Even if you’re not familiar with Mahisha Dellinger, there is a strong possibility that you are very familiar with her brand, CURLS. Founded in California in 2002, the CURLS products can be found nationwide in Target, CVS, Sally’s Beauty Supply and Walmart. It has built a strong presence with not only salon retailers and boutiques but celebrities such as Alicia Keys, Halle Berry, Nia Long, Tia Mowry and Chili of TLC to name a few.
Mahisha Dellinger’s mantra is simple. Curly hair should be healthy, frizz-free, defined and effortlessly fabulous. Her Agenda was able to speak with her about her transition from the corporate world to being a full-blown entrepreneur, publishing her first book and breaking down the long lasting rivalry between natural and processed hair within the Black community.
Her Agenda: You went from a marketing manager at Intel Corp to a full-blown entrepreneur. What inspired the transition?
Mahisha Dellinger: It was 110% due to reaching the glass ceiling, being unable to crack it while dealing with my first experience with racism [in the workplace]. The manager said I was an underperformer, he said I wasn’t really delivering but I was giving it my heart, my soul, and everything. I was the first one in and the last one out. I participated in extracurricular activities for the corporation. I was being that great corporate citizen so after that 6-month plan to release me, I knew what the driving force was, I knew what I delivered, what I brought to the table and I knew that my value was there and he refused to see it. You can’t make someone value you who refuses to see your work. I decided that after giving that job, that corporation, that position, that manager my all and being all of disposed of, I said “I’m not going to do this again. This isn’t good for me.” I can’t survive like this. I’m going to work this hard for myself. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do, I wasn’t quite sure what my passion was. At the time, I was a newly natural mother so I didn’t have many options for this new texture of hair and that’s when I started to research and explore this world of curls.
Her Agenda: Curls was launched in 2002 when natural hair products were still fairly new. Now there’s a dozen of different brands. How do you separate yourself from your competitors?
Mahisha Dellinger: It’s always about being authentic to what your original purpose, mission, and vision are. No matter who comes and goes, you have to remember what your vision is for your company and stay true to that. It’s really about making sure I always deliver organic product. Always organic, always wholesome, always products that are needed, not just products that I think I should develop. It’s customer driven. I’m connected to the consumer because I am the consumer. It’s all about engaging and understanding her needs while delivering what she wants. And also innovating, bringing new items to the fourfold on a regular basis.
Her Agenda: There’s a long-standing rivalry between naturals and girls that still relax their hair. Individuals have their own definition of what natural means. What does it mean to you?
Mahisha Dellinger: There’s wide range but the natural world for me means that you can wear and rock a protective style like weave or extensions but it’s all about keeping your natural hair, natural. It’s about being chemical free. You can switch your style up and that remains natural in my eyes. I never understand why women receive flack for switching their style up. I went on ‘The Real’ recently and spoke to the girls about taking care of your hair while wearing these styles. So many women wear and talk about protective styles but no one tells you how to take care of your hair underneath.
Her Agenda: There are various hair types and even some people go through different curl patterns throughout their lifetime. How do you make sure your products appeal to such a mass audience?
Mahisha Dellinger: That’s so important because there’s no one approach in this industry so that’s why we have such a deep line of products. They come in four steps: Step one is cleanse, step two is condition, step three is moisturize and step four is style. We have a lot of options for that specific reason that not every girl has the same curl pattern.
Her Agenda: What have been some of the biggest challenges throughout your career as an entrepreneur?
Mahisha Dellinger: The biggest challenge would be keeping a balance. What is balance? How do we keep everything leveled? It’s a challenge when you’re a mother, a wife, and a business owner. That’s always been a struggle… to keep my priorities straight even though I know what they are. I keep God first, family second, business third. Do I always get that right? No. In the heat of business and moving full speed ahead, I have to remember there’s soccer practice Tuesday, Wednesday is gymnastics, all these things. All these things that come to the fold that I have to keep going and manage all these demands but it’s an amazing feat to do it all.
Her Agenda: You’re also an author! What was the inspiration behind your book, Against All Odds?
Mahisha Dellinger: I wrote that book not so much to make a lot of money but it was really all about putting my journey out there transparently for the young ladies I help through my nonprofit. It’s also for people that come from a lower socioeconomic background such as myself that have the aspiration to change their lives and need the motivation. I want to show them, no matter where you start, it doesn’t mean that’s where you have to end. I put it all out there. Every mistake I’ve made, every piece of my journey, some things that some people would be too embarrassed to talk about. I put it all out there for that reason—to solely help someone else.
Her Agenda: What’s something you want young women to learn from your life journey?
Mahisha Dellinger: The bottom line message is no matter where you start, you can always change your ending. That’s the key message. You have to have the determination, passion, the will to get through that and know that you can do it.
Her Agenda: What’s your life motto?
Mahisha Dellinger: You have two choices in the morning when you wake up: you can go back to sleep and dream your dreams or wake up and live your dreams. Which will you choose?