Entrepreneur Candace Spears Shares Challenges and Inspiration Amidst Pandemic
The entrepreneur life has become more complicated since COVID-19 demanded change in our lifestyle habits. With hardships expected for the global economy, we want to encourage spending locally and remind dreamers what can be accomplished despite uncontrollable challenges. Candace Spears is one of many entrepreneurs who hasn't let the world slow her down. As a mother and marketer she is sure to motivate you to move your ideas to actions.
The B.E.E. Narrative: What originally excited you about entrepreneurship? How did you decide it was time for you to branch out on your own?
Candace Spears: I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. About 7 years ago, I ran my
own catering and events business. At the time I was looking to do my own thing. I did it all while still working full-time, and with super young kids, at that time a 2-year-old, and a newborn had come along. I love to create and to bring solutions to problems. So
entrepreneurship has always been in my veins. Fast forward to now, over the past couple of years I have a couple of different experiences that slapped me in the face and made me realize my talent and my identity is bigger than the walls of someone else’s corporation. One was having my role go away at a company that I was so wrapped up in terms of title and what I was doing. I had stupidly allowed my identity to be wrapped up in that and it went away. The second was, going to the next company, and literally training, and helping to transform the mindset of 50% of the employee base, about 400 people, by teaching Agile both as a methodology and mindset, but then the executive sponsor that gave me the creative freedom to leverage my talent retired, and I found myself back in the same place...my talent felt at the mercy of an individual and confined. I knew at that point that enough was enough, time for me to be all in on owning my talent, time, and identity and bring it to the world. If I could bring it through someone else’s corporation, I could certainly bring it through my own. And so I set off on a year of preparation with my next move determined to only be running my own ventures full time.
TBN: As a mom and a now full-time entrepreneur, how is quarantine life treating you?
CS: It’s crazy but not bad. When I say crazy, I’m dealing with trying to work both in and on businesses, and balance that with making sure my girls are doing their distance learning assignments, eating, and trying to find quiet moments for myself. When my husband is home, I have to carve the time to spend with him as well. So the crazy part has been about making priority decisions and deciding to be comfortable with the fact that something may not get done. I’m introverted by nature so I don’t mind not going out to meet with people face to face. That simply allows me to store up my energy and put it into more one on one and deeper conversations which I thrive in.
TBN: What was a typical day like for you while still working your corporate job and developing your side hustle?
CS: Oh my. It morphed along the way. There were times when my alarm went on at 4:45 am every morning, and I would get up and get to work on my stuff, then at about 6:45 transition into helping the girls get ready along with my husband, and starting heading out for work around 8:00 am. If I was driving in, I’d be listening to a YouTube video or a book on Audible. Something that was helpful to me in growing my business. I wanted to take advantage of every single minute. If I was taking the commuter bus in I’d have my laptop with me and be working on something. When I was at work, on lunch, I’d try to use most days to get something done related to the business. But I’d try to balance out doing that and not completely neglecting to get together with others for lunch. When I got home...usually around 5:30 or 6 pm, I’d be super tired, but of course, try to spend time with the family. Usually, I’d try to sneak off somewhere to be by myself, that’s the introverted side need to recharge after a day of nonstop interaction, but I’d try to get in some time with the girls, to be honest, it was never as much time as I wanted, and some time with my husband, before jumping on to my laptop again for about an hour before going to sleep at about 9:30 or 10 pm. During this time my husband was the solid foundation that helped make it possible for me to find extra time because he’s the one that would make sure the girls had dinner, sometimes if I had to leave the house earlier he made sure everyone got out of the house in time, etc. He played an extremely important role that helped with my time flexibility.
TBN: Tell us how your podcast Ambition, Honey & Hustle began and the idea behind it.
CS: My podcast began as part of a challenge with ClickFunnels. ClickFunnels is a software company that makes cloud software that builds sales funnels. I was doing a challenge with them and one of the coaches talked about how important it was to “publish every day”
Whether it was the written form, like a blog post, the visual form, like a video, or auditory like a podcast, to publish every single day for one year and it will change your life. So I was committed to doing it, and I looked at my options and said, well I like to write, but don’t want to write a post every day, I don’t mind video, but I don’t want to be camera-ready all the time, and so I chose audio. From there the podcast was born. I made a commitment to 365 days of podcasting. At the time I’m writing this I’m 5 days away from 300, and I decided since Apple podcast won’t let me go beyond 300 episodes in a season, I’ll stop there, But I will continue with more seasons, in a slightly different format. But it’s true publishing every day did change my life, and I’m where I wanted to be almost a year ago in large part because of it.
TBN: What events inspired your book 'Bring Your Crayons to the Office'?
CS: That book was written soon after I started at my next job, after my role going away from the previous one. At the previous job, after experiencing my job being taken from me, I had a mindset that I was going to own who I was and what I brought to a company. That every piece of value I brought was mine to have and share however I choose. So when I went to the new company and began to facilitate meetings in a creative way that caused people to participate more, and the outcomes were successful, people started to take notice. And they took notice in a way that they would ask me, “can you share with me that exercise you used to do XYZ” So I was already on heightened alert about the value I bring being mine, that’s when I decided to write the book. If people inside the company were after how to do this, then people on the outside feel the same way. That book was written based on all the experience I was having while at the company, and so it was born. When it was born, I had people inside buying it and those on the outside. I leveraged it to begin to get press and build up my personal brand. That, by the way, is one example of how you can take ownership of your talent, entrepreneur or not.
TBN: Specifically, what impact do you wish to have in the Black community?
CS: I want to see our community really taking ownership of their talent, not allowing the dreams of others to play first to what they see for themselves. I recall, in my last week in corporate, I was having a conversation with the president and COO of the company, and we got to talking about diversity, and increasing the company’s diverse talent. I distinctly recall saying to him, “while I may be a unicorn in here (inside the company), I am certainly not a unicorn on the outside.” Basically meaning there are tons of talented Black women, and men for that matter in this world, the company has to appear in the right places to tap into them.” When we start owning our talent and what we bring to the world, we can begin to get ourselves in the position, whether it’s working as an employee or an entrepreneur, but get ourselves in positions where our impact blossoms and where we feel the most fulfilled, or where the things that we dream about start to play out in our lives. But we can only do that by owning what we bring to the world.
TBN: What words of encouragement can you share with young dreamers during this time of uncertainty?
CS: This is the time to do more than a dream. It’s the time to put action behind the visions you see. So many people have been given an opportunity to pursue the thing they’ve been thinking about. And it may not seem like an opportunity when you’ve been laid off from your job, or you fear that you simply won’t have one in the near future, but treat it like a big break. Do what you need to do to feed yourself, and go all-in with action to test your dreams, see if it’s viable, see if you have something that people are willing to consume and pay for. The time to be experimental is now. And for those that already have side hustles going or perhaps have just gone into business for themselves, this is also a time of massive opportunity, but it’s important for you to pay attention to your data, listen and watch your customers...maybe it’s time to pivot to something new...where is the need that you can fill...go do it. Whatever you do, it is not a time to stop and chill. Do that, and you’ll find yourself left behind. Take full advantage and see the opportunity not the loss through it all.