“Choose wisely.” With Candice Georgiadis & Mahisha Dellinger

In the grand scheme of trying to have it all, we often put ourselves on the back burner. It is crucial that you take care of you. How can you work out when you don’t have enough time with your kids? How can you take a bubble bath when you need to make a presentation? Realize now […]

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In the grand scheme of trying to have it all, we often put ourselves on the back burner. It is crucial that you take care of you. How can you work out when you don’t have enough time with your kids? How can you take a bubble bath when you need to make a presentation? Realize now that there will never be enough time in the day to get everything done. Your in-box will still be there. Make the “main thing(s)” the MAIN thing(s)…for me it is God first, Family second, business third.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Mahisha Dellinger. Mahisha is the founder and CEO of CURLS Beauty Brands, one of the foremost black hair care brands in North America, author of the memoir “Against All Odds: From the Projects to the Penthouse” and star of “Mind Your Business with Mahisha” on the OWN network. While putting herself through college at California State University Sacramento, Dellinger juggled her course load with an internship in the IT Marketing department at Intel Corporation. Because of her willingness to roll up her sleeves and exceed her “job description” as an intern, Dellinger was quickly offered a temp position at the Fortune 500 computer software giant. While Dellinger learned so much at Intel about separating yourself from the pack through the sheer excellence of your work,, and was able to hone the self-discipline she’d displayed as a young “latchkey” kid preparing her own meals and getting herself back and forth to school each day, she also knew that she needed to own her destiny and became an entrepreneur.

But once a planner, always a planner: the ever-practical Dellinger, by now a mother herself, side-hustled her idea for a high quality, organic and vegan hair care brand that nurtured textured curls that was gentle enough for her daughter to use. By day, she more than fulfilled her obligations at the notoriously rigorous, competitive Intel. But in every other available hour, she met with cosmetic chemists, web developers and R&D specialists who helped her define and refine her industry-first formulas. In the spring of 2002, she flipped the switch on Curls.biz, and an ecommerce business was born.

For the next six years, Dellinger and her team added to the product lineup, and expanded into the salon channel of distribution. Clearly, she 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 literally never been in the red. When Dellinger was approached by Target to help the massive retailer address the new natural direction in ethnic hair, her 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. Dellinger is also frequently tapped as a keynote speaker at various industry conferences around the country.


Thank you so much for joining us MahishaCan you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was working as a Marketing Manager at Intel. My horrific experience in Corporate America gave me the desire to launch out on my own and create a destiny that I would be proud of…a legacy that would propel my children and their children, forward. I founded CURLS back in 2002. I was a newly natural mother that was searching for a natural option for her curly hair. Back then, the options for textured hair was extremely limited, synthetic and not safe. I worked closely with a leading Cosmetic Chemist to develop CURLS…and the rest is history.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when you first started your company? What lesson did you learn from that?

As a young, African American woman, getting a small business loan was next to impossible, despite having exceptional personal credit. I decided to fund the business from my personal savings account, so we launched on a much smaller scale. In hindsight, I realize this was a better path for the brand. I took every penny earned from CURLS and reinvested it back into the company. The company grew, organically over time, which was best for the company.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

Hands down, I know, without a doubt that my GRIT, DETERMINATION and PERSEVERANCE led to my success. I have a pretty strong will to get it down. My motto was “not if, BUT when!”

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Your self esteem will take a beating, a few times.
  2. Like Flight Attendants suggest, take care of you, FIRST!
  3. Mental health is almost more important than physical health, to survive this journey
  4. Never, EVER get comfortable in your success.
  5. Your first hire will be your most important hire. Choose wisely

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

In the grand scheme of trying to have it all, we often put ourselves on the back burner. It is crucial that you take care of you. How can you work out when you don’t have enough time with your kids? How can you take a bubble bath when you need to make a presentation? Realize now that there will never be enough time in the day to get everything done. Your in-box will still be there. Make the “main thing(s)” the MAIN thing(s)…for me it is God first, Family second, business third.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

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 enable 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,

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

  1. Personally I am working on more work life balance. It is a constant pull and tug of war.
  2. Professionally I am launching 2 new companies this year alone.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

Pioneering, innovative, creative and adoptive entrepreneur with a soul for giving back.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

I already have…Black Girls Making Millions Academy (BGMMA)! BGMMA is my movement to turn more AA, women based businesses into million dollar businsses.

Did you know that African American, female owned businesses are on the rise, up 300%…but only 4% make it to the million dollar mark? It is my goal to bridge that gap! On my show “Mind Your Business with Mahisha” on OWN I helped take 8 businesses to the next level. At the conclusion of the taping I realized that I needed to turn this into an opportunity for all to learn.

And just like that, Black Girls Making Millions Academy was born.

We have developed 3 Course Tracks to help women at all stages of their businesses:

● The Start Up — turn your idea into a viable business.

● The Come Up — grow your business and take it to the next level.

● The Blow Up — pitch your business idea to investors for funding.

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