Jessica McGuinty

Jessica McGuinty didn't set out to become a hair care guru. You might say a twist of fate—or a head of ringlets—helped lead her to her to her current career as the head of a fast-growing company that makes products for curly hair and body care.

“This isn’t something I sat down and thought out,” said McGuinty, whose year-old Jessicurl has fast developed a cult following among readers. “I was just going with the flow.”

Going with the flow has resulted in a line that now includes seven cleansing, conditioning and styling products. She also has developed a variety of body lotions, scrubs and scrubs and creams for the face, hands and feet.

“I really wasn’t thinking about going into business,” said the 27-year-old Northern Californian. “I was looking for something that works for me.”

Jessicurl products are available in CurlMart!

McGuinty, like many curly heads, has long had a love-hate relationship with her hair. As a youngster growing up in the wine country of Napa Valley, her blonde hair was thick and straight. But when she hit puberty, coarse curls emerged with a vengeance.

Before her freshman year of high school, a bad haircut—she calls it a cross between Liberace and the little Dutch boy—turned her hair into a curly mess. A bad short haircut reduced her to tears and inspired such nicknames as “egghead” – a name that made it into her yearbook. She tried everything to control it – flattening it down with nylon when she slept, wetting it between classes – to no avail. And like many of curly novices, she thought the way to tame it was to brush it, which only exacerbated the problem.

“It was growing out and it was so big that they would stick pencils in it and I wouldn’t know,” McGuinty recalls. “I immediately equated my hair with how much everybody hated me.”

Her hair still was an issue for her in her 20s. By then it had grown into a style she describes as “a triangular thing.”

“I refused to look like a triangle,” she says.

Frustrated, she sat down at her computer one day and typed “curly hair” into Google. Up popped The site, she said, validated her obsession with her hair and introduced her to a community of women with the same problems she had dealt with much of her life.

“These are my people,” she says.

The site, coupled with a great haircut at a salon in San Francisco, helped her make peace with her hair. It also introduced her to a wide range of products.

One day on CurlTalk, she came across a recipe for hair gel made from flax seed. McGuinty describes herself as the type of person who has always liked to make things herself, whether it be tie-die clothing, dried flower wreaths or cookies. So McGuinty, who was hooked on expensive hair products, decided to give the gel recipe a try.

“It didn’t work at all,” she says.

Jess McGuinty’s tips

McGuinty said the two most important things she’s learned are that the right shampoo and the right cut are essential to learning to love your curls. “It really matters what’s in something,” she says of shampoo. And when it comes to the cut, “it’s all about shape and layers,” says McGuinty, who now sports a short curly bob.

McGuinty’s current routine includes washing with her Hair Cleansing Cream, which contains a non-stripping cleansing ingredient with a conditioning element. She washes her hair at night and then uses Aloeba Daily Conditioner in the shower in the morning, leaving a little of it in her hair.

“Then I flip it back and forth like I’m giving myself whiplash,” she said. “I don’t use terrycloth anymore.”

She applies her Rockin’ Ringlets to her hair when it’s sopping wet. She scrunches her hair with a micro fiber towel, which she says gets the curls going in the right fashion. She then sprays on some of her Gelebration Spray and diffuses it on medium with a sock diffuser. She scrunches it until it’s 75 percent dry and lets it air dry for another 45 minutes.

But it prompted her to experiment with other ingredients, like jojoba oil and aloe vera. The result was a product that exceeded her expectations.

“I couldn’t believe my hair looked so good, and I’d made it myself,” says McGuinty, who was working as a personal trainer at the time.

With no intentions of starting a business, she shared her good news with others on the discussion board and soon received e-mails from people wanting her to make it for them. Word spread and soon she had a genuine hit on her hands—Rockin’ Ringlets Styling Potion.

McGuinty and her boyfriend (now husband) toyed with the idea of going into business. Two days later, Jessicurl was born in September 2002.

In the beginning, it was trial and error as she worked to perfect her formulas, whipping them up in her house. Now, Jessicurl products are manufactured at a Marin County warehouse, with the help of a chemist friend.

The past year has been a whirlwind of activity for McGuinty, who has managed to acquire seven accounts from California to Georgia. Since January, she has sold 400 bottles of Rockin’ Ringlets, mostly through word of mouth. She has steadily added new products to the line based on customer demand and recently redesigned the packaging.

McGuinty gives much of the credit for Jessicurl’s success to Berman who serves as the company’s chief financial officer, head of customer service and accounting whiz.

“He does everything but make it, label it and answer questions about hair,” said McGuinty, adding that Berman is bald.

McGuinty hopes to get Jessicurl products into salons around the country. But she said her real satisfaction comes from her customers.

“I got this amazing e-mail thanking me for six months of fabulous hair,” she says. “It makes me feel so good that they feel better about their hair because of something I’m making.”

And she says she’s still in shock at how her products have improved her own hair. She recalls a woman coming up to her to ask what she used in her hair and where she could get it.

“Nothing works for everybody,” she says. “But people really like it. That’s really exciting.”