Founder Profile: Julissa Prado, Founder of Rizos Curls - Los Angeles
Hi Julissa! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Julissa Prado is an entrepreneur and social media influencer that has garnered a following as an advocate of natural curls, promoting Latina beauty and sisterhood among women. She is the founder and CEO of Rizos Curls. It has been Julissa’s dream to create a curl care line that celebrates the beauty of natural curls and is inclusive of different textures. Julissa holds a Masters in Business from Wake Forest University, is an alumni of UCLA and has held corporate leadership positions at Nestlé.
Founded in October 2017, Rizos Curls creates products that embrace and celebrate the beauty of curls, kinks & waves everywhere. The brand has ignited a movement on social media of curly haired individuals embracing their natural curls and has been featured in Forbes, Teen Vogue, People, BuzzFeed & more! Rizos Curls is based in Los Angeles, CA and focused on providing quality curl care for healthy, luminous, natural curls. Made Con Amor…From One Curly Girl to Another!
What led you to start Rizos Curls?
Learning to love my natural hair was a big part of learning to love myself. The older I get, the more unapologetic I become about being Latina and my big curly hair is an important part of that. I went through many phases with my curly hair. I hid it in a tight, gelled-down ponytail, wore it à la crunchy with extra hairspray, and even straightened with a clothes iron! As a little girl, I saved my money to buy every curl product I found, but nothing seemed to work on my hair type. I began mixing my own product at home and I told myself that one day I would create the very best product for curly-haired girls like me. I spent years searching for the perfect formula. I wanted a product made with quality ingredients that could celebrate all curl types, from my Tia’s coily strands to my sister’s loose waves. With Rizos Curls, I finally turned my dream into a reality. It is an honor to be able to help other curly haired people look beautiful and feel confident in their natural hair texture.
I knew I wanted to start Rizos Curls since I was 15 years old. It is something that has always been in the back of my mind through college, then grad school and later while working as sales division leader at Nesté. I’m very close to my older brother, and he’s the one who helps me a lot with Rizos. We’re very opposite. I’ve always led with my heart and emotion, and he’s ruled by logic. So when I decided I really wanted to go forward with this Rizos idea, I went to my brother with my business plan and I presented the whole plan to him. He did all this market research which I learned is very important when you’re starting something new. Understanding your market, understanding the size of the demographic you’re targeting. He did that research on his own and was blown away. He couldn’t believe a product like Rizos Curls didn’t exist already.
Meanwhile I saved and began sharpening up on my business acumen while working on the formulas that would eventually become Rizos Curls. The version of Rizos Curls that went to market was four years in the making and multiple versions improved from its start. There were many times in that four year process of testing formulas that I didn’t get the results I wanted, and felt like giving up, but what pushed me forward were the amount of interactions I had with curly girls. I’d meet them in the bathroom, in the elevator, in dorm rooms, and they’d tell me “I love your hair.” Back then I‘d make my own concoctions at home and use my own products in my hair. And they’d ask me “How do you get your hair like that?” I made so many friends like that, because I’d say “OK, I’ll come over and do your hair.” I’d do their hair, teach them my process, and they’d start wearing their hair naturally. I forgot how many interactions I had like that until I finally launched Rizos, and all of them started commenting and messaging in support. No matter how busy I was, that was one thing that stayed consistent, I always loved teaching people how to do their hair, that’s where my heart is. I officially launched Rizos Curls in October, 2017 completely self-funded and with $0 marketing dollars.
What does your company stand for?
Being a Latina entrepreneur, Rizos Curls is a trifecta of the 3 Cs — curls, community, and culture. Rizos Curls is a trifecta of my products, my Latino culture and the local community. Whatever I do with the brand I want to make sure those three things are incorporated.
What are your short/long term goals?
My immediate goals are to expand the retail distribution for the brand in-stores, not only domestically, but internationally. You would not believe the amounts of requests I receive every day from customers asking for the product to be sold in stores near them, whether it be California, Puerto Rico or The Netherlands. My goal is to satisfy their requests and build a sustainable business with longevity. Ultimately reaching as many of our Rizos Reinas as possible.
Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from?
When talking to people and they find out that I went to business school and that I worked for Nestlé, they expect my business background to come from being school or being around business execs. But it’s completely the opposite. My entrepreneurial spirit came from growing up in my community. Back in Mid City LA when I was growing up, I’d wake up every morning to a man shouting “Pan! Elotes!” He’d come around every morning in his truck at 8 am and sell bread and tortillas from his car. I’d see my people hustling! I grew up seeing one of my neighbors selling pupusas from her house, people would take orders, and then later she got a cart, and then later she made a little shop on the corner. That’s growth! It was crazy to me growing up and seeing so many examples of people who had very little and were able to make something out of nothing. That was what always inspired me, and I always knew my people, we are so entrepreneurial.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
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 an incredibly scary thing for new entrepreneurs. Ultimately what I had to decide was what the opportunity cost meant to me. What I knew in my heart, was that I needed to invest in my passion, and once I took that leap you would not believe the amount of people who stepped forward to propel me along my journey.
How do you support women-conscious consumerism and what good do you envision from it?
What I have learned in business is that it is our communities that propel us forward. I could not be where I am today without the help and support of other female entrepreneurs, regardless of industry, and the sisterhood which we have created. Especially in a time like now, it is pivotal that women are given access to the resources to be able to support other female businesses and make a conscious decision about where we are spending our dollars. Funding companies that we believe in, whose vision we are aligned with, and ultimately helping pave the way for a more socially conscious future.