During the glorified social experiment called college, one has the opportunity to meet a smorgasbord of fresh faces. Through this experience, you’re forced to interact with an assortment of people. You’ll meet friends, acquaintances, professors and foes from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. This fosters growth not only mentally but spiritually and ultimately leads to the creation of a more well-rounded version of yourself. At Lehigh University -- located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania -- I shared a space with several movers and shakers whose intelligence, ideas and intuition will someday have a profound impact on the world as we know it. One of these movers and shakers was Miles J. Davis.
Davis graduated with a degree in supply chain management, Africana Studies and Japanese. He also developed his own line of shea butter called Superior Shea as well as a clothing brand, The Superiors. 4MP got a chance to chop it up with him and discuss his development of the product, his plans for the future and more.
4MP Bobby: How would you describe your college experience? What'd you gain most from it?
Davis: Man, my college experience was amazing. I would describe it as transformative. I feel like I was able to do as much as I put my mind to while in college. It really taught me, well, how to learn, I think that's what I gained most from it. That was a time when I was deeply into learning about myself and what my path in life was gonna be. I was learning about how the universe worked. l knew it was all through energy and the interconnectedness of life. I was learning about my history, my soul, and how I would play a part of leaving a legacy and my impact on the world. I was revitalized in so many ways and invigorated with an energy that was unbound. I got to travel the world, see new things, get inspiration from a variety of sources. It was really the best experience for me to become who I am.
So, from those things, I knew I needed to do as much as I could do in college, and not feel limited by schoolwork. My campus has access to mad creative software and I was always in the buildings making designs for my brand, videos for my team, etc
4MP Bobby: How does your degree help with your endeavors? Has it opened any doors for you since graduating?
Davis: My degrees have been very beneficial for me. I always try to involve all of my major, minor, and Master’s degree concentrations in all of my works somehow. I was a Supply Chain Management major with minors in Africana Studies and Japanese, and got my masters in Environmental Policy Design and Sustainable Development. Supply chain is involved in all of my businesses from sourcing raw material and selecting suppliers to production and distribution to customers. I've had designs release exclusively in Japan and sell out! I plan on going out there in the fall to expand the brands even further. I'm always doing work in Ghana and focus on sustainable development and the environment lead me to my shea butter business. So I've used everything I've learned in school that I needed to and applied them for my entrepreneurial endeavors.
4MP Bobby: Man, I remember you guys hustlin’ around Bethlehem, shopping your clothing to boutiques like Homebase. How’d the idea for the Superiors clothing brand come about and how’d you come up with the name?
Davis: Word and we were just getting started back then in 2014, that's when we began to actualize the idea. And honestly the brand came about in Baltimore around 2011 when I was kicking it with my mans SUPR and we were real heavy into streetwear brands like Stussy, The Hundreds,and Diamond Supply. We were like man we can make some streetwear gear better than these guys. So we decided to call ourselves Boys On The Superior Side because our stuff was gonna be harder than theirs. After a few years of learning about ourselves and the world around us, we came to realize that we shouldn't aim to be superior to others, but to be superior to ourselves and who we used to be. So that's how we came up with the name. We recently got our ‘The Superiors’ logo trademarked in 2018 and thought that would be the best way for brand recognition.
4MP Bobby: What is being an entrepreneur on a college campus like? How do you feel like the atmosphere influenced your grind?
Davis: It's really fun being young in college as an entrepreneur lol. When you're able to create things amongst all of your school work, it's very rewarding. Not many other students are entrepreneurs while in college so people were always asking me about how the brand was doing, how business was, are any new designs coming, etc. It was dope too cuz I'd walk around campus wearing Superiors gear and get compliments and whenever I would see someone wearing it too I'd have to show em love and say, “Ayyye I see you with the fresh gear on!” It was mad cool especially after doing events on and off campus in the area like pop up shops, fashion shows, performances, someone would always recognize the brand. It was very meaningful to feel that energy. Also when I would hang out with people and we'd share our stories, the way we think, and our intentions, people would be on the same wavelength and really understand the superior mindset. Some things weren't just transactional, you could really understand the brand and what the superior mindset is all about.
On top of that, Being a black man in all my business classes really showed me how it would be navigating business spaces to create the environment for where I could thrive in my own work. I got what I needed from my classes but didn't see myself in the corporate space in the long run. I knew I had to create something of my own that I could relate to. Once I did, I was invited to those spaces in the classroom to teach about my businesses and show them what an entrepreneur in college looks like. That's mad cool too because there weren't any black professors in my business classes. So when I got in front of entrepreneurship classes and spoke about The Superiors, I felt on top of the world you know?
4MP Bobby: In 2015, you got a chance to go to Ghana for the first time as a part of the school’s international internship program. Did you know how rich the country was in shea butter prior?
Davis: At that time I didn't know. When I was at TSA, they took my shea butter cuz it was in my carry on, and I was like dang what am I gonna do in Ghana?Ghana? I'm not tryna be ashy out here lol. My professor was like man you can get shea butter anywhere in the market, and we got some the first day there, for mad cheap. So that's when I first learned about it, when I actually got there, and from there the interest grew.
4MP Bobby: Have you been back since? How have you implemented what you’ve learned from your trips into your business practices with Superior Shea?
Davis: Yeah I've been back to Ghana many times. My fifth time is happening now lol. From my trips back and forth, I've realized the importance of social impact and have actively tried to implement it in our Superior Shea business practices. In a globalized environment, it's imperative that we do right by people in business, especially working with people in a different country and culture from my own. When I was in Ghana I wanted to have an authentic experience so I could have that credibility. I traveled to the Upper West region in a jam-packed van, got mad dust in my hair and clothes, and made shea butter with the women in their rural communities. I lived it for a small amount of time. I woke up at sunrise, I ate with them and played with their children, went deep in the Bush to collect shea nuts. When I realized how difficult the work is, how little they get paid for their work and product, and how different their lifestyles were, I knew it was up to me to do right by them because other buyers of shea don't. That's why I made it pertinent to reinvest 50% of Superior Shea profits back into the cooperative and community in which this shea butter came from. It goes towards their health services, farmlands, and educational materials for kids. Social impact is at the root of what we do. Superior Shea really wants to connect others to that story and the people who are producing what keeps their skin and hair beautifully moisturized. Since someone connected me to this community and this product and gave me this authentic experience, it was my purpose to reciprocate that.
4MP Bobby: What separates Superior Shea from the competitors?
Davis: I wanted to let people in the US know how hard it was to make that shea butter, and wanted them to know how little these hardworking women get paid for it, and wanted to share the quality of the butter. I sold out of the shea my very first weekend of selling it, so I knew production had to be scaled up because people wanted it. They wanted to feel the connection and support these hard working women. and I did too. I think that separates the brand as well, that there's a social impact coupled along with the business. You can get shea from corner stores anywhere in the US but did those people ever go to these villages? Have they ever made shea butter from the nut, gotten on their hands and knees to grind it between two stones with their bare hands? Probably not (laughs) that authentic experience is what makes Superior Shea a standout brand. People know I go to Ghana and do this work and deliver these promises back to these communities
4MP Bobby: What are your goals for the Superior brand?
Davis: Wow thats a big question! I've recently learned that I feel best when I set intentions rather than goals, so I would say my intentions for the Superior brand is to have the mindset shared, and the experience told or shown throughout the world. I wanna establish long lasting partnerships and networks with people who can be an integral part of our supply chain and can add value each step of the way. For our products: undeniability is enticing to me. I wanna make designs that are undeniably fire lol and shea products that people feel the need to buy and make an effort to support the women who make it .
4MP Bobby: What’s next in store?
Davis: Hmm, idk what's next to be honest. More designs and more gear. A diversified product line with new packaging for our shea. Having our product in retail, that all sounds like good things to come next. I live a lot on the day to day and somehow it all works. Whether it works to an optimal efficiency is a different question (laughs), but I suppose I'll just keep putting good energy into the universe trusting God, setting positive intentions and hoping good things come from it.
To stay up to date with Miles J. Davis and Superior Shea/Superiors, check out the official website and social media links below!
Facebook: Superior Shea