Mahogany chatted with Ardean Miller, owner and creator of Mah Melanin, to find out what motivates her, who empowers her, and how she celebrates her Blackness.
What was your inspiration for starting Mah Melanin?
My inspiration came from a deep void—the glaring lack of accurate representation of people of color on products. I vividly remember my childhood holidays when there were no Santas who resembled me, except within the confines of my home and community. Those early memories also included the disheartening and often inaccurate depictions of our community in toys, especially baby dolls. As my own children grew up, I faced the same difficulty in finding products that authentically represented them. This void inspired me to create something that would elevate and celebrate our cultural identity, rather than perpetuate stereotypes or inaccuracies.
What do you hope Black women will experience when they open a gift from Mah Melanin?
My hope is for Black women to feel an array of powerful emotions when they use our products—beautiful, empowered, proud, and capable of achieving the impossible. I want them to experience the profound feeling of being loved and seen, knowing that their uniqueness is celebrated through our offerings. It’s about more than just using a product; it’s about feeling a deep connection to their identity and heritage.
How does it feel to receive support and encouragement from our community?
You know, it’s truly empowering. It feels like we’re not just representing the community; we’re actively changing it in a profound way. It’s a difficult question to answer because it’s filled with so many emotions. I’ve always been more accustomed to giving than receiving, so when I first started receiving support from the community, it was overwhelming. I remember back in November 2020 when I received over 300 orders in one day. I cried so hard that I think I could have filled four swimming pools with my tears.
Fast forward to today, and I estimate that my tears could probably fill up the entire United States. The support just keeps pouring in, and with each new wave of support, I find myself moved to tears once again. I’m endlessly grateful for the incredible amount of support I’ve received. It’s truly humbling and fuels our mission to make a positive impact.
Who in your life encourages and empowers you the most?
Wow, that’s a tough one. My kids, husband, and family are all incredibly important and play vital roles in my life. But if I had to choose, the trophy would definitely go to my parents, Kenneth and Doreen Miller. I remember as a young child, I was really—I mean really—paying attention to everything my parents did. I practically studied them, and to this day I’m not sure if they realize just how closely I watched and learned from them.
I saw my parents work tirelessly, day after day, to provide for our family. They are my ultimate role models, and they empowered me to strive for greatness. I vividly recall making a promise to myself that I would never let their hard work go in vain. I wanted to make them proud and let them know that their dedication to me and my sisters truly meant something. I was determined not to let them down.
I was so committed to achieving greatness for their sake that I had “Knowledge is Power” engraved on my high school graduation ring as a constant reminder of my commitment. My parents have always been incredibly supportive and empowering. I remember a conversation with my mom last year, and out of nowhere, she just said, “Wow, my baby, wow…” while holding back tears. All I could say was, “Don’t do it, Mom, because you’re going to make me cry too.” And, of course, we both did. It was such a heartfelt moment shared between us both.
Even now, my parents continue to empower me. Whenever I’m faced with something outside my comfort zone, the first thing I do is call my momma and daddy. My dad always reassures me, saying, “It’s alright, you’ve got this, you’re going to be okay, you can do it.” And guess what? He hasn’t been wrong yet.
What advice would you give to a sister who wants to start her own business?
Starting your own business can be challenging, but here’s my advice: Start it anyway, work on it every day, and never give up. Surround yourself with fellow business owners who can provide support and guidance. Most importantly, believe in yourself, and never, ever give up on your dreams.
I still remember when I first started. I came across a post on Facebook that said something like, “Post, even if you receive zero likes, they see you.” I shared it, and there were no Facebook likes, but that was perfectly okay because I believed in myself and my mission. I believe that you should keep promoting your business, keep shouting it out, because with all that shouting, someone will hear you, sis. Take it from me.
Here at Mahogany, we’re motivated by purpose, faith, and community, to celebrate Blackness 24/7. How do you celebrate yours?
For me, it’s all about being intentional in representing people of color in a way that elevates and empowers them. I firmly believe in the guidance of God in all our decisions, following His vision for my life and business. Moreover, I carry the knowledge that I am the embodiment of my ancestors’ dreams. I stand on their shoulders, and their DNA runs through my veins. It’s a reminder of the incredible strength of giants that empowers me to celebrate Blackness 24/7.
Anything else you want readers to know about you and your business?
I want people to understand that being a Black business owner in certain industries may be tough, but it’s crucial that we don’t give up. Take, for example, our creation of a Black Santa, which has received its share of negative comments. However, we’re determined to keep pushing forward and not let these challenges deter us because our mission is so much larger than any negative comment.
You see, Mah Melanin is more than just a brand; it’s a movement. We’re steadfast in our mission to foster self-love, representation, and empowerment for Black women and their communities. Together, we have the power to make a positive impact and beat all odds against our community.Leave a Comment