Curls Hair Care Creator Celebrates a Decade in Business

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Mahisha Dellinger, CURLS hair care founder and creator, has for the past ten years embraced the ethnic hair care market, running riglet's around her competition with her Curls brand product line.

Ms. Dellinger, the President and CEO of Curls hair care products, dedicated to addressing the needs of an ever growing Curly headed population includes Curls, the adult line, Curly Q’s for toddlers through teens, and It’s A Curl, a tear free infant hair care line.

Deliinger, a quiet philanthropist, also partners through the company’s charity with the America World Adoption Agency. She donates from her teen and infant line to newly adoptive parents and provides a resource to parents who adopt across racial lines.


A multi-ethnic mother of four, Dellinger took time from her busy schedule to talk about Curls, the challenges of running a global business and how she finds balance. 


Janet Walker:  Tell me about CURLS products and how they came about?

Mahisha Dellinger:  Ten years ago I launched Curls & Curly Q’s at the same time. Initially, it was going to be an adult line because I was a frustrated, unsatisfied consumer in the hair care market. I wasn’t able to find products completely for my hair type so I was doing a mixing and matching of brands trying to get the perfect curls. Some days would be great and some days it would be awful and I just never found the perfect mix for me. The ethnic aisles have heavy greasy synthetic products or relaxers and the other aisles have drying mousses and hairsprays also didn’t work for my hair.


So I was frustrated and decide to see if there were other options available. If there were other people like me that have the same challenges. So I did some research and found there was a viable market and decided to launch my own brand. So I started researching and found a cosmetic chemist that I’ve worked with closely to create my product and we settled on four, the basic four products that every curl needs: Shampoo, conditioner, a curl refresher and a styler.


During that time, I had been doing a lot of research with my R & D team, and we found the children’s population under eighteen was growing rapidly. So it made sense for me to launch a kid’s line as well. So in the midst of that [creating an adult line] I added the Curly Q’s line at the same time and that was ten years ago.


As the brand grew, I started to get lots of requests for a baby line.  We wanted to find a solution for babies because there are lots of curly babies so we launched It’s a Curl five years later. It was much later, after we wrapped around the first two brands, that we scored the baby line. So we launched It’s a Curl with the first three products, actually, the Peek-a-Boo Shampoo, Patty Cake Conditioner and Ring Around the Curlies Leave in Cream.  So now we have a full line, three full lines, adults, kids and babies. 


Janet Walker: Discuss what you find most challenging about running a global business and Why?

Mahisha Dellinger: Most Challenging. I would say working in a male; it’s not even global it’s just this industry; global or not working and operating a business as an African American lady in a Caucasian male dominated industry. And really, it’s an old boys club; lots of the companies are run by older white men, who don’t really understand ethnic hair care. If you look ethnic aisles you’ll see most of those brands that are created for women of color are not created by women of color. 


So that’s where I disconnected with Curls and other what I call New Generation or Next Generation hair care products. They’re created for women of color by women of color. So that was a challenge, as a young African American woman, we received lots of ‘No mam, No, thank you.” Now the turnaround came when Target launched their multi-ethnic category and they took a chance on all of us. Target saw the data and blew it out the water.  So now everyone is trying to copy and mimic the Target model.


        Janet Walker: So in ten years of business what’s your most memorable moment?

Mahisha Dellinger: In ten years I would say landing that first national campaign, the account which was Target. It was a huge win for us. The thing is it didn’t take us, I went in with this whole thirty minute presentation to pitch to Target and two minutes into the presentation she said, ‘I love it, I want it, it was done.’


I’ve never had such an incredible meeting and response to it. And another memorable moment was we had pitched to Sally’s which we had pitched a few times over the course of many years in business and they were our first choice and they called back and brought us in and back and repeatedly said no  and the buyer, another Caucasian older man, balding, asked why we didn’t pitch them earlier?  And I said, I did, you guys said no. His boss said shame on you should have got this early on. So Hindsight’s twenty/twenty. Now we’re nationwide in Sally’s also.


Janet Walker: Wow that’s amazing! How to you balance life, family and a bursting at the seams business?

Mahisha Dellinger:  Yes. It’s challenging. I do try, you hear in the background my little one, I try to manage to have as good as work life balance as I can. I typically work from my home office as opposed to the corporate office so I can be here.  So, I’m working here and can stop in the middle and play and go back to work it and play and it makes my day longer but it makes me feel better and gives more time for my children. So it really is a challenge. I tend to work in segments during the day but then I also have to work later at night when they’re sleeping so I can have more time.  So, it’s what you have to do to make it work from home with my kids able to engage my baby when she wants me and pick her up and hang with her and do lunch and that kind of thing. So it really is just balancing all of it and make time where I can.


       Janet Walker:  What would you like the world to know about your brand, your business and yourself?

Mahisha Dellinger: Our brand, that CURLS was created because we understand the consumer and we created a solution for them.  It’s important they know we get them, we understand them. We love our consumer. We‘re agile and respond quickly and I’m just like them; I am the consumer, I am just as invested in their beauty as they are.


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