Candice Simons — the blogger behind J’adore Detroit and owner of ad agency Brooklyn Outdoor and Eastern Market event venue The Loft — shares why Detroit is the perfect place to live, work and play
By Rachel Schostak
Photography by Allison FArrand
According to Candice Simons, work-life balance may not actually exist. And as the owner of three businesses — ad agency Brooklyn Outdoor, lifestyle blog J’adore Detroit and Eastern Market event venue The Loft — she would know. “If I look at it more like a harmonious dance between the two, I tend to show myself more compassion,” says the 36-year-old Plymouth resident, who shook up the “very traditional and male-dominated” advertising industry when she launched Brooklyn Outdoor in 2013. (The company, named after her dog, specializes in outdoor ads; think billboards, bus shelters and wallscapes.) “There were a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of self-criticism.”
Times have certainly changed: In 2019, Simons won an out-of-home (OOH) industry “rising star” award and Brooklyn Outdoor — which also has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago — was named one of Ad Age’s 25 best place to work. “That was such an honor,” she says. “The dance was a hard one to learn. I’ve gotten a lot better at it.”
Can you share a bit about your entrepreneurial journey?
I started working in the out-of-home (OOH) advertising industry out of college. After 10 years, I realized I loved what I did, but I didn’t love working for someone else. I knew Detroit would be the perfect home for a new, grassroots-style company: There was no independent OOH advertising firm here, and what better place to try and re-energize the industry than vibrant Detroit?
I got a bit of backlash for starting a business here — mostly due to Detroit’s economic downfalls of the past — but the city’s resilient spirit and people are the true reasons it’s been able to come back stronger than ever.
Tell us about j’adore Detroit and the Loft.
After I moved back to Detroit, I would hang out downtown often. My friends made me their go-to person whenever they wanted advice about where to go and what to do in Detroit, so I decided to start a blog that featured the things I love about the city. Now, j’adore Detroit has become a whole other business. It’s a way to connect with likeminded people in the city and offer an insider’s guide to Detroit.
I didn’t want j’adore Detroit to be “about” community without actually fostering it. From there, The Loft was created. It’s an industrial-chic space that’s available for events, but oftentimes I host women and entrepreneur-based networking groups there.
What inspired the name Brooklyn Outdoor?
Brooklyn Outdoor is actually named after my dog Brooklyn. He’s been with me through so much ever since I adopted him, and I just adore his spunky personality and the way he makes me laugh. He’s just a fun little guy, and I wanted to encompass that in the culture of my company—so, despite being a Detroit business, I think it’s a good fit.
How as the advertising evolved since you started your company?
One of the biggest changes in advertising is the ways that brands communicate with audiences. Advertising is no longer about blasting a message and hoping it sticks. It is about making a real connection between brands and audiences.
As technology advances, so does OOH every day. Digital billboards have certainly advanced, as it not only allows brands to create engaging advertisements, but they can also change messaging within a matter of minutes.
Another way OOH has evolved is by working in tandem with mobile advertising. As mobile phone advertising grew, it was thought (by some) that it would replace OOH. But the opposite has become true. Now they have combined powers for highly efficient campaigns.
Any advice on how to manage a healthy work/life balance?
Well, I’m not sure work-life balance actually exists. If I look at it more like a harmonious dance between the two, then I tend to show myself more compassion. As an entrepreneur, especially in the first few years, this dance was a hard one to learn. I’ve gotten a lot better at it.
One thing that helps me most is taking time for myself in the morning before checking emails, and etc. I am obsessed with Coffee + Philosophy sessions with Kacee Must of Citizen Yoga to start my day with a level mind.
When I find myself becoming de-energized, I’ve gotten a lot better at looking inward and asking myself what I need at the moment. Sometimes, it’s checking out for a weekend getaway with girlfriends. Sometimes, it’s unapologetically silencing my phone and curling up with a book. I’ve found journaling to be very helpful at sorting out my thoughts and checking in with myself. It can feel a little silly at first, but I promise it gets easier.
Can you share a few of your career highlights thus far?
Sure! I think I was most surprised and most honored to win the OAAA Rising Star Award last year. The award recognizes up and comers who are making a difference in the outdoor advertising industry. It was the first time the award was given. To be acknowledged by, and in front of my peers was a huge moment for me.
Another major highlight was winning Ad Age’s Best Places to Work 2019. When I started Brooklyn Outdoor, I wanted to create a work environment that I would want to come to. To be recognized by such a major publication in the advertising industry as a “best place to work” was such an honor.
Who inspires you in the business world?
My girl Sophia Amoruso, the creator of Girlboss, always keeps it 100% real. She is always bringing it with cutting edge style and no effs given. I love that she pushes the envelope of women in business by creating a seat for everyone. Plus, her words of wisdom and stories have always been tremendously transparent and super helpful to m
Three words to describe your style?
Fun, expressive, authentic.
Who’s your style icon?
The designer Cynthia Vincent. Her designs are gorgeous and I love what she stands for: body diversity and size-inclusivity.
What inspires your style?
Having the ability to be expressive. It took me a long time to understand that no one else has to like what I am wearing. As long as I feel good in my skin and in my clothes, then that is inspiring.
“It took me a long time to understand that no one else has to like what I’m wearing.”
The most cherished item in your wardrobe?
Probably my Chanel XXL travel flap bag in khaki green. I saw it while I was in Soho in New York and I fell in love! The color is super unique, and I haven’t seen another bag like it.
One item you can’t leave home without….
That would have to be my French Bulldog, Willa. She is the cutest, sassiest little companion.
You’re never fully dressed without _____
Lipstick—preferably from The Lipstick Journey!
Your current “must have” item?
A cute, comfortable, and lightweight pair of high-top sneakers are my current must-have as we transition to warmer weather. I have a pair of Chloe high tops that I love to pair with sundresses and skirts during spring/summer. Sneakers can give more of a streetwear vibe to any outfit.
Are you native Detroit? What do you love most about our community?
I am a native of metro-Detroit and have always loved the city. My favorite things about the community are the resilience and the grit that no other place has. Detroit has been through the wringer, and the community’s movers and shakers have this incredible ability to bounce back from setbacks and obstacles to become stronger than ever. Being around the artists and entrepreneurs of Detroit is truly inspiring. The city is full of go-getters, which is something that everyone around the world shouldn’t be mistaken about.
In honor of our “Wine and Spirits” issue this month. what is e your go-to cocktail or drink-of-choice?
Definitely an Aperol Spritz—heavy on the “spritz!” Super refreshing
Your go-to for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Your go-to spots for shopping in Metro Detroit?
Favorite quote or words to live by?
No matter what kind of relationship you apply it to, “Integrity is Key.” Whether it be a friendship, romantic interest, or business relationship, acting with integrity will always lead you down the right path. If you act with integrity, then you feel good about what you are doing. No one is perfect. Sometimes you mess up, but if you know your heart is in the right place, it makes moving forward so much easier and fulfilling.
Head-to-toe outfits details from the photoshoot: