Meet the two Dominican sisters redefining curly hair through embracement and care
Cory and Nicol Varona are the entrepreneurs behind Ocoa Beauty, a company that provides high end curly hair products for the self loving Latina.
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Cory and Nicol Varona are two sisters born and raised in the Dominican Republic.
Growing up, they were both ashamed of their curly hair.
“We always used to go to the hair salon with our mom, as Dominican culture is very focused on Eurocentric stereotypes,” said Nicol Varona during an interview with AL DÍA.
To this end, one of the most frequent activities the sisters did was get their hair strengthened.
“For us, going to the hair salon was like this amazing thing,” said Varona. “We never wanted to really showcase our curls.”
Upon moving to the United States during middle school, the sisters had to learn English and how to acclimate to the much different environment.
Their parents worked hard to help guide both Cory and Nicol into college, eventually helping them become the first in the family to attend college in the U.S.
Life Changing Experiences
Cory and Nicol have been known to do just about everything together.
Both of them went to college at Penn State, both studied business — Nicol focused on marketing, while Cory focused on accounting — and both worked their first jobs at the same company.
In 2017, a life changing experience took place for both the sisters.
Cory welcomed her first child that year; however, she developed preeclampsia during her pregnancy, which ended prematurely.
Around the same time, Nicol had moved out to live on her own.
“I moved out on my own and during that journey was when I started to discover curly hair and trying to embrace my curly hair,” she said.
However, the many years of flat ironing her hair had caused damage to her natural hair.
From there, Nicol began doing research about curly hair products. And as Cory was adjusting to her new life as a mother, Nicol would share all she learned with her sister.
Thinking back to the countless hours the two often spent at the salon straightening their hair, upon entering different stages of their lives, that wasn’t something the sisters wanted to do any longer.
“We got into the whole wellness shift in our lives,” said Nicol. “And we both started to really get into the ingredients that we were using for our curls and that then kind of expanded to everything else in our life like personal care, food, everything.”
The sisters would start using different curly hair products from prominent brands, but none had the effect they were looking for.
In 2018, Cory enrolled in an online certification program to become a natural hair formulator.
Going through the program helped her learn about alternative hair care approaches for other individuals with curly hair and eventually create her own products.
The two sisters began putting together samples of different hair creams and gels — all made with natural ingredients — and asked family members to try them.
The positive reviews prompted the idea of starting a business.
Launching a Business Endeavor
The early phases of the business plan wasn’t without its challenges.
With plans to officially launch in 2019, the first manufacturer they worked with lost its chemist to a different job. Shortly after, a fire occurred at the facility, causing it to shut down.
Eventually, they found a new manufacturer.
“They ended up being the partner that we work with right now and they’ve been amazing,” said Nicol. “It ended up being a blessing in disguise for us.”
Fast forward months later and the plan was to launch in 2020. However, the pandemic happened, causing yet another delay.
However, that delay gave them more time to prepare their products and the formula for those products.
On March 1, 2021, the Varona sisters officially launched Ocoa Beauty (under its original name, DN Organics), along with its first product — a curl cream.
“And then three months later, we launched our styling gel, which were the first two products that we launched under our first name,” said Nicol.
Rich Meaning Behind a Name and Mission
During the process of acclimating themselves as new business owners, the Varona sisters often received great feedback on their products.
“But we knew we could do better,” said Nicol.
As a result, the sisters went back to the drawing board, and ensured everything continues to be done from a consumer standpoint.
Exactly two years to the day of its original launch, they decided to rebrand into its current name, Ocoa Beauty. Along with the rebranding came two additional products, a conditioner and shampoo.
“What you see now is brand new,” Nicol said. “We are Ocoa Beauty, high end curly hair for the self loving Latina, inspired by the beauty of the Dominican Republic.”
The name Ocoa comes from the Dominican city in which their mother grew up in the San José de Ocoa province.
“We just wanted to also highlight our background, our heritage. And the ingredients that we are using — which are mango butter, hibiscus flower, avocado oil, things like that — take us back to our homeland,” she added.
The products used are all conducive to ensuring the customers nourish their scalp and their hair, making sure it looks its best.
“Our main mission is to help women embrace who they’re born to be and make sure that you know that you don’t have to change who you are,” Nicol highlighted.
Overall, the two sisters are redefining how curly hair products are created and helping Latina women love their curls and themselves.
Building Sisterhood and Community
Since launching Ocoa, the sisters have helped many curly-haired women embrace their natural hair.
Doing so has helped transform their lives and build confidence in their true selves.
“We’re on a mission to continue to spread that message with our sisterhood, and the community that we’re building,” said Nicol.
Beyond that, the Varona sisters are also hard at work producing additional products as part of the line, with hopes of launching them in Spring 2024.
To learn more about Ocoa, visit their website at ocoabeauty.com.