Entrepreneur Ceci Johnson Shares Her Most Important Business Advice

There’s a lot that goes into running a successful company and Creative Director and Founder Ceci Johnson of Ceci New York knows just what it takes. The Southern California native has positioned herself as an expert in the design field since 2004. Her company, Ceci New York specializes in custom invitations, not just for weddings but for all kinds of special events. She launched CeciStyle Magazine in 2010, a resource for invitation inspiration and style tips, plus she has been recognized as “Invitation Innovator” by WeTV and named Tory Burch’s “Woman to Watch.” Her client roster ranges from entertainment, corporate companies and A-List celebrities.

Ceci Johnson is a risk-taker, trendsetter and philanthropist. Johnson also uses her passion for design to give back to charities that are close to her heart, like Dress for Success. Our 20th Anniversary “Celebrate the Journey Gala” save the date and invitation are all thanks to her and her commitment to helping others through her creativity. Johnson is a mother, designer, entrepreneur, and a mentor all while running a luxury design empire and donating her time to worthy causes. We tapped Johnson for her business savvy tips and how she’s kept her company on the path to success.

Q: Were there some risks that you had to take when you first started Ceci New York? What are some risks that you feel every entrepreneur might have to take when launching their business?

Ceci Johnson: In order to launch your own business, I feel you have to always take a risk. You have to muster up the confidence to go for it and not look back. Sometimes, that’s really hard and truthfully, really intimidating – especially when you’re on your own. But it also could be incredibly rewarding at the same time. When I started, it was about passion and a relentless drive to create something special for my clients (truthfully, that’s what still drives me today). I studied the event industry and realized there was a niche I could fill with my couture invitation design, so I risked everything, and focused on this full time. However, before I did, I had been designing on the side and people kept telling me I should really think about doing this as a business because there was no one doing what I can do. After hearing this so often, it gave me the confidence I needed to take the risk and start my business.  

I think you have to always try otherwise you will die wondering. “Life is all about taking risks. If you never take a risk, you will never achieve your dreams.”

Photo by Allan Zepeda Photography

Q: What quality do you believe that those in leadership roles should possess in order to run a successful and thriving business?

CJ: Being a good leader is about confidence and decisiveness. If you’re lacking in those departments, you better brush up on those skills if you want to be a strong leader. Lead by doing and always lead by example. Be the kind of entrepreneur that inspires your own self. Someone you are actually proud of and respect and others will too. I am right there in the trenches with my team helping out, supporting and collaborating every step of the way. It’s not about micromanaging, it’s about empowering and working together like a well-oiled machine. I think it’s also about honesty, listening to your team and being fair. Treating others with respect and common courtesy goes a long way in life and in business.  

Q: What would you say is the driving factor behind the success of Ceci New York?

CJ: Well, despite the fact that I live and breathe my business and will always be pushing it forward trying to achieve my dreams for the company and my team, Ceci New York is made up of extremely strong, talented and smart people. Without them, we would not be able to be the company we are today. Each client is special and treated like they’re our only one because we truly want and know how important each experience is. Reputation is everything for a small business. In our business, and in many others out there, you’re only as good as your last client says you are so you better make sure they’re singing your praises!

Q: How do you create a business that attracts and retains talented and motivated employees?

CJ: I believe in work hard, play hard. While we hustle every day, I also believe in stopping to celebrate the little things in the office too, like birthdays, baby showers or company milestones met. Ceci New York is a team of A-Team players that if the company wins, we all win. We’ve cultivated a unique environment of top talent, the best of the best, that not only gets to make our clients dreams come true every day but we actually enjoy working together and coming to work each day. That’s special and rare. I’m very proud of that. This is more than just a job for Team Ceci.

I think as a business owner and even a senior manager, while it may seem really hard, you must take time to take care of your people. Set up consistent reviews and career objectives for your employees. Help them to understand the vision you have for the company and how their role really helps to make a difference each day. Make sure you have an open communication policy that you always make time for them no matter how busy you are. I will always drop everything to listen to my employee. Team happiness is a top priority for me.

Q: What are the values that are instilled in Ceci New York that you believe are imperative to its brand?

CJ: Aside from what I mentioned above, our logo is made up of 4 C’s that interlock and represent our core values. Ceci New York offers more than groundbreaking designs, we provide an enjoyable and unforgettable experience. An exceptional passion for creativity, color, customer service, and care has resulted in our own exclusive version of The 4 C’s. These standards have defined the unmatched level of service we strive to provide for each client, every day.

The 4 C’s of Ceci New York:

  • Creativity – We are pioneers of Innovation – we always look forward.
  • Customer Service – We cater specifically to your unique requirements and wishes.
  • Color – Be Bold! We aren’t afraid to make a statement with color.
  • Care – Our passion is what drives our perfection.

To learn more about Ceci Johnson and her design work, follow her on Instagram @cecinewyork) or visit www.cecinewyork.com. Take a look at 20th Anniversary save the date and invitation by clicking here

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