Wedding Box & Ceci New York
We are still overwhelmed what we experienced while the Wedding Box was in New York City, but one of our highlights was definitely meeting the fabulous Ceci Johnson, Founder + Creative Director of Ceci New York, in her NYC Office.
Ceci Johnson is one of our top designer-powerful-women-entrepreneur-conquering the world inspirations of all time. To prove to our Wedding Box Partners how incredibly resilient, strong and inspiring Ceci Johnson is, I asked her if she is interested in a Wedding Box Meet Up while we are in NYC. And out of the blue, she said „YES I DO!“ So, I then asked my Wedding Box partners to think of a few questions we would like to ask her .. it turned out to be super inspirational and helpful for all entrepreneurs. That’s why we really want to share our experience with you all.
Talking with Ceci Johnson and getting to know her gives you an extremely good feeling, one of the most inspiring women we´ve ever met. She is such a strong human being and incredibly respected in our wedding industry.
Even if you are not a wedding industry professional, I promise that you will be so inspired by this hard-working, creative, and wonderful woman in business!
So please get inspired and never stop fighting and believing in your own qualities and business ideas. Ceci shared with us, what it took for her to start her own company, and also offered us great advice on how to stand behind your brand!
How did it all begin? Was it very hard finding “clients” or to get popular with your wedding stationary? Do you have any advice?
Ceci Johnson: I had just moved to New York and was working as a graphic designer company and found myself really missing working with paper. My CEO at the time was getting married, so I went to her and showed her my work and she loved it and she asked me to do her invitation. And I guess that was the time when my side passion project became my full time job.
I was just a designer in heart, but never really thought about being a wedding invitation designer. I realized at the time that there was nothing out there like I had in my mind. Nothing was custom made and custom for me is using my imagination, making something amazing… So thats how it really begin. And launched it and gave that opportinoty to brides to work with a graphic designer and get somezhing creative and it really got off and I´m still in love with it.
It started off slow with me working out of my apartment just trying to make enough to pay my bills. After a while of working from my apartment I wanted to get out and be around people so I rented a desk in a shared creative workspace that I found on Craig’s List. That turned into a few desks and as we kept growing has now lead to a 2,200 sq ft storefront on 23rd Street in Manhattan and actually right now we are running out of space againJ
I still have the vision to grow.
What is the average day like at work for Ceci?
Ceci Johnson: I´m a mother of two kids, my days begins very early…
The days at the office are always packed, meetings, creating things, meetings with clients, meetings with my team, meetings with printers or meeting amazing guys like you. I´m literally bouncing around everything. Each client and job is different and that makes it so exciting and every day something special and different. No two days are the same here.
Do clients usually have an idea of what they want or do they rely on you?
Ceci Johnson: Everybody is different, some couples come in and already know what they want. And they spread all their ideas out. But that doesn´t mean that is it. I believe that our job as creators and designers is to see what they like and use this information as a starting point. I always recommend to ask questions about the samples and ideas that my couples are bringing to the first meeting. So I then asked them, what they like about it so much?
Sometimes you will find out they just love the colors and not the design and asking those questions help you to understand your clients better. Then you can take those ingredients and use your own imagination to create something amazing and not copy something.
Otherwise we are just doing what was already done and I believe in innovating new things. Each client is a new opportunity for us to create something special.
So that´s why everything is individual at Ceci New York and you will not find the same design twice.
When couples are coming in with no idea try to find out what they like, what they eat, where they love to travel and try to find something they really love and start with that. We have to give them ideas and when they love it, we are all happy and amazing things will be created.
How hard was it to find partners in the industry, like printers?
Ceci Johnson: Some just want to push the buttoms. So we require a certain level of dedication and care. It took a long time and I learned my mistakes. So we do have more than one printer for example. You have to make sure that you have a variety of partners you can rely on. Cause you don’t need the extra stress.
Are there customers who are rejected because their wishes don’t match your style? Or is it better to accept everyone at the beginning?
Ceci Johnson: We don’t usually reject people, but in the beginning you mostly can tell if it´s not a good fit.So if you know it´s gonna be bad and that it will cost you more than normal, just put these costs in your quote. Make sure you get coverage for all the time it will cost you. You don’t want to say yes to everybody, cause when they are not a good fit to your style and passion that will you just makes you feel terrible. And I also learned not to take everything personal, I started to take out some of the emotion and I´m not talking about the passion, cause the passion has to be there.
Always back yourself up and show them what you both agreed at the beginning. Remember them what you both decide and what the quote was about. If you do everything right just ask yourself “what would the judge say?”. Take care that nobody ruins your reputation when you did everything right.
Find that strength and confidence to remain calm and trying to make the client happy.
Just remind yourself – for example – when you go to a restaurant and you order two meals and you are just want to pay for one. Be sure what your value is… Think about Chanel – nobody would go to a Chanel Store and tell the lady how expensive the bags are… Cause people know the price variety when the enter the store. We are not discounters …
It comes down to having that confidence – it´s not worth to say yes to people who don´t want to pay your price. Reputation is everything and stuck with your beliefs. Don´t take every client if they are not a good fit for you and your brand. At the end of the day you are responsibly for your brand and your service cause nobody will stand up for it like you do.
It´s up to you to sell your product or story. Cause if you are not telling your story, nobody else will.
What keeps you inspired?
Ceci Johnson: So much… Getting out and traveling. And as you can see there is just a wide range in our work and I just love the change and I love the new. I guess from the fashion runways, to what´s happening in the magazines and on fashion side, to the artwork, to culture and meeting inspiring people from all over the world.
Is there already a trend for “wedding stationary 2017”?
Ceci Johnson: What´s coming in my mind, sort of happening right now.
Refined, romantic and going beyond the expection is never out of style. I thinks its more or less pushing the limits and telling the story, your very special story. Color wise – the rosegold is still number one. But you can also tell that vibrant tones, mixed metals and monograms are really trendy. Find out what is unique about your clients or the venue they choose and what can come into their wedding to make it special instead of trying to go with popular trends. I think that is what happening right now, a return to elevation
Ceci´s advice for entrepreneurs
First of all – If it was easy, everybody would do it. And your hardest day only lasts 24 hours, that’s what my dad used to tell me back then and it´s still working. This is an amazing reminder, when it´s challenging. Having that drive, the desire to go for it, pushing your self and not giving up.
One of the key facts to create a sustainable business is to know your numbers, your pricing and how much time you spent in each project. And make sure you are getting paid for it.
People need to understand your value, tracking my hours was a big eye opener for me and helped me to understand how much time I was putting in each project.
When you start to think of the value and your time, you need to stand up for yourself and the effort you put in every project. Pricing is the hardest thing – but here we all need to stick together.
When reaching out to others, show them how invested you are in their company and how you can solve potential problems. When creating a sales plan, look at how much you want to make on an annual basis and break it down by month, then by project or amount. It’s important to educate your audience and pave the way for what you’re offering. Lastly, stand behind your work.
Ceci Johnsin is a graphic designer, born with this incredible creative enterpreneurial gene. After seeing the need for custom wedding invitations, the Ceci Johnsin Story began and the brand Ceci New York was born. Soon Ceci New York was one of the leading companies in luxury invitation and corporate design. Ceci obtained a degree in graphic design and got her first job working as a the designer for the bridal registry for large department stores. Ceci spent a lot of time working long days to get her name out there, she knocked on a lot of doors in her industry to showcase her portfolio and constantly worked to get better and more inovative. Ceci is the proud mother of two kids who helped her to prioritize her time at work.
About Ceci New York
The company has 20 employees that all work at the main showroom in New York City. Ceci New York is one of the leading companies in the industry, when it comes to custom and luxury designs. To get out and to grow your company, you need employees and starting to have employees you have to let go of having control over everything, otherwise you will not be sucessfull. Ceci is called a hands-on CEO, she is always part of her team and the creative and designing process. She leads her company with her visions.
Follow Ceci New York
Twitter: witter: @cecinewyork
YouTube: Ceci New York’s Channel