After receiving a compliment on her naturally textured hair, the bartender at Koi SoHo immediately gave a nod to Curls, a natural products hair-care line. She knew exactly where she could buy the line and ticked off names of her favorite products.
Little did she know the founder of the brand, Mahisha Dellinger, was about to walk in. Dellinger wasn’t surprised with the fan’s response. Since she founded the company in 2002, she’s built a devout customer base for the adult, kid and baby ranges.
A self-made entrepreneur, Dellinger was one of the pioneers of a movement offering product options for women with textured hair.
“At that time [early 2000], there wasn’t anything for women embracing their natural ethnic hair. The options were only relaxers or Jheri curl,” Dellinger said. She left a corporate job, invested $30,000 and set off to create her own.
Curls garnered the attention of Target in 2007, which was looking for a refresh to its ethnic hair-care department. The chain performed a small market test with Curls and other independent brands on endcaps in 105 stores.
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The relationship with Target expanded over the years and the chain was the launching pad for an exclusive new Blueberry Bliss collection that rolled out late last year. The original collection includes Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Paste, Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Jelly and Blueberry Bliss Twist-N-Shout Cream. Earlier this year, a Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-in Conditioner was added to the Target assortment.
“No one in my industry had formulated with blueberries before,” Dellinger said. “Blueberries are rich in vitamin C and B Complex, which is good for increasing hair growth by providing oxygenation and circulation of the blood to the body, particularly the scalp. It is a superfood with so many amazing properties. And the smell is phenomenal.”
In her quest to help stylists and women learn more about managing textured hair, Curls participated in Texture on the Runway during February’s New York Fashion Week.
As Curls celebrates its 14 anniversary next month, Dellinger — who penned a book about her journey to build her multimillion company — hopes to give other women a chance to achieve personal success through a program called Curls Girls Rule the World. In conjunction with mentors across many industries, her company is giving 100 disadvantaged young girls, ages 12 to 24, the opportunity to have hands-on one-on-one counseling with industry leaders in beauty, business, science, media, government and more. “I had decided to change my own destiny and I want to help others,” Dellinger said. “It [mentoring] is something I wished I had.”
In addition to Target, other Curls items are sold at major retailers including Wal-Mart, Walgreens/Duane Reade, CVS and Rite Aid. Dellinger also has a blueprint for increasing the growth of the brand outside of the U.S.
Curls is thriving in a market punctuated with consumers on the hunt for products to enhance curly, coily and wavy hair. Social media has helped exposure along with relationships with celebrities including Vivian Green and Brandy as well as A-listers such as Halle Berry, Zoe Saldana and Alicia Keys who are fans of the brand. There are many new contenders entering the space, admitted Dellinger, who said she has other new items in the pipeline to stay competitive including a non-hair-care launch.