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HomeNEWSBLACK GIRL MAGICEmpowering Communities Through Entrepreneurship: A Conversation with Constance

Empowering Communities Through Entrepreneurship: A Conversation with Constance

In the world of entrepreneurship, stories of resilience, determination, and community impact often shine brightest. Constance, the founder of Image Merchandise, embodies these qualities and more. Her journey from attending the Global Empowerment Ministry to becoming the driving force behind Cozie Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets, the only minority-owned brand of its kind in Michigan, is a testament to her unwavering commitment to uplifting both her business and her community. In this interview, Constance shares insights into her mission-driven approach, her strategies for success in diverse sectors, and the significance of her faith in navigating the competitive marketing landscape. Join us as we delve into the inspiring narrative of a woman entrepreneur making waves in the world of business and beyond.

 

Q: What is your SwagHer? What makes Constance, Constance? 

Constance: I am an innovator, to go into a marketplace that for the last 50-plus years has been dominated by men of different nationalities. I’m not saying this in a negative way. I just believe that there is room at the tables for us all.

Q: Why did you choose to start Image Merchandise? 

Constance: My husband and I were invited to attend Global Empowerment Ministry, an organization that played a pivotal role in my personal and entrepreneurial growth. Under the guidance of Mr. Cartwright, I learned valuable lessons on starting a business, obtaining certifications, selecting an everyday product, building a website, and successfully getting my products on retail shelves. Founded under the name Image Merchandise, Cozie Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets has emerged as the only minority-owned brand in this category in Michigan. Right now, they can be found in seventy-five (75) stores across Michigan and Ohio, as well as a few hotels and laundromats. Currently, I have customers in sixteen (16) states nationwide. For customer’s reviews, please read them at cozieinc.com

Q: Does your brand have a mission, vision, and/or purpose statement? If yes, please share.

Constance: My mission revolves around supporting the less fortunate members of our community. When people buy my products, it allows me to give back, and we encourage other entrepreneurs to assist in this effort. Currently, I have hired two part-time employees, and as my business expands, I will make a greater impact for the Detroit residents.  My ultimate goal is to own a building and extend assistance to those in shelters and ex-offenders looking to rebuild their lives. Statistics has shown that Detroit ranks 3rd among the most violent cities in the USA. By establishing my distribution center in Detroit, I believe I can address this issue by providing job opportunities for the unemployed and individuals seeking a second chance after incarceration. As a business owner, by creating jobs in the city of Detroit, hiring ex-offenders and Detroit residents between the ages of 18- 35, I am confident that this approach can contribute to reducing the crime rate. This will not only help the community by putting family values back in the neighborhoods, but by creating jobs, you AUTOMATICALLY decrease poverty, unemployment, incarceration, and recidivism (people getting out of jail only to return back there).  We have hundreds of entrepreneurs that are looking for affordable place to store their products, as well as a logistic company to handle their shipping needs. This is what I will bring to the city of Detroit, which is why my products must be successful. I have continued to trend in the right direction in Phase 1 of my company, and I am currently searching for a suitable building in the Detroit area to pursue my vision further.

Q: Your company specializes in health and safety products and dryer sheets. How do the strategies for these two different sectors come about, and what common principles do you find essential for success in both? 

Constance: When I created Image Merchandise, I was selling products like custom Bluetooth, kid pajamas, and illuminating light switches. But after the pandemic, I switch to safety products like nitrile rubber gloves, safety glasses, and other items (imagemerchandise.net). Government workers, health clinics, and dentist offices have used these products. However, my mentor told me to have an everyday product, which is how my vision of Cozie Dryer Sheets was created. I contacted a fabric softener company, got samples, and informed them of what I wanted my dryer sheets ingredients to have. After, being tested by friends, family, and the public… Cozie Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets was a home run!

Q: Do you find being a minority woman entrepreneur challenging? How has your experiences been when it comes to making deals with retail companies?

Constance: Being a female entrepreneur right now has been great! Most companies are now trying to promote equality to minorities and women of color.  What I have noticed pitching to stores, hotels, and laundromat owners, is that if they like my product and I know my numbers, most will do business with me. The key thing to pitching is to know what the competition is selling their item for, and have a portfolio of pictures of stores that I’m already in.  Store owners are very busy people, so by having my numbers ready in quantities of three packages (buying 10, 16, or 24 boxes), it’s easy for them to pick which one, and I make the sell.

Q: What skills and qualities do you believe are crucial for thriving in the competitive marketing industry? 

Constance: First, and foremost, Christ is the head of my family. Second, you must have a mentor or a coach to teach you the ins and outs of business. Someone that you can bounce off ideals and will give you an honest answer, whether good or bad. Remember, they already went through the pitfalls, which have saved me valuable time. I have also joined organizations, such as Women’s Business Enterprise National Council -WBENC, NAACP, and other local organizations like SBA to help me grow.

Q: What inspired you to get up every day and work your business? 

Constance: I am still the boss of my company, the wife to my husband, and the grandmother to my three beautiful granddaughters (two we are raising). The Bible says, “To occupy till He comes.” Luke 19:13 (KJV), which means to do business, trade, and commerce. To get to the next level, you must work on your gift every day and despise not the small beginning. As a Christian, I believe that if I walk by faith, God will provide, and He has.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share? 

Constance: I would like to thank every person who has brought my Cozies and those who have supported my journey so far. Every company that has given me a grant, store owners who have given me a chance, customers who have taken time to write a review, and every editor who has interviewed me or placed me in their magazine. It means a lot when people care about my vision.

 

Connect with Constance below:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/constance-brooks-a2460322b/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/imagemerch

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/imagemerch2021/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@coziesheets

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