After working in corporate America for seven years, Candice Cox felt unfilled, so she quit her job to pursue a new career path. She relocated to New York and learned how to create jewelry on YouTube, then and launched her business CanDid Art in 2011. Cox’s signature designs are known for their African-inspired designs using using bold prints, unique accents and recycled materials. Her funky childrenswear will make the littles in your life the most stylish kids on the block.
After having my daughter in 2017, what inspired me to start my brand was the freedom to create and be my own boss.
We caught up with the Oakland native to discuss what it means to her to be sold in Sweet July’s flagship store and find out how she’s pivoted during the pandemic. Plus, find out what keeps her inspired and her advice to burgeoning entrepreneurs.
“Use other people’s money when starting your business, so you won’t take any shortcuts when building your own. I’m guilty of doing that early on, and wasn’t able build a solid team or make wise investments in the beginning due to lack of funds.”
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start your brand?
I was born and raised in Oakland and am a business school graduate of Howard University. I was burnt out from my corporate job after 7 years and decided to quit in pursuit of something different in New York. Shortly after moving to New York, I started CanDid Art in 2011 after learning how to make jewelry via YouTube. With little knowledge of the fashion industry, I hit the ground running, attending trade shows and events which eventually led to my jewelry being carried at the Smithsonian. When I had my daughter in 2017, what inspired me to start my brand was the freedom to create and be my own boss. My dad was an entrepreneur all my life, and I loved how he made moves as a boss, with no one to answer to–except my mom, of course! I wanted that freedom.
What steps did you take to get your business off the ground?
I started my business in 2011 after relocating to Brooklyn. I loved handmade bold jewelry and I decided I would create my own and sell it. In 2019 I launch CanDid Art Kids after being gifted a custom baby quilt following the birth of my daughter. This quilt had images of Black women with natural hair and I knew then that I wanted to see more baby decor like that. This led me to start drawing again after 15 years and I couldn’t stop. Once I was content with my designs, I decided to make quilts! I debuted them at West Coast Craft Band, where a woman who stopped by my booth was wearing a Mara Hoffman quilted coat. I knew then that I had to make quilted jackets for kids.!
Can you shed some insight into your creative process?
For my kids line, I start off with a vision of a pattern in my head and then I sketch it out in my iPhone and play with the color until I feel as though the balance is right. I always draw the patterns first and then design the pieces later.
“All of the initial art for my fabric is sketched on my iPhone at around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. I do some of my best work in the early hours.”
What keeps you inspired?
My daughter. Knowing that I’m the sole provider for her keeps me inspired to create, seek, do more and never settle for the status quo.
Sweet July Oakland is located on The Block—an area known for its community of Black women-owned businesses. How does it feel to share space with this group of entrepreneurs?
It’s an honor because women are the reason why my business still flourishes today! I love to be in the company of other women business owners, because we continue to champion each other. It’s continued motivation and validation that we deserve to be bosses and you’re not in this alone. It also inspires other young Black women to do the same one day.
How has the push to support Black-owned businesses fueled by the racial reckoning of 2020 impacted your business?
It has affected my business in a very positive way. I’ve always had steady clientele, but it quadrupled over the last year. I feel like I’m finally being recognized for my hard work, but it’s bittersweet because it’s on the back of Black people’s death. I definitely have mixed emotions, but very thankful that my business is thriving.
How are you navigating the struggles and woes of running a business during a pandemic?
It has been an adjustment. Before the pandemic around 55% of my revenue came from selling shows, and I realized when the pandemic hit that I needed to pivot to the needs of the people and start making and selling masks. I also put all my effort into marketing online. It is paying off and now my business is doing better than ever.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about your brand?
All of the initial art for my fabric is sketched on my iPhone at around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. I do some of my best work in the early hours.
How do you practice self-care while balancing the rigors of entrepreneurship?
It’s a rarity but when i do, its typically dropping my daughter off, and then kicking back at home with wine and catching up on indie flicks and taking long baths.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced, and how have you overcome those obstacles?
Getting capital and building a team. I’ve been able to overcome the challenge of getting capital by researching and asking other entrepreneurs how they went about getting it.