Monique Rodriquez founded Mielle Organics, a natural hair care company based in the United States. She founded the hair brand in 2014, following the death of her son, which inspired her to pursue entrepreneurship.
“It took something pretty traumatic to happen for me to realize what my true purpose and ultimate calling was,” Rodriquez told CNBC Make It. “And that was in 2013, I suffered the loss of my son. I was eight months pregnant. It was a high-risk pregnancy and unfortunately, my son passed away as a result.”
Rodriquez had been a nurse for nearly ten years, but she did not want to return to that environment while suffering from postpartum depression. As a way of dealing with the grief of losing a son, she began to make hair products in her kitchen.
Rodriquez had no idea that what she began as a way to cope with her child’s death would grow into a multi-million dollar business sold in over 100,000 stores across the United States. She, like many Black entrepreneurs, struggled to turn her side hustle into a full-time business. She claimed she was forced to “bootstrap” and “deplete her savings” in order to keep the business running.
“Every time I got paid, my nursing paychecks, my husband’s bank account and his paychecks, everything would go to the business,” the 39-year-old told CNBC Make It. “So we had to sacrifice our living situation and couldn’t do things that our friends were doing. [We were even] taking our 401k and depleting all of that to invest into the business.”
She received loan support after several attempts to raise funds, which enabled her to secure her first retail partner, Sally Beauty. She became more deliberate about raising funds to expand her business, she said, especially in an era when pitch competitions, grants, and fundraising events are common.
She received seed funding from the New Voices Foundation, an organization for women of color entrepreneurs, in 2020. Berkshire Partners, a private equity firm, invested a “historic” $100 million in her in 2021.
Rodriquez’s success story is both touching and inspiring. It’s a story about tenacity and perseverance. While dealing with postpartum depression, she built a multi-million dollar brand sold across America from her kitchen.