Meet Monique Rodriquez. She is the founder of Mielle Organics, a natural hair care brand based in the U.S. She started the hair brand in 2014 following the loss of her son which influenced her into 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 in nursing for almost 10 years, but she did not see herself returning to that environment while dealing with postpartum depression. In the process, she began to concoct hair products in her kitchen as a way of dealing with the pain of losing a son.
Little did Rodriquez know that what she started as a way of dealing with the death of her child would become a multi-million dollar business sold in over 100,000 stores across the U.S. Like many Black entrepreneurs, she did not find transitioning her side hustle into a full-time business easy. According to her, she was compelled to “bootstrap” and “deplete her savings” in order to keep the business going.
“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.”
After several efforts to raise funds, she got loan support which helped her to get her first retail partner, Sally Beauty. She became more intentional about raising funds to expand her business, particularly in an era where pitch competitions, grants, and fundraising events are common, she said.
In 2020, she secured a seed funding round from the New Voices Foundation, an organization for women of color entrepreneurs. In 2021, she got a “historic” $100 million in funding from Berkshire Partners, a private equity firm.
Rodriquez’s success story is not only touching but inspirational. It is a story of resilience and perseverance. From her kitchen, while dealing with postpartum depression, she single-handedly built a multi-million dollar brand sold across America.
For other entrepreneurs who want to be like her, her most important advice is to“own who you are.” “A lot of Black women struggle with this imposter syndrome,” she said. “Not feeling that you belong at the table or like you deserve to be where you are in life.”
“But God has placed you in a room that you probably didn’t even think that you will be placed in because of his favor and anointing,” she added. “So walk in that favor, walk in that light, and know that you deserve to be there like anybody else.”