I had so much fun connecting with Voyage Austin to share my journey as a small business owner in the Austin wedding industry.
Find the full feature here, and read on for more!
Today we’d like to introduce you to Valerie Strenk.
Valerie, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’ve always loved writing names on paper and doodling in class. One time I even got called out during a work meeting for doing so (oops!). At my core, I was always creatively fueled. What I consider the true start of my business, though, happened somewhat by chance. My sister was getting married in 2017 and asked me to address her wedding invitations. Admittedly, I wasn’t convinced I had it in me to do it. To help me out, she paid for me to take a $70 intro course to calligraphy, and I was instantly in love. I started practicing like crazy, watching instructional videos and ended up creating all the signage for my sister’s big day, too.
From there, I started to take on gigs for other family members and co-workers (mostly for free) for the continued practice and exposure to the Austin wedding market. What started off mostly through referrals and a small Instagram account has grown into the Lettered by Valerie of today – offering day-of signage, statement installations and paper goods details. To date, we’ve served countless couples, been recognized for our work in feature wedding publications like BRIDES and Style Me Pretty, had my work included in a national campaign for a major jewelry retailer and officially took this business full time in the Fall of 2021. As we look ahead to the future, I am excited to share that we are on the cusp of a new brand launch in the Fall of 2022, which will offer an extended range of wedding-related services to our clients, including wedding design and full-service production!
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No business experiences growth without its own set of challenges, whatever those may be. Personally for me, my biggest struggle has always been the balance of time. For the first four years of my business, I had a full-time job, working primarily on my small business on nights and weekends. As my business picked up, the need for more time became increasingly apparent. I would often find myself powering through lettering and email sprints late into the night, averaging 4 hours of sleep to keep up with the demand of my business while also dedicating myself to my full-time career during “normal” business hours. While I wouldn’t recommend this lifestyle as a sustainable practice, I attribute the success of my business today in part to the dedication placed on it from the onset. I am grateful that I am now able to give myself fully to this passion of mine and serve more of my amazing clients.
Thankfully, I have also been fortunate to be surrounded by a community of friends and family who have supported me from day one and helped me realize my dreams of owning my own business. I have my husband and so many others to thank for the countless hours they have gifted me with to help me execute on orders and deliveries in a timely and professional manner, allowing my business to grow and open new doors of opportunity along the way.
Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Lettered by Valerie?
Lettered by Valerie specializes in artfully curated hand-lettered designs and statement signage, serving Austin, Texas and beyond. We pride ourselves on flawless wedding day signage execution and aim to create memorable designs that are an authentic representation of the couple and their love story.
My business is rooted in a love for weddings, and a relentless drive for perfection, to bring the absolute best to our clients on the most important day of their lives. We are continuously honored to get to play a part of so many couples’ special day.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from starting! I once read a quote that said, “start where you are – use what you have – and do what you can”, and I hold those words close to my heart. There’s always a reason to hold back from putting yourself out there and playing it safe, especially for those who experience imposter syndrome (like me!). Figure out your passion, study your market of interest, and find that unique offering that intersects between your talents and your clients’ needs. Starting without all of the answers may feel scary, but it’s better than not starting at all. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to figure it out and doing our best along the way. I truly believe anything is possible with the right mindset, and the smallest step counts towards your goals.