Success Or Sellout?: What Black Beauty Brand Founders Make Of P&G’s Acquisition Of Mielle Organics

On Jan. 11, Procter & Gamble announced it will acquire textured haircare brand Mielle Organics. The deal was met with mixed reactions online. Some people were elated that husband-and-wife founders Monique and Melvin Rodriguez achieved a lucrative exit. Others accused Mielle of selling out and worried its formulas might change to appeal to an audience beyond the brand’s core Black customers and pad its bottom line.

News of the acquisition came in the wake of white TikTok “it girl” Alex Earle placing Mielle’s Rosemary Mint Scalp and Hair Strengthening Oil on her list of top 2022 Amazon buys, leading to a run on the product that sapped supplies of it in stores and on websites. Even prior to the public being aware of P&G’s involvement, Earle’s mention of Mielle prompted concerns it would pivot to white consumers and jack up prices.

Monique Rodriguez attempted to calm concerns with a social media statement on Mielle’s accounts assuring fans it isn’t modifying products, including the Rosemary Mint Scalp and Hair Strengthening Oil. The statement read, “Please know that we would always inform you in full transparency if any adjustments are made to the products you love and trust.”

We were wondering what Black indie beauty brand founders and experts make of P&G’s pickup of Mielle, particularly as they try to build businesses in a complex beauty market where underserved consumers are increasingly being listened to in order to finally have their needs met. We asked 14 of them: What are your thoughts about the acquisition of Mielle and what it might mean for the future of beauty?

Cora Miller Co-Founder and CEO, Young King Hair Care

Mielle’s recently announced partnership with P&G continues a positive trend of the market validating the value of Black-founded and -led brands and the authentic impact they drive for African American consumers. The fact that large CPG companies recognize that it’s better to partner and acquire multicultural-focused brands versus building faceless, inauthentic ones is a win for underrepresented founders and brands like Young King that are making waves and trying to course correct the lack of product offerings for African American consumers that existed for decades.

The impact and the legacy of Mielle’s deal will last far beyond this initial news. As a Black-founded brand, Melvin and Monique know the unique challenges that Black-owned brands face in a lack of funding and resources to scale their ventures, which is why one of the most impactful elements of this deal that went unnoticed was the $20M donation to Mielle Cares, a nonprofit organization that will invest in the next generation of Black founders to make the path to sustained growth and success easier.

When we started Young King, we looked at Monique and Melvin as inspiration and proof that you can be a thriving husband and wife, family-led team that makes an incredible impact. To have followed their journey and knowing them personally through the New Voices Fund, it’s exciting to see where hard work and staying authentic to the community can take you. They continue the legacy of recent successful acquisitions from Black-led brands (Shea Moisture, Bevel, Briogeo), while also leaving the door open to for other founders like myself to follow in their footsteps.

Jamika Martin Founder, Rosen Skincare

I am so excited to hear about the Mielle acquisition! Seeing a Black female founder scale her way to this size in under 10 years is an incredible feat and nothing short of historic and inspirational.

I hope we can continue to see founders that look like us reach these levels of scale so our community can continue to have discourse, trust and understanding around these deals.

Anne Beal Founder and CEO, AbsoluteJOI

This is a complicated issue. Given my background in business and other industries, I know the norm is to celebrate when startup businesses get acquired, and it is considered a viable (and desired) exit strategy.

But I have definitely noticed the only entrepreneurs who get grief or pushback when they sell their businesses are Black women—not Black men, white women or other women of color—and that grief often comes from other Black women.

I remember Lisa Price from Carol’s Daughter made the statement, “I can’t work at this forever!” So, she and others need a plan to pass on the business, and if no family member or trusted employee is able to pick up the baton, selling the company makes sense.

I think what Black women and other critics are concerned about is the whitewashing of beauty. When we look at Korean, Japanese or French beauty companies and watch them grow and get adopted by wider audiences, we have no expectations that they should be less French or less Korean to be acceptable and accepted by people beyond their core customer base.

But Black brand owners are often advised to be less Blac” to be acceptable. Anecdotally, I’ve heard this is also experienced by South Asian- and Latin-owned brands, especially if they want to be in the luxury or masstige space. Somehow, our ethnic authenticity, which adds to the diversity of beauty practices and brings innovations into the industry, is not considered luxe and must be fundamentally changed to be acceptable by broader audiences.

That change often goes hand in hand with appropriation or colonization of “ethnic” beauty practices. For example, looking at a brand like L’Occitane, we love that they are French and use traditional French ingredients and production methods and have no expectation they need to change to be accepted outside of France. At the same time, they offer popular and costly shea butter products that people love to buy, but we all know shea trees are not native to the south France, yet are offered by this French company without question.

And while some of this criticism may seem like hyperbole, these concerns are well rooted in previous experiences. Historically (without naming names), some haircare companies built by Black women consumers tried to expand their consumer base to include white women and launched offensive ad campaigns with white or ethnically ambiguous models that rendered Black women—their core customer base—invisible.

Other companies changed formulations when acquired to cut costs, making their products less useful for the Black women consumers who built them. Most Black women brand owners I know are committed to using excellent ingredients, which are often expensive, to create quality products that meet our needs, but when acquired by a larger company, they may change the formulas to use cheaper ingredients, partly because many think Black-oriented products cannot be costly or luxe, but this renders the products useless for us.

So, the bottom line is, many will cheer and support Mielle’s acquisition. At the same time, many others are holding their breath to see if the consumer outreach, marketing and/or formulations get changed to “broaden the appeal” of the brand. Or can the brand continue to grow, maintain quality and remain authentic without losing sight of its core consumer base?

Danielle Edmond Founder and CEO, uQueen Organics and Stay Golden Cosmetics

I believe it’s a great move to allow Mielle to reach more consumers in a major way that will allow their brand to expand globally. I think the concern most may have is the brand's ability to still remain true to its core values and audience. Once that’s intact, I believe this is an amazing move holistically.

Corey Huggins Founder, Ready To Beauty

For me, the acquisition of Mielle Organics by P&G is a unique type of glass ceiling being broken, and it ushers in a new era of possibilities for Black/African American beauty! This was an acquisition predicated on sheer strength versus the previous acquisitions of Black-owned brands by big multinationals.

Mielle Organics didn't have to sell, they chose to sell. Consequently, P&G has acquired a strong asset in Mielle that can stand equity-to-equity with its other haircare brands like Pantene and Head & Shoulders.

Moreover, in choosing to sell, I believe Mielle also chose to keep the brand's focus on Black/African American haircare needs and wants. It effectively has averted the awkward and often problematic business dance of trying to grow the brand by attracting new customers outside its core audience (i.e., general market users).

Now, with the resources and deep pockets of P&G, Mielle Organics can effectively weather almost any storm that may come as it grows domestically, internationally, innovatively and so forth.

As for the conversations and concerns expressed on social media, I totally get it and understand consumers' fears about Mielle's future relating to changes in formula, gentrification to outright erasure of Black women in the marketing mix.

However, again, I repeat: Mielle chose to sell and with that they had the strength to dictate the terms of the sale. I know for a fact that Mielle turned down other offers from other beauty multinationals, therefore they actively sought out and secured the right partner for them.

And, if the past determines the future, Mielle has been teaching us a masterclass in brand building. Remember, this is the brand that took in an historic level of investment with Berkshire Partners, north of $100 million. So, consumer fears about the future of Mielle Organics should be assuaged. This brand is in the driver's seat, and it has not made a bad turn yet.

Taliah Waajid Founder, Taliah Waajid

I am thrilled for Monique and the current state of the natural haircare industry. As someone considered an industry pioneer, having launched the very first full collection of natural haircare products back in 1996, I have witnessed the tremendous growth of Black hair and beauty products with joy and excitement.

This April will be the 23rd annual Natural Hair Health & Beauty Show, an expo I created in 1997 to educate the industry and the general public to the benefits of going natural. In the nineties, natural was considered unkempt and unprofessional and, ever since, my team and I have been unrepentant evangelizers for the natural cause.

Fast forward to today and natural is not just a hairstyle, but a defined lifestyle choice. What Monique has achieved is tremendous, and I'm extremely proud of and happy for her. I'm looking forward to more brand founders in 2023 reaching their business goals.

Jamila Powell Founder, Naturally Drenched

Coming from a founder position and knowing the effort that was put into growing a brand to that point, I'm inspired and happy to see Mielle's hard work pay off.

Running a business is taxing and requires a lot of sacrifice in every aspect of your life. I think it's awesome they can enjoy the fruits of their labor without stressing about the next purchase order, formula or anything else that comes their way on a daily basis.

Sabrina T. Boissiere Founder, Natural Partners In Crime

I've worked with Mielle since 2016, and they have always been committed to the natural hair community and beyond. Monique and Melvin have been key players in supporting events, influencers and charitable organizations. It was disheartening, yet expected, to see the negative comments regarding their announcement of the acquisition.

Far too many times Black brands have had to muffle their success and tiptoe on sharing impactful news to avoid being deemed a "sellout.”

It's not uncommon for brands to have a goal to sell. Not every one's vision is to have a legacy brand, and there's more than one way to build a legacy and/or multi-generational wealth.

The natural hair community's relationship with Black-owned businesses is complicated. I understand the fear and anger in the Black community. It's rooted in being forgotten post-sale by the very supporters who helped build the brand, so our concerns are heightened.

Instead of supercharging the negative, let's support the founders we've grown to love and trust that, in the case of Monique, while she's still in "control" she will hold true to the formulas and pillars upon which Mielle was built. The success of this acquisition is hope for other businesses who one day want to travel the same path.

Angela Ubias Co-Founder, Common Heir

The Mielle Organics acquisition is historic and feels like something we should all be celebrating, especially those of us in Black and brown communities. When the news dropped, I was ecstatic! This is monumental, especially in beauty, and the negative discord online feels misdirected.

Building a business with legacy isn’t one size fits all. The goal for many entrepreneurs is to eventually make an exit and, with BIPOC founders and entrepreneurs, an exit like this often leads to being able to fund new businesses and invest back into their own communities that are categorically underfunded and underrepresented on store shelves.

It’s curious to me that we tend to see much more positive reactions and discussion when non-BIPOC owned brands make big exits, there’s so much more celebration perhaps in part because it’s been normalized. We tell our children to dream big, don’t let barriers hold you back, claim your seat at the table, and we need to remember that it’s true for those of us building our brands now in this moment, also.

Building a brand to the point of an acquisition is something few will be able to accomplish in their lifetime, and I commend Monique and Melvin Rodriguez for what they’ve accomplished.

Calvin Quallis Founder and CEO, Scotch Porter

First, congrats to Monique and Melvin Rodriguez! Their story and community impact are incredible and inspiring to me and other entrepreneurs.

I think the acquisition of Mielle Organics by P&G is incredible news for the future of beauty. M&A is a very efficient method for smaller founder-led brands, including Black-owned brands, to sustainably grow and better ensure that their brand, which they’ve poured everything into, will be around for years to come.

An acquisition can also often provide the resources for a rapidly growing brand to now invest more in key channels, from marketing to retail to sales in order to evolve to the next level.

Last, the acquisition of Mielle Organics is a signal or almost blueprint to other burgeoning brands that, if we build brands that are deeply rooted in serving our customers and community well, there’s a real opportunity to build something that has a lasting presence and the ability to fundamentally shift and impact our family and others’ lives.

Germaine Bolds-Leftridge Founder, I KNOW

The acquisition of Mielle by P&G Beauty represents a milestone in the history of multicultural hair care. Many multicultural brands have entered into various partnerships and been acquired, but this one has been one of the largest to date.

This transaction is not only a win for Melvin and Monique, but also a win for the minority community. This win shows that we, as a people, have what it takes to start businesses, run them effectively and compete in a world that has not always looked at us as equals.

From day one, when I started working with Mielle seven years ago, Melvin and Monique have always been committed to their community. They have always talked about and participated in some type of giveback. They knew they were not just building a business that would one day provide them and their family with generational wealth, but they also remembered where they came from.

I have seen firsthand how they have gone out during the cold winter months to provide food and clothing to the homeless and, because they are both deeply rooted in their faith, pray with and for those individuals. They have worked hard to get to where they are and deserve everything that has been given to them.

I know there is often backlash when a Black-owned company is acquired by a non-Black or non-minority owned company or conglomeration, but it shouldn't be that way. As entrepreneurs, we often start businesses so that they can be sold. This is exactly what they have done. It’s the American dream, and we shouldn’t chastise our people for conducting business with those that are able to provide this type of generational wealth.

For those that are critical of this process, I challenge them to put themselves in Melvin’s and Monique’s shoes. If you were able to sell something you currently own that would set you and your family up for generations to come, would you not do it because the buyer isn’t a minority? I don't think so! Congratulations, Melvin and Monique!

Michelle Ballard Co-founder and CEO, Miche Beauty

The recent acquisition of Mielle Organics not only advances the dismantling of barriers for beauty entrepreneurs of color who aspire to create and scale their businesses, but it also serves as a testament to why many entrepreneurs decide to build their companies, to create generational wealth opportunities for their families.

Through the backlash, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) seem to be perceived as a business strategy that is reprehensible for Black-owned businesses, especially those that cater to the concerns of Black consumers, because of the suspected outlook of "selling out." However, it is through M&A that smaller businesses are provided with the resources, stronger supply chains and wider distribution potential to not only efficiently serve increasing consumer demand, but also expand marketing efforts.

I think that P&G’s acquisition of Mielle Organics signals the viability of the natural haircare market. With this in mind, it is important that brands understand that today's consumer is far more sophisticated and aware of the ingredients, quality and efficacy of the products they are using. As the market continues to grow, brands must be vigilant in ensuring that product quality is not diminished and that the needs and identity of its core demographic are not forgotten.

Sienna Brown Founder, Glosshood

My first reaction to the news about Mielle Organics’ acquisition was simply, “YESSSS!” The joy I felt in my heart for founder Monique Rodriguez was unreal, almost like my best friend had just hit the jackpot at a casino on our girls trip.

As a fellow beauty founder, it has been really hard to see the backlash and commentary surrounding the acquisition. I don’t think that people who are not in the position of owning a company that you’re giving your entire life and being to will ever understand the joys associated with selling that thing that has consumed so much of your life. This is not to say that owning a brand is some kind of prison or that the journey isn’t enjoyable, but, as with anything, it can be incredibly taxing on your spirit.

With that being said, I’m so very happy for Monique and her family. I'm glad she can breathe again in a way she probably hasn’t had a chance to since first starting the brand. Wishing her endless joy and future success in whatever she does!

LaToya Stirrup Co-founder, Kazmaleje

When I read the news of Mielle Organics' acquisition, I literally screamed out loud in celebration because of what this amazing milestone means for the rest of us in the haircare space. As founders, we put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears and money to bring our brands to life. Monique's journey as a founder provides another blueprint and example of what it can look like to scale our brands.

She openly shared their acquisition plans and what this move means for the brand with her community on social media, which was great. It's clear that she plans to use the acquisition as a means to not only level up the brand, but to give back, and I am so excited for her, her family and her team.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask entrepreneurs, executives and experts, please send it to