Shades of Success
Scientist and Girl Scout alum Deirdre Roberson founded her athletic wear line EUMELANIN in 2018 as more than a fashion brand—she wants to celebrate and empower black and brown people around the world.
The color palette for EUMELANIN’s clothing reflects melanated skin tones—“ranging from butterscotch to dark chocolate,” says Deirdre—and both the clothing and jewelry lines showcase the chemical structure of melanin itself.
“All the shades are beautiful, and we pay close attention to deeper, darker chocolates in order to confront the idea of colorism head on,” she explains. “Celebrating and representing these darker shades — that are usually left out — can change the conversation around racism and colorism and how we view darker-skinned people in society.”
“It changes the way we look at ourselves. We’re all beautiful just the way God made us,” says Deirdre. “So we need to have this celebration of skin tones.”
Deirdre says that being a self-funded entrepreneur has been an intense experience She started five years ago with a small online store that she posted about on social media.
“In just four hours I had over 1,000 orders. And I was like ‘oh, this is going to be a real thing,’” she laughs.
Deirdre keeps her business operations close by. She has everything manufactured in her hometown of Detroit, which is also where she opened her first brick-and-mortar store in July 2019. After EUMELANIN was covered in Essence magazine in April 2020, sales skyrocketed—yet Deirdre has continued to self-fund.
“I am 100% owner and I would like to continue to be 100% owner. Right now, everything goes back into the business,” she says.
Deirdre has earned spots in a variety of programs designed to support young entrepreneurs.
“I am in a Goldman Sachs program right now, which is designed to grow and scale the business,” she explains. “You get a business advisor. We talk with some of the higher-up execs. We’re getting state-of-the-art training on financials, how to talk to lenders, how to build a business…”
The financials have been challenging for Deirdre —as has the isolation.
“Sometimes you feel alone. People don’t understand the sacrifices you make for your business. That’s been hard for me. Sometimes the people you thought would support you don’t show up the way you need them to.”
But the mission of fighting colorism is close to her heart, and it keeps her motivated.
“What’s easy is getting up every day and going after it. I am so passionate about the work I am doing—and how I want to empower black and brown people,” she says. “I haven’t set an alarm clock in years. l am excited to get to work every day and to see the brand grow.”