Let’s play a game of word association. Ready? The word is CEO.
What do you think of? Maybe you imagine a man wearing a suit in boardroom leading a meeting.
Let me tell ya, that vision has changed big time. It looks like a strong woman, a woman with vision, creating a business that serves others and creates a life she has always dreamed of living. I see her when I look in the mirror.
Claiming that CEO title and seeing yourself when you think of those three letters isn’t easy. You might still think of yourself as a hobbyist, a side-hustler, a small business owner… But CEO? That title is harder to claim when imposter syndrome starts creeping in.
In this episode, CEO of CURLS and host of Mind Your Business on OWN Mahisha Dellinger opens up about the start of her business, why she prayed to be laid off from her corporate job, and the mindset hacks she uses to own her title to do big things for her business and the women she mentors.
Where It All Started
Mahisha never planned to enter the entrepreneurial world or become a CEO. A jarring experience with a former manager in her job in corporate America shifted her mentality about working for herself. After that experience, she knew she wanted more control over her work, life, and legacy.
“My path to entrepreneurship wasn’t planned. It came from my back being against the wall and in a very uncomfortable position… Either you level up and get yourself out of it or you get buried in sand, and I decided to level up and get myself out of it,” Maisha shared.
But the push into entrepreneurship didn’t play out on the timeline she imagined. In fact, it was sped up as her company underwent a round of layoffs. Mahisha found herself praying to be laid off so she didn’t actually have to quit. And her prayers were answered. That was the first step into building her own business (with a severance package to boot!)
With Mahisha’s childhood spent impoverished and struggling, she saw entrepreneurship as a way to earn the living she wanted, provide for her own needs, and now, support her future generations, “This is a freedom I couldn’t have dreamt of in corporate.”
When Business Slowed
When I think of Mahisha, I see a growth chart that just goes up and up. But as an entrepreneur, I know there are growing pains and loops and dips in every growth pattern. I asked Mahisha what those looked like for her and CURLS.
There was a big uptick in the company’s sales figures for about three years after they landed in target, but then they began to plateau. Mahisha joked, “Whenever you plateau, get worried! The next step is to go down.”
From there, the next step is innovating. Her key lesson learned during that stale time is the importance of evolution. “You have to continue to evolve or you will dissolve.”
Mahisha was seeing that a lot of their consumers were talking about the benefits of rice water in the CURLS community. They took that information and turned around a new rice water product line within a few months.
Own Your CEO Title
You might think of yourself as a hobbyist or a small business owner, but have you stepped back to see the full scope of what you’ve created? Can you totally claim the CEO title, or do you struggle?
I know imposter syndrome still creeps in for me, so I asked Mahisha her advice on owning that title and stepping into your role, rather than cowering away from it.
Be kind to yourself and recognize that you’re taking action and making movement, one step at a time, toward your goal. Mahisha’s words on this? “Your pace is your pace, what’s for you is for you, and no one can take it.”
Mahisha is known to use the phrase “Boss up!” with the women she mentors and on her TV show Mind Your Business. “When I say boss up, I mean to step up and into your destiny,” Mahisha explained.
That doesn’t always mean becoming an entrepreneur, it means own your legacy, who you are, your purpose, and your path. Do not downplay who you are for any reason or for any person.
More from This Interview
After the TV show, Mahisha answered her calling to encourage, mentor, and grow businesses founded by women of color with her Black Girls Making Millions Academy. In our conversation, she talks about that process and shares what she learned about herself through creating it. Mahisha and I look at what a day in the life of a CEO and mother of four kids. She also shares what self-care looks like, why she’s a big fan of “playing hooky”, and she speaks about finding the right support, both at home and in your business, to give yourself the best shot at success.