Indiana entrepreneur helps black women embrace natural curls with haircare line

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CROWN POINT, Ind. — Black hair is a multibillion-dollar industry, and Monique Rodriguez is getting her piece of the pie.

The Riverdale native has grown a successful business from her home in Crown Point, Ind. — becoming an authority on natural hair. Her line, Mielle Organics, caters to women with naturally curly hair.

“My consumer is me,” Rodriguez, 35, said. “She’s African-American, or let’s say she’s multicultural. She may be mixed with different races. But again, she knows what she wants.”

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Rodriguez was a registered nurse.

“What I would do throughout my career is go from job to job to job, trying to find that happiness,” Rodriguez said.

In August 2013, she was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured uterus. She was eight months pregnant with her third child at the time. He was born brain dead.

“I’m sitting there just listening to his heart rate drop and go down,” Rodriguez said.

As an outlet, she turned to one of the things she’s always loved: hair. She posted countless videos on Instagram.

“I would go in my cabinet and pull out some honey, pull out some olive oil,” Rodriguez said. “I would make little different concoctions.”

Her hair ended up growing — and so did her following.

Rodriguez recalls getting a note from one of her followers: “She stated, ‘That’s great what you’re doing, but I don’t have time to make my own products. I just want whatever you’re putting in your hair, just give me that.’ And that’s when the lightbulb went off.”

By May 2014, Rodriguez decided to launch her own haircare line out of her basement.

“We would have, like, drums of products coming to our garage,” Rodriguez said. “And so you have your neighbors looking out the window, like, ‘What are they doing?’”

Mielle Organics is now preparing to move into a new 10,000-square-foot warehouse. Nearly 50 products are created under the brand. They’re sold in more than 1,000 stores, including chains like Target, Walmart, Sally Beauty and CVS.


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