Six years ago, Mahisha Dellinger launched a hair-care line for multi-ethnic women like herself. At the time, CURLS was a small, 100 percent independent e-commerce site.
Today, CURLS has grown by leaps and bounds. The products now are distributed around the world and are sold in several hundred salons. Nordstrom and Macy's may soon carry the CURLS line as well.
This month, the company has unveiled a fresh new look. The neutral bottles, with their gold cap and metallic typography, have disappeared, replaced by bright, fun, appealing packaging that better reflects the products inside. The packaging also provides more educational info about how to use them, to cut down on confusion.
"The new fresh packaging to me symbolizes a new era in our growth and development," says Dellinger. "We don't just have great products, but we also have a cutting-edge look."
The company's explosive growth doesn't surprise Dellinger.
"It’s my passion," Dellinger says. "There are many things I understand because I'm the consumer I'm selling to. People have told me 'Finally, someone gets it.'"
Growing up multi-ethnic with thick curls, Mahisha Dellinger felt no products were available for people like her.
In the ethnic market, the products were heavy and greasy, designed for women who wanted to fight their kinks and curls. In the traditional haircare market, products were aimed toward finer, looser curls that looked nothing like hers. She was forced to create her own kitchen concoctions, at one point using grease and water to control her mane. She knew others must be dealing with the same frustrations.
Although she wasn't a stylist and hadn't worked in the beauty industry, she set about to create her own products, hiring a cosmetic chemist and developing the products she always wanted — products designed to meet the unique needs of multi-ethnic women and girls with naturally curly hair.
The new CURLS packaging
In 2003, she launched her company with four CURLS and four Curly Q’s products for kids. Now the line has grown to 11 CURLS products, seven Curly Q’s products and three in her new baby line, It’s a Curl!. These include a full range of cleansers, moisturizers, conditioners and styling products. The products contain natural ingredients such as Monoi de Tahiti, green tea extract, pomegranate seed oil and soy protein to hydrate, strengthen and nourish curls and kinks.
CURLS' latest product is Curl Gel-les'c, a gel-like, silicone-free serum style that defines, defrizzes and holds curls.
In 2007 and 2008, CURLS was named one of the Top 5 Finalists for “Favorite MultiCultural Company” in Behindthechair.com’s 7th Annual Stylist Choice Awards. The Stylist Choice Awards are among the most coveted awards in the professional salon industry as winners are chosen by salon professionals.
Dellinger says always believed CURLS would do well.
"I’ve always had high expectations for the company," she says. "It’s just been a matter of making it happen. We’ve learned a lot and grown a lot."
One of the most important things she's learned is patience.
"My mentor told me long ago that it isn’t a race, it's a process," Dellinger says. "You have to be patient and learn and grow at your pace, not putting expectations on yourself to come out of the gate at a certain level. I was told that if I went in and learned my market, I would succeed."
Patience has meant growing the company at a pace it can handle, and adding those products consumers are asking for.
As CURLS has grown, Dellinger says she has watched the competitive landscape change as well.
"Before we came out with CURLS, there were very few companies targeting ethnic and multi-ethnic consumers," Dellinger says. "That consumer didn't have choices. Now, there are a lot of lines for curly hair. I think we helped bring attention and focus to the curly consumers."
In addition to growing her business, Dellinger and her company have partnered with adoption agencies throughout the United States to host live hair care demonstrations, provide hair care tips, author articles for their online resource centers, and donate Curly Q's products. Her goal is to provide a comprehensive resource to parents adopting across the racial lines.
"The more we grow, the more we give back," says Dellinger.
Dellinger doesn't plan to slow down anytime soon. She wants to introduce curly hair tools as well as adding those products consumers want. She'll also continue her worldwide expansion.
"I want to bring CURLS to everyone," Dellinger says.