We caught up ahead of the holidays with Candice Cook Simmons. We want to sit at her table and eat at it, too! Reading about how Candice has been making it all work during COVID is inspiring. As an attorney offering strategic and legal advisory services at the intersection of entertainment, tech and business, Candice offers a masterclass on how entrepreneurs can be nimble in times of uncertainty. Pull up for a glimpse into her day and how she's getting All Worked Up.
Learn more about Candice's services at ca-coglobalinc.com. She's also a fantastic follow on IG @CandiceSC1of1 and on Twitter @CandiceSC1.
Where do you reside and how have you been managing COVID-19?
In the beginning, when COVID all unfolded in March 2020, my “new little world” felt like a scene straight out of Saving Private Ryan except on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn. I was literally crawling into Fridays with work, my son’s remote school, no childcare, and the anxiety that came from being in New York at that time.
I live in Brooklyn with my husband and our three-year-old son. We are fortunate to have “space” by New York standards and are able to go to the park or our backyard to escape the monotony of the same space day after day. Being close to the park has proven to be such a blessing. I never was a “just go to the park” person before, but Prospect Park has become my refuge. I am so grateful for the greenspace, seeing people (or at least their eyes...thanks COVID), and feeling connected to something beautiful. It’s a nice escape because mixing home life with work life and preschool means that my home energy isn’t necessarily the place you go to escape. It can easily become where we all want to escape from!
What has been your go-to meal during this time?
In the beginning, I was consuming a lot of Mexican food from a place called Miti Miti--tacos, margaritas, anything I could wash down with something cold as I waited for Governor Cuomo to fill me in on how my city was under siege. Apparently, I prefer my lock down with a side of guacamole. But then this didn’t end. It got worse. The bad news was now moving from abnormal to the new normal. I had to change what I was eating.
If I were to assess the silver lining of all of this (and there are days where we have to hunt for it); it has been that I have taken advantage of cultivating my home life in a million different ways. My son was 2 when this started and overnight there was no more school, no more routine, no friends, instead there was a shut down, clapping out of the window at 7 p.m. which represented saluting our heroes, but also the pervasiveness of this virus. It was all very jarring. Suddenly, I was searching for some semblance of normalcy for our entire family and cooking was it.
With everything seemingly spiraling out of control, I began to obsessively control everything I could in our home starting with what we ate. We transitioned to a primarily plant-based diet and I prepare a lot of Sakara recipes. I also got into the quarantine baking people were doing. I became a banana bread queen. I started with the kits Dominique Ansel was selling at his Soho bakery and never looked back. His recipe is perfection and the title of his book is true, Everyone Can Bake.
When the weather changed and it became clear I was not going to be home to Atlanta with my parents anytime soon, I started making southern food that was toddler friendly for dinner. Collard Greens, cabbage, cabbage and sausage (not plant based I know), carrot soufflé, German chocolate cake. If I ate it when I was a kid; I was cooking it again. My go-to snack is popcorn with Spike seasoning and a little olive oil. Spike has become my favorite seasoning. I put it on everything.
What has been one indulgence that has helped you cope?
Truthfully? Skin care has been my refuge. The stress of 2020 was starting to show up on my skin and I had to get to the bottom of it. I even had a rhyme: “Glycolic, Retinol, Hyaluronic—tried it all.” Investing in skin care helped me cope because it was a positive change I could see. I am not wearing makeup these days and now I don’t need to cover anything because I was able to correct the source of my problems. Everyone’s skin is different, but if I had to recommend three skin changing investments: (1) Glow Pads from Dr. Alia Sampson Brown in Atlanta (they are THE BEST I HAVE EVER TRIED); (2) Microdermabrasion from Fatima at Portofino in Midtown Manhattan in NYC (Fatima is originally from Brazil and knows how to facilitate extractions, clear blemishes and correct all types of skin and skin complexions…she’s worked on America F., Gwyneth P., Kerry W., Sarah Jessica, Giselle…and me (ha!)); and (3) A high quality Vitamin C serum to get rid of discoloration. Worth. Every. penny.
How would you characterize your COVID style?
My COVID style has shifted as the seasons have changed and my adaptation to this scenario has evolved. I never shifted to the pajamas all day phase. I knew if I went there...I would never come back. Plus, I have a lot of meetings over zoom and believe that what you wear can help get you in the right frame of mind for business. It’s like getting into character.
Instead of structured clothing--which is my usual look--I am wearing more leisure wear now. I love jerseys, and soft knits that look chic, but are also comfortable. I want to be able to have a meeting in it, sit at my desk at home and crank out work in it, and be able to leave the house to pick up my child in it without looking like I am wearing pajamas.
How has COVID impacted your work?
I feel incredibly blessed that my business has been able to thrive in this pandemic. This is the living example of “there before the grace of God go I.” I am also extremely fortunate that the nature of my work can occur from home and feel the pain in my core for those whose entire livelihoods have been upended by the savage destruction COVID has brought to businesses whose very nature are more in-person/consumer-facing.
Since I have not been to my physical office since the shut down in March, I have transformed my dining room into a home office. Lights for zoom meetings, notebooks, phones, files, and chargers. It’s an entire scene.
The thing about entrepreneurship is that it is part discipline and rigor, but it is also understanding that the business will direct you where you need to go. My schedule is predicated off of what is happening within the business and what will best serve goals, objectives, and clients. I can say that when the pandemic first hit NYC and my son was suddenly not in school anymore; it felt as if the rug was pulled from under us. I was waking at 4 a.m. to get work accomplished before my son woke up and then would stay up until things were completed after he went to bed. That was a nightmare and I had an entire group of working mom friends who were thrown into it at the same time. A friend described it as survivor’s guilt. People were suddenly in food lines and losing their businesses so who is going to complain about working?! It was a blessing to have work and a family to be concerned about. It was a blessing, but it was also exhausting. 2020 was a consistent reminder that several things can be true at the same time.
Now, my son is back in school and we are afforded structure and development through his attendance there. He was also able to do soccer in the park before it got too cold which was a great escape from the week. Managing children during a pandemic has been a complicated circumstance for every parent and I am in awe of how people have worked to make this work.
Let’s dream a little - what do you think the future will look like for your industry?
My work is strategy and legal advisory services at the intersection of entertainment, technology, and business. Nothing in any of those verticals will be as it was pre-COVID. Consumers have changed their buying habits. Some film studios have decided (for the next year at least) that they are not even banking on theatrical releases--they are going straight to streaming. Physical stores have shuttered and people have found ways to create their own on-line footprint because brick and mortar stopped being feasible for them. Companies have now emerged that will provide small businesses with the same logistic capability of some of their larger rivals in order for them to be able to ship and deliver product without having to build out that vertical independently and customers have come to expect all of this. In my own life, the need for offices, business travel, and how teams collaborate has been completely transformed. Geography is less of a factor and time is now a more revered commodity. Do we really need the in-person meeting with travel across town or is a zoom sufficient? Do we really need the zoom or is a traditional call sufficient? I have sworn off third-party websites like booking.com for future travel because of the horrible experiences reported with the site not permitting refunds even when the hotels where the bookings occurred would have refunded the money. COVID revealed all of this.
The silver lining….whew. Resilience is a muscle. Our muscles have been worked out! So much of what we have seen occur as a result of the virus has devastated people in the most gutting of ways—family, health, finances. To say that COVID has ravaged this nation is a gross understatement. I am hopeful that people truly do give themselves grace during this period and extend grace to others. I also hope that when the dust clears and we emerge—no matter how imperfect—people stand tall. We survived. That’s a gift. Maybe more worn, maybe exhausted, maybe scarred, but surviving. There’s a gospel song by The Winans that says, “Millions didn’t make it, but I was one of the ones who did.” That’s a blessing and it is enough.
What constitutes a good day these days?
A good day for me now is one where I am able to be fully present in the good moments—enough to enjoy them. I know what makes my heart full. The things that bring me joy with little to no effort. A good day is where I have the intuitive self-preservation to lean fully into that and to not allow whatever stressor or seemingly important “urgent matter” to get in the way of the joy-filled moments. Everything has its time and place, but the goal is to be present enough to make time for what best serves you.
Do you have a mantra that is seeing you through these days? Or guiding principles that are keeping you (and your household) sound? We’d love any parting advice that you have found helpful!
I am a person of faith and believe that there are no testimonies without a test. This is only a test.
And we just loved this photo of Candice and her mama - so had to share!