With her enviable mane of bouncy, pink-hued curls, Julissa Prado serves as a walking advertisement for the effectiveness of her products. Roughly one year ago, she officially launched Rizos Curls, an all-natural product line for curly-textured hair. In that short span of time, Prado has amassed 52k+ followers on Instagram, received up to a thousand orders per month, and quit her job to pursue her business full time. But though it might look like overnight success from the outside, her growing business is the result of many years of hard work and hard-earned lessons.
As Prado tells it, she couldn’t have reached this point without the help and support of her family and her larger Latino community, who served as the inspiration for her brand. “I always thought when I made Rizos Curls that I’d make something that would work perfectly for textures as diverse as those of my family’s. In the Latino community we have so many kinds of hair textures – wavy, curly ringlets, coily textures. I have tías that fall under all of those categories. I wanted to make something that allowed us to fall in love with our natural hair,” she explains.
For Prado, Rizos Curls has been a family affair – from consulting with her brother on her business plan, to running her fledgling company out of her parents’ and uncle’s houses, to learning key lessons about how to budget & save from watching her own father run his restaurant business.
Below, she explains how her upbringing helped her develop her entrepreneurial spirit and the skills to build a DIY business.
Your company is directly inspired by the Latino community – can you talk about how the idea came about?
I grew up in very predominantly Latino communities and neighborhoods [in Los Angeles]. I have a huge family, and when we were very young we all lived in one apartment building. Almost every unit was a different family member, so that can give you an idea of the culture and the environment that I grew up in. Growing up, I always saw how so much of my community had textured hair – they had wavy, curly, coily hair, a variety of textures. But they went to great lengths to straighten it, and not embrace it. There was a lot of self-hate around their hair. There was always this notion of ‘your hair is not done until it’s not curly.’
I remember the exact moment where I realized “Oh no, I can’t do this my whole life.” I was going to a quinceañera and my older cousins straightened my hair. Back then, in the hood, we didn’t have flat irons yet, so what they did was put my head over an ironing board and use a clothes iron. My hair was burning! I remember being over that ironing board and thinking “We’ve got to do better than this, we’ve got to figure out a way to feel good about our natural hair.”
So that’s where the idea first started. Even at a young age, I was aware that so many of my insecurities were connected to my inability to embrace my natural hair and myself in my natural state. Once I learned to love my hair it allowed me to love myself, and I wanted to create that feeling in my community. Rizos Curls is not just about the products. We’re a trifecta of the Three Cs: curls, community & culture.
What pushed you to make the leap and turn this interest into a career?
I’m very close to my [older] brother, and he’s the one who helps me a lot with Rizos. We’re very opposite. I’ve always led with my heart and emotion, and he’s ruled by logic. So when I decided I really wanted to go forward with this Rizos idea, I went to my brother with my business plan. I was still pretty young, around 15, and I presented the whole plan to him. He did all this market research – which years later, in business school, I learned is very important when you’re starting something new. Understanding your market, understanding the size of the demographic you’re targeting. He did that research on his own and was blown away. He couldn’t believe a product like Rizos Curls didn’t exist already.
Time passed, I went to college and grad school, and everything I learned, all the business acumen I acquired, all reaffirmed that I had to take this leap. Everything pointed me to, “You’re lucky no one’s jumped on this opportunity yet.” But it took me four years to figure out my product formulas, and I beat myself up a lot for taking so long. I was juggling it with getting a masters, working a full-time job, and maybe I just needed to trust the process. There were many times in that four year process of testing formulas that I didn’t get the results I wanted, and felt like giving up.
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