Founders each have their own testimonies for why they believe their companies have found great success. Mielle Organics Founder and CEO Monique Rodriguez’s answer is complex yet still quite simple: Faith.
When building out her hair-care company, which was founded in 2014, the former registered nurse was “write the vision and make it plain” personified. However, the vision came to her after the tragic loss of her son, who was a high-risk pregnancy at 8 months. Rodriguez shifted her faith into overdrive as she pivoted into business without any initial knowledge. Lack of experience aside, she educated herself by reading numerous books, listening to podcasts, and attending seminars on how to build a brand. Soon enough, Rodriguez began making hair products in her kitchen, which led to sharing the formulas with women via social media to help them in nurturing their hair.
“That gave me a way to express myself and to get my mind off of what I was going through with my son at the time,” Rodriguez shared with AfroTech. “And in turn, that painful situation allowed me to ultimately be led to my purpose to impact and inspire lives all across the world. And the vessel to do so has been my hair care company.”
When officially starting to grow Mielle Organics, the act of serving others was at the center, along with Rodriguez’s passion, discipline, perseverance, and trusting her gut. She says that is what made the business a recipe for success. What’s more, tapping into the power of networking helped her brand stand out in the hair-care industry.
While Mielle Organics generated stellar sales early on, there was a point where the company didn’t have money to operate the business because of excessive spending on marketing.
“We were not really monitoring what was going out and what was coming in,” Rodriguez recalled. “And we were in the hole. When we looked at our profit and loss sheet, we were not making any money.”
She added, “That’s why I say people see the glory, but they don’t know that on the back end. As we were trying to get the brand out there and spending big bucks to make sure that Mielle is a household name, our financial books were suffering.”
Although it was a costly mistake, Mielle Organics was able to bounce back. Learning as they grew, Rodriguez and her husband, Melvin Rodriguez — Mielle Organics’ co-founder and chief operating officer (COO) — built a team of contractors, employees, and mentors to get the company back in good financial shape.
Then following that temporary financial mishap, Mielle Organics found itself in another tricky situation. During its second year of business, the company received an opportunity of a lifetime — to be on the shelves of Walmart stores. The big-name retailer’s offer at the time would’ve been groundbreaking, but Rodriguez declined it.
“That was a huge risk because if we told Walmart ‘no,’ they could have very well not come back to us the following year to take our brand in their stores. So we had to evaluate, ‘Is the risk worth the reward?’ And where we were as a business, where we were as a company, financially, we knew we couldn’t afford to go into Walmart at that time.”
The high risk ultimately worked in Mielle Organics’ favor as Walmart returned the next year to work with the brand.
As Mielle Organics has gone through numerous developmental stages, raising capital has supported its elevation. When the brand first sought an investment, an interested firm wanted to take a large portion of the company, which wasn’t an option for Rodriguez, so she and her company took a line of credit instead. Ultimately, Mielle Organics went on to have a “friends and family” investment before its more than $100 million Series A funding round led by Berkshire Partners in April 2021.
Less than two years later, in January 2023, Procter & Gamble acquired Mielle Organics, as previously reported by AfroTech. The announcement was met with mixed reactions from the public including Black supporters who vocalized that they wished for the brand to remain Black-owned.
Despite those who were opposed to the acquisition, Rodriguez described the moment as “a dream come true” and expressed that “it should be celebrated, not criticized” within the Black community.
“What I want our community to understand is that this is the normal trajectory of business,” Rodriguez said. “This is what business success looks like. And this stuff happens all the time in other cultures, other races. The problem with our community is that we don’t see it enough because there are not enough Black entrepreneurs that are getting to the point where they can scale and have acquisitions such as these.”
She added, “We as a Black community, we are already behind. If we don’t start lifting each other up, cheering and clapping for others when they are winning, we will stay behind because what this does when the Black community tends to criticize Black founders for partnerships such as what I’ve done with Procter and Gamble, it makes it that much harder for the next, let’s say, Black female that sits down and has a dream to be acquired and create generational wealth for her family and her community.”
While still running her business, Rodriguez aims to spread her wealth of knowledge and support to the next generation of entrepreneurs. As previously shared by AfroTech, Procter and Gamble gave a $10 million pledge to Mielle Cares, a non-profit dedicated to advancing economic and educational resources within Black and Brown communities. Additionally, Rodriguez is looking toward Mielle Organics’ future global expansion and entry into body care, skin care, and overall wellness and beauty.