Outlier On Air | Founders, Disruptors, & Mavens
193: Ceci Johnson Interview - Building a Luxury Empire

"Punch fear in the face. Fear is the only thing that keeps people from trying. If you don't try, you'll never know."

"Love doesn't pay the bills."

About: Ceci Johnson- Founder of Ceci New York

Ceci Johnson’s story started with an invitation she created for a coworker’s wedding combined with the realization that a truly customized graphic design experience in wedding invitations was not available at that time. Armed with a clear desire to create the best invitations in the world, she started her business out of a shared office space NYC. Ten years later, her love of paper, design and innovation still drives her to create beautiful and completely original pieces every day.

Ceci was named “Woman to Watch” by Tory Burch, “Invitation Innovator” by WeTV and garnered Modern Bride magazine’s trendsetter award and New York magazine’s prestigious Expert Stationer award. Her designs and expertise have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, InStyle, W Magazine, Town & Country and on the Today Show, VH1 and Gossip Girl among many others. Notable clients include the President of the United States, International Royalty, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Sarah Jessica Parker, Katherine Heigl, Dylan Lauren, Rosie O’Donnell, the Empire State Building, Cole Haan, Hugo Boss and the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Overview: Ceci is a graphic designer that was born with the entrepreneurial gene. After seeing the need for custom wedding invitations 16 years ago, Ceci paved the way and eventually started Ceci New York- a luxury invitation and corporate design company. During this interview, Ceci shares what it took for her to start her own company, and also offers great advice on how to stand behind your brand with clients.

New York wedding photographer Sofia Negron CeciStyle Ceci New York orchid Invitation L'Olivier Floral Atelier

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Highlights:

Background: 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. She then had a co-worker ask her to design a wedding invitation for her, which ignited the spark. From there she moved to New York City and joined the corporate world doing web design, but missed paper design. She went to the CEO of the corporation she was working for and asked if she'd let her design her wedding invitations. It was all downhill from that point on, and before Ceci knew it, she was meeting with referral after referral. Six months into launching her website, Ceci received the trendsetter award from Modern Bride Magazine. 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 was constantly revamping her site.

What is Ceci New York: Ceci launched Ceci New York in 2004 without any investors and completely on her own. It's a luxury brand that designs invitations for any event from weddings to non-profit organizations. (From website)- "Our design atelier is driven by a groundbreaking concept that unites the custom and service of couture with the tactile elements of stationery and branding, creating a new niche in the design industry for visual styling. We strive to create a superior experience for each client, offering an incomparable range of couture services and outstanding ready-to-order products that boast flawless craftsmanship and the utmost attention to detail. From one-of-a-kind bespoke designs to original ready-to-order that discreetly bears Ceci’s signature, our creations possess a coveted commissioned quality that lends to the magic we invent. Ceci’s signature is the hallmark of authenticity and never-before-seen originality, ensuring that you receive a true work of art."

About Ceci New York: The company currently has 20 employees that all work at the main showroom in New York City. Ceci says if you want to grow your company, you need employees. And with that, you have to learn how to let go of having control over everything to be successful. However, she is a very hands-on CEO that enjoys being a part of the design process and leading the way with her vision of the company. Their main target audience started out as brides and weddings in general, but now they help anyone who is looking to elevate their events through design.

New York wedding photographer Sofia Negron CeciStyle Ceci New York orchid Invitation L'Olivier Floral Atelier

Goal: Eventually, Ceci would love to be a part of different markets and use her designs for bedding, phone cases, jewelry, etc.

Work-Life Balance: Ceci is the proud mother of a little boy and feels that having him in her life has really helped her prioritize her time at work. She strives to stay focused and be effective while working so that she can spend the time she'd like with her son.

Challenges: Ceci shares that it can be difficult to deal with certain clients and stick up for what you know needs to be done in order to accomplish their project. There have also been times when Ceci has been afraid to tell her clients what the prices were for their order. However, she realized that when she confidently explained to her clients the extent of work that goes into their project, they appreciate her time and effort.

Advice for Entrepreneurs: 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.

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Connect With Ceci:

CeciNewYork.com | CeciStyle.com | @CeciNewYork | Instagram | Facebook |Pinterest

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Direct download: Ceci_1.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 11:23pm MST