Be True to Your Most Authentic Self
Corianna Dotson and Brianna Dotson as featured in the book 3 Billion Under 30 — This is their story. Read it. Share it.
“Corianna and Brianna, also known as Coco and Breezy, are the founders of a cutting-edge sunglass brand based in New York City (cocoandbreezy.com) that aims to reach new fashion heights and introduce fashion connoisseurs all over the world to their unique sense of style and original accessories. Coco and Breezy designed the brand based on their own passion for making avante garde fashion and accessories available to all retail consumers. After a rush of ambition, Coco and Breezy took to New York; without a place to live or any money saved, they hit the fashion circuit in a big way. Within one week, Coco and Breezy’s eyewear had been seen on Kelly Osborne on both Good Morning America and Dancing with the Stars, and Ashanti accessorizing her edgy look at the Hip Hop Honors. Since the official launch, Coco & Breezy have been featured in numerous publications such as Teen Vogue, WWD, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Nylon, New York Magazine, InStyle, Paper, Essence, GQ, Timeout, Grazia, Biba, Idol, Dazed, ID, and more. They have been supported over the years by a celebrity clientele, being seen on style icons such as Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Kelly Osbourne, Ciara, Selita Ebanks, Theophilus London, Serena Williams, and others.
We graduated our Minnesota high school early and with our future already laid out for us. After all, society tells us that going to college right after graduating high school is the thing you’re supposed to do, so it just seemed like an obvious next step. We enrolled at a school in Chicago, Illinois to study fashion marketing and merchandising.
With school on the horizon, we felt the urge to do something huge before starting our next chapter. And that was a trip to New York. We didn’t understand exactly how much that trip would change our lives, but the second we got home, we knew we had to go back.
There was no way we were going to live in Chicago now. We decided that instead of going straight to school, we wanted to do our own thing and go into business. We were already making our own decisions about our lives. We were financially independent. Best of all, our parents were 100 percent supportive of our decision. They said, “Girls, go for it! You never know until you try.”
We were lucky. They encouraged us to chase our dreams.
Of course, changing the direction of our lives came with some complications. Before heading to New York, we both worked at the mall in a clothing store. We had to take two weeks off, which put our jobs at risk. Even though we were the best salespersons, our manager said our jobs may not be available or our hours would be cut when we return. But we took the risk and used our savings to buy round-trip tickets to New York, arriving August 4, 2009.
During that trip, someone asked us, “What are you guys doing here?” Our answer? “We are here to take over New York!”
We brought our line of designer sunglasses with us during that trip and transformed into walking advertisements for our work. We were transparent with our story and we were respected for it. When people learned where we were coming from and where we wanted to go, they literally bought our glasses right off our faces. It was a crazy feeling.
We used to stay up all night handcrafting each pair of sunglasses. In the beginning, we bought safety goggles from local hardware stores and embellished them. For example, we used studs off our belts to turn them into completely unique creations. We had a vision. We weren’t caught up in the “how,” we just did it.
During our two-week trip, we hunted for jobs because we knew we had to stay. We applied to work at a restaurant called Coffee Shop in Union Square. We applied for a job selling stuff door-to-door. We were willing to do anything to cover rent in New York City, yet no one ever called us back.
When we returned to Minnesota, undeterred after our amazing two-week trip, we quit our jobs and sold our car to be able to move to New York permanently. We even brought most of our clothes to Buffalo Exchange, where we made an extra $800.
No one believed we were leaving, even after all this, so when we had a goodbye party, only two friends showed up. We were actually kind of hurt, but that wasn’t going to stop us.
When we came back to New York, we immediately started building Coco and Breezy out of the library. First, we hit the books and studied up on business and marketing. We used to sit in bookstores, paging through magazines to find the editor’s names. Then we’d look up their email addresses and reach out to get press.
Social media was, and still is, a huge part of our brand awareness. Way before our sunglasses existed, we were on MySpace at age fourteen, right when it was getting popular. People from our hometown didn’t understand us, but at least we had the internet to express ourselves. We realized that we had built a loyal following and brand equity before we even had a product. That online and social media presence came in handy once we got to New York.
In the early stages of our business, there was a lot of trial and error. We were lucky to meet Duane, who is now one of our cofounders. He introduced us to manufacturing since it was so new to us, and he had a lot of experience with factories. In addition to Duane, we had many great mentors weigh in on our designs. Their insights and advice have taught us
Doing what we did right after high school was a huge risk. We fought through our fear. We weren’t going to fail from trying.
Our friends, including the ones that didn’t show up to our goodbye party way back when, are extremely proud of us for how far we’ve come. They all knew were were going to impact the world in some way.
Doubt will always hold back your endeavors from reaching their full potential. During that first trip to New York, before all of this really took off, we couldn’t know how big it would be. But we were always ambitious and optimistic. We never doubted what we could do. The power of that belief in what we were capable of achieving propelled us to where we are now, and it will continue to propel us in the future.”
Discover 376 pages of inspiring and practical advice you can use to accelerate your career and change your life starting today. Visit www.3billionunder30.com and read the stories of 75 super-achievers who share their secrets to success so you can accomplish more in the next few months than most people in the past achieved in their entire lifetime.