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How Millionaire Mogul Monique Rodriguez Expanded Her Empire Into 100K+ Stores Worldwide

It was through coping with her son's death that Monique Rodriguez founded Mielle Organics and took the world by storm.

BOSS UP

If manifestation was a person, she would look a lot like the CEO of Mielle Organics, Monique Rodiguez. The former RN-turned-CEO went from cooking up hair products in her kitchen to being on the shelves of more than 100K stores worldwide, and recently, the full-time mommy mogul sat down with xoNecole to talk about the fruits of her labor.

While Monique's day job as an RN helped pay the bills and support her family, the one-day beauty mogul felt unfulfilled and dissatisfied with her professional life overall. It wasn't until Monique was eight-months-pregnant with her third child that she was faced with an unfathomable tragedy that would act as the catalyst for change she didn't know she needed. Her son Milan was born brain-dead and after being placed on life support, he passed away six months later. She told xoNecole, "That was obviously a very tragic experience that I went through and I was in a very dark place in my life."

Through her loss, she found solace in sharing her story and eventually grew attached to the vision God gave her to make her passion her next venture. "Honestly, I didn't know how I was going to get through that. [But] you overcome by sharing your testimony," she continued. "It's something that's so powerful about your story because you're in control over the narrative. I want people to look at me [and] I want them to see themselves in me. And to see that, listen, this was a girl who was just from the Southside of Chicago that had a dream and she was able to accomplish her dream. She had a lot of faith and little experience, but look what she was able to accomplish."

It was through taking control of her own narrative and coping with her son's death that Monique reconnected with her entrepreneurial roots, founded Mielle Organics and ultimately took the world by storm. In our chat with her, Monique lets us in on how she knew it was time to spread her entreprenurial wings, navigating the retail world as a brand, and the legacy she's creating with her More Than a Strand campaign.

Building The Brand 

After the death of her son, Monique was intentional about shifting her focus to her budding business and leveling up her faith, starting with writing a pre-dated resignation letter six months before she decided to leave her job. The CEO shared, "That first day, I sold one bottle of oil and that one bottle of oil sold like crazy. And I knew that day. I said, 'Oh, I'm going to have to quit my job because I want to give this 100 percent, because I know if I put 110 percent into what I'm doing, I can really grow this thing.' I had to choose between my career and my dreams. And I decided to choose what I love. And that was fulfilling for me every single day because when I got up to work on Mielle, it didn't feel like work."

"I knew that day. I said, 'Oh, I'm going to have to quit my job because I want to give this 100 percent, because I know if I put 110 percent into what I'm doing, I can really grow this thing.' I had to choose between my career and my dreams. And I decided to choose what I love. And that was fulfilling for me every single day because when I got up to work on Mielle, it didn't feel like work."

Eventually, Monique went from experimenting with basic ingredients found in her kitchen to working with a chemist to formulate compounds specifically catered to her client's needs. It wasn't long before she transformed from an entrepreneur into a professional problem-solver. "Every time my customers would send me products for suggestions or if they had problems with their hair, I would take their feedback and take it back to my team and say, 'OK, how can we create this?'" Monique continued, "'How can we use these ingredients to create this product to give them the benefits for their hair to solve their problem?' As an entrepreneur, you are a problem-solver."

Making Mogul Moves

Although going into retail was originally part of Monique's five-year plan, she managed to do it in one. Nearly 12 months after launching her business, she was approached by Sally's for a distribution deal that would later expand to more than 3,000 stores across the country. She told xoNecole, "When you build, they will follow. So, my focus was just building a great brand and formulating great products to increase the consumer demand. Your consumers are who dictate if you go global or not."

While being approached by big box brands may be every business owner's dream, Monique advised that product developers think twice before taking up shelf space. Monique explained, "You have to pay for your products to go on and come off the shelf. So, you really want to make sure that there is a demand for your brand because it's nice to be on Target's shelves. But if those products don't sell, that comes from your bottom line. So, if your company is not in a good financial position, I wouldn't recommend going into retail."

Breaking into an industry with thousands of competitors can be intimidating, but Monique had this advice for bosses that are looking to break into an over-saturated market: "When you go into the grocery store, you see thousands of water bottle companies, you see thousands of brand manufacturers, you see thousands of washing powder brands––you really have to just focus on your brand and what your brand has to offer and how you're different and how you can set yourself apart from everybody that's on the shelf. I always feel that as long as you are operating in your gifts and you're operating in your purpose and you're being authentically yourself, nobody can duplicate you."

"You really have to just focus on your brand and what your brand has to offer and how you're different and how you can set yourself apart from everybody that's on the shelf. I always feel that as long as you are operating in your gifts and you're operating in your purpose and you're being authentically yourself, nobody can duplicate you."

Leaving Her Legacy

As the mother of two young daughters, it's Monique's mission to equip her babygirls with all the tools they need to be successful. Momager to her eldest daughter, who one-day hopes of becoming a fashion designer, Monique told xoNecole that it's her hope that through efforts like Mielle Organics' "More Than A Strand" campaign, she can help mothers and daughters around the world gain access to entrepreneurial education.

The campaign, Monique says, is an opportunity for Black women to feel empowered as independent women who achieve their dreams and to then keep that same energy with their daughters. It's a desire that sparked in Monique as a young child, watching her mom provide for her own family. "For me, it's just [about] being that example again for my daughter to look up to so they can see that, you know? [They can say] 'my mom, she's married. She was able to still rise up and she was still able to accomplish her dreams. And because my mom was able to accomplish her dreams, it can give me the courage and the inspiration to know that I can do so as well.'"

"I just want the same thing for moms all across the country. Our purpose for teaching them about economic empowerment, education and entrepreneurship is to show that it can be done. You can be a mom, you can be a wife and you can also pursue your dreams as well."

For more Monique, follow her on Instagram @ExquisiteMo and to learn more about Mielle's More Than A Strand campaign, click here!

Featured image courtesy of Mielle Organics.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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