It will be eight years on May 23 since Monique Rodriguez wrote her resignation letter to the hospital where she worked as a registered nurse for nine years and launched Mielle Organics. Since then, Mielle has become one of the hottest new hair and beauty companies to hit the market in recent years.
While she continued to work as a nurse for another six months before actually leaving the hospital, Rodriguez’s heart and passion had always been in the beauty business. The success of the company underscores that drive.
“From the day we launched, we have never not had a sale,” Rodriguez said during an interview in March. “We’ve seen growth and continuous growth day after day, month-over-month, year-over-year. The company just exploded and it all started with me pursuing my hobby, my passion.”
Indiana-based Mielle offers shampoos, deep conditioners, and other hair products as well as a full-line of skin care products—all made from natural ingredients such as honey, mint oil, ginger, aloe leaf juice, and more, to nourish and hydrate hair and skin. Its hair products are specifically designed for curly hair to protect against frizz and dryness.
Mielle was an instant, online sensation. It has grown exponentially with its products in over 100,000 retail stores across America today, including Walmart, Walgreens, Sally Beauty, Target, and CVS. Globally, Mielle is distributed in more than 87 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Its success has also impressed private equity investors. In 2021, Berkshire Partners made a significant investment in the company to support Mielle’s growth plans. Rodriguez and her husband Melvin Rodriguez continue as majority owners. A portion of the investment will be used to support Mielle’s More Than a Strand charity, which is core to the company’s mission to strengthen the bond between mothers, daughters, and young girls.
“Mielle is an extraordinary business, but importantly has a larger purpose: to excite, empower, and serve the community,” Marni Payne, managing director at Berkshire Partners, said when the firm announced its investment in the company.
William Blair served as the exclusive financial advisor on the deal. Rodriguez and her husband are William Blair private wealth and investment banking clients.
Behind Mielle’s Success Story
Encouraged by her mother to pursue a nursing degree and career, Rodriguez always had a passion for beauty and an entrepreneurial bug.
She had started several beauty businesses while working as a nurse, always wanting to branch out. But it wasn’t until the tragic loss of her third child, a son, following a high-risk pregnancy that Rodriguez realized she needed to make a change.
“That was a moment that left me in a very depressed state,” she said. “Then I still had to go back to a job that I wasn’t fulfilled at. After a deep spiritual journey, a lot of soul searching and self-reflection, I realized you only live once. I was living my mom’s dream and not living my dream. I decided to go for it.”
Rodriguez started by connecting with women on social media, talking about beauty and haircare. It was a way to take her mind off what she was going through with the loss of her son. She began creating hair “concoctions” to restore her hair and shared them with her online community. Before long, they wanted to buy them.
So on May 23, 2014, she and her husband officially launched Mielle Organics out of their garage. Its first product was mint almond hair oil.
“It sold like crazy and remains a top seller today,” Rodriguez said.
E-commerce an Early Focus
Rodriguez credits having built an online, global network of women interested in having conversations about hair—before she even had a product—for the company’s initial success.
In the early months and years she continued to focus on building Mielle’s e-commerce platform. From there, Rodriguez began connecting with sales brokers, manufacturers, and marketers at trade shows with the ultimate goal to scale by getting her products in retail stores.
“Our first retailer was Sally Beauty,” she said. “They sought us out because of the buzz and chatter on social media.”
But scaling means funding, which was one of the biggest challenges in the very beginning, Rodriguez added. Funds to market, funds to support products on the shelves, and funds to find the right resources and people who understand the retail space were needed.
“We basically outgrew bootstrapping and funding doesn’t come easy, especially for an African-American woman,” Rodriguez said. “We definitely had to prove ourselves and showing profitability was a huge factor. And there were times when we weren’t profitable.”
She remembers the days when she would forgo a salary to be able to pay her employees. But she still had to show up every day and create and formulate products.
“The reason I could do that was because I’m truly passionate about what I’m doing, about making a difference, and being impactful to those who are connected to me. That’s what has kept me going.”
Most of all, Mielle’s success has been beyond Rodriguez’s wildest dreams. She wants to inspire the next generation of women of color that they can be great, they can have a dream, they can break barriers, they can accomplish a magnitude of things beyond their imagination.
“I knew I would be successful, but how God blessed me has been bigger than I could ever imagine,” she said. “What continues to inspire me daily is the people around me, especially my daughters. I want them to know that they can accomplish anything and everything they set their minds to.”