For Melissa Dewgard, stay at home mother of two, My Melanin Fits started as a hobby and the desire to generate additional income for her family. As an self-proclaimed introvert, and entrepreneur with one seasonal business already under her belt, it wasn’t hard to find inspiration to start another during the pandemic.
“I wanted whatever I sold in the shop to be something I can relate to and would be passionate enough about to push it daily,” Dewgard said in an e-mail exchange. She ventured into apparel (t-shirts, tech suits and sets for men and women). And six month’s later she started designing travel merchandise.
My Melanin Fits features bold designs of Black women on their luggage pieces. Other clothing items boast bold fists that represent Black power. All of it “reflects the beauty and excellence of our culture,” according to Dewgard.
We spoke to the mompreneur on the rise about the My Melanin Fits brand and how she balances motherhood, marriage and merchandise.
HelloBeautiful: Why was it important for you to include “melanin” in your brand name?
Melissa Deward: I wanted people to know this was for us, by us. In 2020, a lot of non-melanated people started melanin-themed Etsy shops and businesses to cash in on our emotions and our struggle. Not only was it important to me that people know this is a black owned business creating merchandise for Black people, but I wanted the name to be the statement.
HB: As a mother and wife, how hard was it for you to find time to create your own brand?
It was and still is a struggle. Laughs. I have 2 kids under 8, so something always has to get put on the back burner. For years I would put myself and my needs on the back burner and wonder why I was getting burned out so often. You have to be good at multitasking until you find the flow that works for you and your situation.
I started my first business shortly after the loss of my firstborn in 2012. Back then, yes we had social media, but I didn’t have any connections and there were no business coaches, branding experts and all that sharing free gems on my feed all day. I had no kids and was working part-time at Old Navy so I had nothing but time to dedicate to product development, but I had no mentor, no goal friends, so I was winging it all.
Fast forward to 2018, I had a five-year-old and a two-year-old at the time I started my second business, it was equal parts stress and motivation. Finding the energy to care for children all day, maintain the house while my husband worked full time, went to school and worked at a radio station on the weekends, and still have the drive to pull an all nighter or wake up 5am to build a brand from the ground up may sound insane but sometimes that’s what it takes. It’s hard work but to build a life where I can stay home, do what I love and care for children, but that lifestyle I’m trying to live is what keeps me motivated.
HB: How have sales been throughout the pandemic?
MD: I feel bad celebrating my wins from 2020 because the influx came because our people were being gunned down and wanted to voice their frustrations on a t-shirt. Or because we’re humans in a country that doesn’t see us as an equal being, so we started celebrating Juneteenth for being OUR actual day of liberation. Because of all of this, because what I create is a form of expression for our people, 2020 was a blessing. I had my highest grossing year as an entrepreneur, I made my husband co-owner and we became an official LLC.
HB: How has the movement to support Black businesses benefited your business?
MD: That’s definitely been another blessing. I’ve built actual relationships from those people who actively support me because I am a black woman. I’m blessed because I’ve always had friends and family who’ve supported me, but some of my customers are legit my internet besties/cyber sistas. People love to talk down on our community and our lack of support, but we’re out here doing the damn thing on both ends. The almighty black dollar is powerful AF.
I also offer creative consulting & group coaching for those searching to start their own creative businesses in 2021. I set a bold goal of helping 25 black creatives start their own businesses this year.
Shop My Melanin Fits, here.
Follow My Melanin Fits on Instagram, here.