!