When Target decided to test the market on natural hair care products, they added four brands to their shelves. Among them was Mahisha Dellinger’s, Curls. At the time, Dellinger was still a new entrepreneur, with her products in just 100 retail stores. A year-and-half later, she had hit six figures. Now, seventeen years since launching, Curls is a multi-million-dollar brand on the shelves of 100,000 stores. 

It’s a success story that defies the odds. Eighty percent of businesses fail before year five, and less than 4% of Black women entrepreneurs make it to the million-dollar mark. Chelsea Crowder, a private wealth advisor with Goldman Sachs noted that “last year, only 2% of venture capital investment dollars went to women-owned enterprises. That number goes down to 0.2% when looking at women of color, and basically 0% for Black women.”

Dellinger says it’s statistics like these that inspire her to support other Black women entrepreneurs in the journey towards the million-dollar mark. From coaching the Furlough Cheesecake sisters to a six-figure business in just three weeks to mentoring Black female business owners on her OWN show, Mind Your Business with Mahisha, Dellinger has proven she is genuinely committed to this cause. 

Eager to take her support large scale, in July Dellinger launched the Black Women Making Millions Academy, a conference that brought together 100 Black businesswomen and key experts to help them execute, grow, and fund their business ideas. The four-day event included master classes, one-on-one sessions, wellness activities, and a private yacht cruise. 

The conference is the kind of thing Dellinger wouldn’t have even been able to imagine in her youth. The success and financial security she knows today was not something she grew up with. “[At home], there weren’t conversations about careers, ambition, women ‘making it.’ They were just trying to survive day-to-day, paycheck-to-paycheck. It was very hard where we grew up.” For Dellinger, her past is both a reminder of why she works as hard as she does and an incentive to empower other black women. 

Written: Pauleanna Reid, Senior Contributor ForbesWomen

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Photo credit: CURLS.BIZ

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