DETROIT (WXYZ) — From Welfare to Walmart is the mantra of a Detroit woman who has clawed her way back from bankruptcy to become a business owner on the path to success.
It's an unlikely road that she loves to share as inspiration for other African Americans who find themselves without hope especially now during Black History Month.
The spotlight on her is not just here in Michigan but across the country.
Glamorous photo shoots from magazine covers to articles, have detailed the amazing rise of Tiffany Cartwright into entrepreneurship. You would think the ride to the top was smooth, but it's quite the contrary.
“I literally lost everything. My home, my car, I mean everything. I had to file for bankruptcy,” Cartwright said.
Tiffany grew up in Detroit graduating from Renaissance High School, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan Law School. After clerking for 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 you lost your job?” WXYZ’s Carolyn Clifford asked Cartwright.
“It was basically due to budget cuts. So suddenly and without notice I went from presiding over unemployment hearings to relying on an unemployment check,” said Cartwright.
No one would hire her, citing too much experience or knowing she would not be there long. Tiffany says she relied on faith and her brother's empowerment program for inspiration.
“That book that's inside you, that invention you've been dreaming of those concoctions you've been mixing in your kitchen, those recipes handing down to you from your mother, that's a business,” said Cartwright.
That's when the lightbulb went off. For years she had been mixing natural organic skincare products in her kitchen to treat her daughter's eczema. But from the kitchen to a store shelf is not easy.
“How do you pick yourself up and get started?” asked Clifford.
“There's a free class that's offered to teach you how to start your business,” said Cartwright.
That class taught her step-by-step how to set up an LLC, get certified as a woman-owned or minority business and get her tax identification number. As a bonus, she learned of other big opportunities.
They announced that "Shark Tank" was coming, and they are looking for business owners.
With her daughter by her side, she pitched her Glam moisturizer brand for treating eczema to the Sharks.
“We got a yes,” said Cartwright.
She manufactures G.L.A.M. products in the City of Detroit. An 8-ounce jar sells for 14.97. It exfoliates, moisturizes and as of January 31st, big news happened.
“I'm super excited to have launched in 300 Target stores nationwide,” said Cartwright.
The Glam Brand is also 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 a job but to also give them the tools that they need so that they too can become entrepreneurs,” said Cartwright.
According to some estimates, selling to the black consumer is a $300 billion opportunity, but still obstacles exist.
“African Americans only occupy 6% of the retail space,” said Cartwright.
And while it's a tough sell to get a big box retailer to take a chance on your product, Tiffany says the challenge is not to get on the shelf but to stay on the shelf.
“If I'm not successful at Walmart, the next woman of color that comes with an awesome and amazing product they may be skeptical,” said Cartwright.
Tiffany has since been called back to her job, but she knows there's more riding on her success as a business owner in Detroit where the unemployment rate sits at 25%.
“We need job creators, and we have to be those job creators,” said Cartwright.
She says for financial empowerment and real sustainable change, and for her, a seismic shift in the way she thinks about her journey.
“I lost my job and found my purpose,” said Cartwright.
If you are inspired by Tiffany's story, there are free empowerment classes being offered in the city of Detroit to teach you how to open your own business step by step. Classes are on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 17910 Van Dyke in Detroit.
From more information visit the Global Empowerment website