Candice English is crafting heritage colors
Running a business

Candice English is spinning fibers to celebrate her community

In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, QuickBooks is spotlighting indigenous-owned small businesses, their stories, and their journeys to success. Check the Small Business Stories hub all month for more inspiration.

Name: Candice English 

Location: Great Falls, MT

Business: The Farmer's Daughter Fibers

Tell us about your business.

We hand-dye yarn that is inspired by our Pikkuni culture and western heritage. Our specialty yarns are hand-dyed in house and we appeal to knitters around the world who love a muted palette of colors. We also have a yarn shop downtown Great Falls, MT and a nonprofit, Sisters United. Sisters United is a grassroots effort to support Indigenous women, children and families.

What makes your small business unique from others?

We are very authentic to our brand. The colors, collaborations, products, and entire vibe is very much who we are. Being caucasian and indigenous can feel complicated at times. I have used Farmer's Daughter Fibers to navigate my struggles with identity through the creative aspects in the business.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?

Before Farmer's Daughter I was on a completely different career path working in early childhood education for a large corporation. I was working so hard; 12 hour days, going in on the weekend — but the return was just not there. I was missing out on seeing my kids grow up and felt like there was a greater calling for me. My thought was, if I am going to hustle this hard, why not do it for myself?

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year?

The first year I kept my job while starting the business slowly. The biggest lessons were in the fine details of staying organized. To grow you have to constantly come up with new systems that are more efficient.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?

The most surprising thing was that it really is like having a child. It is incredibly rewarding and challenging at the same time. There are times you have to choose it over things you really want to do or even the people you love. Disappointment is inevitable, but at the same time, so is personal growth.

What were some things you needed to teach yourself about running a business? How did you learn those things?

I had to teach myself just about everything. Although I had some leadership and management experience, I didn't have any formal business education. I taught myself everything including marketing, building and maintaining a website, shipping and receiving protocols, customer service, HR, accounting, wholesale management, product packaging, and even different dyeing techniques.

What are some tools that help you run your business that you cannot live without?

Definitely QuickBooks! I’m the creative force behind my business, so accounting is not my forte, but it's the most important thing to have straight. The other tools I can't live without are mostly interpersonal relationship tools. I have found that creating a positive and unique culture for employees has been the biggest tool.

How does running your own business make you feel?

Empowered! Empowered in how I live my life on a day-to-day basis. I have built my company so I rarely need to be anywhere at any given time. My schedule is flexible and I can fit in the things I want, when I want. It did take a lot of years of hard work and hustle to get there, though!

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I’m the creative force behind my business, so accounting is not my forte, but it's the most important thing to have straight.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome?

One of the biggest challenges I have found is knowing when to grow and what avenues to take. A piece of advice that was given to me was to ask yourself two questions: Will it make you happy while you are doing it and will it make you money while you are doing it? If the answers are yes, then it's a go. Now sometimes I have to do things that aren't going to make me super happy but they make me money and sometimes I do things that are just fun but don't bring in the big bucks. 

How do you manage to wear every hat that your business demands?

I was a solopreneur at the beginning but now I have an amazing team! My husband joined FDF full-time about two years in, making it an official family business. I think having a passion for what FDF is all about is what helped me manage wearing all of those hats! It is incredibly hard work when you're solo, don't be afraid to take the leap to hire help when you're ready.

What advice do you have for others looking to start their own business?

Just got for it! It's totally normal to have a lot of insecurities at the beginning but find a mantra that keeps you positive. Fake it and until you make it because it is the insecurities and doubts that will do the most harm to your business. Mistakes will happen but only let them get to you for a moment; learn from them, pivot, and move on!  

What challenges do you feel are unique to indigenous business owners?

I feel really lucky because we started out only online and I had a community who full-heartedly embraced me. I think if we were just local we would have had a lot more challenges. The legitimacy and standards of the business would be in question. I started out in 2016, and things are a lot different in 2023 as far as people recognizing racism and embracing the truths of what our country is built upon.

As a whole, we needed to shed light on some of the things happening in Indian country. That is getting more coverage, but the narrative of “poor indigenous people” is wrong. We need to celebrate the amazing things so many of our youth are doing and the changes that are happening.

What are your proudest moments?

Some of my proudest moments are when I can bring people together. We host knitting retreats a few times a year. Years later I see the friendships made at these retreats still thriving. The community we create is definitely what I am most proud of. I am also very proud of Sister's United and the work we have done so far. Since 2020, we have created a college scholarship for native students in the Great Falls Public School System, so far giving over $55,000 in scholarships, donated $20,000 to the GFPS Indian Education Department, bought a new security door for our local YWCA, created access to art materials for young native girls, sent out hundreds of healing bundles to women’s shelters and recovery centers, donated two full cows to the FAST Blackfeet Food Pantry, funded permanent murals painted by indigenous artists in downtown Great Falls, and helped with the active searches of indigenous people. We have also funded dozens of other grassroots efforts.

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My proudest moments are when I can bring people together.

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

Right now my kids are in high school and I am enjoying spending as much time with them as possible and watching them grow into adults. Farmer's Daughter Fibers is running so smoothly after years of hustle that I am enjoying sitting back and just being a part of it all. But we have some big plans for after this season of my life is over!

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

My employees keep me going! If something goes wrong at work they are always there to jump in and help whatever way they can. My husband is also really great at helping me shift gears and not dwell on things too much.

How do you maintain a work/life balance as a small business owner?

When you're a business owner, work/life balance is the unicorn of adulthood. I have never found it to be real. My outlook is that whatever it is I am doing at that moment — that is what I am fully immersed in. When I am cooking dinner and my family is surrounding me, that is what my focus is on. Not my to-do list for tomorrow or what so-and-so said to so-and-so. If I am at work answering emails, I'm not thinking about what I need to make for dinner. It’s about slowing down in the everyday tasks. 

What’s your “power song” and why? 

That's a great question! “Renegade” by Styx is my “we got this” song, “Ain't It Fun” by Paramore is for when I'm feeling sorry for myself, and “Player’s Ball” by Outkast for when I am celebrating!

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