DETROIT (WXYZ) — From welfare to Walmart is the mantra of a Detroit woman who clawed her way back from bankruptcy to become a successful business owner.
It’s an unlikely road that she likes to share as an inspiration to other African Americans who find themselves hopeless, especially during this Black History Month.
The spotlight on her is not just here in Michigan, but across the country.
Glamorous photoshoots, magazine covers, and articles detailed Tiffany Cartwright’s incredible rise in entrepreneurship. You would think the ride to the top was smooth, but it’s quite the opposite.
“I literally lost everything. My house, my car, I mean everything. I had to file for bankruptcy,” Cartwright said.
Tiffany grew up in Detroit and graduated from Renaissance High School, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan Law School. After serving as a clerk in the Michigan Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s Office, she began serving as an administrative law judge.
“You told me all of a sudden that you had lost your job?” WXYZ’s Carolyn Clifford asked Cartwright.
“It was basically due to budget cuts. So suddenly and without warning, I went from presiding over unemployment hearings to trusting an unemployment check,” Cartwright said.
No one would hire her, citing too much experience or knowing she wouldn’t be around long. Tiffany says she relied on her brother’s faith and empowerment program for inspiration.
“That book that’s inside of you, that invention that you dreamed of, those concoctions that you mixed up in your kitchen, those recipes that your mother passed down to you, that’s a business,” Cartwright said.
That’s when the light bulb went out. For years, she had mixed organic natural skincare products in her kitchen to treat her daughter’s eczema. But going from the kitchen to a store shelf isn’t easy.
“How do you pick yourself up and start? asked Clifford.
“There’s a free course offered to teach you how to start your business,” Cartwright said.
This class taught her step-by-step how to create an LLC, get certified as a woman-owned or minority-owned business, and get her tax ID. As a bonus, she learned of other great opportunities.
They announced “Shark Tank” was coming and they are looking for business owners.
With her daughter by her side, she introduced her brand of Glam moisturizer for the treatment of eczema to the Sharks.
“We got a yes,” Cartwright said.
She makes GLAM products in the city of Detroit. An 8 ounce jar sells for 14.97. It exfoliates, hydrates and since January 31, great news has arrived.
“I’m super excited to have launched in 300 Target stores nationwide,” Cartwright said.
The Glam brand is also present in two local Meijer stores, 200 Walmart stores and 300 Stop and Shop stores on the East Coast. Her plan is to employ women who have been victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.
“The goal is not just to give them jobs, but also to give them the tools they need so that they too can become entrepreneurs,” Cartwright said.
Selling to the black consumer is a $300 billion opportunity by some estimates, but hurdles remain.
“African Americans only occupy 6% of retail space,” Cartwright said.
And while it’s hard to convince a big-box retailer to take a chance on your product, Tiffany says the challenge isn’t getting on the shelf, it’s staying on the shelf.
“If I’m not successful at Walmart, maybe the next woman of color who comes up with an awesome, amazing product will be skeptical,” Cartwright said.
Tiffany has since been called back to her job, but she knows her success as a business owner in Detroit, where the unemployment rate sits at 25%, depends on more.
“We need job creators, and we need to be those job creators,” Cartwright said.
She says for financial empowerment and real, lasting change, and for her, a seismic change in the way she thinks about her journey.
“I lost my job and found my purpose,” Cartwright said.
If you’re inspired by the Tiffany story, free empowerment classes are offered across the city of Detroit to teach you how to open your own business step by step. Classes are held Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 17910 Van Dyke in Detroit.
For more information, visit the Global Empowerment Website