One of the biggest challenges for not only women business owners, but for creative professionals generally, is finding the confidence to charge what you know that you are worth… particularly if you provide a highly couture and time intensive service or product. As part of our most recent Besties in Business interview, we sat down with stationery legend, Ceci Johnson, founder of Ceci New York to talk about some of the lessons she’s learned building her brand in the past 10 years. Here is a highlight from the full interview, available on our Besties in Business You Tube channel. You won’t want to miss her tips on delegating responsibilities, digital marketing
One of the best parts about Engage! is that there is some built in down time that allows you to really meet new people and reconnect with ones you might already know but not get to hang out with that often. I had one such moment by the beach with our beloved Marcy Blum, Liene Stevens and the super talented David Beahm, who I don’t actually get to spend much time with even though we are both based here in New York. I snapped this shot of he and Marcy looking oh so pretty in pink and I just got so much feedback on Facebook and Instagram. A lot of people of course just love them, but some people who aren’t in the wedding industry loved this shot so much and I finally decided it was because of how effortlessly dashing they looked with their chic floral and stripes.
I found their palette and mixed patterns so compelling and inspiring I had to show you other occasions where it was a resounding success!
I am so digging this tabletop! (Via Oiide)
For a more country look, check out this dining room via Lush Home.
However, it can also get quite sophisticated! Love this more masculine take in this dining room.
Of course, as far as eclectic glamour goes, this amazing living room just takes the cake! Love the mixed panel curtains! Bold and Beautiful!
In fact, I know it’s busy…but I love it and had to show it twice.. (via Jen Gooch)
Remember, mixing and matching patterns can make life a whole lot more interesting… but not nearly as interesting as an afternoon the beach with David and Marcy.
It’s the eve of Thanksgiving and in addition to the fact that I think I have some of the greatest Framily on the planet (my chosen family) I am coming off of two of possibly the biggest/craziest/most amazing weeks not only of this year but in a long time. I left my apartment on Nov. 11th for San Francisco, where Mayra and I were meeting up to pursue a pretty exciting business opportunity. On a more personal note, the trip was a bit last minute and came up hours after I had declared that next year I would make a point to head to the bay to see my father- from who I’d been kind of estranged for the past 15 years. Since it seemed like I had called this opportunity in from the Universe, I took advantage of we had dinner with my father and his wife before our big day of meetings in SF. Immediately after I was bound for Providence, RI where I had the honor of being asked to sit on the Brown University President’s Leadership Council alongside some truly remarkable alumni. We spent a weekend hearing about and giving feedback on some super exciting stuff happening at our Alma Mater and coincidentally my good friend Caryn was up at Campus as part of a Career Day talking about her kick ass career in music journalism… so we got to do things we could never do as college kids: mainly pay for steaks and martinis on federal hill and laugh about some of our college era shenanigans. Quite literally I flew from PVD to Grand Cayman where I was so grateful and delighted to be able to attend and speak at Engage!14 at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman.
My first Engage! ever was back in 2010 in Grand Cayman and it was amazing and exciting to see all that Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce have done to grow the brand and the EXPERIENCE for the attendees. It’s a unique setting to be able to not only learn from industry experts but also to relax, connect and engage! with your peers. This time around I noticed two major themes showing up- from the Main Stage- where editors, founders and heavy hitters in the business offer up concise insights over a 22 minute span, the theme that emerged was Authenticity. Carley Roney spoke about the importance of being real with your clients and how the millennial couple doesn’t just want to hire you, they want to feel that they know you and that you know them: that it was an authentic experience. She suggested using your social media to promote your work about 80% of the time, but to not fear using the other 20% to share a bit about your life and your interests. Marcy Blum spoke from the heart about having her best year ever (LeBron James’ wedding, anyone?) but the conundrum of being too busy to market herself for the following season. She spoke of the dangers of comparing yourself to others while you are feeling down, but remembering that the solution comes from taking true stock of your business and how it operates and good old fashioned pounding the pavement. Simon T. Bailey inspired as usual by speaking to us about embracing our true worth and being authentic to our unique value and commanding the dollars required instead of price cutting to get jobs. And finally David Beahm spoke out about the need to cut the bullshit in this business and embrace our authentic selves.
In the breakouts, the emerging message was refinement: Of Processes, of Marketing, of Hiring and Firing practices, of how you position yourself. I was blessed with the opportunity to take the stage and talk with a roomful of amazing attendees about managing client relationships and implementing boundaries as a strategic tool for a better business. I’ll expound more on my session later, but Engage! is the kind of wonderful environment where even in the midst of my own chatter someone asked a question and I thought “Wow, we got the external, client stuff into a good place, but now we need to work on the internal stuff.” Luckily, the amazing Amy Zaroff was on hand to speak about just that- advising us entrepreneurs to come up with standards that we not only hire by (such as believing in the value of reputation and selling expertise), but that we evaluate and fire by as well. The elegant Lynn Eastman gave a sensational seminar on managing your brand message in PR and how to expand your reach via your visual work, while the incomparable Michelle Rago gave an awesome workshop/talk about refining your client and selling true luxury.
As though that all weren’t enough excitement/opportunity/honors to be excited enough about, we also produced two pretty sweet events including an amazing fundraiser for the Seeds of Peace Young Leadership Council at Terminal 5, I flew to Chicago to speak at Toss the Bouquet AND, most excitingly of all, Mayra and I launched our newest Venture, Besties in Business. Besties is a site I hope you will all check out as it’s a place for women who mean business… their own businesses that is. Each week we are sitting down with a fabulous woman business owner and talking shop – how they came to be, what advice they had to offer and what they can share with you. Please check out our latest interview with Linsey Snyder, the founder of Face Time Beauty Concierge and general awesome lady for some inspiring advice.
I am so thankful for my amazing business partner that is on this wild ride with me, all of the amazing clients that give us new opportunities each year, and for the support of all of you wonderful people in this industry! Wishing you all a happy thanksgiving!
Sometimes my own natural optimism is annoying, even to me. I can’t help it, I naturally reset to happy. The really great thing about this mindset is that it builds on itself and you rarely see anything as a loss, because you inevitably realize after observing a few cycles of losing things/not getting gigs/breaking up with people, etc… that something much better came up relatively soon afterwards and you wouldn’t have been able to obtain/see/have time or space for it because you were busy/pre-occupied or cluttered with something else.
I was pondering this as I head out for a rather insane stretch of travel where I fly JFK> SFO > PVD > GCM> NYC, have a brief respite and then do Chicago and somehow squeeze in Hawaii and Cancun in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was thinking about how sad I felt exactly two years ago this week as we moved out of our office space in Tribeca and decided to work from home. At the time, it was a lifestyle choice dictated by money… our office rent had pumped to the point that we effectively had one job a year that simply went to covering the rent… and when we lined things up side by side realized we effectively had one job a year that made us miserable…. so ergo if we gave up the office we’d have the freedom to say no to clients who weren’t the best fit…
Still, though logic and reason indicated that this was a wise and fundamentally positive move, I was very, very, very depressed when we moved out of the office. We had started the business in 2003 working from home and took our first office in 2006 and after 6 years of turning the key to your own space, it would be a lie to say that I felt like we took a step backwards… from an ego point of view.
However, what ended up being the most interesting part about it is that almost as soon as we unstuck ourselves from the idea of working from a certain fixed place, we found ourselves being called to work from every place… and for more often bigger and more unusual projects. In some ways, freeing ourselves from the office freed ourselves from limiting the idea of what our business was or even could be. We had noticed that we were being called to do more and more destination work when we walked away from the office space, but we had no idea that in two years time we would so rarely be home that paying rent on an office that we rarely visited would feel like burning money. Of course, we probably say yes to more and more traveling projects because we feel free to take them.
Similarly, we recently re-did our website. It’s weird how attached you can get to things like a website and it’s navigation even when you realize it could use improving. We had been basically evolving from the same sight with minor improvements for over 6 years (!!!!) and decided to just go radically different. The morning we redirected the XML to officially launch the new and improved AAB Creates (we also FINALLY officially ditched AlwaysaBridesmaid) I realized that I had forgotten to take screen shots of the old website and that I didn’t know how to access it anymore. I had a panic attack and wasted a good hour trying to find it somewhere in cyberspace when I suddenly realized it didn’t matter…. that was the old site and I needed to let it go to make room for whatever might come with this new site. I hadn’t thought business was slow until we started to see the giant increase in inquiries once the new site was up… yes it was the start of that season, but every single one of them commented on the new site….
What do you think you can let go of to make room for something new, improved, better or different in the New Season?
If you haven’t checked out our new site, please do! Screenshot here!
If you are looking for a way to transform a space, it sometimes helps to look up for inspiration! Lately, some of our most favorite events have involved decorating from up above and bringing the decor over head. It’s a way to create an ethereal, totally immersive atmosphere for your guests and depending on your approach, can be super versatile.
Of course, it’s easy to go Glam! In April, we needed to transform the look of this country club ballroom into something almost unrecognizable. So we built off of the existing chandelier and Melarosa and her team completely encrusted it with flowers…. the look was transformative to say the least… in a totally over the top way.
Of course, you can transform a space from above without being so glam about it… in May we installed this custom made edison bulb chandlier from Urban Chandy in this giant barn in Hudson, NY. The effect was a little industrial sophisticated edge to the otherwise romantically rustic barn.
In September we went with more of a Hippy Chic look for this all clear top tent. The vibe I wanted was almost that of a 70’s apartment, with tons of sexy carpets and lots of loose greens and bright flowers. Amy and the Bourgeon team installed a giant 20 x 20 grid filled with tons of greens and these macrame hanging planters over the dancefloor. Totally perfect and it looked even more amazing at night!
Finally, just a couple of weeks ago we teamed up with the lovely ladies at Saipua for an amazing fall wedding up in Germantown NY. Our original plan had been to create suspended bar arrangements, but some issues with the rigging points made that impossible. Always quick on the fly, Sarah had the idea to run a leaf installation down the center of the tent and coupled with the tall arrangements and the barn board floor, the result was Autumn magic!
So, if your tables are leaving you bored, or you want to add a bit of added intrigue to your tent or ballroom, don’t just look down, look up!