Updated: Mar 10, 2020
By Kaitlyn Moore
I had the pleasure of speaking with the CEO and founder of CURLS, Mahisha Dellinger. CURLS is a leading, natural hair care brand that has an array of quality and eco-conscious hair products crafted to "provide effortless, frizz-free waves, curls, and kinks." With products on shelves in numerous retail stores, and a star-studded list of celebrity clientele including #HalleBerry, #AliciaKeys, #Nialong, #TiaMowry, Ashanti and more; CURLS products are a staple in many curly households worldwide.
Mahisha's dedication, determination, and altruism have led her to be a distinguished name in the natural care industry. She is highly sought after for her knowledge and expertise as a successful businesswoman. Her genuine passion for helping female-owned businesses, particularly those led by women of color, is remarkable. Mahisha is not just "a black girl making millions." She's impacting millions, and then some! Check out our chat where Mahisha shares the scoop about her purpose, entrepreneurial journey, and exciting new business ventures!
K: Tell us a little bit about the start of your brand, CURLS!
M: I started CURLS back in 2002 at the cusp of the new natural market when women were looking for options for their natural textured hair. Back then, our options were limited. We had perms, relaxers, and Jerry Curl products, but nothing for natural hair. So, being had perms, relaxers, and Jerry Curl products, but nothing for natural hair. So, being natural myself, I decided to create the product I needed.
K: How did you begin taking a dip in the natural hair care industry?
M: I was looking for natural products for myself, and I didn't find many choices for me. So, that's when I decided to explore the option of creating one for myself. I wasn't a hairdresser, but it was about me as the consumer, and being in the marketplace looking for products and not being able to find it. That made me say to myself, "Okay, how about I switch my gears. Let me figure it out, and learn how to make it on my own." But, before I did so, I did my due diligence and checked to see if there were others in the industry or market that would also benefit from a natural brand and didn't find many. And that's when I launched CURLS. I went and got a cosmetic chemist to do all the testing of the formulas, and the rest is history.
K: What has been a career highlight for you, since founding CURLS?
M: My definite number one highlight was the day I got a call that Target wanted to meet with me. When we sat down for conversation it was an amazing meeting, and in all of five minutes, they said they wanted all of the products I had presented to them and had to offer. I never had such an amazing and easy sale in my entire life. Everything has been an uphill battle, so having that instant win was fantastic and is what really propelled the business forward.
K: That's awesome! Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur or did that life sort of find you?
M: I never pursued entrepreneurship. The opportunity fell into my lap as a result of looking to create the brand and a product I was looking for. I was going to be a corporate America girl for my entire life. But you know, life shifts, and it shifted as I started to see opportunities unfold.
K: What would you say is your overall passion as a businesswoman?
M: For me, it's really about helping other brown women. Helping brown girls make it out of the hood and become successful is important to me. So, it's really about giving back to the youth, brown girls in particular. I'm not discriminating against others, but young brown girls have been disenfranchised for many, many reasons. My passion is in helping them leg up.
K: That's amazing and so inspiring! Speaking of your passion for helping brown girl bosses, tell us about your new show Mind Your Business with Mahisha on OWN TV!
M: My show, Mind Your Business With Mahisha just wrapped up season one in September. Through the show, I was able to help other black female business owners achieve success! They were all established businesses but needed help growing. So, after the ending of the first season with eight episodes, I created something that has brought life to the show. I created Black Girls Making Millions Academy. The Academy is doing what the show did but in just eight weeks! We're able to work with more than eight women. If you follow us on lnstagram, you'll see opportunities to get mentors and information regarding our events in June where people will actually have opportunities to grow, learn, and get funding for their businesses. The Academy will provide tons of tips. It's all about helping the black woman grow.
K: What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to start that business, but may not have the guts to start?
M: Well, I don't know what to say about someone who doesn't have the guts to start. It's either you have it, or you don't. So, I can't coach that person because you have to have that jump on your own. No one can tell you what to do, or how to do it. You're born with grit, perseverance, and determination, and it's not something that is coachable or teachable. What I can say about the person who has already taken that leap, is to make sure that you do your due diligence and make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Make sure you know your competition and the landscape of the business. You have to start small before you become visible to the masses. Take the time to do it organically, and don't bite off more than you can chew.
K: So, would you say success is more about what you know, rather than who you know and having connections in the industry?
M: The most important factor is having grit. I don't know if it's about connections because you make connections as you go. Those are always important to have, but the biggest piece to have is grit. Grit will take you places that talent and education alone won't take you. Grit is a combination of perseverance, passion, purpose, and determination. That is what's important. Because if you have grit, you'll go out, get connections, and make it happen above and beyond every obstacle.
K: What has been the best business decision you've ever made?
M: My best business decision was to expand and explore the retail landscape. I was initially fearful of doing so. The idea of placement in massive retail outlets wasn't something I thought about many years ago. I've been in retail for a while now, but that was something that I didn't think I ever wanted to do. It wasn't included in my business plan, but the retail landscape is a cash cow, so I'm glad that I changed my mind and did it. A lot of people get caught up in the business that sells directly to the consumer. For example, I have a website www.curls.biz. I can sell to the consumer for a full retail price. But, if you sell to Target, or someone else, they're not going to charge customers for the full price because they need to meet their margins. So, my mindset as a limited and brand new business owner was, "well I can get more money if I just keep it direct and I don't have to give a discount:' But no! When you sell on bundles and masses, with hundreds and thousands of units, you're going to get those units a hundred or a thousand times over! So, I was limited mentally in that aspect, and I'm glad I reconsidered it many, many years ago. It's all about being open-minded as an entrepreneur and seeing beyond what your limited mind may think. You have to be open to other possibilities.
K: What inspires you?
M: My children, hands down inspire me. They keep me motivated. They give me purpose and a reason to do this. They give me hope. The reason why I work so hard is to give them a different legacy and future.