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'Heart and hustle': How two Latinx entrepreneurs are paving the way for others to start businesses

Julissa Prado of Rizos Curls and Patty Delgado of Hija de tu Madre share how they’ve stayed afloat during Covid-19 and give their best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Patty Delgado of Hija de tu Madre (left) and Julissa Prado of Rizos Curls.
Patty Delgado of Hija de tu Madre (left) and Julissa Prado of Rizos Curls.Patty Delgado, Julissa Prado

Latinx and Black founders have historically lagged behind the most when it comes to funding, but that's not stopping minority-owned businesses from expanding. In fact, their numbers are growing.

According to ProjectDiane 2020, a nonprofit that tracks the current landscape for Black & Latinx women in the innovation and entrepreneurship space, more minority-owned businesses have been founded in 2020 than in the past two years. In fact, Hispanic founders have emerged as the fastest growing demographic among all U.S. entrepreneurs – growing from 6.5 percent of all entrepreneurs in 2001 to 15 percent as of 2019.

Two successful, self-funded Latinas paving the way in that trend are founders Julissa Prado, of Rizos Curls and Patty Delgado, of Hija de tu Madre.

After graduating with her master’s degree in business management and working a stint in corporate life, Prado started her hair-care line in 2017 after being unsatisfied with the curl product options on the market.

Delgado launched her lifestyle brand in 2016 to create space for culture, belonging and representation in the Latinx community. Both L.A. natives have collaborated and supported each other for years after finding synergy in a shared mission: investing back into their communities by helping other small business owners to grow.

Their latest collaboration is one of their biggest yet: They’ve teamed up with global makeup powerhouse, Smashbox, on a multifaceted platform to empower women to ‘recognize their inner boss.’ “JefaCon” is a virtual empowerment summit available to view until the end of the month, and they've created an exclusive product box curated by both Delgado and Prado.

I caught up with both women who told me about their entrepreneurship journey, their advice for others looking to start businesses, how they’re navigating the pandemic and what’s next for them.

What were some of your biggest barriers starting your business and how did you overcome them?

Delgado: One of the biggest obstacles I've faced as an entrepreneur is not having enough capital and resources. However, I take a lot of pride in being a self-funded business. We've always been very lean and resourceful. I may have not had the financial tools, but I would not be here without the support and help of my community.

RELATED: Women who inspire: Black and Latina entrepreneurs who are excelling amid COVID-19

Prado: For me, getting started meant having to learn the complicated operations in building a beauty brand, having no connections in the industry. Yet, I am comfortable knowing that I am a great student and whatever it is I don’t know yet, I can quickly learn. So I researched, contacted and networked with as many people as possible to get my foot in the right doors.

What are your top 3 tips for budding entrepreneurs?

Delgado: Don't be afraid to ask for favors. Don't sell yourself short! Know your worth and DEMAND IT. Finally, remember that as much as it is a career journey, it's a PERSONAL journey too. So be nice to yourself.

Prado: Pursue your passion! But it’s also important to plan and save money to prepare for the rollercoaster ride of building a brand. Second, manage your cash flow! It’s so important to always understand how much money you have coming in and how much you need to spend in order to get the growth you want. Having clear goals and budgets is vital. Third, make up in creativity what you lack in marketing dollars. You don’t always need a round of venture capital to excel in your space.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started out?

Delgado: I wish I would have allowed myself to take more breaks. Burnout is real!

Prado: I wish I stopped waiting for everything to be perfect. Just starting is the most important step. You can figure things out as you go.

What routines during COVID have you started that help keep you personally and professional on track?

Delgado: COVID has allowed me to practice more self-kindness. I'm more gentle and less hard on myself.

Prado: COVID has affected all businesses, so I have taken a hard pivot to remind myself that I can only focus on the items I can control. I can’t and won’t give my energy to the things I can’t control because it’s beyond me.

So I’ve gone back to what it felt like when I first launched and decided to a certain extent to start over. I’ve used the past few months to focus on product development, reading clinical studies on ingredients, talking to chemists, creating content to serve my community and more.

RELATED: Women who inspire: Entrepreneurs who are resetting amid COVID-19

Through this process it reminded me what I loved so much about my business, because honestly right before the pandemic, I was so consumed in a high-stress environment of business growth and profitably that it affected my mental health. So I’m trying to take this pandemic as a blessing in disguise, a pause to re-evaluate where I need to put my time and energy.

Any professional role models that have made an impact on you?

Delgado: My parents are my professional role models. I've learned how to hustle, fail and get back up from them. Growing up, my parents had MANY businesses, some good and some failures. Entrepreneurship is in my DNA.

Prado: My professional role model is truly my own community. Seeing my people working hard and getting creative especially during this pandemic 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. Immigrants 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.

RELATED: How Ana Flores built a career on uniting Latina entrepreneurs

What’s your Know Your Value moment?

Delgado: When I first started Hija de tu Madre, every time I would make a sale, I actually lost money. Back in the early days, I didn't know my worth and I wasn't accounting for my time, work and materials. It wasn't until I started knowing my worth and acting accordingly that my business started to grow.

Prado: Currently, my know your value moment is not compromising profits for brand awareness. I never understood how it’s normalized in business to operate at a financial loss to just grow market share from an awareness aspect. Every dollar I spend for my business has to have a financial ROI. I have been profitable since Day 1 because I understand my customer and the value of my brand.

What are your goals for 2021?

Delgado: If COVID allows it, my main 2021 goal is to go on a Hija de tu Madre U.S. pop up tour! I desperately miss connecting with our beautiful community offline, and I hope to reignite that in 2021.

Prado: My goals are to continue growing Rizos Curls to be a globally known, clean hair-care brand centered around Curls, Community, and Culture. [I want to] continue launching innovative products and creating bilingual content to make curl education accessible to my community. Last, but not least, [I will] continue providing resources, knowledge and access to important business information and education to help shape the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders.