Lulu Cordero: “Here are 5 things you should do to become a thought leader in your industry”

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You get to lead the revolution. Your voice can change the way people live, think and how they feel about themselves — thereby changing the world. There is no better feeling than leaving your mark and changing the world for the better.

I had the pleasure to interview Lulu Cordero. Lulu is the CEO + Founder of Bomba Curls, an all-natural, nontoxic, premium Dominican style line of hair care products, developed to celebrate curly hair. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Miami, Lulu grew up watching her Father work hard to not only support his family, but also turn his security job into his very own business. In watching and helping her Father make his dreams come true, Lulu learned the sacrifice and drive she would need to make Bomba Curls come to life.

Lulu saved up for over 10 years in order to launch Bomba Curls and did so in August of 2019. Growing up in a world where mainstream media didn’t depict or deem curls beautiful, Lulu decided to make it her mission to create a brand that celebrated natural coils and kinks. Using her Afro-Dominicana roots as inspiration, she formulates hair potions made with Dominican beauty secrets and island ingredients.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I was born in Villa Mella, in the Dominican Republic. My family came to the States when I was 7, and from that day forward my education in how to be an entrepreneur began. As an immigrant, you learn that nothing worth having comes easy…it takes work. You have to grind, you have to hustle and you can’t just sit there and wait for opportunity to come to you. You have to make things happen for yourself. Growing up, I’d sell snacks and candy bars out of my backpack in school (at a lofty markup) so I could save up to get that one pair of sneakers that I wanted but knew that my parents couldn’t afford.

I graduated from the University of Chicago in 2009 and briefly worked in banking but returned home to South Florida to help my father build his fledgling private security business. That experience taught me so much about what it really takes to build something from the bottom up-grit being the most important. You can’t run away from a challenge and you can’t be afraid to hear the word NO, because you’ll hear it so often in business. I also learned to not shy away from speaking up. I think as women we tend to be afraid to assert ourselves because we don’t want to be labeled as “problematic”, but your opinions matter! Those very opinions can be the difference between a project sinking or swimming. During the years I spent helping my father build his dreams, my own dreams became more apparent. I have always loved all things related to beauty and would make my own natural and organic hair products. People would always stop and ask me what products I was using on my hair and the answer was always my own. I recognized that there was a real opportunity here, so I started selling my little concoctions to friends and family and eventually that led to Bomba Curls. I have big, natural, curly hair-which the mainstream would consider unprofessional or undesirable, basically, something that needed to be “fixed”-when in reality, the only thing that needed to be fixed was society’s idea of what is considered beautiful. I created Bomba Curls with the idea that it would be a celebration of what makes you unique. We’re breaking outside of society’s box and choosing to celebrate the unique things that make you the special someone that you are- and we’re doing it with all natural and organic ingredients because if you’re celebrating you, then you need to treat yourself right!

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I have always been an entrepreneur at heart but I was also a pioneer of what’s now been called the natural hair movement. I have been a “naturalista” for 15 years and deeply understand my industry and the needs of my customers-I am my customer! I’ve been around long enough to know when a new perspective was needed in this space and that’s why I stepped up…to effect change.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Many years ago, I wanted to enter the hair care space with a friend who ultimately backed out and left me high and dry (we are no longer friends ha ha!). I was so excited to about “going for it” that I failed to analyze whether the right ingredients were there so I could start this journey. Looking back, that failure to launch was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I was not ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship; I needed the time and experience that I’ve had, to prepare for stepping up as a leader. You have to wear a million hats, put out a million fires and be in the right head space to juggle all those things while keeping your cool. Now I’d say I’m older, wiser and better equipped to make solid decisions.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In the early stages of Bomba Curls, I decided that for the first time I’d to allow someone else help me run our newsletter. I found someone who came highly reviewed, so I decided to give them a shot. I absentmindedly did not do the final review of the newsletter, before letting it run. That was the first and last time I ever did that. There were grammatical mistakes everywhere! My customers weren’t happy, I wasn’t happy and it didn’t reflect well on me. At the end of the day, the fault was my own, because its my job to be on top of all of the details, big or small. Lesson Learned: Mind your business.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

A thought leader is someone whose ideas can spark the flame that evokes change. Thought leaders are the seed, typical leaders are the farmers and influencers tell people whether the crop is good or bad.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

You get to lead the revolution. Your voice can change the way people live, think and how they feel about themselves — thereby changing the world. There is no better feeling than leaving your mark and changing the world for the better.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

If you’re a thought leader then you’re likely observant by nature. That is a handy trait because it allows to stay ahead of the curve, which then translates to creating opportunities for your business that others might miss.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

I don’t believe that there’s a specific path that an individual “must” take to become a thought leader. Everyone’s path is uniquely their own. However, I do believe that the following could prove useful on your journey:

Experience-There are certain lessons that you’ll only learn over time, by doing -and sometimes failing at them- but that’s what allows you to become that much more prepared. I didn’t even know where to begin when I started my journey, but by doing as much as I could on my own, falling down, reassessing and pivoting as I needed to, I gradually developed the knowledge & skills that are of value in my industry.

Know what you stand for- It not only gives you credibility but makes for a leader that has integrity. People will respect what you have to say, if they know that you not only talk the talk but walk the walk. I stand for clean ingredients because I believe that greener products are better for us and the environment. I personally live a “green” lifestyle and my products are a direct reflection of that. This is how I choose to live my life and just knowing that, I believe, lets people know that I have something insightful to contribute.

Be Open to feedback-whether you choose to take that feedback with a grain of salt or actually make use of it, is ultimately up to you. Feedback is a useful tool that can help bring clarity to an idea, figure out your next step and help you avoid mistakes down the line. My customer’s feedback let’s me know what we’re doing wrong, right and allows me to better address their needs. Their feedback is often the deciding factor for new products ideas and ingredients that we choose to incorporate into our formulas.

Keep an open mind- you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you chose to do otherwise. To grow, to learn, to discover your strengths you have to be willing to admit that you don’t know it all. Stay open to new ideas and watch yourself grow.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Gary Vaynerchuk was at the vanguard of a new era in marketing. The landscape has changed so much over the years and he understood that evolution before others did and managed to build something amazing. Love him or hate him- his experience backs up his “thought leader” label. The biggest lessons I’ve learned from his approach are to be true to who you are and not be afraid to rattle any cages.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

It’s just a word. If you want to call yourself or be called a thought leader, so be it. I think what’s more important is the action you take or experiences you’ve had to actually back it up.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

You are no good to anyone, least of all your business, if you are not good to yourself first. It’s so important to take a step back and breathe sometimes. Honestly, after a certain point in the process, the quality of your work begins to suffer. I know how difficult is can be to avoid the temptation to just keep pushing through, but I always try to stop, breathe and refocus. Often times, having that renewed focus helps you see things you didn’t see before and put the pieces together in a more effective way.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Acceptance. The tapestry that is humanity is so rich because we each bring our unique backgrounds and stories to the table. That variety is a source of beauty within the world. If more people saw things through that lens then life itself becomes more beautiful.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Success is not given, it is earned.” That is one of the first lessons I learned growing up and its what motivates me to push through obstacles every day. This is a country where you can make something out of yourself…doesn’t matter if you come from humble beginnings or aren’t well connected…none of that matters. What matters is your level of grit and willingness to put in the work that it will take to succeed.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Oprah Winfrey- She is the definition of self-made. I have the greatest level of respect and admiration for her especially, as a woman in business. She saw a vision for herself and made it happen regardless of what anyone saw or failed to see in her. The effects of what she has accomplished will ripple through the lives of many for years to come.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Through our Instagram @bombacurls or Facebook page. We make it a point to really engage with our followers through social media because their feedback is what guides us every step of the way.

Lulu Cordero: “Here are 5 things you should do to become a thought leader in your industry” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.