I was born in South Africa, in Cape Town, but left when I was really young—a year old—because my father was recruited to Texas as a doctor. We went back every year though, so it has a special place in my heart. And all the people I grew up with in Houston—all my “aunties” and “uncles”—were also South African immigrants, so our Shabbat dinners were all Cape Tonians with their little American offspring. I spoke with an accent until I went to school.
Texas is also a really huge part of who I am because I grew up there and the culture is so strong. You meet someone from Texas and you’re like, “Oh, good. We get each other.” When I came to New York, at around 21 or 22, I didn’t realize how different we were from everybody else. I really hated New York. I hated people from the East Coast and, like, lobster.
In Texas, no matter how rich or working class you are, you’re still blue-collar.
The first time I went to the Hamptons, I was ready to walk around in my flip flops, like in Galveston, and eat some fried shrimp and have a Coke on the beach. And I remember driving through East Hampton and seeing Tiffany’s and Saks and people in moccasins and nobody was wearing a bathing suit. I was like, what? This is a beach town up here? In Texas, no matter how rich or working class you are, you’re still blue-collar. You live a blue-collar life. You like trucks, you like a cold beer in a can, you like barbecues, and you like weird things like Big Red soda. I still yearn for Texas.
I moved to New York because my best friend at the time was interning here at Lloyd & Company. She was like, “Come to New York, just for a year!” And so I came. We lived in a dormitory-style set up in the East Village. It was her on a futon, me on a futon, my sister on a futon, and my friend Sarah on a futon. It was fun, like summer camp, and then three months later, my friend was like, “I miss my boyfriend, I’m going home.”
I was a bartender at The Park. Remember when The Park was cool? I used to work the VIP room. That lasted almost a year, and then my parents put their foot down. “You have to get a real job or go back to school, or we’re making you come home.” Good for them for still being strict parents even though I was 22.
I stayed and I got a job as a receptionist. I was paid $28,000 a year, but at least my lunch was paid for. It was fun at first, and then I did something really idiotic. I typed shit about my boss on the internal chat program—this was before Slack, so I don't know what it was called–and then I immediately heard her call from her office, “Candice!” So that was the end of that job. I didn’t know that I had sent it to the whole company. I just wanted to send it quietly to the girl next to me.
I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur. When I’d have a lemonade stand as a kid, I was always very concerned about the location of the stand and how it looked and the price.
In retrospect, though, that was probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It sounds silly, but it’s because of that job that when I started Finn, I knew how to set up an office. I knew what I needed. I was up and running in a day. It taught me all the basics. "Resigning" from that job also immediately forced me to focus on Finn. So all in all: a win.
I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur. When I’d have a lemonade stand as a kid, I was always very concerned about the location of the stand and how it looked and the price. It’s just in my bones. I used to play store when I was little. I was never a doctor. It was always a store. Sometimes an office. Always a calculator involved.
The idea behind Finn was independent and delicate fine jewelry, and this was before delicate fine jewelry was everywhere. We borrowed a small amount of money to make a collection, and we spent a good chunk of it on paper goods. Our business cards were two-sided and embossed with gold foil. Not everyone had a website back then, but we got a website and we had our own email addresses. Our notecards were custom Italian paper. We knew that first impressions were everything. We couldn't let people know that we were sharing a studio to save money, while making fine jewelry. And if we couldn't afford a showroom for people to visit, we'd distract them with beautiful lookbooks. We ended up getting a meeting with Barney’s and they were like, “Your stuff is really cute, but come back when you have a proper collection.” And we were heartbroken. We thought, “There are nine pieces here! What more do you want?”
I had a co-worker from the good, old bartending days at The Park who worked at ELLE and she said she’d put Finn in the magazine. After that, Barney’s called us and they started consigning in one store, then two stores, and then they bought. It was such an exciting time, because we were so young and Barney's was everything. Our relationship with Barney's has been a long one.
I've been running Finn for almost 15 years now! About two years ago, I started to feel burned out. I wasn't the same Texas girl from 20 years ago, going out, wearing heels, doing my hair and makeup. I was married, had a baby, and was just over trying to be everything to everyone. I was wearing my husband's old cashmere sweater and the same jeans and the same jewelry and the same chapstick everyday. I had actually turned into the no-mascara, black-wearing, New York City woman that I'd never thought I'd be.
I loved Finn—I love Finn. But the champagne-and-pale pink personality of it wasn't meshing with my personality at the time. I wasn't feeling super bubbly. I was tired, unsure of myself as a mother, and now I just wanted easy. I'd been thinking of starting a brand that was the opposite of Finn—no ribbons, no brand Pantone color, but just to make what I want for myself. And instead of being bound by a fashion calendar, it was going to be one thing at a time. Someone very wise and close to me said, “Expensive just to be expensive is about feeding your ego. Stop making it about your ego and make it accessible.” So I did. And that's Billy! It was hard. But I did it. Of course, there’s still the commenter that bitches about the gold necklace being unaffordable—but seriously, that's why we have stickers for $9.
The funny thing is that I got so much much more excited about Finn after Billy! launched. It was like my fire was lit again. And it’s fun having two companies. I get distracted really quickly with anything I do, so it’s good that I get to have my surges of creativity for one and then the other. And they’re so different: Finn is wholesale, and a slow, slow process, and Billy! is like, “How fast can we get this done?” We’re actually going to be launching an entire re-brand of Finn in December.
Running two businesses with a child is already a challenge, but I will have a lot more help with this baby than I did the last time, which I feel guilty saying because you’re supposed to be the one who does it all. It’s fucking impossible. There’s no way. Six o’clock—when I’m supposed to come home because the nanny’s done for the day—is when I’m the most creative. And in the middle of that I have to stop and go home. There’s no way you can be good at both, and no one wants to admit that.
I don’t think I’m the best mom. Casey’s a much more hands-on father than I am a mother. I do the things behind the scenes: I make sure that the doctor appointments are made and that school is always organized. She's always on my mind and I stare at pictures of her all day, but he takes her on the bike rides at night for an hour, and I can’t because I’m pooped. It’s fine, I don’t really like bike riding anyway. And I don’t think I have the core muscles to hold a toddler on a bike.
I’ve had up-and-down relationship with weed. I have a memory in high school of clearing a four-foot bong while standing on a chair at some loser's apartment. Ugh, I used to think that was such a cool story, and now I'm just in shock that I'm still alive. Then in college, I was in the Greek system, so it was beer bongs, not weed bongs, and then when I got to New York, it was wine.
My routine after work to de-stress was dinner with the girls and lots of red wine. I can't do that anymore, I'm too old. So sad. Now I get a hangover if I drink two glasses. Sometimes when Casey takes Francine on that daddy-daughter bike ride, I'll sneak a puff of a vape pen. I like those Dosist ones that look like tampons. Next thing I know I'm cleaning out my closets or on the floor playing with her legos for an hour. My castle-building skills are ridiculous.
Casey and I do a podcast together. We originally said it was going to be once a week—and I’m totally down to do it once a week—but the problem is that we’re not always on the best terms with each other every week—you know, life. So it’s not that we can’t find the time. It’s that we literally aren't talking to each other on the Wednesday that we’re supposed to record and we know it’s just going to be us arguing, which isn’t interesting at all. So we skip that week.
But there are two things I really like about doing it. One is being able to talk to Casey for almost an hour without any distractions. Because his whole world is on the phone and his computer, so even when we are in a car, it’s hard to talk to him. I mean, I'm guilty too. Probably worse because I'm on gossip sites that have no benefit for work. And when we’re taping, we literally have each other's undivided attention to talk and laugh for an hour straight. So that, for selfish reasons, I like.
The other is when people comment and they say, “Oh my gosh. You’re just like us.” The ones that say like, “You’re saving our marriage”—that, I think, is a little bit extreme. But it’s fun to know that other people have the same issues. And what’s even more fun is when people comment, “Candice, you’re so right about everything!” I’m like, “Yes! Validation.” So, it’s really fun.
It’s also so different from anything else I do. I don’t have to create a tangible product. I'm not waiting for castings, or samples, or dealing with mistakes. For the podcast, you’re in, you’re out, and it’s over. You can't obsess over it, it's done. And then you move on and you wait for the next week.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity, and to reflect concerns about misinterpretation of some of the original quotes. Thank you for understanding.
Candice Pool Neistat photographed by Meredith Jenks in her home in Manhattan.
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