Empowerment Series: Founder & CEO of Rizos Curls, Julissa Prado Shares her Entrepreneurial Journey with AW
The entrepreneur is no stranger to media, appearing in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Forbes, Allure, Popsugar, Refinery 29, People en Espanol, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, and Glamour are a few of the platforms praising her product line. The self-funded and Latina owned company started in 2017 and is now estimated to be worth over $1 Million. The Mexican-American daughter of immigrants grew up in Los Angeles. She holds curls, community and culture in high regard, it’s what inspired Rizos Curls fueling accomplishments along the way.
I am honored to have the opportunity to share this interview with readers. It was invigorating to hear about this young woman’s journey, as her dreams become true before our eyes. Julissa is personable, genuine and grounded when discussing her success. All you have to do is hop on Instagram or the Rizos Curls page to see that she is just one of the girls. The moment I reached out to ask a few questions about her journey, she was welcoming. This is the inspiring story of a 14-year old girl who wished to solve a problem. She wanted to create a product that catered to curly haired girls like her. Ultimately, she did much more because it evolved into a movement. Her social media is a testament to the love and loyalty her products are getting from followers.
We are witnessing more women take chances on entrepreneurship. The events of 2020 have encouraged an introspection, forcing us to question our sense of purpose. Plenty of women are stuck in jobs that leave them unfulfilled or dissatisfied. Julissa has a Bachelors degree in International Business from UCLA and a Masters in Business Management from Wake Forest University. She did well as a District Sales Leader for Nestle then decided to invest her energy full-time into Rizos Curls. I was interested in finding out more about how she transformed an idea into a company.
When did you know it was time to quit your day job? I went full time with Rizos Curls soon after we launched, within a month or two. I never anticipated this change happening so soon after starting the business. I thought Rizos Curls would be my side passion project while I worked at Nestle for a few more years. Luckily, there were many orders when we first launched, I couldn’t keep up. I was forced to go full time to keep up with demand.
Congratulations on being a Beacon Award winner! There are plenty of highs to be proud of these past couple years. Your brand is widely recognized as a top contender in the beauty and hair community, and you’ve seen yourself on an enormous billboard in Midtown Manhattan. Your hair products are in Walmart store shelves, as well as, Target which you manifested years ago. In an interview with Oprahmag.com, you are described as “passionate, when discussing the pursuit of your dreams – and the fact that it would not have been possible to realize without great sacrifice.”
So far, what has been your biggest sacrifice? Would you do it all the same, again? An incredibly difficult decision for every entrepreneur is knowing when to go full time. In starting Rizos Curls, I decided to leave my high paying leadership position at Nestle, and take the leap of entrepreneur without knowing what would lie ahead. It can be very scary for new entrepreneurs, I had to determine what the cost of the opportunity, meant to me. I knew in my heart that I needed to invest in my passion. Once I took this step, you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who stepped forward to propel me along my journey. I’d definitely do it all over again. I would not be here now without the decisions and sacrifices made.
I read that when your Facebook group first went live, you rapidly climbed from 100 to 30,000 followers. Women were engaging with you because you responded to their needs, resolving a problem. You helped them work through their hair emergencies. Your social media brand is a testament to your authenticity. Sharing the journey with everyone makes your audience feel they’re more than a number. You have growing a community, it tells a lot about you, as a person. You’re likable, relatable, and real, it encourages customers and clients to trust you and what you stand for.
What advice would you give someone just starting to build a brand? I would say this for anyone who wants to start any business. Pursue your passion! You will never have all the answers but you can seek out to resources around you and your community for guidance, they will push you forward. Start small if you need to, and grow from there. Stay true to yourself and the vision, as it will allow you to connect with customers, build loyalty, and ensure success. Be incredibly creative, both in terms of content and business operations. Stay ahead of the game and don’t be afraid to reach out to your customers for assistance. Some of the best ideas may come from your own customer base.
You are a vibrant, young, thriving entrepreneur that is building her own empire. The success is sweeter when you know you’ve put the work in, implementing ideas that leveled up the business. However, these are the some things that prove challenging, it takes time to see results.
How did you surpass the tough days when you weren’t sure the venture would take off? What do you do to get over the deals, proposals, and projects turned down or when these don’t happen as fast as you’d like? Being an entrepreneur is incredibly humbling. On a daily, I face obstacles that I have NO clue how to overcome. I’m constantly learning something new to add to my skill set. I had to come to terms with the fact that there is a lot, I still don’t know. Being a good student, having the ability to quickly learn the things I don’t know is invaluable. I am a believer that what is meant to be will be, as long as, I walk in my purpose, the right doors will open. When projects are turned down or don’t happen, I don’t stress. Having trust in what is meant for me is key, if it does not happen then something else will come in its place.
In an Instagram post, you said that you love sunlight! What do you love most about the journey you are on as a Latina woman designing her own rules? I love that I’m able to connect with so many people in the curly hair community all over the world on something I feel so passionate about – curly hair! Incredibly proud to have formed a self-funded independent brand that is a mission-based company focused on the 3 C’s – curls, community and culture!
We sometimes change a lot of who we are to accommodate others, fit a mold, or maintain relationships, so much that we forget ourselves in the process. You are fierce about your Latina roots, your people and embracing all that you are in an unapologetic manner. We love and celebrate it!
Can you share an experience when you felt you were not being true to yourself? What was the turning point that helped you realize you did not have to change or conform to anyone’s concept of beautiful? As a woman, hair is a big part of how we internalize our beauty. Growing up, I was often made fun of for my hair. I was called everything from Puff Ball, Frizz Ball to other undesired names. Unfortunately, hearing the negative comments motivated me to want the long, straight hair. It wasn’t until High School, where I started embracing my natural hair and really loving myself. I went to a progressive high school where we learned race theory, and the many standards of beauty internalized, as a result of the systems of inequality against people of color. I realized that I needed to embody my hair to encourage the dismantling of previous beliefs related to hair being ugly.
I like to end the AW interviews with a positive message. Can you share a positive mantra or quote that empowered you while starting the dream that is now materializing? My favorite business mantra is “Makeup in creativity what you lack in marketing dollars.” I saved for over 5 years before launching Rizos Curls, it is 100% self-funded and still is today. A round of venture capital is not required to get started and excel in your space.
Youth gives us the freedom to dream but sometimes, as we age, we become incredulous. The pressures of life and responsibilities that we bear, ground us. Whether it is reality or insecurity, there is a tendency to stop daring ourselves to go after the things we want most. If you are a dreamer, I hope Julissa’s story serves as a reminder that you have the power to create the life you envision. The only one that can stop you from your dream is you.
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