Jessicurl: Hair with Heart and Soul. An Interview with Jess McGuinty
Would you like to learn how to “Plunk“ your hair? Would you like to know what in the world “plunking your hair” even means? Want deliciously fragrant natural hair products that result in frizz-free soft and gorgeous locks? Jess covers all of this and other invaluable curly hair techniques in her free online videos. Jessicurl is what you have been searching for.
Name: Jess McGuinty
Position: founder, CEO and product formulator of Jessicurl
Business started in: September 2002.
Please Jess, introduce yourself. What lead you into starting your hair care company Jessicurl?
I’m Jess Mcguinty, 31, and live in beautiful Humboldt County, California. When I was 14, my fairly straight hair grew more and more coarse and eventually started to curl. I was mortified. Everything I tried just made it bigger and fuzzier. I didn’t know what to do. My peers called me names like “crusty” and “helmet head” because I’d wet my hair down in between classes to keep it from getting bigger.
I hated my hair, and that didn’t stop when I grew up. Finally, I figured there’s gotta be a better way and I did an Internet search for “curly hair.” I was amazed to find an entire online community of curly haired people who had the same struggles. Who knew?
I immersed myself in the message boards at http://www.naturallycurly.com/. We traded hair tips and horror stories and talked about products. I tried any product that someone raved about, but I didn’t like my hair any better. Most of them made it worse. Then I found a recipe for hair gel made from flax seeds, and I tried it.
The result wasn’t great, but now inspiration had grabbed me. I knew which natural ingredients were good for curly hair, so I added them to that recipe. For this long-suffering curly head, the results were a miracle. My hair finally looked like I wanted, and I had made the product in my own kitchen!
I had no thoughts about starting a business. I just wanted a product that made my hair look great. But after I shared my recipe on the message board, the e-mails flooded in. People wanted to buy some from me. In September of 2002, Rockin’ Ringlets Styling Potion was born.
Jen:What is your typical day like?
Jess: Every day is different. I have a great staff that now makes and ships the products, so my focus now is on the customer service, marketing, sales, PR, quality control and public speaking. There are the day to day tasks, such as tracking down lost packages, taking orders on the phone and answering customer questions via email. Lately we’ve been working on launching a white chocolate candy bar flavored with the coconut, vanilla and orange that make up our popular Island Fantasy scent. That has been a fun project to work on (I have to test candy for work!!), but the best part is that it will raise money for our local food bank, Food For People. I’m often asked to speak to students at Humboldt State University as well as other local community groups about my experiences starting Jessicurl and why our business model is so important to me. And since I’m always raising money for something, other days are spent organizing fundraisers, most often for the North Star Quest Girls Camp for whom I was the Fundraising Co-Originator this year. I’m also the newest board member of our local Small Business Development Center, so there are the occasional meetings for that.
What led you to start your “Women Around the World“ program and what have you learned from your experiences with this project?
Once I realized that this business was actually going to work, I knew that I wanted it to be a socially responsible business that contributes to different charities. At the time I thought that had to wait until we were making a certain amount of profit. Two things happened that made me change my mind about the timeline.
First, I saw Dr. Katherine Hamlin on Oprah. She has dedicated her life to curing women in Ethiopia of fistulas, a horrible condition that can happen during obstructed childbirth. She opened the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in 1974 and has treated 25,000 women. I cried while I watched that interview and decided that when we were able to start donating money, I wanted that hospital to be the first recipient.
Soon after that, I saw an interview with Michael Franti, lead singer of the band Spearhead. Spearhead is known for their socially conscious lyrics and for speaking out about injustice in the world and their music is basically the soundtrack at the Jessicurl factory. Franti referred to the band as a “human rights organization.” He caused a major shift in my thinking. I thought, “If a band can be a human rights organization, can’t my business?” All of a sudden, Jessicurl became about a lot more than hair! I wanted to start donating money to the Fistula Hospital right then.
We settled on 5 percent of our May gross revenue, and then came up with an idea to take it even further. We built a feature into the shopping cart so customers can make direct contributions, and as a thank you we give them a discount on a future Jessicurl purchase. Since starting the program in May 2003, we’ve raised thousands of dollars for a variety of different causes. In addition, we donate products to about a dozen different fundraising raffles every year, and help sponsor the annual Food For People holiday fund drive.Jen:Who were your childhood heroes? Who are your heroes now?Jess: When I was a kid I was really into gymnastics, so my big heroes then were Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton.
Now my biggest hero is Michael Franti, for reasons stated above. I also really admire Gayle Abramson, who founded the North Star Quest Girls Camp, for which I volunteer. NSQC is for girls going into 6-8th grade, and focuses on building confidence, positive body image, healthy relationships and other issues important to creating strong, smart and bold women. It’s very close to my heart and I’m so thankful there are women like Gayle out there working to help girls with these issues.Jen:That is really awesome Jess. I have always been a huge fan of women’s gymnastics as well, Nadia and Mary Lou are big 10’s in my book. The Girls Camp sounds incredible, it makes me so happy that you are working with girls at this critical time in their development.Okay, back to business.What do you think the biggest mistake women make when it comes to their hair? How could they go about changing that?Jess:
I think in general many women don’t understand their hair, and that tends to go double for curly haired women. We are not born knowing that our hair has different care instructions than straight hair, and many of us were told by our exasperated mothers to “just go brush your hair!” That’s pretty much the worst advice for curly hair. I get so many emails from curlies who complain about frizzy, poofy hair, but when they describe their routine, tell me about washing twice daily with drugstore shampoo and brushing it to try to “flatten it out.” So in my opinion, it comes down to education and information. On my website I offer tons of tips for creating well defined curls that don’t frizz and even have product demo videos that show users the best way to handle their curls. I’ve heard it over and over again that when people change their routine and follow these tips, they’re much happier with their hair. I love that!
If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 beauty items would you not be able to survive without?
Well, since I’m so hair obsessed, they’ll all be hair related. 🙂 I’d say my Gentle Lather Shampoo, since it can also be used as body wash, so it would serve two purposes. Also, my Too Shea! Extra Moisturizing Conditioner, since it’s SO moisturizing and I imagine I’d be getting a lot of sun on that desert island. I guess in that case, practicality dictates my third should be a sun screen, shouldn’t it? 🙂 I like Clinique Sun-Care UV Response #30, as it doesn’t make my face break out but keeps me from getting burned.
Wow, how incredible to get this opportunity to interview you Jess. I personally started using Rockin’ Ringlets and your Confident Coils Styling Solution soon after I decided to embrace and convert to the naturally curly routine. I am also a huge fan of all your demonstration videos!
That “Island Fantasy” chocolate bar is calling my name! Jess you are an inspiration by your willingness to build a business with real hair smarts as well as having compassion for so many people in your community and beyond. Many thanks and best wishes for continued success at Jessicurl!
Entry filed under: Hair, Self Acceptance. Tags: Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, Charity, curly hair, Dr. Katherine Hamlin, Fistual Hospital, Hair, heart, homemade hair mask, inspire, Island Fantasy chocolate, Jess McGuinty, Jessicurl, love, Michael Franti, naturally curly, Oprah, plunk, plunking, rachael ray, Spearhead.