I don’t think when Marion started her first job after college on Capitol Hill, that she would eventually be making face masks in the midst of a global pandemic, but here we are, and that is exactly what she is doing. She is a mover and a shaker in all sense of the words; someone who doesn’t let misfortune stop her from spreading positivity and blazing new trails in the face of adversity. This installment of Meet The Maker is about the fearless and always cheerful creator of CECE DuPRAZ, and to understand more about this company and the movement behind it, you need to know more about the women running the show. This is Marion’s story.
Marion has always been interested in fashion, fabrics, color schemes, design and patterns. From the time she was a young girl, her mother remembers she would often change her outfit multiple times a day and would play dress-up constantly, so it seems quite fitting that she would eventually be working in the field of design and merchandising. Her path started on Capitol Hill of all places, working as an assistant to a female Senator’s Press Secretary, writing floor speeches and press releases. Her english degree prepared her well for this job, but on her way to work every morning, she would pass The Washington Design Center and found herself longing for a change of scenery. After a few months on Capitol Hill, she summoned the courage to apply for a position at one of the fabric powerhouses, Brunschwig and Fils, and of course, the job was hers. Marion began as any entry-level position, by answering phones and doing menial tasks, but soon began scheming with interior designers, which is where she really honed her love and affinity for color and pattern play. However, although she was moving up the ranks, she was not making enough to fully support herself so she took up a second job to fill in the financial gaps at a shoe boutique in Georgetown, called Sassanova which was “owned by two women way ahead of their time. This was 2003, and they had graduated from college, both done stints in NYC in totally different fields, but were settling down in Georgetown starting their families, and had a vision of opening this little shoe box Mecca where they would bring an edited mix of super fun shoes to the women of DC.”. As funny as it may sound, her side hustle as Sassanova ended up providing the inspiration she was looking for.
“Quickly, I realized that this job was even better than the Design Center position, as it paired my love of color and pattern, with sales and interacting with people, as well as learning the ropes of a small business from two super savvy women.”
So it seemed perfect: a job working at a high profile fabric store and a side gig working with two amazing women in a field Marion really loved. But life never remains so wonderfully put together and soon Marion was faced with a fork in the road; a moment when she had to make a career choice and it seemed the path less travelled was going to prevail.
“I continued to hold the salaried job and my part time hustle for as long as I could, and then was offered a salaried position at Sassanova. And much to the dismay of my family, I took the job and gave my notice at B&F. ‘Marion, you are going to manage a SHOE STORE?!’ they quipped, clearly they just didn’t “get it” or my vision of what this could become.”.
After about a year with her new full-time job at Sassanova, her fiance, Sean, got a job in Baltimore and, again, she was faced with a decision to quit or make it work, and of course, she chose to make it work (see, I told you...fearless).
“Sure enough, about a year in, my fiancé Sean got a job in Baltimore. With Sean’s help, I pitched to the two founders of Sassanova opening a second location in Baltimore’s up and coming Harbor East neighborhood. And away we went...we had to put together a design board and pitch to the development company at Harbor East. Opening that store and every aspect was an absolute blast. I gained SO MUCH experience opening that store, as it was 100% my project. Little did I know how much I would pull from that experience starting CECE DuPRAZ!”.
It’s funny to think that this amazing back story hasn’t even reached the creation of CECE DuPRAZ, but as I said, to understand the mission you need to understand the woman behind it. A few years after opening Sassanova’s second location, Marion became pregnant, and decided that she and Sean wanted to move to Boston to be closer to family. But after they settled up north and had two girls, something seemed to be missing from Marion’s life. Yes, it was fulfilled in the most purest form - a loving husband and two wonderful children, but she was longing to fill that void left behind in a shoe boutique in Baltimore. So once again, Marion put a plan into action; a project that could satisfy her creative bug and carve out a space in her life to have something of her own, and thus, CECE DuPRAZ was born.
“CECE DuPRAZ was born out of necessity. I needed a creative outlet to channel my energy and get myself out of my own head! And being home full time with a toddler and a baby, I realized the challenge in just making it outside my front door, let alone getting into Boston to go into fun stores. I wanted to create an online shopping destination where others could go as well to get beautiful gifts for themselves and their friends + family, but special and completely custom gifts from their computer or phone. The full-time part just evolved. None of this was ever planned - eek! I just kept going with it. And it has grown and continues to grow organically.”
As much as CECE DuPRAZ embodies a creative outlet born from necessity in Marion’s life, she made sure that it also stood for something greater than what it produces. Integrity and inspiration are two of the qualities you will find, not only within the walls of CECE DuPRAZ, but embedded deep within its founders as well. As for integrity, when creating CECE DuPRAZ, Marion considered everything, from the source of the materials to the ethical way they are produced.
“We believe in small companies and factories. And direct to consumer! We work with a factory in Baltimore Maryland who produces all of our robes, towels and pillows; a small factory in India who is 80% women with fair wages and sustainable canvas, for our canvas bags; and with a woman in Iowa who knits our hat designs one-by-one. And then in-house design, production, fulfillment, customer service, etc!”.
And the inspirational part, I asked her simply: “What inspires you?” and she answered:
“Women are inspiring to me. Kids are inspiring to me. And all things colorful!! Women are such powerhouses, juggling a million and one things, and I didn’t realize my super power until I had kids. And then watching the world through the lens of a child - gosh is they are so incredible! To that end, I want to help kids less fortunate. Because it makes me really sad to think that there are a lot of kiddos who don’t have the same experience and home life as my kiddos. So now that I am seeing that CECE DuPRAZ is “working out”, we are getting involved with a local organization RAW artworks, an after school program from kids in Lynn that uses art therapy to help connect kids. And with the global pandemic, realizing that kids who rely on free lunches are not able to be in school, we are donating 100% of profits from the sales of our Custom Tote Kits to No Kid Hungry, a national organization working to end child hunger by ensuring that children have the nutrition they need to thrive. CECE DuPRAZ stands for all of this!”.
To anyone who knows or has worked with Marion, it is no surprise that she leads an inspiring life, full of grace and exuberance. And it is now, more than ever, that she feeds these values into her products. Within days of the pandemic, CECE DuPRAZ already had a plan of action to help the children who would be most affected by this world wide situation through the profits gained from the Custom Art Tote Kits donated to No Kid Hungry. When her sister’s mother in law reached out and asked her to make some masks due to the new CDC recommendation of minimal coverage, Marion reached down into her creative space and grabbed her own inventory stocked on the CECE DuPRAZ shelves and sewed (with no surprise to anyone) the chicest and most cheerful mask out there to “bring smiles to peoples’ faces’ during this crazy time: bring joy, and if you can’t, bring your lips mask and that will bring joy.”. Ever the girl who loved to play dress up, leave it to Marion not only to be the one helping behind the scenes, but also the one to dress up the pandemic.
**Our NEW canvas masks are made with canvas and are meant to meet the minimal coverage guidelines set up and recommended by the CDC. They are not a replacement for medical grade N95 masks****Don't forget about our Custom Tote Art Kits. 100% of the profits will go to No Kid Hungry.**