Bomba Curls CEO Lulu Cordero On Creating Opportunities From Obstacles & Drawing From Her Dominican Heritage

Bomba Curls CEO Lulu Cordero

In times of uncertainty and upheaval such as the environment we are experiencing right now with COVID-19 and the nationwide uproar over the murder of black men and women by the hands of police, there are often new beginnings and new opportunities that emerge from the rubble. As many people are experiencing job loss and financial insecurity, it can become easy to lose your drive. However, this is also a time when entrepreneurs are made. CEO + Founder of Bomba Curls Lulu Cordero says it best “Money doesn’t create solutions; the entrepreneur creates solutions and the money follows.”

Ten years ago, Lulu had a vision of creating a company that was geared toward curly haired beauties that helped them to not only care for their natural hair but to embrace it and love it. She began crafting recipes in her kitchen with knowledge gained from her Dominican heritage on effects of natural ingredients like coffee, cinnamon and pistachio oil. She started making small batches of what became Bomba Curls’ flagship product, The Forbidden Oil, the same product she crafted herself when she went natural years earlier and suffered from severe traction alopecia.

We had the opportunity to speak with Lulu one-on-one about her personal journey and why creating Bomba Curls and drawing from her Dominican heritage was important to her.

Bomba Curls Forbidden Oil

How did you first come up with the idea for Bomba Curls?

Back in 2009, I suffered from severe traction alopecia. I’d gone natural in 2004, however, lack of hair care knowledge left me feeling overwhelmed when it came to properly caring for my natural curls. I’d just throw my hair into really tight buns and call it day, out of frustration! Traction alopecia set in and my mom suggested that I use coffee-an old Dominican beauty secret-to grow my edges back. I started experimenting with creating my own coffee infused hair oil blend at home- being pre-med, with a strong chemistry background also helped-and I developed the Forbidden Oil. My edges and hair flourished! Friends and family noticed the changes in my hair and started asking me to sell them some of my oil at which point I realized I was on to something that had the potential to be a business. 

I also realized that knowing how to properly care for your natural hair makes it a million times easier to embrace it. In my culture, natural hair has a stigma associated with it and I wanted to fight that stigma and make it easier for the older and younger generations to embrace their roots- literally and figuratively. Bomba Curls is a declaration that curls, kinks and melanin are beautiful.

Tell us how your Dominican heritage influenced your products and the business overall?

The ingredients that I use and even my style of formulation are heavily influenced by the way we approach hair care back home. In the DR, we have unique hair care blends that have been used by women for generations to promote hair growth and length retention- I am the first to truly share those unique blends with the world.

For me, it’s also personally important to celebrate our natural, kinky, curly, Afro roots because they are not often celebrated. As an Afro-Latina,  I grew up being told that my curly hair was “bad hair” that needed to be “fixed” I.e straightened, so that it could be considered beautiful. At the heart of Bomba Curls, we work to broaden the spectrum of beauty and promote positivity and self-love because the culture needs us. No one should be made to believe that their God given hair is anything less than beautiful.

We love stories about how hard times become the catalyst for making great entrepreneurs. Can you talk to us about your journey and the hardships you faced along the way?

Getting Bomba Curls off the ground was a major challenge! I had zero experience in manufacturing and limited funds…all I had was a vision and my lab notebook. I could not afford a massive production run, so most manufacturers turned their noses up and turned me away. I could not afford fancy graphic or web designers, so I had to work with what I had and teach myself how to do a thing or two. HOWEVER, that worked out in my favor because no one is able to bring your vision to life quite like you and no one but you can give your business the love and dedication that it needs. I found a small, local production facility that was able to let us get in there and produce our oil. I had total control over production, which allowed me to make sure that the quality was where it needed to be  and  present the world with my vision in a manner that I could be proud of. 

Many of the most successful entrepreneurs are those who create solutions to problems a lot of people have. Talk to us about your perspective on being a solution-creator through Bomba Curls?

Necessity is the mother of invention. I had a need…my struggles with traction alopecia drove me to look for long term solutions that would help me recover my hair. In doing so, I realized that lots of other women suffered from this same issue and could benefit from my formulation. That then grew into Bomba Curls, as I realized that women suffered from a multitude of scalp and hair-related issues that I could help them remedy through my natural and toxin-free products.

Can you tell us about having alopecia and the products that helped you deal with it?

Suffering from traction alopecia really affected my confidence. There was this great shame I felt because of my hair issues…I hated taking pictures and even withdrew from seeing friends and family socially. I honestly could not find anything that worked for me so I turned to what I 

How would you inspire other women, especially Latina women, in their entrepreneurial journeys right now?

Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged or dissuaded by others. That’s one of the most difficult things to deal with, when the world around you- and even those closest to you- express skepticism. Don’t spend time trying to prove anything to them, make your focus solving the problem that you initially set out to solve and creating a great product. In time, your efforts will speak for themselves and you’ll turn around to find that skeptics have become believers. 

Bomba Curls Forbidden Hair Mask

What advice would you give for women who want to launch a business but don’t have the money or connections just yet?

For a lot of hopeful entrepreneurs, the focus can sometimes become all of the reasons “why not”. Money doesn’t create solutions; the entrepreneur creates solutions and the money follows. I saved up every penny that I could for years and I even sold some of my clothes, shoes, bags- just so that I could invest it in my vision. I believed in my vision so greatly that I was not going to let a lack of money or connections stop me from bringing it to life. I started small by selling products I made in my kitchen and kept reinvesting every dollar until eventually I could afford my first production run. Let your vision empower you and create opportunities out of obstacles. 

10 years ago Bomba Curls was a vision that began in your kitchen. Where do you see yourself and the company in 10 years from now?

I see Bomba Curls becoming a household name, not just in the US but across the world! I see us in major retailers and offering a variety of healthy personal care products for the entire family. I also see us helping to redefine beauty norms and broadening the spectrum of beauty such that women everywhere can see the beauty in the skin they’re in. 

What makes you a powerful woman?

True power comes from being in tune with your purpose. My purpose comes from helping others and helping my community heal in a manner that promotes self-love and celebrates all that we are and all that we can be. 

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