Candice McCoy lives near downtown Edmond in a home built in 1923 she describes as “Kid Central” because she shares it with her husband, Jon, and their four children: 5-year-olds Lincoln and Vivian and 2-year-olds Eloise and Violet. Candice and Jon own Love Well Handmade, an Oklahoma City-based clothing and home goods company that supports a partner charity with every purchase.
Tell me more about how you started Love Well.
Love Well sort of just happened by accident. It was just an idea that was given to us that really put together the areas that Jon was really good at and what I was really good at. We started the business four years ago. I was a teacher and although I loved the kids, I just didn’t feel like being in the classroom was my real passion. So I knew it wasn’t a long-term thing.
We always wanted to have a way to teach our kids about giving back and investing financially to help others. We were living on a single income at the time (Jon was and still is working full-time as the director of annual giving at INTEGRIS) and we wondered if we could really show them the importance of being generous when we were strapped ourselves. If we could start a business that was self-sustaining, but could also give back, then that could be ingrained in their lives growing up.
Linc and Viv were a year old and I was having trouble finding clothes for them that were a more simple style. That was five years ago and the options there now just weren’t there at the time. I had been making some outfits for them and Jon and I were sitting in the office one night and we started talking about doing that as a business. It was so natural because he’s a designer and I can sew and we wanted unique things for our own kids so we hoped other people would, too.
How in the world did you manage starting a business with a pair of 1-year-olds at home?
They were really good babies. It took three to four months but they were sleeping 12 hours at night and taking good naps during the day. But once they started getting older and sleeping less and then when the other two came along it’s just taken on a different dynamic. We’re creative in how we work together. And of course we have amazing support from others.
As your kids have gotten older, the business has changed. Has it changed because of them changing?
It’s been a natural transition. We started this business making predominately leggings but we’re not going to continue making the leggings and baby items anymore. We’re shifting away from that and focusing on shirts and home goods. Sitting in our office that night four years ago, we had no idea what it would be like to run a local retail business. We knew we wanted to make these clothes but we weren’t thinking about the cyclical nature of fashion, trying to stay up with trends or predict trends. That’s just not what we’re passionate about. It brings us a lot of joy to see people really take an interest in the baby items and I’ll miss that part of the business. But I’m excited to change and morph according to what is absolutely most valuable for me and my family.
So what’s the future of Love Well look like?
We unveiled our Love Tee last fall at Plaza Fest and we really felt energized when we were telling the people the story of how their purchase of the shirt would help others ($5 of every purchase goes to New Story, a US-based charity that builds homes for families living in slums in some of the most underserved countries in the world). It really lit a fire in us to create more things like that. So we’ll be collaborating with some other artists to give their interpretation of the love design.
You shared earlier this year on your blog that you got pregnant with both sets of twins through fertility treatments. Tell us more about your path to motherhood.
I didn’t expect a big family. I really thought after we had Linc and Viv that we were done. Jon could have been done. But I really wanted to experience pregnancy again and I wanted to have a more normal pregnancy. The first time around, I had preterm labor, I was on bedrest, the babies had to be in the NICU and I really just wanted that experience of a normal pregnancy, a delivery and then bringing the baby home after two days in the hospital.
But the second pregnancy wasn’t exactly that. We had another set of twins, both girls. They too were born at 33 weeks and three days, just like Linc and Viv.
God has tested us a lot. Jon and I value spontaneity and travel. We like to be active, out experiencing new things. That typically doesn’t mesh with having four young kids. It’s been the most challenging two years of my life but through it we’ve grown a lot. In the hardest times, you often see the most growth. These kids have pushed us out of our comfort zone and we’ve decided to just press on and do things anyway. We learned to be more flexible and it’s been the sweetest time.
So do you have any tips for traveling with a crew of young children?
Go in with low expectations. Stay calm and the kids will almost always rise to the occasion. They’re great like that. I feel like if you leave kids to their own devices, and I don’t mean electronic, they will surprise you in how they can entertain themselves. We made the decision when Linc and Viv were babies to put the television away and we really keep toys to a minimum so they’re encouraged to play with each other. They definitely have their moments of bickering and for that just lock them outside [laughing, of course].
Do you have any tips for fostering sibling bonds?
We’re figuring it out as we go. We don’t have any secrets or anything but I try to be really communicative. Our family is a team. I constantly communicate that Mommy and Daddy and God expect them to watch out for and take care of each other. I really try to build them up and remind them what God has called them to do. I think communicating to all four of them has helped build that closeness and they take a lot of pride in the fact we’re a family.
You describe your home as “Kid Central” but it really looks tidy. How do you keep it from being overrun with toys?
Jon and I feel a lot more at peace and I think the kids feel a lot more at peace when we don’t have stuff all over the place. So we intentionally leave space for creativity, peace and calmness. It’s important to us, but we also want our kids to feel at home. They have a playroom upstairs. During the day they can certainly bring their toys downstairs and I want them to have the freedom to do that. But toys always go back upstairs at the end of the day and we encourage them to keep areas outside the playroom picked up.
I used to feel a lot of anxiety when I would walk past the playroom and see the toy explosion in there. Someone said to me years ago, “Would you rather walk by and see it like that or walk by and see it empty?” That literally changed my heart on that. The day is coming when they will be too old to sit in that room and pull out all the toys and that’s going to be an emotional one for me. So right now this is fine.
So some aspects of the business have changed but you’ve maintained your mission to give back. Are the kids old enough yet to be aware of that mission?
I definitely think Linc and Viv understand it. We try to talk about it a lot but there’s a very thin line between sharing too many heavy things and helping them understand these things at a young age. We try to share about the hardships other people face in a gentle, childlike way. Jon and I were overseas for a year before we had kids. We did some work in a very poor village and every day the families in this village would cook a big bowl of rice and meat and that was the food for that day. We took a picture of a little girl there filling her bowl and we have that picture hanging up in our dining room. That’s one of many reminders we have at home to help our kids understand everyone else doesn’t have what we have. They are getting old enough to get excited when we talk to them about loving others well.
When we started Love Well, we wanted it to be a talking point for our customers, too. We have our signature heart that’s incorporated into everything we design. It’s more discreet in some designs than others but it’s always there. We encourage our customers to find the heart because that’s their reminder that they’re able to love people just by following a lifestyle of giving like buying something that serves a bigger purpose.
What other things do you do at home to help your kids learn more about being generous and serving others?
Overall, we just want them to realize the world is a lot bigger than they think. One of our fears in choosing to live in Edmond was that they would grow up in a bubble without a broad worldview. We’ve adopted an international student to spend time with and his name is Jason. Even before they can understand where Jason is from, they can see he speaks a different language and follows different cultural norms and it’s a subtle way for them to see a world beyond their small town.
What’s the best and worst part of being a mom?
The best is the unconditional love. Even when I make a wrong decision and I have to apologize for it, they never for a second have a thought of not wanting to cuddle in my lap or love on me. I feel the same way about them. I don’t know if there’s another kind of love that can match it.
The worst is just the lack of alone time. I’m an introvert by nature and having four of them so young, it’s difficult to get help with them. That’s just a lot to ask someone else to take on. So the worst part is not having much time to be alone and have space. Space is non-existent at this stage.
What’s life like with four kids under 5?
It’s so much about just letting things go and training your mind on what’s most important. This is hard because I’m a perfectionist. But I’ve had to accept I can’t do it all and I can’t manage everything. God gave me four kids to give me humility, I think. I used to think I had everything under control. But this has taught me to sit back and be okay with being out of control.
With a family this large, 50 percent of the people are unhappy at any given time. But there’s a lot of joy that comes with it, too. We’re this little team. Somebody is always there to hug you or to help you.
What does motherhood mean to you?
To me, motherhood means being their safe place they can come to with anything. Whether they want to talk or need comfort, I’m their safe spot they can depend on 100 percent.
[Editor's Note: Interview was edited for style and clarity.]