Rizos Curls was built para la cultura, by Julissa Prado, who needed a solution based on her own curl problems. Prado set out to create a safe space for Latinx customers by encouraging them to love their natural strands. Combined her love for curl education and styling with an authentic voice, Prado created a missing from a crowded market. The result was a brand rooted in self-celebration and cultivating community. Ahead, Prado discusses her journey to being a self-funded entrepreneur, building her family-ran beauty brand, and why culture remains at the core of her business.
How did Rizos Curls get started?
The inspiration to create Rizos Curls was born from my personal curl journey. No product on the market gave my curls the definition I needed. I told myself that, one day, I would create the very best product for curly-haired people 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. I would try my concoctions and would meet many curly women out and about who would ask me how I did my hair. I made many friends because I would volunteer to do their hair and teach them my process. In 2017, after I could professionally make my formula, I launched Rizos Curls, and all those women became my first customers.
What was the inspiration behind the brand name?
I wanted the name to be bilingual like me. Rizos means "curls," so we are saying "Curls Curls." It's a playful combination of the Spanish and English words for curls, celebrating the new-age Latina's language of choice of Spanglish. It's a direct nod to the first-generation Americans who speak Spanish at home and English outside of the home. It's how I speak and I wanted to honor that many of us live a dualistic lifestyle.
How does your Latinx heritage influence your brand?
My culture is at the heart of this brand and everything we do—from how we talk to our consumers, the content we create, to how we formulate products. Growing up, I was taught to turn to the earth for its many health benefits. I focused on sourcing the best ingredients possible and developing formulas around those ingredients with results that would moisturize, define, and enhance all curl types and help with the overall long-term health of people's hair.
What mentors or professional influences did you look to when building out your brand?
I credit my success to my family and community. My father crawled through a sewer to get to this country, and making him proud of our culture and our family is my biggest motivator. I am continuously in awe of what my family, who is also my team, can achieve. Our success as a brand is because of our hard work and talent as a family. When we first launched, my team was primarily family. Since then, we've had more people join who have quickly become to feel like family.
The curly hair market is flooded with tons of brands. What makes Rizos stand out from competitors?
Aside from being a mission-based brand that focuses on the three C's: Curls, community, and culture, we really stand out from our competitors because we develop and manufacture high-quality clean products. I refuse to make products with questionable ingredients to help with margins, so I focus on ingredient transparency and education for our customers. We created an entire ingredients glossary to help empower our customers, which is not the norm in the hair industry.
You recently released a new styling line featuring various tools and products. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about styling curly hair?
I think the biggest misconception with styling curly hair is that it's difficult. It's not difficult; it's just different. Once you learn your curl type and porosity, it's easy to style with the proper knowledge. For example, we call a large group of our customers the "undercover curlies." This group of women have curly hair but have always straightened it due to cultural norms. The way you style your hair when it's straight is not the same technique for styling it curly. We collaborated with my stylist to create an educational video series about unlearning "Straight Hair Tendencies." Once you learn the new techniques, it's actually way easier to achieve the results you want.
How does Rizos celebrate Latinx Heritage Month?
Latinx Heritage Month is every day for Rizos Curls. This month is important because it encourages and invites non-Latinx people to create space and support us. It's great seeing all the companies using their platforms to elevate Latinx voices and stories. I am incredibly proud of my roots, and my culture and family are what I love most about my life. I wouldn't trade our traditions, foods, music, and values for the world. I am obsessed with being Latina and how it has shaped me into the businesswoman, I am today.
Who is a Latinx icon you love and why?
I love Selena Quintanilla because she was the first person I could relate to as a Mexican-American. I loved seeing how she was so equally proud of both cultures. It was amazing to see her navigate her career, singing predominately in Spanish and being accepted and loved globally. I also loved seeing how close she was to her family and how they built success together.
How does it feel to create a space for people to celebrate themselves and their natural beauty?
It feels fantastic because I'm building this brand for the younger me. You can't become what you can't see, and to know that young people with curly hair will see a brand that celebrates them and puts them on a pedestal is all worth it.
Your social media incorporates inspiring messages like calling your customers "reina." Can you share more about why you choose to incorporate those messages?
Reina and rey are terms of endearment in Spanish for the Latinx culture. While I run a business, I never want my customers to feel like they are just the means to an end. I have built incredible relationships with my customers worldwide, and I need them to know that they are the Queens and Kings in my eyes. Without them, there is no Rizos Curls. I'm here to serve them. They are really vocal tell me what products to come out with next. I created the Refresh + Detangle Spray because of them. Then they demanded a gel, so I got to work to make the Light Hold Gel. They kept asking for a pump, so I added a cap pump to our store. They keep me on my toes in a really rewarding way.
Rizos is the first Mexican-owned brand at Sally Beauty Mexico and Latinx-owned brand at Ulta. How does it feel to break down these barriers?
To be the first Latina-owned curly hair care line at Ulta and the first Mexican-owned curly hair care line at Sally Beauty Mexico is truly unexplainable. It's amazing because I see first-hand that hard work and determination pay off. Still, I want to make sure I'm not the last. I want to open this door for other Latin-owned businesses to come into the space because our community's power is in our numbers.
You're investing in the next generation of Latinx entrepreneurs with your small business grant. What are three tips you'd give aspiring entrepreneurs in the beauty space?
First: Everything is Negotiable. Challenge outdated rules, and don't be afraid to push back on a no. Secondly: Get creative and makeup in creativity what you lack in marketing dollars. Use social media to be a storyteller. Lastly: use being a small business to your advantage. Small companies can pivot faster than most larger businesses, so don't be afraid to try new things.