For Mielle Organics co-founder Monique Rodriguez, the path to beauty CEO started with her own hair.
In 2013, while Rodriguez was working as a nurse by day, she began posting on Instagram about her hair as a passion project.
“I wanted to restore my natural curls. I had severely heat-damaged hair, and I took people on that journey with me,” she said. Instagram had just launched in 2010, and she was “fascinated” by the new social media format. As she quickly built up a following, her product recommendations began to include DIY hair treatments she whipped up in her kitchen.
Inspired by her hair’s new health, her fan base began to make requests to purchase her homemade treatments. That became her “lightbulb moment.” Soon, she found a chemist to formulate her hair products, and in 2014, Mielle Organics was born.
Today, the 7-year-old brand is available at every major U.S. retailer, including Target, CVS and Walgreens. In April, it leveled up its expansion with an undisclosed investment of over $100 million from private equity firm Berkshire Partners. In the past year, it’s more than doubled its sales year-over-year and has also doubled its distribution, with 70% of its sales coming from retail partners.
In addition, it’s ramped up its celebrity partnerships with the hottest stars of the moment. In February, it enlisted Megan Thee Stallion as its first global brand ambassador. In May, it added Saweetie, as she featured the brand in a music video after being gifted the product.
The Berkshire round marked the brand’s second round of funding, following an investment in 2020 from Richelieu Dennis’ New Voices Fund. New Voices “helped tremendously” in guiding the brand through the process of securing its Berkshire Partners funding, said Rodriguez. The organization introduced her to an investment banker who facilitated the raise and set up meetings with private equity firms. Rodriguez spent a year talking to over 50 firms in order to find the right partner that would have the “same goals and vision for the company,” she said.
“It was basically like a dating process, because when you’re taking on money and you’re sealing the deal with these firms, it’s like a marriage,” she said. “For us, it was very important that we maintained majority ownership of our company, and we wanted an investment group to come on and allow us to use their expertise, their resources and their funding to help us grow and scale the business.”