We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Harmon and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ashley, how does your business help the community?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased focus on preventative health and wellness. Despite this focus and the growth of the $35 billion US supplement industry, no companies were formulating supplements to meet the nutritional needs of melanated people or creating products to support their preventative health.

Research has shown that melanin impacts how our bodies absorb nutrients, especially Vitamin D. Melanin impacts our body’s ability to convert Vitamin D from the sun, which has resulted in an estimated 76-90% of melanated people being Vitamin D deficient. This is having a huge impact in communities of color, contributing to our increased risk of everything from severe COVID-19 to breast cancer and dementia. Other multivitamins often do not contain adequate levels to address or prevent this deficiency. I created Mela to fill this need in my community, because we need and deserve products that are not just inclusive but that are actually made for us.

Our team spent a year conducting consumer focus groups and working with healthcare providers to formulate our Daily Essentials multivitamin to provide the nutrients needed by melanated bodies and to address health risks unique to our communities. As we continue to scale our business and develop new products, we are committed to empowering our communities to prioritize wellness through educational campaigns, in-person events and live discussions with healthcare leaders. We continue to invest resources in research to understand the nutrient needs of melanated people, and to develop products that address health goals and concerns in our community.

We at Mela are working to rewrite the story about preventative health in communities of color, and our products are helping people prioritize their wellness and support them in building healthy habits.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Mela Vitamins is the first wellness company custom formulating supplements for melanated people. Melanin impacts how our bodies absorb certain vitamins, which means we have unique nutritional needs that were not met by other multivitamins on the market.

I have been formulating my own supplements for the past decade. I was diagnosed with a health condition in college that caused chronic fatigue, anxiety and digestion issues. After much trial and error, my doctor found a mix of vitamins and supplements that were effective, but cost hundreds of dollars a month. This was not sustainable as a college student, so I learned how to make them myself. I taught myself how to develop formulas, order raw ingredients and create my own supplements. I have spent the last decade testing different ingredients and formulas, and have been able to get feedback from my friends and family along the way.

While I enjoyed making supplements for myself, I didn’t plan on doing it full time until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I saw the need for communities of color to invest in and focus on preventative wellness. Despite the unique nutritional needs of melanated people, no companies were prioritizing supplements that addressed our unique health needs. This is what inspired me to utilize my experience and testing from the past decade to launch Mela Vitamins.

It took us over a year to manufacture during the pandemic – ingredients were out of stock, shipments were delayed and manufacturing facilities were backlogged. We were able to finally launch our Daily Essentials multivitamin for women in July 2022, which was an accomplishment in itself. We were able to create a clean, effective and affordable multivitamin for a community that has been largely overlooked by the wellness industry.

Forging a new path and niche in a billion-dollar industry is not easy. I do not look like most supplement company founders, and I did not have a large investment to launch the company. From supply chain issues to companies not understanding our vision, there were many challenges we had to overcome along the way. It may have taken longer and cost more, but I am proud that in an industry that is not as regulated as it probably should be, Mela is providing accessible, transparent and high-quality products for melanated people.

Our vision is to grow Mela Vitamins to be the go to supplement brand for melanated people. We have created a new niche within the wellness and beauty supplement industry that has been largely underserved, and we want to continue to be the leaders driving research and innovation in this area.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Priority number one is spending time by the beach. We would bike or walk along the beach path – my favorite stretch to bike is Playa Del Rey to Hermosa. I also love having a picnic with a view, and Bruce’s Beach park always delivers. If we were in the mood to drive, we would drive up the coast to Malibu and have a seafood lunch at Gladstones overlooking the water.

We would definitely spend time on Rose Ave and Abbot Kinney Blvd walking around the shops and eating at my favorite restaurants. We would have to stop at Neighbor for a California-style bowl, Chulita for tacos and Wabi for sushi. And we couldn’t miss a latte at Cha Cha Matcha.

We would head to Hollywood on Sunday to search for vintage clothing and furniture at Melrose Trading Post and check out the Chocolate Sundaes comedy show at the Laugh Factory.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to thank my parents – Don & Betty Harmon. My mom has shown me what it is like to create and own a successful business, and my dad taught me how to think big and how to be an empathetic leader. I also have to thank my wonderful husband Theo Robinson for supporting me day after day and for giving me the courage to dream big.

Website: https://melavitamins.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melavitamins

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/melavitamins

Image Credits
Founder Photo: Kristi Moore Griffith Product Photos: Soona Studios LA

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