Ardean Miller-Marbley had a summer to remember. The New Sarpy native and resident took the trip of a lifetime to Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas to pitch for her products to be sold at Sam’s Club and Walmart locations.
She came home a happy woman.
“On the way up there we saw so many Walmart trucks and me and my husband kept saying, ‘That could be us soon. Our products could be in that truck,’” she remembers. “And then on the way home we kept saying, ‘That is going to be us.’ It’s so surreal. It gets overwhelming in a good way.”
Miller-Marbley and her 16-year-old daughter Syreniti presented to executives at the event and earned a coveted golden ticket at the ninth annual Walmart Open Call. The meetings secured a deal that will lead to their products being sold online and in-stores at select Walmart and Sam’s Club stores.
“I started thinking about this when I was 8,” Miller-Marbley said. “Everyone loves Santa … I loved Santa, but there was a void of Santas who looked like me and there were no beautiful baby dolls or characters who looked like me. As a child growing up and not seeing those kind of images and reflections … it can do damage to a child … it can hurt their self-esteem.”
Miller-Marbley created her company Mah Melanin in 2020 with a desire to offer products that beautifully and accurately represent melanated people.
“The company itself was created for inclusion and diversity … to show African Americans and melanated cultures in a positive light so that they can see themselves as worthy and beautiful,” Miller-Marbley said.
Her line of products includes home décor, apparel, totes, blankets and more. Her most popular product is her Santa gift wrap, which features an African American Santa named Ken.
It is the giftwrap that will be sold in stores starting in 2023. The product is already available online at Walmart.
Miller-Marbley said she couldn’t have struck the deal without the support of Syreniti.
“She’s the project manager,” Miller-Marbley said. “She kept me on track. I was so nervous but it was a very comfortable environment. Everyone there went out of their way to make sure we were all comfortable. Out of everything – what hit me the most and what mattered the most was setting an example for (her) and having her be there and meet the CEO and all of these reps from Walmart and Sam’s Club. It was a great and positive experience.”
Miller-Marbley said Mah Melanin is a family affair, with her three children and husband all pitching in to help. Her own parents – Kenneth and Doreen Miller – have also been a huge support system, she added.
To shop Mah Melanin, visit www.mahmelanin.com.
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