T H E P I V O T
Q: At Re.engineer, we believe in challenging the status quo. How are you applying your entrepreneurial passion to produce products that uplift and empower others? Candice: The sororities and organizations we serve have a rich, 100 year history of service and social action. I am proud to create products that allow members to wear and amplify that history and pride. When I started, I knew I didn’t want to simply resell other companies’ products. I set out to create the brand and products that I could not find as a consumer, from the unique design of the products, the packaging, and the customer service. Almost immediately after joining my sorority, I had so many design and product ideas. Finally in 2015, I decided it was time to start RENEE MARIE and create the products I had been thinking about. LET'S CHOP IT UP! Q: You’ve had a dynamic career, stretching from Electrical Engineering to Information Systems to now Entrepreneur- ship. What was the defining moment that inspired you to pursue a career in STEM and then pivot into building your own brand? Candice: Growing up, I actually wanted to be a lawyer. I was on the speech and debate team in junior high and I somehow had it in my head that I would be the first woman and African American President of the United States. In high school though I really enjoyed science; my favorite teachers were my science teachers, Mrs. Bannister, Coach Rachal, and Mrs. McGhee. I remember loving Chemistry and catching on to it quickly. As graduation approached, I had also fallen in love with computers and software. After receiving a full scholarship to Southern University, I narrowed down my options to Computer Science or Electrical Engineering and engineering won. Though I've enjoyed my career in engineering and information technology, entrepreneurship is some- thing that I've always been interested in. I remember the desire to create and sell products as early as 9 years old. As a result, I've had various "side hustles" over the years.
Q: What is the most difficult decision you've had to make to pursue your destiny? Candice: The decision to start the business and invest $35k from my savings and credit cards was a big decision. I’m not sure it was a difficult one though. If someone I had told me at the beginning that I would need to spend $35k it probably would have scared me and maybe even stopped me from pursuing my business. But since I spent it slowly over the course of a year, I didn’t really know how much I was spending until I started counting it all up and paying closer attention to mounting credit card balances. Otherwise, I believe I’ve just flowed with opportunities as they came my way and moved when I felt led to. I think we often get nudges in our life that’s meant to guide us. Sometimes we fear the next step and stay where we are. Most often, when I feel uncomfortable or that I’ve outgrown where I am, I move. When I think back on various times in my life, I think my ability to move on from what’s no longer serving me and on to something new has served me well. Stepping out of our comfort zones and into something new and unknown can be scary, but it's necessary. The goals and dreams we aspire to are often simply waiting for us to have the courage to leave what we know and take the risk to pursue what we desire. "Most often, when I feel uncomfortable or that I’ve outgrown where I am, I move." Q: We believe that our personal expressions should translate into how we navigate as business and community leaders. We call it “Bringing Our Whole Self” into any situation. How do you ensure that you are authentic to yourself and your work? Candice: I certainly try to be as authentic as I know how to be. But I have to admit, I am overly critical of myself and always see areas where I can be and do better. I sometimes see it as a flaw, but I’m starting to learn how to embrace who I am, acknowledge what I do well more often, and give myself more grace. I find when I’m less concerned about my flaws and what other people may think about those flaws, I can show up fully and unapologetically as myself. I believe being truly authentic takes work to heal past traumas, to better understand ourselves and why we react to thinks in certain ways, to learn what we need and when we need it (like rest, social interaction, solitude, etc), to set boundaries, etc. I believe the highest level of authenticity comes when we take care of our whole selves, and show up not as the trauma, frustration, overwhelm, shame, and guilt may have made us, but as our best selves; informed by our experiences but not allowing it to dim our light.
That is the level of authenticity I aspire to achieve.
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