Meet the Dominican Sisters Making Curl Care Clean, Affordable and Effective

DNOrganics Curl Care BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Maya Serres/ BELatina

Embracing your curls can be challenging, especially when you don’t know where to start. After starting their journey to revive and embrace their natural hair in 2017, sisters Cory Dahlia and Nicol Varona started DNOrganics, a brand that aims to spark confidence in women to rock their natural curls in an affordable way while still being clean and effective. 

I got the chance to chat with the sisters about who they are, their journey into entrepreneurship,  and the story behind their products. 

What inspired you to make the jump from sisters on a journey to healthy curls to entrepreneurs? 

Our bond as sisters is indescribable. We grew up in the Dominican Republic, and, like many immigrant families, we stayed behind with relatives until our parents were able to bring us to the United States. We have always been close, but staying alone without our parents at ages 10 and 12 strengthened our bond. We always knew we were going to either work or start a business together one day. 

The entrepreneurial journey has been a roller coaster filled with emotions. Yet, having your sister by your side makes the process more enjoyable and worthwhile. We support and believe in each other. Our passion and dedication helped us create products we are proud to see others use and enjoy. It has been a labor of love, and we are glad we took a chance on our dream and decided to make our idea a reality. 

How have your experiences as Latinas shaped the way you’ve gone about building this brand?

As Latinas, we bring passion to everything we do. We are a hardworking community who always wants to echar pa’lante. Going from high school ESL/bilingual students to first-generation college students and then working in corporate America has been a few of the life experiences that showed us how to persevere. 

One main trait you need as an entrepreneur is patience and the ability to take things one step at a time because things will always keep changing. Building a brand also requires a lot of discipline and dedication, which are things we learned from our family, who has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. From seeing our abuelo running his colmado in DR to seeing our mom and stepdad starting their own multiservice business in PA to seeing our dad become an independent electrician in NYC. We’ve always had family around us trying to better themselves and help those around them. Latinos know how to figure it out and make the most out of their resources. This has been instrumental in helping us build our business as a self-funded company.

DNOrganics products BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Nathan Bonslaver

As a Caribbean curly girl myself, I know how difficult it can be to embrace your curls within a culture that historically views curls as “pelo malo.” Did this impact your journeys at all? How did you navigate this while going about your journey and building the brand? 

We definitely grew up with that mentality that our curls were “pelo malo” in the Dominican Republic. Though we are from a beautiful country with a rich culture that is proud of our food, music, and island, we still struggle to embrace our natural beauty. The old belief that eurocentric looks are the definition of beautiful affected us in many ways as little girls. We only saw ourselves as beautiful with straight hair, and it wasn’t until both of us had life-changing experiences that we started to accept and love ourselves the way we are. 

We also face this challenge every day in our business. There’s still a lot to do to help fix the trauma that we all have, whether we accept it or not. The “pelo malo” mentality still applies in every aspect, even within the curly hair community. We hear, “Well, you have the ‘good curls’”, but that’s not true. We shouldn’t identify curls based on malo o bueno. Our hair is like our fingerprint: it’s uniquely ours. We must nourish it, love it, and protect it like our identity. We want our community not to compare themselves to others and focus on our motto #LiveFearlesslyNatural. 

Live life without fears of their texture or how others perceive it, just loving their hair. We want our familia to spend less time perfecting their hair and more time enjoying life. That’s why we created our products: to help our community nourish, define and strengthen their hair no matter the texture.

One of the most powerful messages of your brand is clean, affordable beauty. What does clean mean to you? 

Clean beauty to us means going beyond the current standard to remove toxic ingredients in personal care products. The term “clean” has been used interchangeably, and it has confused many people but, to us, it means we are going beyond avoiding the common sulfates, parabens, silicones from our products and cutting out other ingredients that are not good for your hair or health. 

We pride ourselves on bringing together the best features from nature and science by challenging our formulation scientists to exclude hormonal disruptors, synthetic fragrances, PEG compounds, formaldehyde, animal-derived ingredients, and many other factors. All of our products are vegan, free of 12 toxic components, cruelty-free, coconut-oil-free, and gluten-free. We are our brand’s first customers, and we knew exactly what ingredients were non-negotiable for our community and us. 

Where do you source your ingredients from? 

Our ingredients are sourced from many parts of the world, and one ingredient may come from various countries. Most of our ingredients come from the U.S. and Latin America. One ingredient that comes from a specific region is Marula oil, sourced from the Marula trees in Africa.

We make sure our Dominican culture is reflected in our formulas. We incorporated the hibiscus flower, known as La Flor de la Sangre de Cristo, in DR. We grew up seeing this flower in every patio back home. Its medicinal features have great benefits to help damaged hair. We also use mango butter instead of other butters for its outstanding advantages and because it is a fruit that takes us back to our childhood. We grew up eating mangos as a snack every time we visited family en el campo. Aloe vera is another ingredient that Latinxs and Dominicans love. It’s like our Vicks, but you will find it in every hair remedy for beauty in DR. You might also notice we do not include coconut oil in any of our products. Although there are plenty of coconuts in DR, we found out many people are allergic to it and opted to include other higher quality oils instead of this one.  

How do you hope to inspire young, curly-haired Latinxs? What advice would you give them?

We know the challenges curly girls face whether they’re transitioning or have been curly their entire lives, so we want them to spend less time perfecting their hair and more time enjoying life. Confidence grows from within, and by sharing our journey, we hope other curly-haired Latinxs can see that you can achieve anything and everything, and you may even learn more about yourself along the way. 

We also want to inspire them to go after their dreams and to know their current situation will not define their final destination. We are both Dominican immigrants who moved to this country without knowing a word of English. We didn’t let the limited mentality stop us from going after our dreams. We are incredibly blessed to now have a brand that helps others enjoy their natural hair while using clean ingredients. Our biggest advice is just to start that dream or goal you have in mind, even if you think you may not be ready. Whether you want to start embracing your curls but are afraid of what people or your family will say or start that business you have been dreaming about for years. Just do it!

Any exciting new products for this year? 

We have exciting things coming this year! We cannot wait to have them all ready! We are working on expanding our collection and including an innovative shampoo and conditioner focused on scalp health. It will complement our styling products very well. It is designed to promote hair growth and nourish our hair and is made for all hair textures. There are many product ideas in the pipeline that we have been working on for quite some time now, but we will leave those as a surprise. We are also exploring adding curly hair accessories and tools to our shop, so stay tuned for more. Make sure to follow @dnorganics on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to find out about all the things we have planned for 2022! 

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