Detroit Chemist Celebrates Brown Skin With Her Retail Line
A dream is best when made into reality. Deirdre Roberson worked hard to turn her dream of EUMELANIN [you-mel-a-nin] into a successful clothing and jewelry brand that is now her reality.
As the Founder and CEO, Deirdre is what many may consider a “master of all trades.” Not only is she the owner of EUMELANIN, she is also a successful chemist and graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans, LA and the University of Detroit Mercy.
EUMELANIN primarily operates online at www.eumelanin.com and is located at 1620 Michigan Ave, suite 120 this holiday season in the Cork Town neighborhood in partnership with BUILD Institute.
Antoine Marshall: What inspired you to start your own business?
Deirdre Roberson: I have always had a love for chemistry. After graduating high school, chemistry was my thing and became my major in college. It is interesting, when you are in the chemistry world, you don’t really learn about yourself; this came later in life while working on different STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Having an entrepreneurial spirit, I had a couple of ideas that I felt could represent me well within the STEM field. I decided to put the chemical structure of melanin on my shirt. I realize that they [schools] do not teach the chemical form of melanin I have displayed on my shirt, which is what makes up the skin tone of black and brown individuals. It is a dope idea to the visual on shirts to send a message.
AM: Did people know what was on your shirt?
DR: No, I was waiting for people to ask me, “What is that on your shirt?” so I can tell them, but that did not happen. Instead, I went around telling people what was on my shirt and everyone was like,
“Oh my God, I really need that shirt!” At the time I only had the yellow sweatshirt available.
AM: Why only brown color patterns?
DR: I want to make sure EUMELANIN is a clothing line that empowers black and brown people. The patterns are based off of skin tones to celebrate the beauty in black and brown people from all around the world. I want the world to feel empowered when we (brown and black people) see our reflection in fashion. It is important to feel empowered in our complexion. This is how the color patterns came about.
AM: How were you able to get the capital to help get start?
DR: In the beginning, I started funding EUMELANIN with my own money. At a later time, I won a pitch competition. Then, I had the opportunity to participate in a retail boot camp at Tech Town Detroit. There, I experienced a class where they honed in on things you needed to know if interested in opening a retail store.
I ended the class in September and in March received an offer to operate in Fairlane Mall in Dearborn, MI for four, free months. The Tech Town opportunity and access to resources became very valuable for my company.
AM: Where does your creative side come from?
DR: You know, I think we all are creative, let me start there. Growing up, I took many art classes throughout middle and high school such as: print making, free drawing, painting and jewelry making. Being in that environment allowed me the ability to express myself, which became important while tackling chemistry.
Sometimes society tells us to focus on one thing. This stops us from thriving in ways we need to, to be our complete and true selves.
AM: Why did you pick this particular location for a storefront?
DR: Originally I had a location in Fairlane mall, which was a tester, yet I really wanted to be in Detroit. I was born and raised in Southwest Detroit, and I currently live a few miles from our current storefront location. The storefront was offered to me and I felt that it was a great opportunity.
Right now, EUMELANIN is operating as a pop-up business until December 31, 2019. I feel this is a perfect spot for EUMELANIN, especially for the holidays. Moving forward, I want my permanent location to be here in the city of Detroit.
AM: Are there any other places you have had an opportunity to set up shop?
DR: Yes, my company was featured at the Essence Festival in New Orleans this year. I sold out of my merchandise while there. I also participated as a vendor at the Detroit African World Festival and sold out of apparel again.
I had to pull some stuff from the store to meet demands. I’ve been aggressively attempting to get my brand out there.
AM: How many employee’s do you have?
DR: I currently have two employees from the community. My goal is to keep hiring people of color and from the community, intentionally. This is one of my main missions for my company. I am not saying that I wont hire anyone else, but I really want to help and give opportunity to my people.
AM: What is the long-term goal for your company?
DR: My future goal is to turn EUMELANIN into a global brand—this is my introductory line. I want people to see EUMELANIN as a permanent store one day where when you walk in, you will see all shades of brown clothing.
That is the long-term goal, as well as to educate people on melanin found in black and brown people.
Edited By: Ashley Quinn