by Mary Worrell
Candra Palmer’s story of successful entrepreneurship isn’t the typical one peppered with anecdotes about jumping in feet first, making lots of mistakes, and struggling toward stability. Her business started out as a carefully, meticulously-planned venture that involved a number of calculated decisions including working for free, selling clothing in a mall, and making products at home for a number of years before growing into a brick-and-mortar store.
Artyce Custom Footwear, a L.A.-based special occasion foot wear designer, wasn’t even a twinkle in this founder’s eye when she graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans. “I went to work for Intel in Oregon after I graduated,” said Palmer, 33. “My major was computer information systems and I wanted to work in the IT world.”
The Chicago native got a big break in her young career when she was selected for a special program with Intel. “I got a chance to travel with vice presidents of the company and we changed jobs every six months,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for new, bright ideas and to see what it takes to sell great products.”
She may have come out of college with computers on the brain, but her work with Intel helped her uncover a love for sales and marketing. The company relocated Palmer to Los Angeles in 2001 where she was able to make her own schedule. She used the new flexibility to explore her love of fashion in one of the world’s design hubs. As she was exposed more and more to the fashion industry, Palmer started to get a whiff of where her true passion lied.
“I wanted to learn more about the business side of fashion, so I started interning with fashion companies,” Palmer said. Networking her way around L.A., Palmer was able to connect with designers and she wasn’t afraid to offer to work for free. For Palmer, these were learning opportunities that would help lay a successful foundation for her business. She interned with both fashion stylists and consultants to learn about key marketing strategies like product placement and launching successful product lines, and she did it all while still working her full-time job.
“I was still earning income and learning on the side, so I didn’t feel the financial impact at that moment,” she said. Palmer learned the art of multitasking from her mother who worked as a teacher and later as a school principal while still managing a small business as a seamstress on the side. But the time came for Palmer, as it does for all entrepreneurs, to leave her job with Intel to focus all of her time and energy on her new venture. She left the corporation in 2004.
“I went to work for a manufacturing company to learn more about production,” Palmer said. “A lot of people just see the end result, but you need to see the business from every aspect. I did sales for the company and learned about their process and business model, but I was still lacking the knowledge of retail stores.”
So Palmer did something you wouldn’t expect from a computer information systems graduate and former Intel employee – she went to work for Ann Taylor as a retail associate. Yes, she was selling clothes in a mall and she did it for two and a half years. It was all part of her self-designed education in the fashion industry.
“I chose Ann Taylor because I understood they had a dedicated client base and had their own private-branded products. I wanted to learn about all components and put the final touch on learning the fashion world,” she said. “I got a chance to do a lot of sales and became the number one sales person in the store. I bonded with clients.”
In the evenings Palmer was still working and using her creative skills to create fashion accessories she loved, mainly footwear. That’s where Artyce was conceived – in Palmer’s home where she created ornate shoes for herself and friends.