Former city employees design purses used on 'Empire'

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Friends Bernie Hicks and Ralphette Rhodes are building an "Empire" of their own. They met while working for the city of Chicago.

Bernie always loved purses.

"At the city, I would change my purse daily with my outfit. If I was wearing something purple, I would have the purple bag," Bernie told FOX 32 News.

But after 23 years of working and styling, Bernie was lucky enough to follow her passion.

"I was fortunate to retire early at the age of 43 and do something I actually love," she said.

Bernie retired from her job as an assistant commissioner. And not long after, Ralphette retired from her job as a chief assistant corporation counsel for the city's law department.

The ladies started working toward their dream about a year and four months ago, and Ruby Brownstone Enterprises was born, an event planning and fashion company all rolled into one.

"In addition to other ventures, we also love purses. Who doesn't love purses?!"

Viewers across the nation will soon see the Ruby Brownstone Purse Collection on Empire.

"All of our purses come in their own unique box. That is their home, just like a pair of shoes," the women say.

This all started with private shows and vendor events and an invitation for them to appear at a summer home show.

"Next thing you know, we had people surrounding our area and looking at the purses and forgetting about home improvement! One of the producers from the props department at Empire saw our purses and said,  ‘Oh my god, Cookie would love this bag!’" The women told FOX 32 News.

Within a day or two, they got a call from Empire saying they wanted to see some of their purses. And 12 of them were selected!

"I think that was one of the attractions, that we were from Chicago and they loved that,”

Now, their newly launched website shows all the bags Cookie and crew will be carrying when Empire starts again in February.

And their Empire is growing. Just recently, the women were asked to get purses together for season 3 of Empire!

So if you have something that you would like to show on the show, send it to Empire! The show just might help launch your next big gig.

"Anything is possible. I just really believe you should always follow your dream. If you believe it - you can do it. The sky is the limit,” Bernie and Ralphette say.

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