E41: Talking Business and Product Design with Candice Cox

For anybody with a product-based business, you should always find out what the trade show is for your industry because it exposes you to hundreds of retailers looking to bring products into their stores.”

- Candice Cox

Episode Summary:

Established in 2011, CanDid Art is an artisanal jewelry, home décor, and kids lifestyle brand influenced by the modern African Diaspora and cosmic geometry. Today’s guest is Candice Cox, Founder, Owner, and creative genius behind the popular urban-chic designs that have been worn by celebrities and graced the pages of Vogue, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others.

In this episode, Candice shares her candid observations about building and scaling a business, from the power of trade shows to the value of self-motivation when dealing with the inevitable rejection that comes with getting your brand out there. We touch on the key role that mentorship can play in your success as a small business owner, how you can strike a balance between creative freedom and protecting your intellectual property, and why you shouldn’t be afraid to take out a business loan, plus so much more!

Make sure not to miss this insightful conversation with self-taught jewelry designer and fierce product-based business owner Candice Cox!

What You’ll Learn On This Episode:

  • [02:59] How Candice got her start as an entrepreneur after moving to New York City
  • [05:05] How she discovered the power of trade shows for generating sales
  • [09:04] The importance of showing appreciation for your loyal customer base
  • [10:23] Why networking and building a community is so important for small brands
  • [11:54] What Candice did to prepare for cold calls at retail stores
  • [13:50] The value of self-motivation when it comes to dealing with rejection
  • [16:40] Why seeking mentorship and doing your research is key to your success
  • [20:58] How Candice approached asking customers to pose in her jewelry
  • [22:30] Times when Candice had to pivot or adapt her business
  • [24:38] Insight into the line of kids’ items that Candice creates, from bedding to jackets
  • [28:56] Finding a balance between protecting your ideas and not being afraid to create
  • [33:28] Where you can find Candice’s creations online and IRL
  • [35:15] Parting advice for entrepreneurs
 

Resources Mentioned:

Connect With Us: 

Connect with Candice Cox:

EPISODE 41

 

[INTRODUCTION]

 

[00:00:00] AW: Hi. Welcome back to another episode of Transcend the Podcast. This week we have a little bit of a different guest for you, because she is a business owner of a jewelry line. Instead of a service-based business, she has a product-based business. I am excited to welcome my good friend, Candice Cox, to the podcast, the founder and creator and genius behind CanDid Art Accessories. 

 

[00:00:24] AW: You’re listening to the Transcend Podcast. I’m your host, Asha Wilkerson, an attorney by training and an educator at heart. This podcast is all about empowering you to build a business and leave a legacy. Here’s the thing, the wealth gap in America is consistently increasing, and while full time entrepreneurship is not for everyone, even a side hustle can change your financial landscape if you’re intentional about using your business to build wealth. I’ve run my own law firm for over ten years and, in that time, I’ve helped countless California businesses go from idea to six figures. On this podcast, we talk about what it truly takes to build a sustainable business and find financial freedom. Let’s dive in!

 

[EPISODE]

 

[00:01:12] AW: Alright. Welcome back to another episode of Transcend the Podcast. I am here with my friend Candice Cox, the Owner and Creator of CanDid Art Accessories. Welcome, Candice. 

 

[00:01:23] CC: Hey, Asha. How are you? 

 

[00:01:25] AW: I am. Good. I’m so excited, because I just happened to put on my CanDid Art earrings this morning, and then I was like, “Oh, wait a minute. I’m guesting Candice. This is perfect.”

 

[00:01:36] CC: Yeah. [Inaudible 0:01:36]

 

[00:01:38] AW: Thank you. I mean, you have a hand in that, as a designer, my style today. I also decided to wear, my friend, Baba, had a clothing store. I’m in local designers today.

 

[00:01:53] CC: We appreciate it.

 

[00:01:53] AW: Well, welcome to the podcast. We talked a little bit before we started recording about just feeling tired. How are you doing? 

 

[00:02:02] CC: I’m exhausted. This is always a busy time of the year. I mean, it’s great, but it’s busy. Right now is when you’re submitting your designs to stores. They want to see your Fall collection now. A lot of stuff – it’s Black History Month, so there’s a lot of appreciation around showcasing Black designers. It’s also Valentine’s Day. People are gifting for their Galentine. The boyfriend’s buying stuff for the girl. It’s just a really busy, but a great month at the same time. January is your downtime. Literally, February is full speed ahead. So, yeah.

 

[00:02:40] AW: Got it. Got it. Well, I hope you’re able to find a little bit of rest. We were just talking about traveling, like take your vacations, go do what you need to do or to rest and recharge, because we love everything that you produce and we want to see it coming – 

 

[00:02:53] CC: Thank you.

 

[00:02:56] AW: I wanted you to be able to tell folks, how did you get started? Because I know, that you started out in corporate before you turned into an entrepreneur and business owner. So what was that like? How did you get started?

 

[00:03:09] CC: Absolutely. I was in corporate for about seven years. To be honest, I was just getting burnt out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I just knew this wasn’t it for me. I literally quit my job, moved to New York, because New York was just calling me, like come, come! I went to New York. Totally got to New York, was inspired by the vibrancy, the culture, everything about Brooklyn was just awesome. It was just such a big appreciation for entrepreneurship and being a creator.

 

I’ve always been a creative my entire life. I was like, why not see what I can do? I literally watched the YouTube video, learn how to make jewelry and the rest is history. 

 

[00:03:52] AW: What? Wow. That’s amazing. You essentially developed a skill, so you could get some freedom as supposed to already doing it as a hobby.

 

[00:04:04] CC: Absolutely. I probably did it backwards. Most people will have their full-time job and then start their side hustle while they’re still working. Then, that side hustle, if they really flourish in it, will turn into a full time gig versus for me, I was burnt out and I just wanted to chill. In order for me to create, I have to be in a space of freedom and my mind has to be completely free. I think that’s how I was able to develop my brand and really start building these pieces, because I was legit, just hanging out in New York and being inspired by all this creative culture.

 

[00:04:38] AW: Oh, my gosh, that’s so cool. I love that. I’m thinking, what can I learn? What other skill can I learn that will turn into something awesome?

 

[00:04:47] CC: YouTube University, that’s all I got to say.

 

[00:04:52] AW: That’s a good say. One of my friends sends me YouTube videos all the time. She’s like, “I know you’re not going to watch this.” I’m like, “Yes, you’re right, because I hate watching videos.” But maybe I will turn that around since the university is pretty, right? 

 

[00:05:02] CC: Yes, absolutely. 

 

[00:05:04] AW: Cool. Okay. You learned how to make jewelry, and then, what was your next step? How did you put it out there and let the world know?

 

[00:05:11] CC: Yeah. I knew about a website called Etsy. Etsy is great for makers just starting out and not even just starting out. As you grow, you can grow on Etsy as well, but I didn’t have my own personal website yet. On Etsy, you can easily upload your items and then just create a brand page really quickly and then you pay per item. So, it’s a really great payment plan. That’s how I started. Then, eventually, I ended up doing my own website and then I just started marketing like guerrilla style and word of mouth. Literally, a lot of word of mouth. Started off with friends and family supporting my business, and then the word started spreading. 

 

Then, for me, it happened quickly in New York. I created very bold, dramatic body chains when I first started designing and dramatic feather earrings and a designer saw my work and he had a show for New York Fashion Week. Then, he asked if I could provide the jewelry for his show. So, that kicked off my introduction to stylists, celebrity stylists, and various celebrities, people wanting to wear my jewelry. I was like, “Oh, my God, this is cool.” But I really didn’t know how to leverage that resource at the time, because I was so new. I was just excited to get this publicity, but really, it wasn’t necessarily turning into a lot of sales. It was more like, “Okay, you have press, but how are you going to generate your sales?” 

 

It was just doing more research in my industry and I found out the power of trade shows. For anybody that has a product-based business, you should always find out what the trade show is for your industry, because a trade show exposes you to hundreds of retailers that are looking to bring products into their stores. That really kicked off my launch of getting into more wholesale accounts. I got the Smithsonian, the National Museum of African-American History. That was a big deal for me.

 

[00:07:08] AW: Just a round of applause for that real quick. I mean, that’s so dope, because you were there as soon as it opened.

 

[00:07:13] CC: Yeah. They approached me a year before they opened, literally. In 2016, when they opened, yay, CanDid Art was in the building. It was awesome having people from around the United States in the world, wearing my jewelry and tagging me and stuff like that. Yeah, I started doing trade shows and then my business started growing the wholesale and then the retail. I started coming back, so I was in New York and then I started coming back to the Bay Area where I’m from, Oakland. Hey, Oakland. I realized the support for local makers was major in the Bay Area. 

 

[00:07:47] AW: Right. 

 

[00:07:48] CC: Every time I was doing shows, I was like, “Wow, I’m making so much more money here than I am in New York.” For me, and then my family’s here, so it made sense for me to move back to the Bay Area, to Oakland. That’s where my business really started thriving in terms of, I just was doing – you’ve got to grind. Starting off, I was doing all the shows. First Fridays was popping. First Fridays was my main goal, too. Then, you could pop up by the lake if you wanted to, for free. It was first come, first serve it. It was finding all these different places where I can literally pop up and showcase my jewelry and get my brand out into the world.

 

I did it in a way that, had I had a mentor or had more research, I probably would have went harder on the wholesale side initially, which have probably got my branch to a broader audience. But, like I said, I did it guerrilla style. It was just me, marketing my brand, meeting all these beautiful people, which eventually started building up a strong customer base here in the Bay Area, which started getting to the point where I didn’t have to do as many shows as I used to, because now I put in all the work and the hustle by doing these shows and building your customer base, because that’s important.

 

It’s important to show appreciation to your loyal customers, whether it’s through a discount or some type of offering because loyalty is everything and my customer retention rate is very high for my business.

 

[00:09:19] AW: Right, right. Meaning that we want to keep buying, because we love what you’re doing.

 

[00:09:26] CC: What you’re doing and then how you were treated in the experience of doing it. It’s all of that. As a business, you don’t just – and I learned that from my corporate experience, because I used to manage casinos, Indian gaming casinos, and it was all built on relationships. Relationships are very key to growing your business organically.

 

[00:09:45] AW: Absolutely. I just wanted to touch a little bit more on the guerrilla style marketing, right? Because I think oftentimes, especially when we see things on social media, we don’t have an appreciation for the hustle that it takes and not that it means – I mean, I’m sure you were exhausted as you were doing this – not that it means that you have to be exhausted, but you have to oftentimes physically put yourself in front of somebody, right? Not just, “Hey, go to my website.” But you were out there every First Friday. I remember stopping by the table. I remember Saturdays you’d be at the shows in San Francisco, you were all over the place.

 

[00:10:23] CC: Yeah. I would even go for wholesale accounts. I would literally walk into boutiques like, “Hi, I’m Candice. I would love to have my jewelry here.” Mind you, we didn’t have Instagram when I started my business. There wasn’t no whole big push on – there was no Instagram. I don’t even remember the year when Instagram came, but people weren’t selling on Instagram like they are now. I was like, these entrepreneurs, these new entrepreneurs got it made. Y’all spoilt. You can grow really quickly on social media, versus it was definitely a slower growth process when I started and it took a lot of footwork. Like you said, we went into stores. I would literally go in and introduce myself and it was nerve-wracking and it was called cold calling basically.

 

You know don’t know the person. You’re just like, “Hey, this is me.” I was getting accounts with that faith. On top of being in front of people, you have to stay on top of shows, and you have to network with other fellow entrepreneurs as well to find out which shows are they doing. We were always sharing resources with each other. It was a straight up hustle.

 

[00:11:29] AW: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s important. Talking about networking with other folks who are also doing similar things, maybe not the exact same product or even if they are also jewelry designer, your jewelry looks different than everybody else’s, right? Thinking about folks instead of being your competition per se, but adding to your network, the community is so, so important.

 

[00:11:51] CC: Absolutely. Community is everything. 

 

[00:11:54] AW: Yeah. Okay. When you would cold call and walk into someone’s retail establishment, did you bring samples? I don’t know if you have samples for jewelry, but what did you do? What was that conversation like?

 

[00:12:09] CC: Yeah. I would have a line sheet created. A line sheet basically is what you give retailers. It has your item. It has a picture of your item and the specifications details of your item and the wholesale price. I would have a line sheet printed in hand and samples in my pocket in little bags. If they have time, because you do get a lot of no’s. Let’s not get it twisted. I walk in and they’re like, “Yeah, we can’t meet right now, but you can email me your schedule,” or “We’re not interested,” or “I don’t know if that jewelry fits our aesthetic.” So, you have to go into a lot of stores, but when you get that, “Oh, my God. Yeah, I’m interested.” Even if you just showed a couple of samples that entices their interest, that would be a great starting point for a callback for you to have more of a formal presentation in terms of what you can bring to the table. 

 

[00:12:53] AW: Yeah. 

 

[00:12:55] CC: That’s what it was and a lot in the beginning. Then, I noticed there starting to be sites that have wholesale platforms. One in particular is called Faire, it’s a really good one. It gets you in front of – you don’t have to do all that. It’s no longer the day of walking into a store. Completely, you could just post your jewelry on this wholesale site and stores, they will just place an order. You don’t even have to talk to them. If they like your stuff, they’re like, “Okay. I want to order this, this, and that.” It’s awesome, how it’s changed from where it was when I started and how I was hustling.

 

[00:13:27] AW: We sound like we’ve been doing this for decades, right? Back in my day. 

 

[00:13:34] CC: It has been over a decade. It has been. Legit, it has. Yeah. I’m a little seasoned in this game.

 

[00:13:41] AW: Okay. Okay, absolutely. Then I also just want to touch back on, not everyone’s a yes, right? You go in and you meet people. How did you prime yourself to deal with rejection? Because, in life in general, it sucks to be rejected, but we’re rejected all the time. Oftentimes, in business, because it’s an extension of ourselves, we’re entrepreneurs, it can feel so defeated, but it doesn’t have to be. So, how did you move through that?

 

[00:14:11] CC: Yeah, I would definitely say my corporate experience prepared me for that, because I know, even for example, when I worked for the company, you’re presenting a product and, yeah, we’d get a lot of no’s then. For me, handling rejection wasn’t really a big deal. I know for some people, you really have to self-motivate and know that, okay, they said no, but this customer may say yes. It’s almost like you have to psych yourself up and you have to be self-motivated. Being an entrepreneur is a lonely business. I’m not going to lie. You build a team, but it can be a very lonely business at the end of the day. You have to self-motivate yourself like, it’s okay. I’m an Aries, we made a little different. I don’t get to feel it –

 

[00:14:54] AW: I’m a Libra. We’re the opposites. I mean, same air sign, but similar. Yeah, exactly.

 

[00:14:59] CC: Yeah. Very similar though still. I don’t get defeated easily, I guess you could say. Hearing a no was like, okay, that’s cool. You don’t want to take it personal, because it’s just maybe, your jewelry or your piece wasn’t the right fit for that store. It’s okay, because there’s hundreds of other stores where your piece could be a good fit. I always had a positive and optimistic outlook on it, to be honest. Okay, that’s cool, if you guys don’t want it.

 

When you move like that, people feel that energy, because if you come in defeated, they’re already looking like, “Could you look at my jewelry?” It’s like, “No. Get it together.” I come in, “Hi, I’m Candice.” You’ve got to bring that energy. Sometimes people just do it, just because they like your energy. It’s not even necessarily your product. 

 

[00:15:44] AW: I’m hearing that more and more. Like you just give off good vibes. I want to see what you got going on like, “Really? You can feel these vibes?”

 

[00:15:52] CC: Yeah. No. People feel it and good vibes are essential to developing those relationships and getting people to test out your product. Yeah, you just have to. To me, it’s being self-motivated. You’re going to hear a lot of no’s. You just have to keep persevering because you’re going to hear some yeses. It’s going to happen. It’s the balance of life, yes or no, yes or no.

 

[00:16:14] AW: You’re 100 percent right about that. What about for those folks who are not quite confident that they can make it? How long do you think someone should pursue their dreams? Also, just the attitude about, like you said, you’ve got to walk into a place confidently and portray that confidence, even if you aren’t feeling it inside, but what if someone’s like, “I really want to try this, but I’m just not quite sure.” Do you have advice for that person who’s on the fence? 

 

[00:16:42] CC: Yeah. I would say even seeking mentorship or advice from someone in the industry, that’s something, if I could go back, I would have gotten more advice from someone. Then just so doing your research, trying to find or even a relative or someone that can pump you up. Some people just bring you the good energy, and they’re going to pump you up. Get around those people so that you don’t have that defeatist attitude. As far as, a timeframe for pursuing your dream, I don’t feel there is a timeframe, I don’t know. These people who started businesses are like 50, and they’re dope. You’ve got to be realistic with yourself, obviously. 

 

You don’t want to quit your job and then your focus is in one thing. If it’s not working out, you’ve got to adjust, whether that’s getting, like for me, it was getting other part-time jobs to feed my full-time business of running my business, because at the time, when I started, I wasn’t making a lot of money. I did get a couple of little part-time jobs here and there, because I was like, “Okay, this will pay rent and some bills.” Then, I can still continue to build my business until I get to the point where that is the sole business that I focus on. It’s hard and I know everyone’s different. The imposter syndrome is real. I get it. It’s hard, because I can’t say I experienced that, because that’s just not how I roll –

 

[00:18:09] AW: It’s not you.

 

[00:18:10] CC: No, I mean – I try to hear none of that. I’m divine, regardless. To be around someone else that’s motivating, talk to other people where you see where they’re at and you want to be. Talk to them, because that could be very motivating in terms of uplifting your spirits, like, “Okay, I can do this.” To me, it’s just about getting a mentor, getting around positive people that can uplift your spirits, doing your research too, and figuring out ways. Google is your friend, like what are other ways I can do to help expand my business? 

 

[00:18:42] AW: Right. Go ahead.

 

[00:18:45] CC: No, one more thing that I did too, which was very key to my business. I went from making, when I was in my 20s, almost a six figure. I thought that was a big deal. I was almost making six figures at corporate and I literally took a $16 an hour job after that, for a jewelry company for, not even a jewelry company actually. It’s a studio. Studio and a co-working space, because I wanted access to the free jeweler classes to further my knowledge. Sometimes you had to even put yourself in the place. I literally was like, I will take this job just so I can have access not only to the classes, but to the people who were teaching them. That’s how I learned how to do metalwork, which totally changed and flipped my business around when I learned how to do metalwork. 

 

Sometimes, you even got to – I took a lower paying job in my 30s. I was 30, 31, but I didn’t hear it, because I knew I saw the big picture. I was like, this place is everything. It’s going to teach me all the skills I need to know in terms of building my business and making more quality product. 

 

[00:19:51] AW: Yeah. No, I love that. It’s putting yourself in the position to win, to get the knowledge, to get the skill, to get the networking, right? Sometimes, it’s hard for me. It’s hard for me to take a critical step backwards, because I feel like, I should be further ahead, right? But sometimes you might have to do that unpainted at lower paid work, especially when you’re balancing the pros and cons. Okay, yeah, it might hurt my ego a little bit, because it’s $16 an hour or because I’m doing a free class, right? But then the benefit is you get to learn some skills, you get a bigger audience, you’re in front of people you wouldn’t normally be in front of. So, take that little tidbit with you all, listeners.

 

[00:20:29] CC: Yeah. It was a legit step back, because I humbled myself. I was like, wait. I just went from being a true boss. 

 

[00:20:36] AW: Right. 

 

[00:20:37] CC: My job was this major company car and all this greatness. You know what? I can’t even say I looked at it. I was so excited to be learning new skills. I knew it was going to help me get me back to those six figures. For me, it was all a part of the process. 

 

[00:20:54] AW: Yeah, absolutely.

 

[00:20:55] CC: I always think about it like that. 

 

[00:20:56] AW: Yeah, absolutely. Was it nerve-wracking the first time you asked a customer to take a picture in your earrings, or in your rings, or in your necklaces? 

 

[00:21:06] CC: No. It wasn’t, because I fed off energy. Granted, I come from a corporate sales background. Selling is my strong suit. For me, when I see a customer or I’d be like, “Oh, my god. Can I get a picture of you?” I can’t explain this, it’s like the steps of selling that it’s almost ingrained in me. You compliment. You start with the compliments first. You compliment first, like, “Oh, my God, you look so cute.” Then, “Can I take a picture?”

 

[00:21:37] AW: Right. Go in for the picture.

 

[00:21:41] CC: You go in for the ask. You got to go in for the ask. I guess, I applied that even when you’re asking the store for their business. You got to know how to close. You got to know how to ask for the sell. You got to know how to ask like, because – There are customers who will be like, “Nah, that’s okay.” “Okay, that’s okay. Okay, well, cool. Thank you anyways.” Then later, one customer came back, “You know what, actually, I do want to get the picture.” Of course, those images were providing more content for me to have image of different people wearing the actual jewelry, real women wearing the jewelry. 

 

[00:22:13] AW: Right. Everybody loves to hear it. You think I look cute? Okay, take that picture, right? It works for you and for them for sure. 

 

[00:22:22] CC: For the complement.

 

[00:22:23] AW: Yeah. There you go. Good guerrilla marketing tactic. You know where the mouth is, it’s definitely there. Have there been any times when you had to pivot your business, because the way that you were going, either wasn’t “working,” or maybe wasn’t giving you the results that you wanted? Or an avenue dried up, and you had to make a different choice? 

 

[00:22:44] CC: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely say, with social media, I’m not really a technology savvy person, per se. I realized I need to get, I need to have a presence on social media. So that was very new and an adjustment for me to really start posting pictures and stories, and I’m still not great at it. I don’t really like it, but –

 

[00:23:06] AW: You do a great job. 

 

[00:23:07] CC: Yeah. Oh, thank you, but it’s like, girl. It was like that was a pivot in the shift, because now, it was like, oh, my God. Facebook was always there. It’s there, but now, Instagram just took things to another level. That became a pivot in my business, an adjustment. Also, when COVID hit, that was an adjustment, because all of a sudden, [inaudible 00:23:29]. For that month, booms at February. It was like, “Oh, my God.” Beginning of March, I was like, “I don’t have sales.” My business is going to go under. Then, for me, it was I knew that once I saw the face mask and I had just bought all this fabric for my kids’ line. I was like, “Oh, my God, I’m going to make face masks.” That literally pulled me all the way up into the skies, boom. You pivoted, and for a while, that was all I was selling. It was straight up face masks. 

 

I mean, I had a face mask business. It wasn’t even jewelry, and then all of a sudden jewelry started getting sold again. Once this whole – when everything happened and Black Lives Matter movement, all this stuff was going on, so then everybody, George Floyd, and then this whole support of Black businesses, but I did have to pivot, because I was just, and even in my head, I was like, I have to go back to corporate. I’m already yeah, no, I got to make it happen, because I’m not going to have no money coming in. That’s not going to happen. 

 

[00:24:24] AW: Right, yeah. No, that’s good. Okay, so you started out with jewelry. Then now you have kids. Then you had a daughter, who I assume inspired your next line of items that have spun off of CanDid Art. So what are those other kids’ line of items that you have? 

 

[00:24:42] CC: Yeah. So I started off with baby quilts. I wanted it to be my custom artwork. How it happened was I received a gift for my daughter from someone and it was a custom quilt and I was like, it was everything. It was everything I could imagine. From, there I was like, “Oh, my god, I was bedding like this.” It was an image of a Black woman, a silhouette profile of a Black woman, it was different, her head and big hoop earrings. It looked like me. I was like, “Oh, my God, I like this type of imagery on her bedding.” That literally sparked it. I was like, “I’m going to do a kids’ line.” It wasn’t planned. 

 

I started drawing out art, sketches, creating then figuring out, where can I get my stuff printed at? How can I print it on cotton fabric, sewers, boom, boom, boom? Then, boom, end of 2019, I launched the quilt. That was all I had at first was just the quilt, then I did a trade show. I did actual show West Coast Craft. I saw this woman in a Mara Hoffman quilted jacket. I was like, it’s to die for – I was like, Oh, my God, I want to make this in kids.”

 

Literally, that’s how I started making my kids, quilted jackets. I knew I want that imagery to be faces of little Black girls, little Black boys, and various hairstyles and that’s how I started. Then I also knew I wanted to incorporate my love of geometric shapes or shapes that were reflective of the African diaspora. That was my whole thing. Originally, it was going to be just the kid’s bedding, but then the quilt jackets and I was like, hold on. That was my two products for a while. I just launched separates last year, the end of last year. Last year was the first time I did separate pieces. The Kids line took off a little bit and I’m still growing it, but I received a lot of press early on, and I was at Bloomingdales. I have a whole section there. I’m looking to get into bigger retailers and have more presence. Yeah.

 

[00:26:51] AW: Awesome. No, I love it, because I mean, most of what your business has where you’ve pivoted and taken leaps, it’s just been from inspiration, just from looking at stuff and allowing yourself the space to be creative and to just be inspired. I love how you don’t spend a whole lot of time, like, “How is this going to work? I don’t know if it’s going to work. What do the numbers look like?” You’re like, “I got a quilt for Baby Z and I love it. I want to be able to sell this. So, how am I going to do this?” I remember you telling me a couple years ago, just in your sketches, how you used to sketch years ago, and then just started doing it again. But you’re not using it. You’re literally using a sketch pad. 

 

[00:27:30] CC: Yeah. I’m old school. Yeah, I don’t know how to do Adobe Illustrator, none of that. I would draw the imagery and then I have a person who converts it to digital. Literally it just comes, like you said, I don’t look at them. They’re like, how’s this going to make sense? If I do this, I’m like, I’m a creator. I want to sell, which is probably not the best way to business –

 

[00:27:56] AW: But that’s okay, because you figured out how to make it work, right? You follow your strengths and do what you love and do what you do, and then get support on the other side of it, right? You just sketch by hand. You don’t need to learn how to do Adobe, because you can find somebody who – you found somebody who converts your handwritten sketches into a digital pattern, and then found someone to print it onto or business to print it onto the cloth, right? 

 

[00:28:21] CC: Right. That happened in organic conversation. Someone was like, “I in a production facility that can do this print.” I was like, “Oh, my God, this is perfect.” I’m all about organic with everything that I do. It’s never going to be – not super calculated. I mean, obviously, you put yourself in places to meet certain people and things like that, but for the most part, most relationships for me is like really organic, really just like, “Oh, my God, this is cool. Thank you for the introduction.” That’s how I’ve grown, in terms of business. 

 

[00:28:53] AW: Yeah. I like that too. Then just thinking too, so many people are afraid to share their idea, because we’re in this world where people think that everyone’s going to steal your idea, and they’re going to have to get an attorney involved and sue somebody, right? I bet that if you didn’t share your ideas, you wouldn’t have made half the connections that you made, right? Because quilt –

 

[00:29:12] CC: Absolutely.

 

[00:29:13] AW: I want to sketch. You had to tell somebody that you needed to convert it to a digital format. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have found that person. Then, just saying I want to be able to print and then someone from that conversation said, “Oh, I got something for you.”

 

[00:29:27] CC: Right, that’s the thing too. I know a lot of people and it’s hard because of social media, there are a lot of copycats. There are people who do steal. There’s people who’ve stolen my designs. I’ve seen it. Literally use my pictures, disrespectful. But as a designer, you try not to take it personal. I mean, it’s hard not to take personal, but you can’t take a personal, because when you’re a true creator, the thing about being a creator is I’m always going to come out with some new, new. I have so many more designs where that came from. 

 

Then, also, you do want to protect yourself in certain ways, like you do need a lawyer for certain reasons to get those trademarks or copyrights, or whatever you need to get. You definitely can’t be afraid. I know there are people that are like, you know, they hold their work tight. I’m not, but then I’m like, how are people going to ever see it? Yeah, you have those copy-catters. When you’re the originator, you’re going to shine no matter what, because you created it. Being an originator, you’re going to have more designs that are on that level, if not better. I don’t know. I was never pressed off of that, of telling people designs and when I see it, I’m like, “Okay.” 

 

[00:30:34] AW: I like that, yeah. Go ahead.

 

[00:30:38] CC: No, I said, unless it’s direct, somebody legit has my exact same drawing, then we’re going to court. I’m not playing those games.

 

[00:30:45] AW: Oh, yeah, 100 percent. Right.

 

[00:30:46] CC: Yeah. Because there are even large companies who steal from small designers all the time. It’s not cool. You get pissed, because it’s like, I put all this work and effort, but you just got to know that you’re the originator and you’re always going to create new work. People are going to steal, this is a copycat world, straight up. There’s a lot of things duplicated, a lot of “inspiration” but not really inspiration. 

 

[00:31:14] AW: Right. 

 

[00:31:15] CC: When you’re an original person that you’re going to create original work, just like, I don’t know, it’s a sense of – I don’t care which I don’t know there. I know I’m going to create some new stuff, no matter what. 

 

[00:31:25] AW: I think that’s perfect. I mean, you do want to set yourself up to be protected, right. But at the same time, when something adverse happens, you cannot let it stop you in your tracks, you have to keep moving. Then having that trust and remembering that you are the creator, the originator of whatever someone else borrowed for inspiration. I just did a workshop a couple weeks ago with my business membership community, because traditional when you’re thinking about your market and your products and how to get it out there, traditional education will say, well, look at your competitors, right? 

 

What are they doing? How do you want to be different? I don’t think that’s necessarily the best advice. I think it really pays off to look inside and decide how you want to be. Who you want to be. What’s your product? How do you want your product to be? Because after you look at everybody else, then they tell you to look at yourself anyway, so why not just start with yourself and gain the confidence in what you’re doing. Then, maybe look at what else is going on, but you are the secret sauce.

 

[00:32:21] CC: Yeah, I 100 percent agree. That’s how I started legit. I did not look at any competitor. I was like, I know what I like. I know what I think is to hope. That’s what I’m going to put out to the world. As I’ve gotten bigger. It’s crazy though, as I get bigger, though, I do look at competitors, because now as you get bigger, you start operating on a bigger playing field. You want to know, what are certain stores looking for, what is the trend? I never used to look at trends until and to be honest, until I started making kids clothing, never for jewelry. I mean like kids clothing is different. Fashion, clothing, and jewelry is different. 

 

In fashion, you probably got to be more on trend to a certain extent. I don’t believe in trends per say, so I’m still going to do what I want, but you do need to be aware to a certain extent, but I agree, starting off, it was just like I’m going to look at me and what I think is amazing. Then, of course, you start getting validation from people buying your stuff and wearing and complimenting and leaving these amazing reviews. Then you’re like, “Oh, Okay, my stuff is dope.”

 

[00:33:26] AW: Right, yeah. Absolutely. If people want to find your items locally in Oakland, where can they – or the Bay Area? Well, let’s do Oakland, because I know you got a few shops that you’re retailing in an Oakland and even your own storefront, so we’re they can find it?

 

[00:33:40] CC: Yeah. Storefront because it’s not really open for a storefront. It’s a studio. But you can email me and make an appointment if you wanted to come shop at my studio. I’m here now. That’s in downtown Oakland, 386 17th Street. Also, I’m in Sweet July, which is on Ayesha Curry’s store. She has a lot of my kids’ line, as well as some jewelry there at her location. Oakland, I’m trying to remember I think that’s –

 

[00:34:09] AW: Alyce on Grand, I think.

 

[00:34:11] CC: I used to, yeah. They used to carry a lot of my greeting cards. I don’t know if they still have stuff. But again, I used to have some stuff. San Francisco, I’m forgetting all my stores. I know I have stores in San Francisco. I’m legit forgetting, sorry. Anyways, if you go to my website, click on stockists, you’ll find where I’m at, because it’s so many states throughout the United States. Yeah.

 

[00:34:35] AW: Yeah, that’s awesome. Including the history of African-American – I’m messing that up, the Smithsonian. I always get the name wrong.

 

[00:34:44] CC: I know, The Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

 

[00:34:50] AW: I knew African-American history was at the end, instead at the beginning where I was trying to put it. Good deal. 

 

[00:34:55] CC: Right, and again –

 

[00:34:58] AW: If they want to connect with you on Instagram and check out what you’ve got going on. How do they find you? 

 

[00:35:03] CC: Yeah. My Instagram is @candid_art or @candidartkids. My website is candidartassessories.com. 

 

[00:35:14] AW: Love it. If you could give one last piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are coming after you, what would it be?

 

[00:35:20] CC: Use other people’s capital to start your business. Things that I would have done differently. I would have – Well, now there’s definitely more resources for funding for businesses, I will say. Utilize those funds, legal business loans. Get a business loan that makes sense for you to be paying back and you can do it. Because, to be honest, I felt like there was a lot of things that I shortcut throughout my business, because I didn’t have the funding to pay for it upfront. Had I had a big loan upfront, I feel like a lot of things would have been further along and more advanced, because I wanted to pay for marketing upfront. I would have paid for certain services upfront, because you have the money to do so. 

 

It’s just, you start building your business credit. I definitely recommend building by getting capital. It’s like, I’m actually saying get a business loan. If you’re self-funded, I mean, unless you have crazy amount of money. When you’re self-funded, it’s just, you’re going to find yourself – you’re going to be doing shortcuts throughout your business using your own money versus using someone else’s money. 

 

[00:36:31] AW: Right. Got it. I think that’s good advice. I mean, we’re taught personally not to go into debt, don’t use credit cards, things like that. There’s a stigma about having to borrow money, but I think also in the Black community, there’s a real sense of you got to make it work. If you borrow someone’s money, it doesn’t work, or at least maybe that’s how I feel. If I borrow some money, that doesn’t work, right. There’s that pressure. Get over that. Every business that has been successful has needed an influx of capital somewhere, some way, somehow. So don’t be afraid to do that to –

 

[00:37:04] CC: Yeah. Every large company has funding. You’re right, Black community. We do, because that’s why I didn’t take a business loan out for years, because it was always – but to spell that myth, get money upfront, so that you can invest more into your business and that it can grow faster and go further.

 

[00:37:24] AW: Right, absolutely. I love it. Candice, thank you so much for joining me on Transcend the Podcast. You’ve been a delight. It’s so lovely. We keep trying to meet up in person. It just doesn’t work, because I’m never in the same space for more than three weeks at a time it seems like, but thank you, Candice, so much for joining me on the podcast. 

 

[00:37:41] CC: Thank you, Asha, for having me. It was so much fun. So much fun as always. 

 

[00:37:48] AW: Definitely. All right y’all stay tuned for next week’s episode. Talk to you later.

 

[00:37:53] CC: Bye.

 

[END]

 

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