The 3% Accelerator: Candace Queen
The 3% Accelerator is a business and wellness initiative for women entrepreneurs of color. The program supports creative visionaries who are building the agencies and companies that they want to work for during the critical early years of entrepreneurship. The Accelerator addresses key business challenges, professional and business development, leadership, as well as personal support for the unique challenges that women of color in the creative industry experience.
Meet one of the nine women, Candace Queen.
Creator-in-Chief at Tabernacle
Tell us about your background. Where are you from? What makes you you?
I’m a multidisciplinary designer + creative director, and educator, rooted in building equity through design and nourished by a passion for cultural archival + preservation.
I rep Port Arthur, TX, to the fullest, home of UGK and some of the best BBQ, gumbo, banh mi, and tamales that you’ll ever find! It’s the place that gave me a crash course in intersectionality and multiculturalism before it was even a thing.
After several years working in Chicago’s advertising playground, I set up a small studio space, Tabernacle, based in Beaumont, TX, not too far from my hometown of Port Arthur. There, I’ve found a unique balance that lends itself to a richer creative life, a positive work environment, and most importantly, more time for the family and the local community that raised me.
My creative ethos is reflective of my travels, Louisiana Creole heritage, and overall upbringing in Southeast Texas. Vibrant and colorful, with a limitless outlook and fierce spirit of determination. It’s shaped my focus on implementing thoughtful design solutions that create robust communities and resolve disparity issues among people of color.
Tell us about your company. What do you do? What prompted you to start it?
Tabernacle is my creative practice, focused on crafting culturally robust brands, initiatives, and content.
It emerged from the belief that design and advertising could help impact the rejuvenation and growth of abandoned spaces and historically resilient communities. As I watched my hometown deteriorate economically while refineries rose high, I had a constant tugging to come home and use what I’d learn in the advertising world to help reshape the narrative and eventually rebuild the community.
Along with assessing pain points and building solutions for my community, I also work to support brands in discovering how design, advertising, and a carefully shaped brand identity + presence can address racial equity and, in turn, create a more equitable world for all.
That’s a mouthful, but what I love about having that driving manifesto is that it allows me to regularly mix things up, creating a range of outcomes for the clients I work alongside.
Sometimes it’s making sure racial equity is included as a core pillar in a branding project or supporting a company in developing a dynamic employee culture strategy that’s inclusive. There have been projects where it was a focus on making sure diverse directors were recruited for a commercial shoot. It’s supporting a Black-owned business in building a new venture from the ground up or re-tooling the design aesthetic so it can level up. Other times it’s helping build social or experiential campaigns that empower and elevate.
I focus mostly on design, ad campaigns, and branding, but that manifesto ensures that I’m never stagnant and gives me room to explore and innovate.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in getting your business off the ground?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered is giving myself the freedom to create what excites me the most. Coming out of the advertising industry, there were a lot of behaviors and perceived success metrics that I had to unlearn.
I started Tabernacle with a very structured lens of what it was “supposed” to look like. Success meant having a large team, big-name clients, and tackling the work that I focused on while in Adland. However, I’ve since come to terms with the fact that I like working with a slim team (often it’s just me with a freelancer or two when needed), and it impacts my efficiency for the better.
The recent racial reckoning reinforced a need to be very intentional about what clients I take on. I saw my value go up, but I also wanted to be sure I was working with clients who had sincere intentions and understood that I wasn’t a monolith solution. In turn, a need to be selective led to a re-evaluation of my revenue streams to make that possible but still profitable.
I’ve since pivoted over to another big passion, education. I’ve poured in a lot of time building up two unique online-education platforms, focusing on young talent entering the industry and transitioning to mid-level roles, and another that focuses on the fundamentals of building and managing a brand.
As a Black woman, who are your biggest inspirations?
My family, first and foremost, has instilled in me a resiliency like no other. They’re my perpetual safe space that I lean into when I need to recharge and get centered. My parents are gone, but their spirits live on through me; I’m truly a reflection of their wildest dreams.
Creatively I find a lot of inspiration soaking up classic cinema, and in turn, I’ve developed a lot of admiration for actresses like Lena Horne, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, and Dorothy Dandridge. I tend to gravitate towards people who I would consider conquerors of adverse circumstances.
From a contemporary lens, I’d count Ayeshia Toy, Tiffany R. Warren, and Shannon Washington, Shanteka Sigeers, Zim Flores, and Joanna Gaines as my present-day source of inspiration. There are so many more, but this list touches on key points in my career evolution.
Ayeshia Toy is a still calm presence in my life. She orchestrated my first advertising internship during her time at GSD&M, has provided an immense amount of advice and guidance from an HR lens, and continues to uplift and inspire me. She’s an example of what happens when you look beyond traditional success standards and choose to take a chance on someone. Without a portfolio school background or formal training, I’m grateful she took a chance on me.
Tiffany R. Warren has been a driving force in my career, literally since I entered the ad industry. From being an ADCOLOR FUTURE in 2014 to coming on as my first client for Tabernacle, over the past 6+ years, she’s helped me innovate and positioned me for many thought leadership opportunities. Working with her in a range of different capacities, she’s also taught me a lot about leadership and engaging a team, which has trickled down into how I manage my Tabernacle relationships.
Shannon Washington has served as a guiding light, reminding me that my wild ideas aren’t so wild; they just need me to execute. I first came across her through her travel platform, Parlour, and I was truly inspired. We’re often pushed to pick “one thing” and focus on that, encouraged not to divert too far away from our “thing.” Her ability to meld her passions for creativity and travel into this beautiful business and still maintain a firm footing in her agency role emulates what I’m seeking to accomplish long-term for myself.
Shanteka Sigers was the first Black woman creative director that I worked under in an agency setting, and it was game-changing. We’d worked together previously on non-profit efforts, but in just six short weeks learning from her on the agency side in New York solidified my confidence to branch out and start something independently.
Joanna Gaines and Zim Flores aren’t in the industry, but I truly admire how they’ve infused their Christian faith in their work and the communities they empower. Prioritizing my faith and values and recognizing how they inspire my creativity has been an ongoing journey. Still, these two ladies serve as a massive source of encouragement on my tough days.
What can our community do to support you?
I say this not just for myself, but for a lot of small business and independent creatives. There is a lot of unlearning to do, not just from a diversity and inclusion perspective, but from the lens of how we do business. If you’re in a position of influence, I believe it’s critical to have a voice that encourages new ways of thinking. During the pandemic we’ve learned how much we can accomplish remotely, with slimmer teams and what can be done in a shorter amount of time. With that in mind, it’s time to start being more open to pricing that doesn’t focus on the number of hours worked, but the amount of power behind the work. It’s time to become more flexible with remote work after the pandemic passes, and exploring how cost-effective smaller teams can be for your company and if you’re an agency, for your clients.
In terms of how you can support me directly, keep an eye out for my education platforms and check out my past talks! If you have an opportunity to take a class, I would love any and all reviews and feedback.