BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with the beauty architect about career transitions, establishing an emotional connection with consumers, and how to seamlessly navigate the pros and cons of building a brand from the ground up.
Mahisha Dellinger: I always tell my mentees that having a plan, including a business, marketing, and strategy plan, is your roadmap. Many people go into business without those fundamental blocks, and we have great ideas and great work ethics but need that piece that keeps us on path to where we need to go. It’s critical because failing to plan is planning to fail, so start with that foundational work.
You left your corporate career as a marketing manager to pursue your passion. What advice can you give someone looking for support while making career transitions into new spaces?
Only leave your day job once your side hustle becomes legitimately your main hustle. That side hustle needs to show that it can sustain growth and investment back into the company. It can pay for itself and reinvest back into it, but also pay for your lifestyle. Many people will jump into entrepreneurship, leave their day job, and then rely on their company to pay for their lifestyle.
I went from an office job to sales working for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, which allowed me the freedom to stick and move in and out of my office and work on CURLS. It gave me flexibility and a full-time salary, and I could keep the household covered. Every penny made from CURLS went back into CURLS. I did that for about three or four years.
I grew the brand organically because, at the time, I could not get a small business loan despite having exceptional personal credit and a strong business plan. Funding was hard back then, so I had to start scrappy. I worked every penny to the core because every penny spent was monitored to the nth degree. Wherever I planted a seed, I ensured that I would harvest it for the brand.
CURLS’ Mahisha Dellinger.
A lot of people are talking about imposter syndrome these days. How do you build yourself back up in moments of self-doubt or adversity?
That is a struggle for most entrepreneurs. I’m glad we’re being transparent today. Entrepreneurship is often glamorized. It’s hard, but I’d rather do this than work for someone else. You will have days where you feel beat down if you don’t meet a goal, a product launch fails, or you hope you land this account and don’t. Many things can go wrong, but I have to remember my why and remind myself of the wins when I’m in the midst of those heavy days.
In a world where marketing is crucial to any e-commerce success, especially within social media, what strategies have you implemented to ensure seamless branding and establish an emotional connection with your customers?
Regarding emotional connection, like any other Black female or Black business founder-based business, you have to connect with the consumer by bringing a piece of you to the brand. The CURLS consumers see Mahisha, and I’m touchable. I’m at events. I’m sampling with them. Like other Black-owned brands, we are more connected because we are more accessible, because being accessible is important. You will not see the founder of Pantene because a single person does not own Pantene, but you can walk up and see all these different Black hair brands and meet the founders. So, connectivity is essential.
I know all the different brand owners in this space, and you see every one of our personalities in our brands, and that’s the connectivity too. Being transparent, being accessible, and touching the consumer is super important. Branding is having the right talent and connecting all those teams. It’s all spaghetti, so it all should touch. There shouldn’t be separate pockets of people working independently. They need to be connected and unified, working for one mission, vision, and goal.
What mark do you hope to leave on the industry as a whole?
My goal is to leave behind a legacy for my family and children and a legacy roadmap. Only some people want to be an entrepreneur, so for my children I want to make sure I leave the legacy behind that “my mom did it against all odds.” For the brand itself and my consumers, what I want to leave behind is almost similar to that of other Black young women or girls; if I can do it, so can you. Nothing in this world will hold you back if you don’t allow it to. Reach deep into who you are and to yourself, to your strength, pull it out, and make it happen. Only you can stop yourself.
Source: Black Enterprise