Coco and Breezy Dotson aren't just identical twin sisters. They’re also co-founders and business partners.
They moved to New York City in 2009 at 19 years old with a dream to start a business — and Coco and Breezy Eyewear was born.
Today, the brand is popular not only with everyday shoppers but celebrities too. It took a decade of hard work and resilience to get there though.
Coco and Breezy sat down with me for an episode of Resilient Retail — Shopify’s upcoming podcast series for retailers — to talk about their brand and how they made it all happen.
Here’s what they had to say.
Business partners: Leveraging complementary strengths
Despite being identical twins, Coco and Breezy are very different. Thankfully, they're able to use that to their business's advantage.
“Coco is a perfectionist,” Breezy said. “She’s very cautious and deliberate, and she’s a good project manager.”
“Breezy is the risk-taker,” Coco said. “She doesn’t take no for an answer (which makes her a great negotiator), is very optimistic, and she likes to go. She just gets stuff done.”
They were seven years old the first time they worked together as business partners. The business? A lemonade stand where they sold cups for $1.00 apiece.
That entrepreneurial spirit didn’t fade, either.
The sisters began making custom-made sunglasses that attracted a lot of attention. So much so, that they gained 50,000 followers on MySpace.
At the age of 19, they moved from Minnesota to New York City with only $1,000 in savings.
It was time to grow their eyewear brand into something bigger.
Humble beginnings in NYC
For the first few weeks in the city, the sisters stayed with friends. But their independent spirit pushed them to find a place of their own quickly.
They ended up moving into a one-room, windowless apartment that barely fit their inflatable air mattress (which deflated every night) and stayed frugal living on cheap meals like dollar pizza and bagels.
It wasn't glamorous, but they were content, because they knew they were where they needed to be.
“We made a lot of sacrifices, but we never complained,” Coco said. “We were together, and that was what mattered — and even today we still revert to some of our old ways from back then.”
Coco and Breezy started making money by acting as their own billboards. Walking around the city, they sold the glasses right off their faces. Passersby would stop them on the sidewalk and ask to buy their shades.
"People would literally come up to us and offer anywhere from $50-200 in cash for the sunglasses we were wearing,” Breezy said. “Doing this, we made enough to cover the month’s rent."
Moving up and stepping stones
Coco and Breezy Eyewear began to grow.
Celebrities like Kelly Osbourne, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj were buying their products. Prince commissioned them to create a custom pair of "third eye" sunglasses for him. Major fashion publications and retailers began to take notice.
Today, more than 400 stores carry Coco and Breezy's eyewear. They have their own showroom and a retreat property in the Catskills called The Lorca.
They’ve also partnered with major eyewear industry leaders like Zenni, where they created a custom kids collection. It's aimed at celebrating diversity and self-expression.
“Coco and Breezy’s passion, creativity, and incredible design sensibility made them the perfect partner for Zenni’s first-ever collaboration with another eyewear designer,” said Sean Pate, Zenni’s Brand Communications Officer.
Diversity is not a trend
Coco and Breezy are also passionate about elevating Black voices. One way they're doing that is by selecting the brands to spotlight at the pop-up shop at SHOWFIELDS. Every brand they selected is Black-owned and aligned with their long-term brand values.
“We picked brands we felt needed elevation and attention in the retail space, and they all happened to be female-owned, which we didn’t even plan for,” Breezy said.
The pop-up has been so popular that it was extended from one month to two, and now through the holiday season. American Express even stepped in as a partner. The featured brands pay a membership fee, but get to keep 100% of the profits from sales made.
Coco and Breezy will keep championing diversity in fashion and retail. They also hope the interest in that subject doesn't fade with time.
"Diversity is not a trend,” Coco said. “We love seeing the uptick and growth of Black-owned businesses that’s happening right now, but we need that to continue rather than having it be a short-term spike."
Want to hear more about Coco and Breezy’s story?
Get the full interview here!Watch On-Demand