By Maressa Brown May 20, 2020
Mahisha Dellinger just celebrated the 18th anniversary of launching her wildly successful hair care brand Curls. Here, she offers words of wisdom for anyone who wants to go into business for themselves.
Eighteen years ago, Mahisha Dellinger launched Curls, a natural hair care line, from her garage. Today, the multimillion-dollar hair care line is available at Target, Walmart, and CVS, among other major retailers.
After leaving her job in tech, Dellinger reflected on how she could “truly own” her financial freedom and considered what it might be like if she became her own boss.
That’s when the now CEO and mom of four—to Kiana, 25, Bryce, 16, Isabella, 14, and Kennedy, 9—began to think about entrepreneurship and realized it was time to strike out on her own. She associated the move with not just freedom but hard work motivated by following her heart.
While away on vacation with her then fiancé, now husband, Dellinger recalls taking out a napkin. “We jotted some ideas down, and one of them was hair care,” she notes. “I was a mother looking for products for me and my baby girl’s natural curls.” The next step: zeroing in on the concept and beginning research. “I found it was a definitely a profitable market and an opportunity that was sustainable,” explains Dellinger. Nine months later, Curls was born. “When I couldn’t find a solution, I created it,” she says.
Now, Dellinger is an award-winning entrepreneur and philanthropist. She shares her tips and strategies for following your dreams and succeeding in business.
Be Prepared to Juggle
Although it might feel like you’ll need to devote every last minute to a growing a business, it rarely works out that way—especially as a parent.
When Dellinger started working on Curls, she had a day job with a pharmaceutical company. “Pfizer gave me the flexibility to actually grow the business,” recalls Dellinger. “It was just really a balancing act of priorities and trying to figure it out. You know, stop at five for dinner with kids and bath time, then once the kids went to sleep, I would work more through the evening.”
And proving just how much she could juggle, it was also during this near four-year period that Dellinger welcomed Bryce and Isabella just 14 months apart.
Invest In Yourself
Dellinger put her personal savings toward Curls. “Despite having great personal credit, getting a small business loan was a challenge,” she recalls. “So I used $40,000 of my own personal savings and launched.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs who might not have extra cash on hand, the Curls founder and CEO recommends raising money through a crowdfunding site like GoFundMe. “People like to support startups they believe in,” she observes.
Focus On Saving vs. Making Money
Becoming a millionaire isn’t really about how much many you make, notes Dellinger. “It is all about how much money you retain,” she advises.
Saving means spending conservatively and making tough calls. For the Curls CEO, that meant choosing between having a wedding, buying a house, or starting the business. “I chose, obviously, to start the business,” she explains. “I didn’t have a wedding until two years ago. We had our vow renewal. It was so amazing.”
Talk About Money With Your Kids
For Dellinger, modeling and teaching fiscal responsibility to her children is paramount.
To that end, Dellinger encourages other parents to learn about their financial habits and philosophies. “The onus to educate ourselves and learn what we can do,” she says. “And if it just starts with reading a book, like Rich Dad, Poor Dad, that alone can shift your mindset and help you save and think about money differently, how every single purchase we make matters.”
Then, parents can pass these valuable tools and knowledge onto their kids. “We have to teach them by doing,” she advises. “Give your kids an allowance and a bank account to learn how to save, what percent to spend, and also how to give a piece of earnings to a charity of their choice and/or church. The principle of giving is important.”
Tune Into Your Heart—and Others’ Needs
When it comes to pinpointing your best path to a winning business, you’ll do well to follow your heart and think about others, according to Dellinger. Her guiding principle for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Follow your passion and solve a need.”
In turn, you’ll enjoy the benefits of steering your own unique course. “Entrepreneurship has given me the freedom to be the best mother I can be,” says Dellinger. “I feel relieved to be not just my own boss but the controller of my destiny.”