Welcome to Quit Your Day Job — an interview series with folks who have ditched their day jobs to branch out on their own and follow their passions.
This week, we talked to Julissa Prado, founder and CEO of Rizos Curls, a line of hair care products for "curly-haired girls like her." Julissa spent years experimenting with formulas and balancing a full-time job at Nestle before finally starting her own business.
She told us all about finding the courage to quit her corporate job (last month!), facing down the perils of imposter syndrome and how she knew it was time to turn her side hustle into a full-fledged brand.
Did you go to college? If so, what did you study and what were your career aspirations?
My father and uncles came to this country with nothing in their pockets but dreams. I had the privilege of watching them go from doing backbreaking work on fields to now owning their own businesses. Their entrepreneurial spirit inspired me to want to pursue a career in business. [I received] a Bachelor's in International Studies from UCLA and a Master's in Business Management from Wake Forest.
How did you find your passion? Did this differ from your 'original plan'?
My passion has always been my culture, so curly hair falls right in line with it. Growing up Latina, I always saw most my family and community had wavy, curly or coily hair, but would straighten it. Wearing it natural was out of the question.
There was a huge lack of knowledge on how to style our natural hair and even products for us to use. I would save my money and buy so many products that didn’t work for me or had harsh chemicals that were not good for my curls.
My dream was always to one day create the very best products that would celebrate my families curl types—from my sister’s loose waves to my tia’s coily strands. At 15 I began saving my money from working at my parent’s restaurant, soon after I embarked on this journey and spent years searching for the perfect formulas.
What was your old job and how did you decide to leave it behind?
I had an amazing career with Nestle [up until] last month. I had a great position, an amazing team, made great money—absolutely no complaints. Prior to launching, Rizos Curls was always my side hustle. Once I launched I tried to continue with it as my side hustle, but we grew very quickly and that required more of my time. It all happened very fast, it’s only been 4 weeks since I decided to quit my corporate job.
I had my official Rizos Curls launch in October, and have been incredibly blessed to have people supporting since day one. Most of my customers are not like regular customers, they treat me like family. They send me encouraging messages, testimonials, pictures, ask me for hair advice, and share Rizos Curls with all their friends and family.
We have been growing very quickly and it became too much balancing my full-time corporate job with my baby: Rizos Curls. I didn’t expect to leave my job so soon, but I didn’t come all this way with Rizos to not give it my all. It was a very hard decision to make, but I had to follow my heart.
How long did it take you to feel financially stable? Is this a goal you're still working towards?
Since Rizos Curls is very new and still requires a lot of investment to make it grow, I am not touching any money we make yet, so I can instead reinvest into it. Therefore, I am living off my savings and hope to continue doing so for as long as I can.
What's been the scariest part of all of this?
The scariest part was quitting such a great and well-paid job. I kept postponing the day and chickening out. The fear of the unknown was the hardest thing to overcome.
What if Rizos Curls stops growing? What if sales stop? What if I run out of money? What if Rizos doesn’t work out and I can’t find another job? What if I don’t have what it takes? What if I’m not smart enough?
I had to push all those thoughts out of my head, and just trust what my heart was telling me to do.
What's something you wish you could do over in your career so far?
Nothing. So many challenges I have been encountering are making me confident in the skill sets I have learned so far in the corporate world. Many random lessons and skills that I didn’t appreciate back then, I am encountering now and realize how much every interaction in my life was preparing me for this moment.
I think the universe knew exactly what it was doing with me. For some reason, I know that I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I am meant to do. It’s a feeling I cannot explain, but am very confident it’s real. I don’t know what the future holds for me, or if my path is to work on Rizos Curls forever, but everything in me tells me that right now I’m where I need to be.
How do you handle failures and rejection?
I have always had thick skin, and try to always remind myself not to take things personally. A lot of the time when people are negative or shut a door in your face, the reason behind them doing it has nothing to do with you.
Do you have a favorite quote or words of wisdom?
“You are what you believe yourself to be” Paulo Coelho
What’s your advice to someone who’s struggling or scared to follow their dreams?
Trust in yourself or no one else will. You must be your own number one supporter. Believe in yourself, trust your instincts, trust your heart—all these things are how the universe speaks to us and guides us.
Understand yourself and how situations make you feel. If your heart is telling you to do something then drown out all the other noise and just follow it. A lot of the time the biggest thing holding us back is ourselves.
Photos courtesy of Julissa Prado.