If you love what you do, everyone notices you and is energized by your passion. Most people wish they had the guts to start a new business. My experience has been that those people respect and appreciate your enthusiasm. Fashion, like most businesses, is a very competitive business, so my advice is, if you don’t love what you do, get out of the business. Everyone will notice and you will not succeed.
I had the pleasure to interview Cecy Martinez, Founder of the Med Ed Group, and Cecy Handbags.
Cecy has over 25 years of experience, both broad and deep, working with pharmaceutical and biotech companies on the client side, as well as the communication agency side of the business. After achieving success in sales and marketing at the beginning of her career, Cecy advanced to senior management positions in the pharmaceutical industry. In that capacity, she was responsible for managing strategically imperative programs that were clinically sound, well executed and commercially beneficial. Cecy gained a broader perspective on the industry during her tenure at an agency devoted to providing medical education programming. As an independent entrepreneur, Cecy has two decades of achievement producing high quality, well executed communications for professional, industry and consumer audiences. These successful experiences provided the foundation on which Cecy has built two substantive healthcare communications companies.
Cecy’s new line of exclusive handbags are handcrafted in Italy by skilled artisans using the finest quality of materials. Her styles return to classic and timeless elegance that is reminiscent of the polished styles that adorned Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly in the 1950s and 1960s. Her desire was to reinterpret that style for women today through a new line of exclusive handbags, each fittingly named for an outstanding actress of that time.
Thank you for joining us Cecy! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have run a successful medical meetings company, The Med Ed Group, for more than 20 years, a company that has organized hundreds of medical conferences for physicians on behalf of pharmaceutical companies all over the world. I worked for pharmaceutical companies prior to staring that business. I am grateful for the tremendous success that this business has brought me, but I have always had a passion for fine handbags and my dream was to one day design them. About five years ago while in Italy admiring the high fashion luxury brands, I said to myself, why not? Why not me? I realized that kidneys and livers were not going anywhere, and neither was corporate America… Life was quickly passing by, so I decided that it was time to start fulfilling my lifelong dream of designing handbags. I was excited to start my new endeavor of creating the Cecy Handbags, a brand that would someday be recognized in the world of high fashion.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?
The most interesting and exciting stories are those attending fashion week in Milan, and the many fairs where I search for the latest leathers and materials. It is exciting to see the latest fashion trends and to incorporate them into my handbag designs. Meeting with artisans and other fashion designers to get their insights and to exchange ideas on evolving styles and techniques is the most interesting aspect of my new business. It allows me to learn and to stay ahead of the latest trends.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Where do I start? Humor is not only necessary; it is an absolute must. I don’t ever view my mistakes as mistakes. Rather, they are lessons on how I will not do something again. Thankfully, I laugh at myself frequently because I stumble frequently. A costly mistake was experienced with the first trademark application I filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Apparently, some other brilliant person who filed before me had the same idea, and after months of waiting, my application was rejected. I learned how not to do it again, and the second application I filed, was approved in record time. The rejection by the USPTO was actually a blessing because I wanted my logo to be unlike any logo and I wanted it to a have a special meaning. It was important because my logo would ultimately define my brand. I also wanted to create a symbol that would mean something to every woman who owns a Cecy Handbag. I used my favorite flower, which is the calla lily, and my two favorite symbols, the heart and the infinity sign. The calla lily represents peace, and the heart at the center of the infinity sign symbolizes eternal love. I named it Peace and Love Through Infinity. The result was that I successfully trademarked a logo that is very unique. I later filled for a trademark for my name, Cecy, to be used in handbags and wallets, and after a dispute with a company trying to do the same, I was successful in getting the trademark. I am now awaiting acceptance of the name, Cecy, for use in apparel and jewelry. As I look back, I am grateful because, had it not been for that original mistake, my logo would not be as meaningful. It is center to my brand.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My business has a theme that incorporates three elements:
1. Quality and craftmanship: After many years traveling the world in search of the finest materials and craftsmen, I found the ideal resources and talent. My handbags and accessories are handmade in Italy and in the United States by the most skilled artisans that keep alive the quality that has made their craftsmanship famous all over the world.
2. Style: I wanted to bring back the era of classic elegance. My handbags styles reflect the beauty and grace of the 1950s, a time when understated traditional styles blossomed, and sophistication and grace were fashion staples. I couldn’t think of a better way to pay tribute to that era than by naming each handbag after an iconic actress from that Golden Age of Hollywood. Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren and many other Hollywood actresses from the 1950s are the real fashion icons. They have proved that class never goes out of style. Cecy Classic Handbag Collection keeps their memory alive.
3. A meaningful logo. I didn’t want initials or my name alone as my logo and brand. I wanted my logo to convey a special message. It says I wish you peace and love for all your life.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I have three steps I follow that have brought me success
1. I must imagine my dream as reality, as though it has already happened. I say to myself over and over– WHY NOT ME? I firmly believe that without a dream, I have no target, and I have a firm conviction that If I can imagine it, I know I can achieve it
2-. I must thoroughly understand the market; product, price, place, promotion, and people. Develop the strategies I believe will bring me success. Develop realistic goals that are achievable as well as back up strategies for all circumstances.
3- Have the perseverance to stick with the plan regardless of the obstacles along the way. Don’t view obstacles as failure or let them discourage you. . Instead view it as a learning opportunity, a lesson on how not to do something again. Try Plan B, then C and keep at it until your dream becomes reality. NEVER GIVE UP.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have always believed that to whom much is given, much is expected in return. I am grateful for all abundance in my life, and I take great pleasure in giving to those in need every time I am given the opportunity. I believe it’s important to pay forward for all the gifts received. I participate in grass roots programs that minister to the families in need. I believe that the best way to help, is to help those around you first, and sadly there are so many. I just have to look beyond myself.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I was in middle school, I had to write a book report and I chose Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. His Philosophy left a huge impression on me. “You Can if You Think You Can”. He is considered the father of positive thinking. To this day I remember and follow his principle that “There is a deep and profound tendency in human nature to become that which you habitually perceive yourself as being” This theory has been engraved in my mind. .. I don’t think that success is possible without imagining it first.
Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
It is exciting to see fashion going in so many directions. Some of the basic principles apply but for the most part, everything goes. Most fashion houses strive to stay ahead of the curve by creating newer more extravagant designs yet keeping to what has made their brand succeed. For example, Dolce and Gabbana is considered extravagant and they are known for their colors, embellishments, and designs. However, they also create some classic colors and styles to add to their line. The reverse is true for Ferragamo who is considered an understated and classic brand, yet they have introduced more embellished extravagant products to enhance their line.
What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Love what you do and strive to be the best. It is very hard to start a new business when no one knows you… and when you talk with someone about your business who has little time for you. If you love what you do, everyone notices you and is energized by your passion. Most people wish they had the guts to start a new business. My experience has been that those people respect and appreciate your enthusiasm. Fashion, like most businesses, is a very competitive business, so my advice is, if you don’t love what you do, get out of the business. Everyone will notice and you will not succeed.
2. Think “outside the box”. I think it’s important to be innovative. My challenge is that, while my brand focuses on classic designs, I must also keep it new and modern. I use new textures, skins, colors, hardware and embellishments to balance the new with the classic designs.
3. Keep up with all the brands, especially those you consider your competition. Fashion is about creativity. Often, it is the classic bags that are the most desirable. Not necessarily the vintage bags, but the bags that come back year after year because the designer introduces colors and materials that makes a classic bag appear completely new.
4. Change when change is required. The worst mistake we can make is sticking with a plan that doesn’t work thinking it eventually will. It usually won’t, so cut your losses, learn from it and move on. Go another direction even if it means starting all over again. In the end, it will pay off.
5. Have faith and above all trust that things work out the way they are supposed to. Do good and good will come back. Help others and others will help you, perhaps not those you helped, but others you meet along the way.
Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?
I would like to see fashion, especially high fashion, not just focus on the supermodel, a size 2 woman who is 5.10. I would like to see designers develop clothes that is suitable for both small and average to larger size women. This is a great advantage to being a handbag designer. I believe that handbags are today’s most important fashion accessory, and they make us feel special because they always fit.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a national movement it would be a mentor program for every company, large or small. Everyone in the world can benefit from someone’s experience. I believe that the priority of all managers and supervisors should be to mentor those who work for them, and that their success should be judged by the achievements of those they managed, the successful entrepreneurs they created, and the number of people who can thank them for the impact they had on their success. A manager’s promotion should be based, in large part, by those achievements.