This March, The Tease is bringing you stories from women who are #MakingHairstory, #BakingBeauty and #DoingItForTheCultuHer. Learn how these influential women are breaking barriers, disrupting their industries and empowering others to do the same all month long.
Julissa Prado, Founder and CEO of Rizos Curls, is a self-made businesswoman looking to better the haircare industry. Growing up, she dreamed of creating a line of products for women with curly hair like hers, and after years of perfecting the formula, she did it. With natural ingredients that honor all curl types, Rizos Curls celebrates natural hair and encourages women to embrace their beauty.
Prado also lends her time to educating and inspiring entrepreneurs with Las Jefas Crew, a group of three WOC looking to empower fellow women in business.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Prado about where Rizos Curls began, hair in the latinx community and what’s next for her.
The Tease: How did you get started in the hair industry?
Julissa Prado: I launched Rizos Curls in October 2017 completely self-funded, with zero marketing dollars and as a newbie in the hair industry. As a woman who struggled to embrace my own curls, Rizos Curls was something that was always been in the back of my mind; through college, then grad school and later while working as sales division leader at Nestlé. When I decided I really wanted to go forward with launching my own hair care brand with a personal formula that I had been using for years, I went to my brother with my business plan.
My brother helped me understand the larger business opportunity, as he leads with logic, where I’m very much the creative who leads with passion and heart. He did all this market research, because understanding your market, and the size of the demographic you’re targeting, is important. He couldn’t believe a product like Rizos Curls didn’t already exist. Once he co-signed, we began working on what would later become Rizos Curls.
What inspired you to create Rizos Curls?
I was inspired to create Rizos Curls from my own personal curl journey to learning to love my natural texture and that of so many women around me. Because no product on the market gave me the definition I needed for my own curls, I ended up creating a formula from natural ingredients. Then, in passing, I’d meet so many curly [haired] women in the bathroom, in the elevator, in dorm rooms, and they’d tell me “I love your hair.” They’d ask me, “how do you get your hair like that?” I’d tell them I have my own concoction. I made so many friends because I’d say “OK, I’ll come over and do your hair.” I’d do their hair, teach them my process, and they’d start wearing their hair naturally.
I forgot how many interactions I had like that until I finally launched Rizos and all of them messaged me in support. No matter how busy I was, that was one thing that stayed consistent: I’ve always loved teaching people how to do their hair. That’s where my heart is.
How would you describe your relationship to hair?
Like most women with curly hair, my relationship with my hair and [learning] to love it has been a journey. Historically, in the Latinx culture, curly hair is not seen as beautiful. So, as a little girl, I saved my money to buy every curl product I found, but nothing seemed to work on my hair type. I went through many phases with my curly hair. I hid it in a gelled-down ponytail, wore it à la crunchy with extra hairspray, but then I eventually started straightening it with a clothing iron! Once my hair was straight, everyone told me how beautiful I looked, so once I felt the compliments come in, I associated it with [the idea] that I can only be beautiful if I have straight hair.
Yet, with time, I grew tired of the process and really wanted to embrace my curls. Once I began mixing my own product at home and it worked, I decided that one day I would create the very best product for curly-haired girls like me so they can always love their curls and know that curls are beautiful too.
Women are often discouraged from sharing their accomplishments, but we want to hear about them. List some of your career highlights. What are you most proud of?
There have been so many amazing company highlights with Rizos Curls. But the accomplishment I’m most proud of is launching at Target. It is truly a dream come true to see Rizos Curls on Target shelves after launching only two years ago. Rizos Curls is a personal labor of love—from the formulas I created to pouring my life savings into this company as a completely self-funded and independently owned family business.
What are the biggest challenges you have experienced within the industry and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges has been capital while aiming to stay self-funded and not give into investors whose values may not and don’t align with what Rizos Curls has worked so hard to build. Rizos Curls is the three C’s: curls, community and culture, and while it would be amazing to have the extra cash flow, I won’t compromise the community or culture aspect of my brand for investors or business partners.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
Being an entrepreneur, you learn a lot of things quickly. For me, it’s been [to] make up in creativity what you lack in marketing dollars. Ultimately, staying true to yourself and your vision is what will allow you to connect with your customers, build loyalty and ensure your success. Be incredibly creative, both in terms of content and business processes, stay ahead of the game and don’t be afraid to reach out to your customers for help. Some of your best ideas might come from your own customers.
Are there any women in the industry who inspire you or your work? If so, who?
Some women who inspire me are Daisy from Dazy Lyn Studio, Natalia and Lala from Bella Dona and many more. They are all examples of women who are self-funded, passionate and unapologetic about their company values. I love how authentic, creative and consistent they are.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other women within the hair industry?
I would say this for anyone who wants to start a business, whether in the hair industry or another industry, is to pursue your passion! You will never have all the answers, but you can reach out to the resources around you and to your community for guidance, and they will help propel you forward. Start small if you need to and grow from there. I saved money for more than 5 years before launching Rizos Curls and launched 100% self-funded. You don’t need a round of venture capital to get started and excel in your space.
What’s next for you?
MORE is next. This little self-funded Latina owned business will become mainstream! More locations, more products, more events. Just MORE!