tête-à-tête

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Citrus and Cedars X Marchioness

Over the past couple of years, it has been my good fortune to work with Caitlin Hill of Citrus and Cedars Consulting. She was an integral part of developing the Marchioness brand. Caitlin is a dynamic young woman with a great sense of style and an admirable work ethic. She leads a full, busy life with an expanding business and a growing family. I caught up with her for an interview to share her experiences and thoughts about working in the world of branding. I have no doubt you’ll find her as charming and delightful as I do. Read on to learn more about this inspirational talent ….

Caitlin, you’ve been collaborating on projects with designers and influencers – how’s that going? Tell us about these projects and the feedback you’ve received. 

It has been an incredible year. Most of my clients are interior designers and the Pandemic has fueled this industry in a surprising yet fascinating way. Over the years I’ve developed a niche with the design industry and am very pleased with how this has organically unfolded. Design professionals are using this time to elevate their businesses with rebranding, restrategizing their web and social media presence, evaluating their approach to client services, expanding their teams, and so on. It is a highly competitive landscape and thus routinely refining these facets of one’s businesses is paramount. I love playing the role of maestro and helping string everything together — this allows my clients to continue to focus on the day to day of their jobs knowing there is a trusted professional executing in a thoughtful fashion. 

Things seem to change so quickly with branding and social media. How do you keep up? What trends are you excited about? 

Admittedly, I tend to not follow trends. I’m a big believer in expressing an authentic self and not necessarily conforming to trends or being hyper sensitive to algorithms and “likes”. At the end of the day, branding and social media will always be about storytelling. The act of storytelling has been around for centuries and that will never go away, however the vehicle for unraveling the tales might continue to shift.  While there are best practices that can be argued in the realm of branding and social media, the best part about these platforms in my opinion is that there aren’t necessarily rules — which makes the creative process all the more enjoyable. 

I think we are moving to a world where transparency and celebration are more important than ever. We are honoring niche-based trades and taking the time to understand how certain things are made and conceived. I love seeing brands share stories about how they achieved a certain end product, whereas before, we often just saw the final result and not the romance of the progress. I’m really excited about this shift. In a world where we are constantly consuming, it’s so refreshing to be stimulated and inspired in a much more thought provoking fashion. 

I’ve noticed you read actual newspapers! Love it! How did this habit start? What are your favorite papers and sections? 

I sure do! It’s my weekend ritual. When we moved to our new house one of the first things I did was sign up for the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition — and I LOVE the act of stepping outside in my bare feet to retrieve the paper in its plastic sleeve, often dewy from the early morning moisture. When I lived in San Francisco, which some say is the European city of the US, I would go to Cafe De La Presse often, order an espresso, read the paper or even indulge in a French magazine from their newsstand. It was such a luxurious experience. I especially love the Off Duty section of the WSJ and get such a thrill to see some of my clients and peers featured from time to time. The Financial Times is also a great read. 

Any book recommendations? Fiction? Non-Fiction?

I absolutely love coffee table books and have amassed quite the collection. In my very infrequent moments of alone time, I will sit with a glass of wine and pour myself into them. I recently ordered Isabel López-Quesada’s book and have to say, it’s one of my favorites. I equally love Nathalie Farman-Farma’s book for pure textile decadence, and find myself revisiting Tom Scheerer’s more recent book, More Decorating as I seek to decorate our new home. Additionally, I have taken to Chanel’s Summer Reading List. I’ve started reading some of Charlotte Casiraghi’s recommendations to include Deborah Levy’s “The Cost of Living” and Zadie Smith’s “Grand Union.”

You have an amazing pool of photographers, videographers, website designers, graphic artists and so much more to draw from. How do you go about procuring all this talent? 

It’s important that I have a good mix of personalities and talent to present to my clients. They often come with limited understanding of what’s possible and are eager to seek out different design aesthetics, from ultra modern to traditional. Afterall, everyone’s “brand” should truly feel special, and in some cases that boils down to the team in place to help inform the brand’s look and feel. I have resources from Paris to Dallas that each offer something really unique. I spend a great deal of time observing and evaluating the work of other creatives and arrange for introductory conversations to better understand what they do and determine if I should insert them on my short list. 

You also have a wide range of clients – 

I do! I love working with creatives and helping them implement processes that help drive growth and organization. I’m fairly selective with whom I take on as I truly do have to identify with the brand in order for me to be fully invested in my work. C&C’s client roster ranges from partnering with those in the home and design industries to fashion and jewelry, floral designers, real estate firms, the list goes on. 

Tell a little bit about the process of matching the talent pool with your clients. 

It comes down to the client’s priorities and personality. Some have a very lean budget and that can be the driving force in the decision making process. Others want to ensure there is a personality match or that the creative agency we bring on is aesthetically a match, for example. This “marriage” and initial courtship is a critical decision that can dictate the end result, and thus I spend a great deal of my time vetting out talent to make sure they are not only up to snuff with their sheer skill, but can deliver a white glove experience to my client. I expect that they are professional communicators and will go the distance to deliver a sensational output. I also make time to understand how they might bill for their time, how they structure their presentations and what they might need to be successful for my client can have the best possible (and realistic) outcome. 

Unfortunately, there are a great deal of clients that come to me having had not so stellar past experiences and so we are often picking up the pieces, or starting over and doing it the “right” way. It’s an investment too important not to execute otherwise. 

How did you get started in the branding and marketing industry? 

I worked for a PR and Marketing agency in Washington, D.C. which started as an internship in college and then morphed into my first job. I worked directly under the founder, an incredible dynamo who still to this day, has left a lasting impact on my approach to business. She showed up every day (in a new St. John suit I should mention!), truly ready to take on the world. She constantly challenged herself professionally and personally. She threw me into the fire of handling some of her biggest clients and took me to every single meeting with clients, politicians, CEOs and accomplished businessmen — she saw something in me very early on and felt compelled to expose me to every facet of her business. 

I became utterly captivated by her ethos and hustle. And despite having other wonderful career experiences since, it is this particular one in my younger years I revisit that ignited my interest in this space and a yearning for entrepreneurial life. 

Who are your role models? Fashion, Interior Design, Photographers, or someone outside of the industry whom you admire …

For all things fashion and lifestyle: 

Charlotte Casiraghi for all things fashion — she has that je ne sais quoi I find so alluring not to mention she’s a brand ambassador for Chanel…what’s not to love!!

Mimi Thorisson – making her lifestyle and passion or cooking a career, whilst raising four children 

Claiborne Swanson Frank — for capturing motherhood with such pure, tender beauty 

Frances Palmer – reading her book deepend my appreciation for her work — especially how she began her work as a way to cope with her postpartum

Tattie Rose Flowers — I adore the work of these botanical designers in the UK. I am constantly bewitched by the beauty they create. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into the industry?

For someone that wants to own their own consulting business, first understand that the foundation really has to be strong. Find a trusted accountant and business mentor you can ping things off of as you structure your business model. Then, immerse yourself in the industry you wish to serve. Understand where the pain points are — try to identify voids in the marketplace you can help solve. Be comfortable with putting yourself in vulnerable situations as these will often lead you to growth opportunities. And, most importantly, put your head down and work hard. Nothing happens overnight! 

In general, when it comes to managing a business, what are your top 5 Best Business Practices – for instance, never be late, or first impressions are important … 

  1. Respect the time of others
  2. Thank You Notes are always in vogue 
  3. Manage Expectations from the outset — transparency is everything 
  4. Celebrate and support others, even your “competitors” 
  5. Build a strong internal foundation (accounting, billing, scheduling, etc.)

Talk a little bit about your college experience – Hawaii, sailing, traveling around the world for competitions – it sounds so adventurous and exciting.

My undergraduate education began at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, while pursuing my college sailing aspirations. At the time, the team was nationally ranked as one of the top three teams and I was so lucky to be sailing with the varsity team out of the gate. Our first regatta was in Connecticut (!) and the following weekend we flew back to Connecticut for another regatta. That meant I was in school for two days in Hawaii in between, flying back to the east coast to sail. I was rarely on campus. Most of my time was spent on a plane to the east coast to sail against Harvard, MIT, Yale, or on the west coast, with Stanford, UCI, or USC. Realizing I deeply missed the sentiments of the east coast, in the spring semester of my sophomore year, I transferred to St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a liberal arts college in Southern Maryland that also had a rigorous sailing program. We trained every day, and competed every single weekend, driving up and down the east coast with my team. Those years were intense, however apart from the sheer thrill of competing and the incredible friendships I fostered (and OK, I would be lying if I didn’t mention some of the outrageous college sailing parties), I learned a great deal about time management and dedication. As a student athlete the standards were extremely high to perform on the water and in the classroom. With the little time we had on campus, we truly had to put our heads down and study hard. Luckily, both schools really championed for our success and we had tremendous academic advocates that helped us succeed to the best of our abilities.

The sailing is such a beautiful metaphor for life. Do you apply what you’ve learned sailing to your life and business? And are you still connected to the water, sailing, the lifestyle.

I will always be connected to the ocean. It grounds and invigorates me. Also there are few things better than the feeling of the saltwater on your body in the summertime or the comforting slap of a wave across your face while sailing upwind. Pure bliss. 

What I love about the sport of sailing is that while it can absolutely be intense and competitive, there is also a great deal of camaraderie that helps make the sport so special. On the water, it can be all business, but when you return to the dock and share a beer with your team and competitors reflecting on the day, the meaning of the sport truly shines through. With my work, there are many moments that are purely business. However the camaraderie and celebrations afterward are much more dear when celebrating a milestone we’ve all worked so hard to achieve. 

Most of my lifelong friends are former sailors from my childhood and college sailing days. That said, I have stepped back from the sport in recent years as other priorities have developed. I still enjoy my summer sails with my Father, time on our boat as a family or raft up with friends, and the occasional regatta. 

And speaking of journeys, as a new mother how do you juggle family and business obligations? 

I thought working full-time while simultaneously enrolled in business school was hard — this sure takes the cake. Juggling Motherhood, family life and running my business is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Perhaps because I have such high standards for each facet of my life, and time is so precious. I now have such a deep admiration for working mothers. Each day feels like a marathon  —  truly every minute of my day is accounted for — so on the days I have committed to working, I really put the throttle down and go. However, when I’m with my son a few mornings per week, I truly try to be present. I will deliberately hide my phone so I won’t be tempted to check work emails. My husband also has his own business. Most nights we go to bed with our laptops buttoning up loose ends from the work day. The only way we truly disconnect is when we travel, so we do our best to carve out time off to escape to our little cabin in Vermont or plan an adventure elsewhere.

Thank you Caitlin! It’s been such a pleasure working with you and learning about your life and work.

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