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SEGMENT

Entrepreneur Shares Experience as a Black Businesswoman

Five years after launching her organic hair-care company with a single product, Monique Rodriguez’s Mielle Organics now has 46 products in more than 100,000 retail stores.

AIRED: 4/22/2019 | 00:04:39
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DPIGY THANK YOU FOR JOINING US GHIAN FOREMAN THANK YOU FOR STOPPING BY WE APPRECIATE IT.

A NEW DOCUMENTARY AIRING TOMORROW NIGHT HERE ON WTTW UNPACKS THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS IT'S CALLED BOSS, THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN BUSINESS.

WE LOOK AT ONE LOCAL BUSINESS IN PARTICULAR AFTER A TRAGIC LOSS AN INDIANA MOTHER WENT FROM DEMONSTRATING HAIR CARE PRODUCTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO SELLING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORTH ON STORE SHELVES.

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN HAS THE STORY.

FROM HER OFFICE IN INDIANA, MONIQUE RODRIGUEZ IS IN THE PINK.

ALMOST LITERALLY.

AND PINK HAS ALWAYS BEEN MY FAVORITE COLOR.

MY ROOM HAS BEEN PINK SINCE I WAS LITTLE MY SUITCASE IS PINK.

MY GIRL'S ROOM IS PINK.

THE COLOR OF HER ORGANIC HAIR CARE COMPANY, MIELLE ORGANICS.

IT STARTED WITH ONE PRODUCT AND NOW WE HAVE 46 PRODUCTS.

WE ARE IN OVER 100,000 RETAIL STORES.

BUT MONIQUE DID NOT TAKE THE TYPICAL ROUTE TO GET HERE.

SHE STARTED OUT AS A NURSE.

IT WASN'T MY DREAM TO BECOME A NURSE.

AND I WANTED TO BE A BUSINESS OWNER GROWING UP.

I KNEW THAT I WANTED TO JUST HAVE MY OWN AND WANTED TO BE INDEPENDENT.

AS A CHILD, SHE HAD AN INTEREST IN HAIR AND BEAUTY.

I USED TO BEG MY MOM TO TAKE ME TO MODEL CASTINGS AND MODEL CALLS BECAUSE I ALWAYS WANTED TO MODEL FOR DIFFERENT HAIR CARE COMPANIES.

AND SHE FELT THAT THAT WASN'T A CAREER.

THAT I CAN DO.

SHE WAS ENCOURAGED TO PURSUE WHAT WAS CONSIDERED A MORE STABLE CAREER AND SHE DID UNTIL TRAGEDY STRUCK.

PREGNANT WITH HER THIRD CHILD SHE AND HER HUSBAND SUFFERED THE NIGHTMARE NO PARENT WANTS.

I HAD A RUPTURE AT EIGHT MONTHS PREGNANT AND MY SON HE WAS BORN BRAIN DEAD.

WHILE SEARCHING FOR MEANING, MONIQUE BEGAN PURSUING HER PASSION.

I WOULD PULL INGREDIENTS AT HOME AND MAKE CONCOCTIONS AT HOME AND POST STEP-BY-STEP HOW I BLENDED IT UP AND PUT IT ON MY HAIR AND TALK ABOUT IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

AND THEN...

THE RESPONSE WAS OVERWHELMING OF WOMEN WANTED TO BUY MY PRODUCT.

AND I SAID OK.

THAT WAS MY MOMENT THE LIGHT BULL AND WENT OFF.

SOON MONIQUE MIELLE ORGANICS BEFORE EXPANDING TO SALLY BEAUTY SUPPLIES BEFORE EXPANDING TO MORE STORES.

SALLY SAYS OTHER SMALL AFRICAN-AMERICAN OWNED BEAUTY COMPANIES HAVE GOTTEN THEIR START ON THESE SHELVES.

BLACK WOMEN IS A PART OF OUR BEAUTY REGIMENT.

TOYA MITCHELL AT MINTEL SAYS BLACK WOMEN'S HAIR CARE IS A MASSIVE BUSINESS SPENDING $2.5 BILLION A YEAR ON PRODUCT ALONE.

AND MIELLE ORGANICS WITH 4 BEEN 5 MILLION IN SALES IN 2018 ALONE IS GROWING LONG.

THEY ARE DOING GANG BUSTERS IN THE LAST YEAR THEY'VE INCREASED TWO-AND-A-HALF TIMES.

THAT IS HUGE.

MITCHELL SAYS LIKE MANY SMALLER BLACK-OWNED HAIR CARE COMPANIES THE COMPANY FOUNDER IS FRONT AND CENTER IN MARKETING TO FELLOW BLACK WOMEN.

IT HAS A MESSAGE FOR US BY US.

I UNDERSTAND YOUR HAIR.

I UNDERSTAND YOUR HAIR ISSUES AND I NOW HAVE A PRODUCT THAT WE CAN ALL USE.

IN THE BLACK HAIR CARE INDUSTRY HAS ROOTS THAT RUN DEEP IN CHICAGO.

PRODUCTS STARTED HERE IN 1954.

RUSS PRODUCTS A COUPLE YEARS AFTER THAT IN 1957.

AND SOFT SHEEN WHICH STARTED IN 1964.

MONIQUE WILL NOT SAY HOW MUCH HER COMPANY HAS SOLD IN PRODUCT BUT WILL SAY IT IS A MULTIMILLION DOLLAR COMPANY WITH PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED HERE IN CHICAGO.

HER OFFICE AND WAREHOUSE IN INDIANA WHERE ON-LINE ORDERS ARE FULFILLED EMPLOYS 15 PEOPLE.

ANYONE I WANTED TO BE MY OWN BOSS BUT I NEVER KNEW HOW I WAS GOING TO ACCOMPLISH THAT BECAUSE I WAS NOT EXPOSED TO THAT.

THE SAYING THAT SAYS YOU CAN'T BE WHAT YOU CAN'T SEE.

MONIQUE HOPES OTHERS CAN SEE HER AND BE INSPIRED TO PURSUE THEIR OWN PASSIONS.

FOR 'CHICAGO TONIGHT' I'M 'CHICAGO TONIGHT'.

THEY GET BACK TO THE NONPROFIT MIELLE CARES TO