Fashion 

Social Media Consultant Candace Marie Is a Force to Be Reckoned With

The founder of Black In Corporate launches a mentorship program supporting Black professionals.

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1,210 Hypes

With over 10 years of experience in the fashion industry, Candace Marie Stewart has established her reputation as one of the most seasoned social media strategists in New York City. Following her mother’s advice, she obtained her bachelor of business administration degree in finance, and her master’s degree in marketing and finance. Stewart’s educational background has worked to her advantage, allowing her to stand out from the crowd when she moved to the Big Apple to pursue her career in fashion.

“[My mom] said that no matter if I still wanted to have a career in fashion after college or venture in a different direction, the finance degree would come in helpful because at the end of the day, every company needs to make money,” Stewart tells HYPEBAE. After getting experience in finance and banking, Stewart decided to switch to fashion journalism, contributing to publications including Vogue, Lucky and Essence. Over time, she started developing an interest in social media, and has worked with companies such as Refinery29, Barneys and Prada to oversee their social media strategies. Most recently, Stewart was appointed as an Adjunct Professor at Parsons School of Design to teach its first social media graduate course.

Other than her digital expertise, Stewart is an advocate for minority creatives in the luxury fashion space. On November 1, she launched the Black In Corporate Virtual Mentorship program under her Black In Corporate initiative, which champions Black professionals behind corporate walls. With this mentorship program, Stewart is providing a platform for Black individuals who are looking for relief, support and guidance in their jobs, as well as those who are seeking to change the corporate structures.

In our interview, Stewart talks about what inspired the launch of Black In Corporate, how she sees her platform growing in the future and more. Read the full conversation below.

candace marie stewart social media strategist black in corporate initiative black blazer necklace earrings

Katherine Pekala

What ignited your passion for fashion?

There was not necessarily one big moment, but many small moments that definitely ignited my interest in fashion. One for sure was my summer visits to NYC. I first traveled with my best friend and her mother at the time of my freshman year of college. I remember seeing the city for the first time and just being in awe of the fashion that I saw, as well as the diverse crowd of people. I never experienced this before back in my hometown of Conway, Arkansas. In addition, my father purchased a sewing machine for me when I was in middle school. Coming from such a smaller town, I would look to the Internet for different styles, as well as magazines to try to recreate what I saw.

How would you describe your personal style?

The word that comes to mind when I think of my personal style is “chameleon.” It is not set to one thing or confined to a box, but it just matters on my mood, weather, the stage I am at in my life, etc. At the end of the day, if I like something, I just go with it.

How did obtaining your MBA in finance and marketing help carve out your niche?

I really felt like obtaining my MBA was something that set me apart from my peers. Specifically in the fashion industry, I do not feel like it is very common. Also in regard to social media, I deal with a lot of budgets and analytics, so it ended up being the perfect foundation for what I currently do now as a social media consultant.

“Knowing that corporate culture was not a system built or designed with Black individuals in mind, I thought it was vital to create Black In Corporate — a much-needed resource for those looking for assistance, support and guidance behind corporate walls.”

What about your job excites you most? And how has your workflow changed since the COVID-19 pandemic?

The part that I love most about my job is that there is not a day-to-day. Literally, every day is different and that is something I can appreciate. I tend to get bored if something stays the same for too long. The beauty of my job is that it changes so frequently, from the clients to the actual platform itself. I feel like my workload has greatly increased since the pandemic. Social media was for sure an area that saw a surge during this time, as we were confined and usage of our phones has increased.

What have been some of the most exciting projects so far in your career?

One of my most exciting projects so far has been joining Parsons as an Adjunct Professor teaching social media for their master’s program. At the beginning of the year when I made my resolutions, one thing that I wrote down was that I wanted to teach. Never in a million years did I foresee it being at Parsons. I have been able to build my curriculum from the ground up and tackle very timely topics during this time.

candace marie stewart social media strategist black in corporate initiative black blazer necklace earrings

Katherine Pekala

What has been your experience working in the corporate world? What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome and how have they shaped you into the person you are today?

During my over 10-year career navigating from company to company in the corporate realm, I saw not only a lack of Black colleagues, but also the systematic racism that was embedded into the guidelines, policies and practices that propelled white individuals towards success and Black individuals towards failure. One of my greatest challenges was consistently “being the only.” I did not see anyone that looked like me, under or above. It becomes very isolating. When you think about it, you spend more time with your coworkers than you do your own family. Therefore, when you feel no sense of community at your job, it is very taxing mentally.

What inspired you to start Black In Corporate?

Knowing that corporate culture was not a system built or designed with Black individuals in mind, I thought it was vital to create Black In Corporate — a much-needed resource for those looking for assistance, support and guidance behind corporate walls, where change is needed most.

“A major goal of Black In Corporate is to create a mentorship system and program for Black individuals who lack generational access to mentors and generational wealth.”

In what ways do you think the industry can improve its diversity and inclusivity efforts?

There are a plethora of qualified Black individuals who have just never been given the opportunity. There are not many senior leaders who are Black or who sit in the C-suite. The industry needs to uproot the whole system of how hiring takes place. The playing field is not even for Black individuals and the same opportunities are not being given. The industry needs to reevaluate its hiring process.

How do you see your initiative growing in the near future?

One of the most substantial aspects missing in the corporate sector is the lack of mentorship for Black individuals who do not come from wealthy and connected backgrounds. While my ancestors were enslaved, my white counterparts’ ancestors were building businesses, wealth and professional relationships with an over 400-year advantage. I repeatedly found myself in the scenario of having a greater skill set, not to mention a more advanced educational background, but because I lacked an internal connection or a family friend in a “high place,” I was overlooked.

Because of these experiences, a major goal of Black In Corporate is to create a mentorship system and program for Black individuals who lack generational access to mentors and generational wealth. A lot of time and effort has been placed in this space. This tool provides those who are at a disadvantage to have a greater opportunity to thrive within a corporation – no matter what field they decide to pursue.

Can you talk to us about the Black In Corporate Virtual Mentorship program and who is eligible to apply?

The mentorship program was designed for Black professionals who are in a corporate space or looking to be in a corporate space. It also pairs Black professionals from various backgrounds including finance, law, fashion, media, entertainment, art and more. We have tapped over 50 seasoned Black professionals who have committed and signed up for a six-month-long program that will rotate twice a year. During that period, they will mentor two mentees and everything will be virtual. During this timeframe, mentors will be a support system and work together with their mentees to help identify their goals, as well as define a clear and concise path to their objectives with measurable milestones.

What advice would you give to young creatives of color who are trying to break into the industry amid these trying times?

The best advice I can give is to show yourself grace during this time. Right now, even more specifically Black individuals, are facing a lot. Between continuous exposure to violence against Black bodies via media and the coronavirus outbreak disproportionately impacting Black communities, there has been a serious toll on Black mental health. Now, when you add on the additional pressure Black individuals face to still show up and perform at their jobs, where most likely systematic racism permeates throughout, it can definitely take a toll on one’s mental health.

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