But it hasn’t always been like this. Though the wedding business was always in Jill’s life, she traveled down many different career tracts before she finally settled into where she is now. Her career path encompassed teaching, owning a weight loss center, and almost becoming a nurse. But through all of this, Jill was also a wedding singer, floral shop owner, and a wedding coordinator, affording her invaluable experience and building relationships with all of the best wedding vendors in the area. She couldn’t escape the pull toward weddings.
So when Jill discovered the Cedar Grove Tchoupitoulas Plantation (which is another story in itself) during a project with her high school students, she couldn’t get it out of her mind. And neither could her mother. With encouragement from her mother, Jill and her husband, Joey, put in a bid and bought the plantation.
The first year was difficult. Jill discovered that she was pregnant with their seventh child and she was deathly sick throughout the entire pregnancy. She dragged herself out of bed to get to appointments and at times found herself lying on her living room floor putting together floral arrangements, not able to stand at her table. She was so sick and not feeling herself that when people didn’t recognize her, she would introduce herself saying, “I used to be Jill Mercer.”
As time went on and the Mercers welcomed baby Krissi into their family, things started looking up when Jill received invaluable mentoring from treasured friends in the wedding business. The plantation started to draw more and more weddings, and when the pavilion was built—the only heated and cooled pavilion in the New Orleans area—the business took off.
All of Jill’s experiences and career paths have lead up to this. “This is the first time in fifteen years that I only have one job. For years I would teach all day, design flowers at night, and coordinate weddings on the weekends. Now, I only run the plantation. I have finally come to realize that focusing on one business at a time is the way to have a life and be with my family,” Jill stated.
The experience Jill has gained through the years in weddings makes her one of New Orleans’ premier wedding experts. She never dreamed her life would lead up to owning a successful wedding venue and living a career she loves. Jill attributes her success to the business system she developed when she started out in the wedding business in the 80’s: “See each person as important. Give each person more than they thought they were paying for. And, create reasonable prices that are fair to the client and fair to me.”
So what lies ahead for Jill Mercer? She told me she has another vision for the plantation. The property is also the historical site of the Waggaman Train Station, and she dreams of someday building a train station that could host more events. She is also writing a book about her life in the wedding business and plans on having a speaking career in the future.
Jill says, “There are so many people out there who think that there are limitations on their life. There is no degree or level of money that is needed to have your own business. What you do need is a commitment to work very hard and understand that it will be a few years before you see a profit in any business. I didn’t know the “right” people and struggled with each business to make a name for myself, but I still came through.”
Jill has a wealth of knowledge to share with anyone starting their own business. And for her bridal clients, she has a wealth of wedding knowledge that can help brides experience the wedding of their dreams. Visit www.cgtplantation.com to learn more about Jill, the plantation, and how you can book her to speak at events.
Cedar Grove Tchoupitoulas Plantation is located at 6533 River Road, Waggerman, LA. Or call for information:
Evans Sales Solutions, Inc, best known for their Wedding Industry Business Growth training & products, is a California corporation. For more information on Evans Sales Solutions, Inc, or their full line of wedding industry professional support, visit www.EvansSalesSolutions.com or call 1.805.428.3851. Story written by Vanessa Carroll in partnership with Evans Sales Solutions