Cieja Springer Is Bringing Black Fashion History To The Forefront With 'From The Bottom Up" Podcast.
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
By: Ayana Bryant-Weekes
Cieja Springer, is a fashion favorite, industry veteran, and shoe connoisseur out of Harlem. Currently, a savvy marketer with over 16 years of professional experience, specializing in strategic marketing and creative content solutions across media verticals, Springer has worked to launch integrated campaigns for brands in the beauty, retail/fashion, luxury, CPG, automotive, Telecomm, and spirits industries for the likes of L'Oreal USA/Paris, Maserati, P&G, Coca-Cola, Estée Lauder, Unilever, Kraft, Nordstrom, Verizon Wireless, Samsung, Volkswagen, Rolex, Kering Group, Coty, Pernod Ricard, and LVMH/Hennessy.
In addition to her industry experience, Springer is a Podcaster in her third season. Springer is the host and producer of From The Bottom Up!™ , a show featuring unsung heroes in the fashion industry that takes an in depth look at their career journeys while offering advice, and deeper conversation surrounding their best archives and opinions on today’s industry.
We spoke with the young, creative force about her inspiration behind From The Bottom Up!™, space for Black women in the fashion industry, the source of her entrepreneurial spirit, her recipe for success, and the "Cieja Experience".
In your opinion, has more space been made for Black women to work and advance in the fashion industry?
Yes and no. Yes, because there are more Black women starting businesses than any other group on the planet. There is a lot more happening in this space because we are paving our own paths, and creating our own opportunities. That's why I would then say no because, in some respects, that is happening because we aren't being given, still to this day, the same opportunities that our counterparts are being provided.
Why is it important to highlight Black “unsung heroes” in the fashion industry on “From The Bottom Up!™?
The fact that [my guests] have all been Black or Afro Latinx people who identify as Black, that wasn’t necessarily intentional, I just realized that I know a lot of dope people who happen to be Black. It was sort of secondary in priority. What was a primary priority was that I was tired of the same stories within our community being circulated. That’s not to discredit anything that they’ve worked to achieve in their lives that shouldn’t be highlighted, but [I felt] there has to be more people out there that can provide inspiration, that other people can lean into, that might not have reached the pinnacle of where they want to be, but they’re doing something worthy of knowing and their stories deserve to be told because everybody can’t relate to the same people.
How did “From The Bottom Up!™” come to fruition?
The impetus for FTBUP was to tell stories about people who not everyone knows. The lens through which I tell those stories is fashion, specifically through the conversation about footwear. The double entendre there is [that] you build everything from the bottom up, and I typically build my look around my shoes. When I initially started the brand in 2014, it was a digital magazine. Everyone that I featured, I went to their homes, staged and photographed their [shoe] collections, and then we had a conversation about them, then I launched a male verticale called “The Gud Foot”. It became exhausting for me and for my guests so I let it rest. So, I had to figure out how I was going to innovate, and what was going to be the new FTBUP and that was how I came up with the Podcast. But, I knew it had to be more than a conversation about shoes. I needed to lean into something a little bit more meaningful, but I didn't know what that was going to be until I went to set for my very first interview. At that moment, on the fly, I decided I needed to ask my guest questions about how she built her business. That is what became what you know as FTBUP.
Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
I do not believe in the mantra “A jack of all trades and a master of none.” First of all, it’s incomplete; there are a few other things that go along with that statement. There’s a fuller statement than what we have been led to believe, that said, I can move through different corporate environments, but I function as an entrepreneur. Even if I'm working in a corporate environment, I own everything I do.
What do you consider to be “successful”?
Success is self-validation. As long as I can validate myself, and I’m comfortable and confident in what I’m doing, I’m successful. Success doesn't always look like being the CEO. Success could mean that you came up with a new napkin brand, you really just wanted to try it, and now Bounty wants to buy it. Success, to me, is not being afraid to take a chance on yourself.
What is your recipe for success?
There are two things: 1. I was taught, at home, to believe in myself. My parents embedded in my sisters and I that we could be and do whatever it is we said we wanted to do however we wanted to do it. What would not work is if we didn't try. As a person who is always creating what their life should be, [I] have to fail forward. Entrepreneurship is a risky business. So, back to what I said about being able to take chances, that's [my] recipe for success in entrepreneurship. The other thing is something that is a little bit more tangible. I learned this in the process of making my app. The developer that I was working with at the time said, “Launch fast and revise often.” and that stuck with me. Sometimes, you just have to do something, and as you’re doing it, you’ll learn about it and you improve along the way.
How have you been able to keep up with or stay ahead of the changes in the industry?
The key to really succeeding is to be able to pivot. You're not going to be able to know everything as soon as it surfaces, but being a quick study is really what’s going to be more critical to your survival and success than any other tool you could pull out of your toolkit [as well as] being open, curious, and having a thirst for learning. Don’t be afraid to leave somewhere. If it’s not serving you, leave.
What is each client going to take away from working with you?
Pleasure and joy, anyone who sits opposite of me will have a great time!
What’s next for Cieja?!
I really want to be living in my Podcast full time. I want my day-to-day to look like me doing interviews with my guests but [also] having speaking engagements, like hosting for a conversation held at The Met, or the hosting on the Culture stage at the Complex Con. Eventually, I would like to get into screenwriting.
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