This interview is part of the Entrepreneurial Women Series, a column published by Leila Lewis, to shine the light on the inspiring women making waves in the business world.
With years of experience working in the hospitality and event space, Jessica Boskoff started her own event brand 23 Layers to service clients looking for unique, experiential, exceptional events. When COVID hit and people slowly started returning to events, she knew the priority would be weddings, and saw an opportunity to create a distinct brand focusing on couples that would want to prioritize design and creativity in their weddings – thus, Neon River was born! She balances both brands by maintaining the same level of attention to detail, creative thinking, and dedication to each set of clients, making her a force to be reckoned with in today’s event world. We were honored to hear more of her story!
What inspired you to start 23 Layers + Neon River and how have they grown since then?
Working in hospitality and the event space for quite a few years, first as the Events + Food & Beverage Manager at Soho House NY, then as VP of a concierge start-up, I found a constant pull towards producing events. Starting my own agency 12 years ago felt like a natural progression. I said to myself “this is it; I’m doing it, it’s happening.” With that, 23 Layers was born. And within the 12 years since its inception, we are constantly evolving while staying true to our brand and our ethos.
When COVID hit, there was so much uncertainty around the world of events. Our pivot had to be about keeping that human connection intact. I thought about what types of events would be coming back first. It was social gatherings, and weddings. Weddings were still happening, and couples were still planning. That’s when I knew we had to shine a spotlight on how we plan weddings, and from that Neon River came to life: a design-forward creative wedding agency, named after a colorway that sparks that instant feeling of happiness, which is how we want our couples to think of the wedding planning process.
Having a separate division dedicated to only weddings helped with two things: it allowed us to market to couples who are looking to hire wedding planners (which is not how 23 Layers is positioned), and it helped us to build a niche within the industry. Applying the 23 Layers process, efficiencies, and experience to the wedding space gives couples who are looking for a unique out-of-the-box celebration a full creative team with a whole lot of support in all areas.
What excites you most about what you do?
There are two things that excite me most: creating things/building things – waiting for that result – and waking up every day thinking about all the possibilities (new business ideas, partnerships, spin-off projects, etc.).
How do you push yourself to stand out among your market competitors?
Great question. I rarely compare 23 Layers to other agencies. I do see what others are doing, and who their clients are, but that really has no bearing on what we do. I’ve built a strong brand identity throughout the years, and an even stronger reputation. We are in the business of doing REALLY good work. And if you can do that, and stay focused, you’ll stand out.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in business?
That you’ll fail. You’ll fall. But if you truly believe in what you do, you must get back up and keep going. Everything has a way of working itself out.
How do you seek new ways for growth in your brand?
We’re hoping to build on more verticals, adding to our capabilities – brand-focused pop-up experiences, retail store design and development, and assisting direct-to-consumer brands in conceptualizing their custom journeys (in addition to their event programming). We have a few exciting projects in the pipeline, including a product-based e-commerce business (tableware and textiles) and a book on events and entertaining. There also could be opportunities to partner on designing furniture/textile lines for our vendors within the events industry. The possibilities are quite endless!
What’s one tech gadget you couldn’t live without?
I’m not much of a gadget gal, but with the number of calls I take and how much I commute, it would be hard to live without AirPods (which I often call iPods because, of course, I’m super low-tech!).
How do you recharge when you’re not feeling inspired or creative?
Traveling is a constant in my life that always inspires me. The places, the things, the people – it's exciting and refreshing when I have that time to explore and be less in the day-to-day.
What is your best productivity tip?
I can be a serious procrastinator! And the daily distractions are REAL. My best tips are:
What’s your go-to inspiration source (podcast, book, Instagram account, etc.)?
Although I enjoy the occasional podcast and scrolling through IG, I’d say books are my go-to inspiration source. I have an entire library filled with every type of book you can imagine and can sit for hours on the weekend, thumbing through design books and magazines. I also listen to an app called Headway on my way to the office. It summarizes non-fiction books in 15 minutes. My most recent: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Radical Candor, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Favorite AM and PM drink.
AM: A cup of coffee.
PM: I love a good Arnold Palmer (and the occasional glass of wine or tequila cocktail!).
WRITTEN BYLeila Lewis