Liberal Arts entrepreneur uses hair care to inspire people of color

Ellie West
June 17, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jaelyn Monroe did not always envision herself as an entrepreneur, but with a desire to create a meaningful impact and a passion for natural hair care, the political science major was inspired to create her own unique business.

As the founder and CEO of Miss Monroe Collection, an organic and protective hair care company established to empower people of color to embrace their natural hair, Monroe has been working tirelessly for the past year to grow and expand her startup business.

“During the start of the pandemic last year, I was watching as so many people were losing their jobs or in unfortunate circumstances, and it made me realize how easy it was to have something taken from you,” she said. “I decided I wanted to create something that could have a lasting impact.”

Monroe, who will be a junior in the fall, described how hair care is something that she has “always been interested in,” especially after her own experiences growing up.

“When I was younger, I didn’t really get to embrace my natural hair,” she said. “I often wore weaves or straightened my hair because I wasn’t comfortable wearing it naturally, as oftentimes kinky and curly hair is seen as unprofessional, messy or ‘ghetto.’ When you are young, you should be taught to love yourself and love who you are. ... I felt like I never got to truly love myself or embrace this part of me.”

Now, Monroe said she is at the point where she is very comfortable with her natural hair and wants to help other women of color feel the same way.

“This wasn't just my struggle. It's a struggle that many women of color go through, which is why our mission is to help these women feel beautiful and comfortable with their natural hair,” she said.

In addition to her political science major, Monroe is currently working on a business certificate from the Smeal College of Business. She serves as the second vice president of the Penn State Black Caucus, the event coordinator for the Multicultural Undergraduate Law Association, and the fundraising chair and treasurer for Dark Storm Step Team. She also is a member of the Black Student Union, Unity Christian Church Ministry, and Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories (WORDS).

As both a dedicated college student and entrepreneur, Monroe is grateful for the contributions that her liberal arts education has been able to provide her thus far.

“When owning a business, there is a certain way you need to hold yourself up and there are certain things that you should really have a knowledge of, and my college experience has definitely provided that,” she said. “Specifically, the topics I learned about in one of my criminology courses at Penn State this past semester actually helped me in a real-life scenario with my business when dealing with a contract issue.”

This spring, Monroe won $10,000 in the annual “Shark Tank”-style Inc.U Competition hosted by the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP). She will use the money to travel for business meetings with vendors and set up pop-up shops in different locations.

“Overall, the money is helping us really take our brand to the next step,” Monroe said. “We're planning to start subscription boxes and create a big marketing campaign that is more than just social media marketing.”

Moving forward, Monroe aspires for her products to one day be available “everywhere,” while continuing to stay true to the company’s original mission of empowerment. She envisions Miss Monroe Collection to have a profound impact, especially in terms of the employment opportunities she hopes to provide.

“When we do get to that bigger point, something I want to ensure is that we are employing people who are convicted felons because oftentimes when these individuals are released from prison it is very difficult to find a job,” she said. “Providing those types of opportunities is something I really hope to be able to implement in the future.”

As for her own professional goals, Monroe hopes to eventually attend law school.

“I aspire to eventually own my own law firm with a mix of criminal and corporate attorneys,” she said. “My goal is to focus efforts toward lowering mass incarceration rates and also help small businesses handle legal obligations.”

When asked what advice she has for other students looking to start a new business, Monroe emphasized the importance of ambition.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t,” she said. “If it's something that you are passionate about and something you genuinely want to do, put your all into it, and prove those people wrong.”

To learn more about Monroe and other Liberal Arts Change Makers, visit la.psu.edu/changemakers.

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Last Updated July 12, 2021