Good hair days: What’s next for Mielle Organics after $100+ million investment

For Mielle, a Black-owned business, the nine-figure deal meant a step to “normalize” Black success.
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Mielle Organics

· 4 min read

As a nurse, Monique Rodriguez was used to helping people. As a Black woman who struggled to find the right products for her hair, she approached social media the same way: posting tips and tricks on which products and ingredients worked best.

Monique quickly attracted a small, but dedicated following (today, we’d say she was a microinfluencer, but in the early 2010s, we were still figuring out what a regular influencer was). Her audience grew, and she decided to turn her kitchen into a product test site, mixing ingredients to make her own concoctions that would hopefully restore her heat-damaged hair.

“I felt that there were a lot of products out on the market...represented by people who really didn’t understand that my hair needs a texture,” Monique told Retail Brew. “With my nursing background, I understood the science and chemistry and human anatomy and how the body functions and how hair growth works.”

To turn that knowledge into a full-fledged product, Monique enlisted her husband, Melvin, and linked up with a chemist who helped her break down ingredients like avocados, eggs, and olive oil, so they would be more effective for hair care.

Monique created her first official product—a mint almond oil to moisturize the hair and scalp—in May 2014, the beginning of Mielle Organics. Today, the hair-care company has 100,000+ points of distribution, including Target, Walmart, and Walgreens stores, as well as online. Oh, and it scored an investment from Berkshire Partners, a private equity firm, in April. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Mielle said it was more than $100 million.

  • In 2020, Mielle said sales grew 140% YoY, but it declined to share specific figures.
  • Monique and Melvin (CEO and COO, respectively) are still majority owners.

Landing a nine-figure investment is a feat for any company, but for Mielle, a Black-owned business, it meant a step to “normalize” Black success.

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  • Some of the capital will go to Mielle’s “More Than a Strand” program to support Black entrepreneurs.

Mielle said it spoke to 40 to 50 potential investors, and made the story the company wanted to tell clear.

“We wanted them to know that [Black-owned businesses] can do extraordinary things and sometimes they just need help to help them realize their dreams and potentials,” Melvin said.

In the early days, for example, profitability was a major issue for Mielle. The company was bringing in sales—mostly online—but its gross margins were slim, Melvin told us. The lack of capital made it difficult to staff and scale its operation. Eventually, breaking into more and more retail stores helped Mielle become profitable.

  • Sally Beauty was the company’s first retail partner in 2015.
  • Over the years, Mielle said it’s typically seen 3 to 4x sales growth on a YoY basis.

“For us, it was important to start with one SKU, be great at that SKU, then continue to move on from there,” Melvin said. “The key is to ask questions. If you don’t know, you don’t know. What you don’t know can come back to hurt you in the long run.”

Mielle has done a lot of moving, and now has 70+ SKUs. It recently used the investment to break ground on a new 50,000-square-foot expansion to its warehouse in Merrillville, Indiana, as it looks to scale and beef up tech to streamline and automate its packaging process.

The capital will also help the company continue to expand globally; Mielle’s products are already available in the UK, South Africa, and Nigeria after an international push last year.

“It’s been a great journey,” Monique told us. “It hasn’t always been a nice journey, a pretty journey, but it’s worth it.”

“We’re striving to become the No. 1 brand, period,” Melvin said.

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