A California girl from the Sacramento Valley, you started your business career on the West Coast with Intel before launching Curls, a multimillion-dollar hair product brand. What brought you to Dallas? I moved my entire business and my family here five years ago. Tax savings, that was a big driver. California is in the bottom five states for businesses. Texas is in the top five.
Now you have a TV show coming out this month on OWN. How did you catch Oprah’s eye? Actually, a production company contacted me about doing a show about hair brand owners. It was going to be a show with me and my other counterparts. I call us a dysfunctional sorority of black women with hair brands.
What happened? It didn’t pan out. So then I got a call from the same production company that had this other show idea—this idea of helping business owners excel and take their business to the next level. They pitched the idea to OWN, and they loved it. But OWN wanted to change the spin to make it all about black female business owners, because there’s an interesting stat that black women-owned businesses are experiencing 300 percent growth, but only 4 percent make it to the million-dollar mark. And so it was called The Next Level. They changed the name recently to Mind Your Business With Mahisha.
There’s another curl genius from Dallas, Comer Cottrell, the man who brought the Jheri curl to the masses. Did you ever meet him? You know what’s so funny is his son-in-law and his daughter are my mentors. He was a pioneer in this ethnic hair care category, one of the founding fathers. I grew up using his products. He sold to L’Oréal later, but his daughter, Rene Brown, and her husband, Eric, they worked for Comer. And they used to live in California, too. He moved his business here from California many, many years ago for the same reasons I did. They have been in the business for so long, and they helped me a lot.
Do you have a similar dream to own a professional sports team, like Comer, who was a part-owner of the Texas Rangers? Not a professional sports team. I have other things I want to do besides hair. I have a few different things up my sleeve, like a new product called VitaPop popcorn. It’s an organic, non-GMO, low-fat snack with over 15 essential vitamins per bag.
Dallas is a city famous for hair. What’s your vision for Dallas hair? Is it famous for hair?
It is famous for hair. What kind of hair?
Big blond hair. OK, now I see that. You know what? Less synthetic. I do see a lot of the pageant hair. A lot of horrible, very obvious extensions. I would like to see us embrace our natural look a lot more. Still color, cover the gray, but not so overly pageant-y.
Personal question: do your products work for anybody that has curly hair? Yes. Wavy, curly, or kinky. Shampoo, conditioner—you know, that’s standard. When you talk styling, that’s when we have the variety of products depending on the texture of your hair. One of our employees has straight blond hair, no curl, but she loves the shampoo and the mask. She colors her hair really, really blond, and she loves how it helps restore her hair.
Do you see yourself being more of a Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, or Daymond John on your show? Not Mr. Wonderful. I would say between Mark and Daymond. Mark because he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy, still down to earth but he’s got it together. But Daymond because he comes from the hood like I do, and he’s fabulous. So a mix of those two.
What hair advice would you give Mark Cuban? [laughs] Put some hair spray in it, some gel. Just groom yourself, man. He’s a nice-looking guy. Let me send him some gel. Our gel works for everyone.