Founder and Head Designer of Arm Candy
Photos by: Trejon Williams | (IG @trejondangelo)
“Success means happiness. If I am happy with an outcome of a project. If I am happy about what I do every day. If I can begin and end my day with joy and happiness in my heart and spread that same joy and happiness to others, that is success.” – Maya Williams
Meet Maya Williams, the Founder and Head Designer of Arm Candy, who also happens to be a wife, mother of two, fitness competitor and marketing consultant. She is a one-woman-army who never gave up on her dreams and hopes to inspire the world to never give up on theirs. Maya created Arm Candy with her nine-year-old son, who now has left the company to pursue other endeavors (such as playing Minecraft and furthering his education). How does one woman manage a successful jewelry design company? “Time management, to-do lists and daily planners are my secret weapons to balance it all,” says Maya.
Read Maya’s story below as she describes her transition from corporate America as a digital marketing manager to becoming an entrepreneur and honing in on her creativity. You can also meet Maya and support Maya and Arm Candy during #TheCOSIGNExperience as she’ll be an official vendor. You can purchase tickets here http://www.thecosignexperience.com/tickets.
Where are you from and how did you begin your career?
I am originally from Chicago and moved to the Dallas area in 2004. I began my career with hopes and dreams of being a big time marketing executive. You know, that fly lady who walked into the office with her crisp fitted button down and tailored pencil skirt, hair in a high bun, chandelier earrings sparkling, with a calfskin attaché case in tow, heading to her corner office with the floor-to-ceiling windows and high-end artwork on the walls… I wanted to be that woman. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in marketing from Columbia College Chicago (a private arts and communications school) right after 9/11, so marketing jobs were little to none. I found myself a bit derailed from the corporate world plans I had, but that didn’t stop me from working on small marketing projects here and there for businesses that were just starting and/or had small marketing budgets.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a dancer- ballet, modern, whatever. I used to watch “Annie,” “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller” and “Flash Dance” every Saturday back to back when I was little. Watching those videotapes transported me into the world of creative arts. Watching those movies instilled in me that through hard work and perseverance, your dreams will always come true.
As I grew older, I wanted to be an advertising copywriter. I loved commercials and I loved to write. That all changed when I went to college. In reading news of the trade, I would always read articles about copywriters who were fired if an ad campaign failed to resonate with the audience or was deemed unsuccessful. I didn’t want to be in such a volatile industry. So the next best fit was marketing. I loved to create new ideas for campaigns, plan events and think totally outside of the status quo.
Growing up what were you into and when did you know that you wanted to get into jewelry and the fashion industry?
I was into all things creative, from dance (I didn’t go to any formal dance classes, I would borrow classical records from the library and choreograph my own ballet routines), making jewelry (friendship bracelets, lanyards, beaded bracelets), interior decorating, etc. But at the time, I only considered those as hobbies. When you become an adult, I was taught to take things seriously- get a job in an office, work your way up the corporate ladder, and hopefully one day you will reach the pinnacle of your success and then you can retire with a pension. I tried to fit that mold, but my creativity was more than any corporate job could hold. After about the fifth layoff in my career, last summer my nine-year-old son asked if we could make and sell bracelets together. He wanted to create those loom bracelets, but I had a better idea, and so Arm Candy was born. We spent all summer through the holiday season making bracelets together and going to local craft shows and farmers markets. We had a great time together, but soon his interest would wane. My son has since “quit” because his schedule got too busy with school, Minecraft games, and playing with his friends, so I am left at the helm. I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of Arm Candy. I not only get to create and design beautiful beaded bracelets every day, but I also get to flex my marketing skills. Though I still do marketing consultant work on the side, I am really determined to build Arm Candy into a position of overwhelming success.
Who inspires you the most in your industry?
The funny this is that I am inspired, not by other jewelry designers, but by fashion designers and stylists, and sometimes the occasional farmers market. Colors and style inspire my designs.
I recently saw a post on IG of a display crate at a farmers market, filled with black and white spotted eggs, bright orange kumquats, bold green limes, pretty pink roses, and sweet little succulents. The color combo inspired me to create a bracelet set with similar looking natural stones; dalmatian jasper, pink and orange jade, and apple green agate. Stylists like J. Bolin and designers like OTT create looks that really push style and color boundaries, like no other. I try to do the same- create looks that are bold and that challenge the norms. I also create “normal” or understated designs, but my favorites are bold, statement pieces.
What has been your biggest struggle in getting to where you are now in your profession?
The biggest struggle has been doing everything as a one woman show. I am the designer, content creator, marketing director, social media manager, advertising agency, event scout, vendor manager, buyer, accountant, creative director, photographer, customer service manager, and office manager. At the same time I am a wife, mom of two boys, fitness competitor, and marketing consultant.
Time management, to-do lists, and daily planners are my secret weapons to balance it all.
Did you have a “leap of faith” moment, and if so, how did you decide to make the leap and what were the circumstances around it?
Although I have won many awards as a corporate marketing professional and had a great deal of success, I did have a leap of faith moment when I decided to stop pursuing a career in the corporate world. After my last layoff in August of last year as a digital marketing manager, I decided to take some time to really decide if entrepreneurship was where I wanted to be. There were several big life events coming up that would allow me that time to contemplate, a hysterectomy last September, which literally sat me down for six weeks, the holiday season, and travel plans. I used the down time to really ramp up and go hard with Arm Candy, just to see if it could be a profitable and satisfying endeavor. With much success over the past few months, taking the leap to really work at making Arm Candy a household name (or close to it) has been my goal.
What makes you unique compared to the rest in your field?
My business is unique because my main focus is on custom designs and all of my designs are one of a kind. What I create everyday are unique designs that I never duplicate. Some clients request designs I’ve done before, but I always create something similar that doesn’t stray from the integrity of the original design, but that also does not duplicate it.
How has social media improved your business or brand?
Social media has improved both my business and brand by expanding the Arm Candy reach into many markets. I’ve connected with business professionals, sneaker heads, stay at home moms, stylists, and magazines that I never would have outside of social media. Well, at least not in the short span of time.
With one DM or with one comment on a post, brands are able to connect with individuals and organizations that could create a mutually beneficial relationship. Twice in two months I have connected with stylists to get my pieces on actors and athletes. Jussie Smollet wore my Arm Candy two days in a row when he hosted “Live With Kelly” in April. All because of a DM I sent to his stylist, who at the time I thought was just a fashion editor at Essence.
What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
My biggest accomplishment to date has been really been connecting with so many people and establishing a sort of Arm Candy tribe. There are about 10 or 15 loyal clients that consistently order from me, follow me at events, and are truly excited about Arm Candy every time I post. As a self-professed introvert, running Arm Candy has stretched me beyond my normal limits. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes and am comfortable working alone, but that doesn’t help when running a successful business. I am now networking, communicating with people outside of my personal circle, and growing as a person and a brand.
How do you deal with adversity?
Adversity comes every day, the key is staying positive. I start each day with affirmations of all things I am grateful for. I also post, every morning, a positive message to help myself and maybe even other people start their day on a positive note. Starting the day out positive helps to continue positive thoughts throughout the day. If I ever run into an issue, I handle it and know that it will all turn around soon.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In five years, I see many retail clients all over the world carrying Arm Candy. I see myself traveling to different cities and countries showing Arm Candy to new customers and businesses, broadening my reach and client-base. I plan on establishing a charitable portion of Arm Candy where 100% of the proceeds from a specific collection will go to help women in need.
When it’s all said and done what do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to remind others to never give up on your dreams. To know that the path is not always clear, it can change over time, and may not come to fruition on your timeline, but to stay strong and never give up. Release your fear. Release your doubt. Follow your heart.
We #COSIGN Maya for not following the status quo and creating her own destiny. As a one woman army she shows that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.
Who does Maya Williams #COSIGN?
J. Bolin – @stylistjbolin
Cyndi Brown- @cyndiibee
Micaela Redmond – @theeventmaker
Pat Smith- @patsmithty
Cristiane Dos Santos- @josephinecustomjewelry
Bernard Davis- @industrypeople
Frank Ibarra- @frank_louboutin
Krystal Cunningham- @gonaturalpearls
Zakiya Larry- @zakiyalarry