CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - (Iowa's News Now) — Crafting a successful business isn't easy. Especially when you start during a pandemic.
Inside the Cedar Rapids warehouse that houses Candice Luter Art and Interiors a team of women is making it work.
"You see how much love and energy goes into each piece," Ashley Lunsford says as she stirs some wood stain.
Lunsford joined this labor of love after seeing a Facebook post.
“She was talking about the realness of owning her own business and how hard it was," Lunsford says of her boss, Candice Luter. "I thought to myself, 'Who does that? Who goes live crying about the hard parts of owning a business?' We only see the good, you know. It kind of drew me to her."
“I just said to people, ‘You want to be an entrepreneur? This is what it looks like,'" Luter says of that video.
Her business started as a hobby, then turned side hustle. By 2019 she was selling in West Elm and other major stores, working out of her home until taking a leap of faith opening her shop in 2020.
It's now landed her on the bullseye.
Some of Candice's designs are featured as part of Target's Black History Month collection; her work is being sold in about 855 stores across the country. She's one of only a handful of selected Black creators and she says it's the first time there's been a home décor collection featured.
Hitting this mark has meant more than professional achievement.
“I went into this opportunity with such a different perspective than when I left," Luter says. "Being biracial in the Midwest, I’m very open and vulnerable telling people that sometimes that’s a hard spot to be in, because sometimes I’ve grown up not feeling Black enough or not white enough. So to have the opportunity to represent what it is to have Black culture and Black History month and Black joy, which was the foundation for this project with Target, was just a very emotional journey with me.”
Luter also struggled with the imposter syndrome of being selected and drawing up ideas for Target's team to manufacture -- she has no design background.
The experience allowed her to play with different inspiration for her pieces, which range from a trinket dish featuring a Sankofa bird to an African mask inspired wood piece.
While her team back in Cedar Rapids didn't make any of the Target pieces, they've also seen the benefits. There are now more orders for the art they're making by hand for Luter's other shops.
“If anything it’s just given her a lot more attention like to her Etsy shop and other places she sells her things," Lunsford says. "So it’s gotten a little bit busier here.”
It may be macramé and mirrors, but it's giving others a change to see themselves.
“Whether it’s a mom who says her daughter loves seeing me on a display or loved seeing my face on a pillow or an interior designer recently reached out and said, ‘Is there an opportunity I can meet with you for coffee because you look like me and that’s not something I’m used to seeing,'" Luter says.
She's embraced every conversation with open arms and the same vulnerability she brings to her shop and social life.
Her Target collection has also been a chance for Luter's daughter to see what a successful entrepreneur looks like.
“For us to stand in front of that display together and take a picture was just, I feel like I’m getting emotional right now talking about it," Luter says. "It's all been for her. It's been for me but it's really been for her. I hope in some way I've instilled in her something in her to show her what it is to put your hands to something and not give up."