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There’s no swagger quite like the swagger of a proud HBCU graduate and the company, Tones of Melanin, is helping to spread that swag to the masses. Tones of Melanin was started in 2017 with a mission to design apparel that represents Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Ashley Jones created the company while attending Norfolk State University. She noticed that the traditional items in her campus bookstore didn’t have the flare she was looking for and began crafting her own designs. Jones used her background in graphic design, creative directing and marketing to get the word out on her products. Since its inception, Jones has secured licensing deals with every HBCU and historically black fraternity and sorority. Her products are licensed to sell in a variety of outlets including Fanatics, Belk, Dick’s Sporting Goods and 18 HBCU bookstores.
The brand highlights all HBCUs across the nation and aims to provide career opportunities for HBCU students and graduates while also supporting philanthropy. Jones has been able to donate more than $50,000 to various causes supporting HBCUs and Tones of Melanin incorporates philanthropy into every purchase as proceeds go to the school featured on the clothing item. Customers are able to choose from HBCU-inspired tops, bottoms, jackets, bags and more. Sizes range from extra small to 5-extra large and the price point ranges from as low as $14 to more than $135. For customers who are Greek, Tones of Melanin offers a customization option on products starting at $12 per item on hats and up to $125 per item on line jackets.
With business booming, Jones decided to take her company to the next level by making a pitch on the ABC series, Shark Tank. The entrepreneur made her pitch on the hit show’s season finale which aired on Friday, May 19. She successfully pitched the brand before sharks Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John and Lori Greiner. Mark Cuban took the bait and offered an investment of $300,000 for a 12 percent equity stake in the company.
The investment puts the company at a value of $2.5 million and will help to expand access to the apparel. In addition to purchasing items in stores, Tones of Melanin is available for customers to shop online.