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.