How This Entrepreneur Took Her Brand From Her Kitchen To 100K+ Stores

So many of the world’s most impactful and successful businesses started from the desire to share information and inspire. That's the case for Mielle Organics — a hair-care brand that prides itself on using natural ingredients to promote strong, healthy strands — which its founder, Monique Rodriguez, started out of her kitchen just five years ago.
Rodriguez didn't intend to start a hair-care company. She wanted to transition her chemically straightened hair back to its natural curl pattern, after finding that her strands wouldn't curl properly. In the process, she became a chemist of sorts, making her own concoctions by mixing together products from different brands and ingredients from her kitchen at home.
With a goal to educate and inform others, she documented every step of her six-month process, sharing her journey on social media. And when there was an increased demand for her homemade products — natural formulas that produced undeniable results — a lightbulb went off. She realized she could bring her creations to the masses. So, in 2014, she launched Mielle Organics — named after her two daughters, Mia Gabrielle and Mackenzie Arielle.
Ahead, we talked to Rodriguez about her unconventional journey to creating her business, why a customer-first mindset is crucial for brands today, what it was like seeing her products for the first time in Target, how she's celebrating the holidays, and more.
When did you realize you wanted to turn your creations into a business?
"When people started requesting to buy it. I started to do my due diligence about how to run and operate a business. I wanted to start with one product to see how it went, so I started with our Mint Almond Oil. I started a website and quickly had to move from my kitchen to the basement because once I launched the product on my website, that bottle of oil sold like crazy. The demand for the product grew really fast, so I was forced to set up an operation and have my husband help me. We then had to move to the garage to set up a shop where we were making products, packaging them, and shipping them out to customers."
What’s your business model like now? What goes into each new collection you create?
"We develop products based on customer feedback and what their needs are. With business, you have to be able to solve a problem, and I'm able to help women restore their curls, get healthy hair, and build a regimen that allows them to maintain healthy hair."
What is your retail partner selection process like?
"We entered into retail stores a year after officially going into business, and now we’re in more than 100,000 major retail stores. It’s truly a blessing to see how one idea grew into an entire business. We select retail partners based on keeping our consumers first and meeting their needs — knowing where they shop and making products available to them. When I saw Mielle Organics at Target for the first time, it felt surreal — and it still feels surreal. I’m always so humbled and grateful every time I see my products on Target shelves."
Entrepreneurship is nothing without a community of fellow founders. What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?
"When people get the call from a retailer that’s interested in them, there’s that 'OMG moment,' and they want to go big. But that’s not always the right thing to do. You really want to let the product and the demand dictate how fast your brand is going to grow. That initial order may be huge and significant, but is it sustainable? You have to make sure you’re equipped financially and that you know all of the retailer's charges and fees. Secondly, you have to be okay with saying no. If you’re presented with a big opportunity, you may have to say no at first and that you do not want to start with that many doors. Maybe you go into 400 instead of 1,800, which shows you aren’t being greedy and that you’re really looking at the numbers and your brand. If you grow too fast, you can also fall fast. So take your time. It isn’t a race; you really want to get to know your consumer and build that demand for your brand.
"Anyone getting into creating their own business also needs to have a passion for it. In business, you don’t make money right away — things will ebb and flow. You may have a year when everything is going great and according to plan, and then you may have another year when things are not going so well. If you have the strength, the drive, and the love for what you’re doing, you’ll still show up during those tough moments. Even when the money isn’t coming in, will you still get out there, talk to your consumers, and be there? Business is unpredictable and you have to be prepared for that.
"I’d also say: Don’t compare. It’s fine to look to other business owners as inspiration and motivation, but you can’t compare your story with theirs. If they started their company and it blew up in just a few years, but it's not happening for you, then you have to remember that maybe your journey and process are different. Your time is coming and everyone has their season."
Which of your products are great for gifting?
"Out of the full collections we have at Mielle, our perfect pair for your holiday gift will be our Rosemary Mint Strengthening Hair Oil and Hair Conditioning Masque, which you can find at your local Target. During the holiday seasons, we do see a spike each year — we're very thankful for our consumers for their continued support."
What’s next for Mielle Organics?
We’re a brand that’s all about innovation; we launched our new Moisture RX Hawaiian Ginger line a short while ago, which is in Target. We also recently did a survey with our consumers and got some really great data and research back. So we’re coming out with a new collection soon that we know our customers will love because they asked for it. I can’t reveal the details just yet, but stay tuned!

More from Beauty

R29 Original Series