In 2014, Monique Rodriguez started an Instagram page to share hair care tips with other women. A registered nurse, she enjoyed uncovering remedies for, say, scalp dryness that wouldn’t cause bad reactions like the rashes she saw in some of her patients.
Monique mixed hair treatments in her home blender, then shared the recipes with her followers. Soon, fans asked to buy the goods.
So she launched Mielle Organics in 2014 with her husband Melvin and one product: mint almond oil, a blend of almond, soybean and peppermint oils that can help heal dry scalps.
On a year-to-date basis, Mielle is the largest Black-owned hair care company, per research from Strategic Solutions International, a consulting firm that works with top manufacturers in the category.
Mielle—a play on the names of its co-founders’ daughters—has nearly 660,000 Instagram followers who come to the brand for regular advice on handling textured hair. Its 60 products, which include shampoos and hair vitamins, are stocked in over 100,000 retail locations nationwide: CVS, Walmart, Target, Walgreens and more.
This year, Mielle’s anniversary sale coincided with support for the Black Lives Matter movement and a coronavirus-induced spike in ecommerce—as well as the launch of Mielle’s rice water collection. The result was more than 40,000 new customers, millions of sales and a crashed website the brand considers more of a trophy than a trouble.
To keep introducing new products and growing its customer count, Mielle needs reliably strong systems. The team recently upgraded to an ERP system for an overall view of the company’s financials and inventory.
Mielle’s co-founders credit much of its success to its Instagram presence.
Before Mielle even existed, Monique’s hair tutorials built a band of followers who now readily consider any product the brand launches, Melvin said.
“She’s built a community where consumers have really trusted the brand,” he added.
Nurturing that loyal community led to a breakout year for Mielle: The brand saw a 106% sales increase in a 52-week period ending last month.
Behind the scenes, though, tasks were getting tangled. Fishbowl, the system Mielle used to manage inventory, couldn’t connect to its ecommerce storefront on Shopify, so Melvin’s team had to manually track ecommerce sales vs. the inventory it had on-hand. They also couldn’t easily gauge Mielle’s performance on the KPIs that retailers use to make decisions about, say, how much product to store in their warehouses.
“We were running the company from an Excel sheet,” Melvin said. “It got to a point where I needed to be able to go to a dashboard and see, ‘Here are my open sales orders, my P&L, my EBITDA.’ I needed that quick look. Click a button, and tell me everything.”
Melvin said he got that overall view of the business with NetSuite ERP, which Mielle implemented just two months ago.
“There have been immediate benefits, because obviously we now have greater visibility [than we did in Excel],” Melvin said. “For example, when I log in daily, I have my NetSuite dashboard customized to what I need to view.”
For him as COO, that dashboard shows:
- A high-level financial overview of the business: revenue, balance, banking balance, EBITDA
- Reminders on open invoices, bills to be paid and sales orders to approve
- Open customer orders, broken down by distributor and how much Mielle owes each one
- Top unit ranking, or which products are performing best
As Mielle’s COO, Melvin uses a customized dashboard in NetSuite. Here’s an example of a NetSuite dashboard customized for a CEO.
Lastly, Melvin cites a detailed audit trail as an upgrade from his previous system. His team no longer worries about chasing order details in the event of an audit.
“I needed an inventory management system where everything is traceable,” Melvin said. In NetSuite, he can “see related records and every activity associated with a particular order—at the detail level—for auditing. Now we have valid, documented steps of what happened [with any given order].”
Melvin is looking forward to using NetSuite’s data-crunching capabilities in the near future.
The system is currently collecting inputs of Mielle’s expenses and inventory trends, he said, and soon, its forecasting tools will suggest moves—whether financial, operational or both—that could majorly grow the business.
Previously, those forecasts came from Melvin’s team and an arsenal of spreadsheets.
Now, “I’m looking for NetSuite to keep us in balance on our growth trajectory and spend,” he said. “... I’m looking for NetSuite to guide us from a data perspective, to tell us what to do.”
“I’m looking for NetSuite to keep us in balance on our growth trajectory ... to guide us from a data perspective, to tell us what to do.”
-Melvin Rodriguez, COO at Mielle Organics
That guidance will afford teams more time to focus on customer connection. Mielle remains distinctly driven in this area: When COVID-19 forced cancellations of Monique’s usual TV and in-store appearances, she went back to her social media roots, posting daily Instagram Lives to walk women through haircare basics.
Mielle categorizes its products by hair texture: The loose curl of type 3 hair, for example, calls for Mielle’s Hawaiian ginger leave-in conditioner, while tightly-coiled type 4 hair is best aided by a pomegranate and honey treatment. Women of multiple races can have the same hair texture, so a near-term goal for Monique entails expanding her customer base beyond the Black women who comprise much of it right now.
While doing so, she plans to continue serving as an example to businesswomen of all backgrounds.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to see women entrepreneurs who looked like me,” Monique said. “I never thought that what I’ve been able to do was even attainable for me. So I want to change that narrative and show it can be done. You can be great, no matter your circumstances.”
👉 Watch our on-demand virtual event to learn more about how an ERP system can help your business sustain momentum.