We recently connected with Cera Marquez and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Cera , thanks for joining us today. Are you happier as a business owner? Do you sometimes think about what it would be like to just have a regular job?
My business was discovered in the midst of global pandemonium and great personal loss. Using the art of “breathing life back into death” as a form of expression and a way to grieve, others soon recognized the love that I pour into each piece and wanted to take a part of that magic home with them. I find this to be a funny way to answer this question because ironically the pain I was able to and have been able to release through my brand and business has made for one happy business owner! Although I will say that I have learned from personal experience that the pressures of having a successful business can sometimes dull the shine and excitement that brand initially was meant to create. That being said, I knew as soon as I was going to take this brand to a more serious level that I wanted to do so without the constraint of its success. This led me on a path of self discovery and deep listening to what I felt was calling me on this Earth, funeral service has answered that call and now I get to do what I love on and off the clock.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I was born and raised in Southern California but will never forget driving through Colorado at the age of sixteen, there and then was when I knew that someday I would call Denver my home. It has been a short time since I packed up my car and drove from the West coast to the Midwest but, all that has happened in between feels like a lifetime. When I moved to CO initially I had no real plan, with a resume that covered anything in the fashion industry from answering calls, making sales, customer service, marketing, keeping track of inventory, fabricating new prints, sourcing materials, designing, pattern making, regional trade shows, and all that lies there between.
I was always inspired by the stories of strong, independent women that made their own little spot in the world to call their own and welcome others into a space that reflected their personality, personal journey and vulnerability even, a place to call community. Based on the decision to move out this way I reached out to pretty much every women owned business expressing my story and my passion to help them to continue growing their own. Three days after having finally made it to Colorado, I met and paired up with a woman who became my business partner. Navigating through all the normal daily ins and outs of running a brick and mortar, our store and the world was struck with devastation in 2020 leaving us all to wonder at one point if our doors would ever be back open. Also, that year my father who was battling cancer but still encouraging me to follow my dreams and move to Denver, took his last breath and passed away. Me and a partner of five years broke up. I lost my dog. My best friend. Things were feeling dark and grim. I went on a hike to clear my head and on this hike I found a dead, crusty beetle and for whatever reason I felt the need to put him in a Ziploc bag I just happened to have and bring him home with me. I taught myself how to re hydrate, relax, and pin the little cutie and I found myself in a meditative state where I could look death right in the eyes and create beauty from it with care and respect. At the end of 2021, the place that I had called my home for the past few years; my strength, outlet of expression, and refuge during so much loss and struggle, closed it’s doors unexpectedly and permanently.
It was last year that I really began to take my own brand to a more serious level and push for its growth, getting the message out about making what is lost not forgotten. Creating awareness and opening up a discussion around death, that we are not alone, there is no wrong way to grieve, and death can appear in many forms. I believe that death can not only be physical but can occur with the same emotions when we lose something that is still alive. I found myself on a new path of stillness, which I was so grateful I had. I took time to reflect and ponder what my ‘new’ future would look like and my oddity brand had taught me that I had more to offer. One night I was feeling the low of lows and my life partner was able to pick me up with a pen and paper in his hand. We navigated together things I am good at, things that I like, things that I want to do, and LIGHT BULB. One of the things I had wrote down was ‘funeral service’ and the next morning I made a call to a local home, where I chatted with the embalmer for a significant amount of time and I will always be thankful for her time that day. That day truly opened my eyes and marks the beginning of my new career, fueled by my own small business and the eagerness to do something good. I had not felt that sort of passion since I realized my interest in fashion which ultimately was also fueled from wanting to help others. I am so unbelievably grateful for all the experiences and opportunities that I have been given that led me to where I am now. My oddity brand not only highlights the beauty that can be created from the death of something but, also the strength and endurance to keep going and living on.
What’s been the most effective strategy for growing your clientele?
I believe that the best and most effective way for growing your clientele is being authentically yourself. Not being afraid to show when you fail, making loss and struggle a commonality to be able to identify with and see the strength and resilience you truly, deeply have because of it. I think that if you stay true to you that everything else will align and the people that are meant for you will be placed in your life; some for a good time and some for a long time.
Have you ever had to pivot?
In a moment of great loss it feels unsure where to go from there, but I know from personal experience that what may no longer be there will be replaced with something new and fulfilling if you allow yourself to be open to it. If you were to ask me five years ago if I would be doing death work, selling my art, and creating platforms for others to do the same. I would look at you very funny and ask what the heck you were talking about. All I can say is be open to the process, plan but don’t be to disappointed if something else happens instead, be patient and gentle with yourself.