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Tones of Melanin

tones of melaninAshley Jones hopes to seal a deal for Tones of Melanin, her HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universties) based clothing brand, in Shark Tank episode 1422 – the season 14 finale. She started the company in 2017 while still attending Norfolk State University. She didn’t think the college branded clothing in the school bookstore represented her sense of style, so she started creating and selling her own, sometimes right out of her back pack!

Ashley wanted to create clothing that reflected her style and to bring awareness to HBCU’s. Her background is in graphic design, creative directing, and marketing, so it didn’t take long for the word to get out. The company has licensing deals with every HBCU and historically black fraternities and sororities. She sells her licensed clothing in Fanatics, Belk department stores, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and 18 HBCU bookstores.

The line has grown from simple tee shirts to an entire apparel line. Items include windbreakers, hoodies, hats and just about any other type of collegiate apparel you can think of. Ashley wants her clothing to be high quality, but affordable too. She gives back, too. To date, she’s donated over $50,000 to HBCU causes. Ashley is outgrowing her space and likely wants a Shark’s help managing growth.

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Tones of Melanin Shark Tank Recap

Ashley enters the Shark Tank with a small marching band. When they’re done playing, the Sharks applaud. Ashley speaks up and says she’s seeking $300,000 for 5% equity in her business. She tells the Sharks students at HBCU’s have been historically under represented when it comes to fashion. Tones of Melanin is here to fill that void. They’ve combined street wear and collegiate wear to create its own genre of fashion. Today, they have over 40 HBCU licenses and they’re unique because they come from the community they serve. The company is bigger than fashion, they’ve become the hub for “all things HBCU.”

The Sharks examine their samples. Lori likes the quality. Barbara’s jacket costs $28 to make, retails for $110 and wholesales for $86. Mark’s reversable shorts cost $20, wholesale for $48 and retail for $100. Reversable jackets cos $38 and retail for $165. Ashley was into design from early on in high school into college. She began designing for multiple entities on her college campus and decided to make her own brand. She saw the gap in need in the HBCU community.

There are 100 – 102 HBCU’s out there and Ashley has 40 licenses. The schools she doesn’t have don’t have licensing programs in place. Daymond says a major shoemaker has invested $2 billion into HBCU licensed products and it’s a fast growing market. The company has been in business since 2017 and has lifetime sales of $3.3 million. In the last 12 months they have $1.4 million in sales. So far this year (2022) they have $1.1 million in sales. 75% comes from retail and the rest is from eCommerce. Fanatics, Follett, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and 25 HBCU bookstores. 2 days ago, she got a purchase order for $973,000 from Follett. Profits to date are $300,000. Their manufacturer lets them pay for product after it’s delivered.

She wants the Shark money to set up a third party logistics company to get product ready for retail sales. Lori says she could hire a third party third party logistics company. Ahsley wants to use some of the money for marketing. To date, she’s only spent $50,000 in marketing. Mark questions whether she needs additional marketing. Ashley runs the entire business day to day. She says her grandparents had one of the first African American beauty supply businesses in her area which let Ashley experience entrepreneurship first hand. When her mom lost her job when Ashley was 13, she went into “hustle mode” to buy her lunch or get her hair done, so entrpreneurship became second nature. Right now, all profits are going right back into the business.

Lori’s mind is blown by Ashley’s story and accomplishments, but she doesn’t know much about this area; she’s out. Barbara thinks Ashley is “on fire,” but she doesn’t know enough about this business; she’s out. Kevin thinks it’s an inventory challenge – the bigger she gets, the more inventory she’ll need; it’s not a business he wants to be in and he goes out. Daymond is involved with some competing businesses, but he offers some advice. He suggests having on campus representatives to sell products but he can’t invest because of the conflicts he has; he’s out. Mark loves Ashley’s drive. He offers $300,000 for 15%. Ashley counters with 12% and Mark says “done.”

Tones of Melanin Shark Tank Update

The Shark Tank Blog constantly provides updates and follow-ups about entrepreneurs who have appeared on the Shark Tank TV show. After the original air date, the company saw a huge uptick in online orders. The first rerun of this episode in July, 2023 is just 2 months after the original air date. At this time, there is no evidence the deal with Mark has closed yet. The company is getting ready for the fall school season and is offering custom homecoming clothing for order. Just after airing, Ashley told Black Enterprise she wants to “expand my company without using a third party.”

The Shark Tank Blog will follow-up on Tones of Melanin & Ashley Jones as more details become available.