This month’s Game Changer feature is none other than entrepreneur twin sis duo, Coco and Breezy. The two moved to New York City from Minnesota 11 years ago to launch their eyewear brand and have been on an upward trajectory ever since, designing glasses for the likes of Lady Gaga and Prince, and DJing some of NYC’s coolest parties.
What’s your favorite Dagne bag?
Coco: All we wear are the [Ryan] laptop bag and [Dakota] backpack. I used to carry an old Jansport backpack to my gigs, and now I carry this chic little laptop bag and pull up to the DJ booth looking cute as hell.
What made you two get into eyewear?
Breezy: Our love for eyewear and sunglasses first started when we were growing up in Minnesota. We grew up in a very suburban area where it wasn’t very diverse. We experienced a lot of racism and being misunderstood because of our styles. Our parents allowed us to explore individualism at such a young age. So when we were bullied at school, we found we could wear sunglasses and feel invincible. It was our alter ego. We started making sunglasses for ourselves when we were about 18 years old. We were visiting New York, and someone asked where they could buy the frames we were wearing. So we quit our jobs, packed our car, and moved to New York with $500 each. We came here with nothing, just the idea that we were going to start this thing. We were girls at the time. But, we were ambitious, came from a humble household, and had been financially on our own since we were 15. We went with our intuition and our dream to be entrepreneurs. We built a brand larger than the product line. Once we built a cult following and had a community, something that people wanted to be a part of, that’s when we educated ourselves on the eyewear industry. We have a new love for the industry because there’s a lot missing there that we’re fulfilling.
How has your goal changed for Coco & Breezy Eyewear from the time you first started?Breezy: We honestly didn’t know what we were doing when we first started. We knew that we were building something that people wanted to be a part of, but weren’t as knowledgeable about the eyewear space. What we’ve now found is that there are a lot of people, specifically millennials and Gen Z-ers, that don’t get their eyes checked. So our goal is to be that cool brand that not only makes stylish glasses but, with our cultural push, educates younger generations about the importance of eye health.
How did DJing and producing become a part of your lives?
Coco: Music has always been a part of our lives. We were on a dance team in Minnesota, and we performed at concerts for local music artists. Dancing is what brought us to music. We did every talent show in Minnesota, and we would make our own mixes since we didn’t know any producers. When we got to New York, we knew we wanted to create music, but we were busy building our brand and had to put all of our focus into the company. And then a few years ago, someone reached out to us to book Coco & Breezy as DJs for an event. We were like, “What? There’s nothing even online that says that we DJ. Why is someone trying to book us?” We immediately said we were available for the gig that was the following week. We called our friend Martina McBride and she spent a day with us, teaching us the ropes. We as creatives, we sometimes get so caught up on being perfect, and spend too much time trying to perfect something rather than going out there and doing it. We could’ve spent six months in our bedrooms practicing without real feedback. We took that gig and we had confidence. When I listen to my old mixes I’m like “This sounds like pots and pans,” but back when I was performing, you couldn’t tell me that it wasn’t the best. It’s because we put ourselves out there. Now we’re able to work more on music. We’re able to do both [eyewear and DJing] because we have great teams who support us. Our teams are the shit.
Breezy: In today’s world, it’s all about collaborating. People want that emotional experience. We can give them that with Coco & Breezy eyewear, but now also with music. We want to bring communities together, and music is the universal language.
What is the best party you ever DJed?
Coco: Afropunk! We performed in 2018. We almost cried. The Afropunk crowd is our #1 fanbase, and we’ve been in that scene for years. Those people have seen us grow up. To go from being young girls in the crowd to being onstage in front of thousands of people, it was so touching to us. Everything in our lives feels full circle. I look back and reflect on the beginnings and how we got here. In that Afropunk moment, we were so grateful remembering the times when we were just trying to get into the event.
What was it like working with Prince?
Breezy: The best experience of our lives. I can’t believe we were able to spend so much time with him and call him a friend. He was a homie. In his last two years, every time he came to New York, his team would hit us up to hang out with him. These experiences were so unreal. The beautiful part was that he was a legend but acted like a normal human. We first met him because he wanted us to perform on stage with him. We hadn’t performed in years, and we performed with him at the Essence Music Festival. He then asked us to make his “third-eye” sunglasses. Being around his energy and seeing his creative process was extremely inspiring. He was always creating, he never stopped. He taught me to never forget about the talented people out there that don’t have the resources to grow a social media following. He loved working with all creatives, he didn’t care if you didn’t have a million followers on Instagram.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Coco: To continue to be ourselves. When we first started going to these corporate meetings and events, I felt like I had to wear a business suit and carry myself a certain way. I once asked a CEO if I should start changing my look when I go into these meetings, and he said, “No, people want to work with you both for who you are.” Often times when people see us, they can be so small-minded that when they see someone different, they already have a storyline in their heads of what sort of person we are. I’d go to after-work happy hours and these people would ask me where the drugs are. I don’t do that, that’s not who I am. They are assuming we are party girls. Now, I am more comfortable walking into a space knowing that my appearance may look different, but once I start talking, people understand who I am. If you go into a meeting not feeling like yourself, you’re not going to perform well.
Who has been your biggest mentor or supporter throughout the years?
Breezy: Her name is Sharifa Murdock. She is one of the founders of a trade show called Liberty Fairs. She has seen us grow as businesswomen. We first met when we were doing our DIY sunglasses. We were kids hanging out in Soho, not knowing anything about retail, and she gave us a chance. She told us that if we produced our own eyewear collection she’d give us a booth at her trade show. So we figured out how to produce real eyewear, and we flew to Vegas with the last of our money. We ended up writing up $50,000 worth of orders for retail stores. Sharifa is not only a business mentor but a friend. She also advised us, once we were able to save a bit of money, to buy property. She is such a beautiful soul. She helps because she cares. These days, everyone is branding themselves as pro-female empowerment, but many people aren’t really living that life. Sharifa eats, sleeps, and breathes it.
Our parents have been huge supporters and inspirations as well. I’m so grateful to have parents who allowed us to be creative. They never, ever stopped us from being ourselves. They pushed us to be our own individuals. While they couldn’t provide for us financially, they provided emotional support, which is worth more than a million dollars. We had love in the house. We had freedom.
What’s the best part of having a twin sister?
Coco: You have a constant best friend. You have someone beside you when you’re up or down. I’ve learned that most people who are twins, or multiples, are good at relationships, whether in friendship, love or business. We can get into an argument, but at the end of the day, this is my twin, so I can’t hold a grudge. I’ve learned in my 29 years that you can disagree yet but still have love and move on.
I read a quote of yours’ in a recent interview that I loved: “It’s not about Team No Sleep, it’s Team Self-Care and Balance.” What do you do to stay balanced and level-headed while being involved in so many things at once and living in NYC?
Breezy: I love writing. I’ve made it a practice to write down three things I’m grateful for every morning. It’s part of my morning routine. I can’t stand to wake up and just jump into work. It makes me anxious. I wake up, stretch, perhaps do some yoga, meditate, write, drink my coffee. I know the second I walk out the door that my assistant is going to hit me up, our manager from the music side is going to hit me up, my Slack is going to go off. But if I have those 30 minutes in the morning to myself, I feel much better. I’m a big believer that if you start your day feeling at peace, you’ll be able to handle any challenges with grace. If you start it feeling anxious, you’ll be on edge all day. The past two years, we’ve found way more balance between work and relaxing. I know I need to build my business, but now I know that, when I’m tired, I don’t push myself through it anymore, I go to sleep. I don’t want my body to get exhausted.
Coco: I always remind myself that my true happiness is more important than anything. It’s a disservice not only to myself but to everybody around me if I’m not fully present and grounded.
What are you both most excited about for 2020?
Coco: I’m most excited about growing and scaling Coco & Breezy, growing as DJs and producers, and sharing our story. It’s funny, back in 2010 we had a blog where we said we lived on Planet C&B in the year 2020, because we didn’t feel like we fit in. So I’m super excited to actually go into the year 2020 with a beautiful mindset.
Breezy: We’re creating a new lane and a new path. In 2020, people will finally wrap their heads around everything that we are up to. We’re unicorns.