Rooted and Grounded: A Conversation with Melvin Rodriguez of Mielle Organics

On August 9, 2013, Melvin Rodriguez experienced a parent’s worst nightmare, he and his wife lost their infant son. The baby was born with severe brain damage and remained in the hospital for about six months before passing away. Rodriguez describes the feeling as being torn to pieces and says he and his wife fell into depression. Eventually, his wife began to channel her pain into making hair products at home, and that became the catalyst for Mielle Organics which launched in 2014.

“When you’re dealing with something to that magnitude,” says Rodriguez, “it’s either two things that have to happen: Either you sink, or you swim. Either you’re going to find a way to get through it and persevere from it and take that to elevate yourself and others, or you’re going to go backwards. So, for us, she chose a different path.”

Today, Melvin is COO of Mielle Organics, which he operates with his wife, Monique. They have built a multi-million-dollar empire that has become one of the fastest growing beauty brands in the world. Despite the global economic impact of COVID-19, Mielle Organics has seen record-breaking growth in e-commerce and retail market sales over the past few months.

But it’s not just about products.

Mielle Organics is known for their community work, like helping budding entrepreneurs develop their businesses and providing meals to Chicago-area families. It takes hard work and dedication to run a business and maintain family life, as they are raising two daughters, but Melvin Rodriguez emphasizes that the most important element of success in his life is faith. And even amidst the crazy times we’re going through, he has a message of positivity and hope—just in time for Father’s Day.

American Urban Radio Networks caught up with Rodriguez to discuss overcoming tragedy and how faith is the key to his family’s vitality. 

AURN: You’re very vocal about being guided by faith, so talk about how that helped you to heal and move passed the grief of losing your son.

Melvin Rodriguez: My wife and I—in our prayers together—we would pray each and every day for each other, for our families, and for others. And then Monique just asked God to give her something to cope with this—give her something to move forward. So, she began to do just that using social media—Instagram, particularly. It got to the point where people became so engaged with her that the following began to increase. One day a young lady reached out to her and asked where she could buy the shampoo or one of the products that she was making at home because Monique would just make things at home to keep her mind steady. So, the light bulb went off. She said, “God has given me an idea, a vision. He has equipped me with what I need, and so I want to try this—I want to launch this company.” She called it “Mielle” which came from our two daughters, Mia Gabrielle and McKenzie Ariel. So that’s how Mielle came about.

AURN: How has Mielle Organics become such a force in the hair care space?

MR: Because we’re bigger than hair care. For us, it’s not just about selling shampoos and conditioners. Monique has been blessed with her medical and scientific knowledge. She was a registered nurse for many years—a labor and delivery nurse in that respect—and so she learned a lot. But I think we’ve become such a huge force because we are connected to the community. We are what they are. We don’t feel like we’re better than anyone. We feel that it is our duty to serve our communities. It is our duty to uplift, empower, excite, and lead by example—to show our community, to show our youth, that it is possible. If they have a dream, we encourage them to keep dreaming, keep believing, remain hopeful, and most importantly, continue to pray for themselves and others.

If you have the mindset to put the work in, then you will be rewarded with your results. So again, for us, we’ve been consistent in our community efforts and speaking to the community. I think that has been a pillar for us, but most importantly it’s who we are. You can’t fake it. We’re very humble, authentic people, and so for us, we’re so connected because we relate to our community and we truly want to see others win. We’ve been very consistent in our messaging—but again, it’s just honestly who we are as people.

AURN: Your business is still thriving, even in the midst of a global pandemic. What have you learned about keeping your business solid during this time?

MR: Everything for us starts with God, even prior to the pandemic. If we were faced with any form of adversity, any economic shift, anything that may come to distract us, we rebuke it in the name of Jesus in prayer jointly. We ask God to stand on His word and that He would remain in the midst of a storm and that we will continue to surge and evolve during the storm. So, during this pandemic we asked God to do just that—no matter what we’re going through—because God told all of us, according to His words, that no weapon formed against us shall prosper. We understand that this pandemic is the weapon, but we also rebuke it and know that God said it will not prosper. But we acknowledge the pandemic too—we take safety precautions.

We understood that as an organization we had to pivot; we had to do some things differently to continue to put out our messaging. So, for us, we just adapted. We did things more creatively than before, but it allowed us to continue to stay connected and it allowed our company to continue to surge. We’ve embraced it and, quite frankly, it has honestly grown us as a company.

AURN: What do you hope your daughters learn about themselves as they go through this journey with you?

MR: It has been very important for Monique and me to have our kids be a part of this journey, but also allow them to be kids and to really grow and learn for themselves. Most importantly, the key message for our kids—first and foremost—is that we want them to be better and do better than mommy and daddy. We want them to know that whatever it is in their little minds—whatever it is that they desire—they can accomplish those things, but with the understanding they can have anything they want out of life if they put the work in.

They’re a little older now. Mia is 14 years-old, and Mackenzie 10 years-old. So if they want things, we have them work and do chores. It’s about instilling the drive, instilling the mindset of “I know [it], I can see it. I can believe it, but I know there are some requisites that I need to fulfill in order for me to get the desires of my heart.” So, what we do for them is train them, and we’re very consistent with them working for the things they want. And two: Having a giving heart, so that they understand everything can’t be about them. We want them to always think outside the box and think about others and how they can impact their generation as they get older.

AURN: I’m going to assume you probably never imagined you’d be working in the natural hair care space, but I bet you have learned a lot—especially raising two little girls. What do you hope to share with other fathers about taking care of natural hair, especially with the success of Hair Loveshining the light on this part of the natural hair care conversation?

MR: As you mentioned, never in my wildest dreams could you have told me that I would be running a hair care company, but it’s just amazing what God does—and the plans that we may have in the flesh, as man and woman, and how that plan can reset. But God has a bigger plan way beyond our wildest dreams or imagination. And so, when I think about the natural [hair] space, I think about embracing your God-given beauty. We’re all images of God, and the natural movement has really taught me to encourage my daughters to embrace who they are and love who they are because God has made them.

So, when we talk about natural hair, embrace your natural texture—whether it’s a 2A, 3A, 3C, 4A, wherever that is—wherever your texture is, that’s what God has gifted you with. Your hair is a gift, and you should nourish it, you should embrace it, you should take care of it in the most natural way you can. So, I’ve just learned to really—this whole movement is just embracing you. When you embrace you, it really increases self-esteem. It just does things to you personally that help you evolve.

AURN: What is something that you know now about fatherhood that you wish you were told before, or that you just generally want to pass on to other fathers?

MR: I have an older sister, and we both were raised by my dad. So, for me, I understood the responsibility of fatherhood. And I’ve always understood that any boy or any young man can make a baby, but it takes a real man to raise them. I’ve always lived on those principles—that when I made the decision to have a child, I had the mindset that when that happened I needed to adjust myself. I needed to step up my effort. I had to step up my game because I understand that whether it’s a he or she, that they still needed me. I understood that I was going to be their first male role model at an early age.

When Mia was born—I’ll never forget—Monique called and told me that she was pregnant. I was so excited and instantly I said—because at the time we were living in an apartment—and I instantly got off the call with her and made phone calls to work on and figure out what do I need to get a bigger home or get a home. So, I made immediate moves because I wanted to put my child in a better environment. Again, my mindset was to make sure my kids would have a better life than I ever had.

So, for me, being a dad—I understood that I needed to be there for my kids because they need me. And to all the dads out there, we must step up. We must be there for our kids because they need us. They need us just as our heavenly Father is with all of us and He’s never left us. We owe it to our kids as dads.