Aris Miller believes in conquering every obstacle with a strong work ethic, patience and dedication! As a creative, she aspires to build brand identities and gain experience in social media management and digital advertising. She is interested in contributing and collaborating with businesses and influencers to create ideas, manage common goals, narrate stories, and design graphics, websites, and promotional merchandise.
When she is not working on a design project, she loves curating motivational music playlists, planning social events for creative entrepreneurs, sewing, and volunteering with local non-profits for the arts and social sustainability.
I recently interviewed Ms. Miller where she talked more about her interests, career goals and collaborations. Check out the interview below:
Can you tell myself and the readers a little about yourself and your upbringing?
First I’d like to start by thanking you wholeheartedly for featuring me. I’m humbled and truly honored to feel this important, even if only for ten minutes, lol. My name is Aris Miller. I’m a 26-year old digital marketing strategist and visual content creator. I had a bit of a double life during my upbringing. I can remember living “down the highway” in Pine Hill until I was about four, but yet, at the same time I went to Headstart and then Parkside Elementary School. I also spent a lot of time with my Aunt Bernice, who also lived down the street from my elementary school. She watched me everyday in first grade, up until the following school year when we moved to Lindenwold.
Where I lived in Lindenwold, it was super boring on my block! Nobody i knew besides my next door neighbor, lived on my street went to my school, and the only girl my age to play with lived like seven houses down, so go figure. I spent a lot of time playing sports in Camden so majority of my friends lived in the city. But thankfully, once i got to middle school i made friends with people who lived closer to me in my area who still lived far, but it was a major difference to go from a car ride to Camden just to “go outside” to then riding a bike ride a mile up the road to hang with my friends.
I went back to Camden for school, enrolling at MetEast High School, now known as Big Picture Learning Academy. I was a student-athlete all throughout high school on the CHS Girls Track & Field Team. And then after graduating in 2011, I attended Hampton University, a historically black college/university in Hampton, VA. There, I joined the band, as a member of the Ebony Fire dance auxiliary, and in the fall of 2013 I became a finer woman of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated. So...yea that’s me in a nutshell i think i covered everything, lol.
Growing up and still to this day who are your inspirations/mentors? How did they impact your life?
My family - instilled in me the importance of rigorous community service and the responsibility of never forgetting where you come from. I get my hustle and confidence from my dad, my resilience from my mother, and I developed my style and determination to never settle for anything less than what I deserve from siblings. I definitely owe my style to my sister Alyse for sure though, hands down. After years of getting yelled at for stealing her clothes like little sisters usually do, I was forced to find my own style. I think I’ve finally come into my own as far as fashion is concerned though. I like to describe my wardrobe as “Tomgirl Chic”.
My aunt, Imani Greene, a veteran advertising exec based in Washington, DC, and and my cousin Carl Smith, who’s traveled all over the world while working for Facebook, have both inspired me to stay disciplined and grounded.
My high school advisors, principle and guidance counselor, all of whom I respect tremendously both professionally and personally, taught me the value of optimizing my passion for longevity. And that you can be as unorthodox as you want in your approach, as long as it’s conducive to sustainability as a fully functioning independent adult. I also owe a lot of my mental growth to my big cousin Shanyse, who’s taught me to be accountable for my fears and facing them head on, even when its uncomfortable.
I’m also heavily inspired creatively by my fellow Aries, Q-Tip and Marvin Gaye, and by pop culture icons like Tupac, Lola Falana and Berry Gordy, and by people who inspire me professionally, like Steve Stoute and Karen Civil.
When did you discover your passion/purpose to become a creative director/designer?
I first got a taste of the entrepreneur life in 2006 in middle school, where I was inspired by Miskeen (based in Philadelphia) to make my first “Merch” concept — i used fabric paint to hand paint cartoons on t-shirts and sold them for $20 a piece. Around that time MySpace was popular too, so I got my start with graphic design and coding to reflect my personality and the things I was interested in at that time on my profile layout.
However, it wasn’t until 2014 when my Aunt Imani hinted at the fact that I [had an eye for typography] that i seriously considered it.
In 2018 you had a year of breakthrough/establishment you can see it all began there for you, in February learning to see them in August landing an internship with Milano Di Rouge, how did that seven month period change your life?
Well, to explain the breakthrough, i have to explain the mindset i was in leading up to that point when I got it. In November of 2016, a dear friend of mine since high school had been murdered and that coupled with depression from ongoing grief I had already been dealing with since the sudden loss of my Aunt Bernice, right at the most crucial time in my young adulthood in June of 2011, made me fall into an even deeper and isolated depression.
I wasn’t really honest with my friends, family and the ones who cared about me most, and i hid it for a really long time. People who knew me in college might remember me as being really stand offish and mean, but i just didn’t understand my emotions at the time. And i was literally making myself sick — not eating, not leaving my room for no other reason except to use the bathroom or occasionally to eat. I was missing a lot of classes, days at a time sometimes, and when it got really bad even weeks...and it wasn’t always just because i didn’t feel like getting out of bed. Some days i literally felt like sleeping & not waking up was better than living in reality.
I ran through about four therapists and by the time March 2017 came, I had a complete breakdown. After many years of struggling through, I ultimately decided to leave Hampton all together to free myself of my own self sabotaging behavior. Then, after another failed attempt at trying to consistently go to therapy, I found a temporary job, but by December 2017, I was back in another self-sabotaging slump. With the help of my grandmother, I started Supply & Command Denim Co. in February 2018, where I hand crafted and distressed denim clothing. That gave me the creative outlet I desperately needed to feel like I had something to live for again. After coming across a post on her timeline, my friend told me Milano Di Rouge had posted a flyer looking for graphic design interns. I didn’t think I was qualified to handle the position, but to my surprise it really all came naturally and I got it!
I also started curating playlists with music to get me through all the tough times of not having any money, not having confidence & feeling worthless because I had all this potential, but no degree to show for it after spending 6 years in Virginia. And in doing so, I started using song lyrics to express the things I was either too afraid to say or as motivation to do the things I was afraid to do. One lyric that comes to mind when i reflect on this past year is a line from the fourth track on Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap where he talks about the transition of coming into your own, he says, “First you over dedicate, then you notice that you great. And you been the whole time, then it slap you in the face. Then you stack it in your safe, got it cracking, it was fate. Now you the definition n—a laughing to the bank.”
During your internship with Milano Di Rouge what are some key techniques you've learned and continue to integrate in your career?
I started designing on my iPhone, using apps. Then moved on to more professional software. I found different training programs that pertained to design and communications. Currently I’m enrolled in an online Digital Marketing Cert program. And honestly I don’t regret leaving Hampton at this point in my life. I know that once I have the financial stability, I’ll be able to go back and finish. But in the mean time, the real life experience I’m getting everyday coupled with the respected certifications has me feeling content right now.
Today, many digital marketing certifications carry even more value and credibility than many university degrees. One reason for this is that large multinational corporations are recognizing the value of these professional courses and are entering into agreements with certification providers. The ultimate goal is to definitely go back to Hampton to finish less than 35 credits to graduate. But when i left I had a 15k balance. Right now working and saving to go back is my plan. The most valuable thing I learned from my experience on the digital marketing team at Milano is that content is everything, but at the same time, it’s nothing without effective strategy and the knowledge to understand how they correlate and work together.
About how long after your internship ended did you get the inspiration to go into business for yourself?
I always wanted to be in business for myself, getting the internship was just confirmation that I could use graphic design to get my foot in the door and establish myself.
I’ve had this entrepreneurial spirit in me since I was 13. Everything I’m doing now is just “evidence of a design presence” like Nip said. It was destined for me to create something that would impact my community. In fact my dream has always been to curate an educationally based initiative in efforts to provide opportunities to black and brown people of color in underserved communities. And through the grace of GOD, and my guardian angels I’ve created a lane for myself to do so.
Can you tell us about your company Supply Cmnd and tell us what services you provide?
We supply + command digital experiences needed to create manage narrate + develop authentic content. As a creative director, I use digital marketing design strategies to tailor customized optimization for print, social, and web platforms.
In the future i plan to expand to schools to teach Ed-tech entrepreneurship, and teach them the skills I’ve learned and developed at 25, while they’re still in elementary/middle school and high school. I think it’s important to do so because the industry is growing everyday, why not pass that knowledge down and help a young girl who grew up like me having all this untapped potential, but not knowing what to do with it just yet.
Since working with different brands/campaigns is what you do what are some of the brands/organizations you've worked with and support?
After completing the internship with Milano, I was inspired by the love she had for her city and how well Milan represents where she comes from. I took that as an opportunity to apply that same mindset to my business, and established myself as a change agent for economic empowerment in Camden, a city where my roots and values are deeply planted and invested in.
I spent the majority of 2018/2019 as VP of Cultivating Camden 501(c)3 working with my business partner, and friend La’Shae (CEO and Founder) but presently I’m working on expanding my client list and taking on larger projects focusing primarily on social media management and content marketing for brands in the entertainment, health/beauty, and fashion merchandising industry.
One project I’m most excited about is Supply CMND’s new partnership with Billboard Bound based in Pennsauken, NJ. The owner and CEO, Jade Futch has been a huge inspiration and supporter in every aspect of my career, not only as my cousin, but as my mentor. So now everything is just really coming full circle with us both at this time. It’s been amazing to see her grow over the years, and now being able to work with her full time is a dream come true.
After starting your company what are some of the positives and negatives about ownership and working for yourself?
Digital Marketing is a very new but extremely profitable industry, and yet, a lot of people still don’t understand the value of authentic content and content strategy. The hardest part starting out was actually educating people about what exactly design can mean to their business growth, and getting my pitch and time management skills in order to market myself as a creative.
The best part is having the ability to determine the trajectory of my own career, the amount of time I’m able to spend doing the things I love and with the people I love. The most rewarding part is the impact my ideas and concepts have and will make on other content creators and “the culture” in general. It’s also a bonus that I’m able to take what I know, teach people, and I’m able to set the foundation to leave a legacy behind for generations to come. Generational wealth is what this whole game of life is really about...hustling for your last name, and earning respect for your first. I find reward in knowing that my family supports my vision but most importantly their proud of me and believe in me.
What are some great words of wisdom and advice can you offer people looking to pursue their purpose/passion?
Find something you love and want as bad as you want to breathe. Become so invested in yourself and your goals that you starve yourself of your self-sabotaging behavior. Stay consistent with it, (one day it’ll pay off and become your normal routine). Learn a trade and educate yourself to master that trade. Pass that knowledge down, then repeat! And remember to check yourself when need be: remind yourself that you MUST constantly learn in order to grow constantly. Stay conscious of where you fall short, then attempt to change it! And lastly, in the words of NH the Great, “KEEP YOUR HEART PURE”.
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Evan Wheeler hails from Camden, NJ. Most know him as Huey X, which is his selected born again name. It was selected by his love of Huey P Newton and Malcolm X who he follows for their beliefs and looks up to as his mentors. Huey is a well educated brother by the standards of college, as well as being a self taught activist and revolutionary through his experiences in life. He also thinks of himself as an entrepreneur being involved in so many different fields that include: poetry, writing, youth advocacy, business development, investing, and production. He is, “Always looking to advance the culture & legacy ".