Monique Rodriguez knows a thing or two about scaling a business.
In 2014, she started mixing up homemade haircare solutions in her kitchen. Now—cut to 2021—and her brand, Mielle Organics, has grown into a multi-million-dollar company with products sold in over 100,000 major retailers, including Target, Walgreens, and CVS.
And, earlier this year, Monique secured a “significant investment” for Mielle Organics from Berkshire, which typically makes equity investments of $100 million to $1 billion in size. Needless to say, it’s a huge deal. But it’s not just about turning a profit for Monique.
She’s paying it forward with her More Than a Strand philanthropic initiative, which includes $200,000 in scholarships for HBCU students and $1 million for the brand’s Global Education and Entrepreneurship Program in partnership with Rutgers University and the Newark Business Hub.
This week on WorkParty, host Jaclyn Johnson chats with Monique about how she scaled her business from self-made to shelf space and how she’s paying it forward to fellow entrepreneurs along the way.
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On growing with the business…
“We grew with the company and we had to pay a lot of money and make a lot of mistakes in order for us to learn from those mistakes.”
On securing funding…
“Funding is a huge challenge, especially for a Black-owned business going into the retail space. You’re competing with conglomerate brands that have way more marketing dollars than you have as a small Black-owned business.”
“We had to really fight for our shelf space, and we really had to prove that we deserve to be there.”
On landing an investment from Berkshire Partners…
“It truly defined how we are changing the narrative for Black women. This deal means so much more than just the figure behind it, it paves the way and it shows the value that we as Black women bring to the table.”
“[Black women] build great businesses, but sometimes we’re not afforded the same opportunity as our counterparts to scale our businesses.“
“[Black women] don’t have to give away our majority stake and we don’t have to have our company acquired, we can still maintain that destiny and have majority ownership and still make the decisions we need to make in order to scale.”
“Working with big names is great, but if you don’t have a relationship or a connection with them, they’ll get paid and they’ll treat your brand like it’s nothing.”
“I have most of my celeb ambassadors on speed dial.”
On paying it forward to the next generation of entrepreneurs…
“The seeds that we plant today are for the next generation to blossom.”
On building a profitable business…
“In order to build a profitable company, you have to know everything there is to know about your business and your spend, your cost of goods. You need to be looking at your P&L sheet, your financials.”
On building generational wealth…
“When you build something great that’s profitable, you have leverage and you have the ability to pretty much dictate what you require in order for somebody to acquire your business or for somebody to buy a portion of your company and that can set you up for many generations to come.”
On uplifting her community…
“Continuing to uplift and raise our community as we continue to climb this ladder of success is ultimately you know what truly drives me.”
On her definition of success…
“Success is not owned, it’s rented—and rent is due every day.”
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