Fans of unusual jewelry should find something they like in the intricately hand-crafted designs of Brooklyn-based CanDid Art Accessories. Owner and designer Candice Cox experiments with brass, copper, gunmetal and silver to create retro, punk-rock and African-inspired pieces. Cox will tell you that her Royalty Body Chain is her most versatile piece, while her Shoulder Elegance piece and her various hand chains are top sellers.
Although her craftsmanship looks to be the work of an artist with years of designing experience, for Cox, turning an interest into a full-time business venture happened almost overnight.
“I learned on YouTube,” she said. “That’s how I made my first pair of earrings.”
Cox started making jewelry in December 2010, after a conversation with a friend about her love for funky jewelry and unique pieces sparked a business idea.
“It always starts with friends and the people that love you,” Cox said. “They said, ‘Why not make money selling jewelry while you’re still trying to figure out what you want to do in New York?’”
And so she did.
“I’ve always loved different stuff [and] the idea of being different,” Cox said of her designs. “I like pieces that evoke conversation.”
She says “she’s inspired by everything,” including a love of Africa, her people and the creative people she meets in her environment. Her parents also played an inspirational role in her business.
“My mom is an artist in her own right,” she said. “My artistic ability came from her. My father is an entrepreneur and has always encouraged me to start my own business.”
But before her fairly recent transformation into a full-time jewelry craftsman, Cox worked in sales at Coca- Cola in California. She spent five years with the company as a sales executive managing million-dollar accounts. Before then, she worked for two years in company ticket sales with the NBA’s Golden Warriors.
Gradually, Cox began to realize that working in corporate America wasn’t for her.
“What I didn’t like about corporate America was working like a slave for someone else, and being in an environment where the glass ceiling is the reality,” she said.
So the Oakland, CA native packed up and moved to New York City in search of her true calling. Soon after, CanDid Art Accessories was born.
Cox is a 2003 business marketing graduate of Howard University, and taking a look at her website, you can tell her marketing background came in handy for starting her own company. Although she had no previous experience in Web design, Cox created the website herself to cut costs using Wix.com, a site she felt offered the best professional looking website for free.
Creating the website was step one. The next challenge came with spreading the word about her new business. Soon she found word of mouth and social media was her key to breaking into the market. Then she started going to events, collecting emails, and sending e-blasts to new and potential customers.
As she grew, Cox was able to secure all of her models for free, paying them in jewelry instead. She also has two interns– one runs social media while the other acts as her personal assistant by attending events, taking pictures and gathering contacts.
Today although Cox doesn’t have a physical location, her pieces can be found in six boutiques in Brooklyn, Oakland and Los Angeles.
“I average about 35 units a month and my biggest selling events are Sheckys DC and Philly and the Afro Punk Festival,” Cox said.
As with most businesses, the holidays are her most profitable time of the year. She also has success with large-scale events such as the Brooklyn Night Bazaar and Bust Magazine Craftacular.
Although Cox now loves what she does, she acknowledges the challenges.
“It’s a lot of hard work and motivation,” she said. “When you’re in a working environment with [other] people and everyone is on the same page… being organized is critical. There are days when I’m not motivated but I have bills to pay and I want to be successful, so I have to multitask and get everything done.”
Cox mentions that aside from the hardwork, gathering startup capital is essential. She recommends maintaining relationships with corporate colleagues as they may one day serve as investors in your business. Cox started her business off with the substantial amount of savings she was able to generate during her years in corporate America. She didn’t take out any loans (although she mentions she wishes she did) and spent all of her money on CanDid Art Accessories.
“Every time I get money I put it right back in the business,” she said. “I take loans from myself, such as from my IRA and my emergency money.”
Despite heavy personal investment, Cox sees profit from the business. This is partly due to the stock she has gathered in raw supplies to make her jewelry, as well as her ability to utilize recycled materials and collect old jewelry donations.
Currently she is considering taking a fashion merchandising class at the Fashion Institute of Technology to enhance her skills. She envisions CanDid Art Accessories one day sold at high-end department stores.
Her lasting advice for those who hope to start their own business: “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people…don’t be too proud, it takes a team to run a business.”