Julissa Prado Digame
Photos courtesy of Rizos Curls

Digame: Julissa Prado of Rizos Curls Talks the Highs and Lows of Being a Jefa

Rizos Curls founder Julissa Prado made history as the first Latina-owned curly hair care brand sold at Ulta Beauty stores five years after launching. The Mexican American jefa built the brand inspired by natural hair care she grew up with and has grown it into a multi-product, all natural hair care brand that also made it to the shelves of Target stores across the nation.  But it doesn’t stop there,  she also made history as the first Mexican-owned curly hair care brand to be sold at Sally Beauty stores in Mexico. “While battling with my hair over the years, I told myself that one day I would create the very best product for curly-haired girls like me. I spent years creating the perfect formula. I wanted a product made with quality and natural 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,” she states on their website.

On April 9th Rizos Curls become the first Latina-owned curly hair care brand available at ALL Ulta stores. This expansion marks the growing success of the brand from their initial launch of 300 stores at Ulta Beauty in June 2021 to now being available at more than 1,350 Ulta Beauty locations. The brand also recently launched two new products: the Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp & Hair Rinse  and the Beach Waves Texturing Salt Spray. The products are the first to feature the new Rizos Curls design which Julissa shared on Instagram as an evolution of her style and the brand. Here she talks about the reality of a being a small business owner,  the Latinas that inspired her, and how her culture continues to inspire her.

Which Latina(s) have had the greatest impact on your life and why?

Our Latina community and the women in my own neighborhood growing up have been the biggest inspiration to me. Seeing my people working hard and getting creative especially during hard times is what inspires me most. I see my Latinx community working hard doing whatever jobs they can, rain or shine! I’m inspired by seeing people create magic with very little. Latinas from immigrant families are entrepreneurial in nature because having to rebuild in a totally new country to survive takes heart and hustle, and I was very fortunate to grow up seeing every day examples of this. This instilled a fearlessness in me and made me feel like anything was possible.

If you could meet a Latina icon who is no longer alive, who would it be and why?

Selena! She was such a groundbreaking Latina for our community from her music, her fashion choices, her makeup, hairstyles, everything! She was a talent ahead of her time.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Listen to your inner voice, trust your instinct. Preparation is key, you have to be ready when opportunities present themselves.

Who was the first person to believe in your dreams/goals?

My family was immediately onboard when I told them the idea behind Rizos Curls. Helping my dad start his own small restaurant even though he never went to school and started as a field worker was so inspiring for me. There was a lot of support behind the idea of going after any idea and see what happens.

How do you stay connected to your cultural roots?

Everything I do ties back to staying connected to my cultural roots. The DNA of Rizos Curls are the three C’s: Curls, Community and Culture.

What do you wish more people understood about what you do?

I wish people could really see how hard it is run a self-funded business. I feel like sometimes people see who I am on social and think I’m just having fun all day. While I do aim for fun every day, I wear so, so many hats. I’m deeply involved in every aspect of the business, especially product development, which is insanely labor intensive. Being an entrepreneur is the hardest role I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding.

What motivates you?

My family, community, customers, all the amazing women around keep me motivated. But hearing how Rizos Curls changed someone’s life and allowed them to love their hair for the first time is my biggest motivator.

How did you end up on the professional path you’re on now?

I ended up creating Rizos Curls due to my own personal curl journey to learn how to love my natural curl texture. Because no product on the market gave me the definition I needed for my own curls, 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. But what was crazy, was that it wasn’t just my own journey and that of my family, but in passing I’d meet so many curly women in the bathroom, in the elevator, in dorm rooms, and they’d tell me “I love your hair.” They’d ask me “How do you get your hair like that?” I’d tell them I have my own concoction. I made so many friends 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. In 2017, after I was able to professionally make my formula I launched Rizos Curls, and all those women became my first customers.

What is your greatest professional achievement so far? Personal achievement?

There have been so many amazing achievements that I can’t pick just one. First, seeing the growth of the brand and how so many people all over the world LOVE Rizos Curls will always be the best achievement. It’s also surreal to know my brand is in all doors at Ulta Beauty and Target stores nationwide, plus being in every Sally Beauty in Mexico! Personally, my greatest achievement is going after my passion and dream to start Rizos Curls and bring it to life.

What is a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet and what are you doing to get closer to accomplishing it?

Be more consistent about cooking more at home, working out, overall live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve always tried to be healthy but being an entrepreneur often meant sacrificing a home cooked meal or not prioritizing workouts so I’m currently learning new ways to make exercising fun like signing up for Class Pass and learning to cook my favorite meals at home.

What pop culture moment made you feel seen?

While I was still working my corporate job, there was a moment where I was in the only Latina in the room, and we were going over Nielson data and the Latinx buying power. It made me feel so seen and powerful, that my community was such an important target for these big brands.

How do you practice self-care?

Self-care for me is baths and candles! Spending time outdoors in nature, but most importantly, spending time with my family. I have such a huge family and there’s nothing I love more than spending a Sunday with all of my cousins just having a great time.

Quick Fire:

Shoutout an Instagram account that could use more love and tell us why you’re a fan:

@KidsOfImmigrants. Their mission to create, empower and love is so simple yet so powerful. It resonates so much with me being a first-generation American.

Shoutout your favorite Latina owned business and why:

@RepublicaSkin founded by Julissa Bermudez! She was inspired by her Caribbean roots with formulas made from natural ingredients is beautiful. I love her Sugar Body Polish, it smells so good and leaves my skin super soft.