The Dallas Examiner
Young Black girls enrolled in public schools are six times more likely to be suspended from school compared to their counterparts, according to a 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Labor. Moreover, the report states that women and girls of color experience poverty at a higher rate and receive lower wages for work.
Therefore, it’s important for young Black girls to not only graduate from high school but to ensure they maximize their futures outside of their environment. It isn’t often that Black girls, especially girls from low-income areas, see women that are just like them in very successful careers outside of reality TV and the music industry.
With this in mind, Mahisha Dellinger, founder of CURLS hair care products, made it her mission to speak specifically to girls of color, Nov. 18, at her CURLS Girls Rule The World: Empowering Entrepreneurs Luncheon at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. Over 80 young ladies from South Oak Cliff High School, Dallas Can Academy Grant East Campus and Paul Quinn College attended the event, ranging in age from 12 to 22.
During the luncheon, she addressed the negative issues engulfing Black females and provided the young ladies the opportunity to speak with African American businesswomen in an effort to help guide them in the right direction toward their destinies.
“[This event] is not about having lunch, meeting people and leaving,” the self-proclaimed “modern-day Madam CJ Walker” said to her audience. “[It] is about connecting, exchanging information with your mentors, staying in touch, and having them spear you through to you success.”
The CURLS mentorship program launched in April as an effort to emphasize female entrepreneurship face-to-face with young women by communicating and sharing personal stories and trials from other entrepreneur women who share the same background as them.
“I was trying to find something I can dig my teeth and do my life’s work,” Dellinger said. “I wanted something more meaningful. We [she and the mentors] are very diligent on making sure that [the girls] are ready and that they can commit to their future.”
As the event continued, the young ladies were paired with two mentors that specialize in various expertises such as cosmetology, science and technology, medicine, business, media and other professions.
Dellinger’s passion for success of Black females may come from her background, which she had in common with many of them. Before becoming a multimillionaire, the beauty pioneer was just a young girl with a lot of ambition from an impoverished area in Sacramento, California, known as Meadowview, also called “Danger Island,”
Growing up, she encountered many of the social ills that plague notoriously dangerous areas such as home invasions, family involved in gang violence, teen pregnancy and sexual violence.
“It was a very destitute situation,” she explained. “We didn’t see a lot of hope outside of the ghetto. We didn’t see how to escape and chase a destiny.”
Even though she was facing all these issues, Dellinger didn’t let these obstacles stop her. She graduated high school and, at 18 years old, struggled to care for her infant daughter. Still, she went to college to pursue a business degree. After graduating college, she began her career in corporate America, but left after experiencing racism, which pushed to her become the successful entrepreneur she is today.
“Seeing all those things could have definitely held me captive, [but] I changed and conquered my mindset,” she said.
The young attendees were able to speak to Dellinger and other mentors personally and directly as they dissected how each businesswoman captured the same powerful mindset.
“I had a young lady tell me that someone told her you can’t make money in the hair industry,” said Shammah Kinchen, CEO of Solutions by Shammah and AdornME hair products, regarding a mentee who’s passionate about being a cosmetologist. “I was very happy to let her know that that was inaccurate.”
The mentors also helped their prodigies establish a presentable social media presence and clear career pathways, and they created personal bonds with each girl as well.
“The event was very informative,” said Minya Powell, Dallas Can senior and owner of two small local dance companies in her area. “I was able to talk to women of color who own businesses about my businesses.”
Dellinger said she hopes that the girls understand and realize the power they have over their future and to use their power to take themselves far beyond what statistics and stereotypes say their futures should be.
“Given my background, I knew that having information, resources and access to support young girls of color allowed me to have an impact on those girls before they enter high school,” she said. “I wanted to let them know that they can shape their future into whatever they want instead of letting it be decided for them.”