This week we interviewed Valerie Guerrero, founder of The Artisan Group®, a premier entertainment marketing organization with a mission to introduce Hollywood to the best of the handcrafted movement. Valerie has introduced brands like ours to celebrity moms of all types. Read the interview for more about how she found her passion.
- You have followed your passion and turned it into a successful business of helping Artists grow. Tell us about your passion, and how you’ve incorporated it into your life.
- Revisiting your childhood, what did you love to do?
- Was there a defining moment where you decided to follow what you love?
- Do you have people in your industry or out of it that have inspired your path?
- What are your superpowers?
- Do you create a vision board? Share a little insight on your board: do you update it and visit it often? What are some of your favorites on your board?
- Always improving, learning, growing — do you have any new obsessions or learning goals in the year to come?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved all things handmade. And, in my corporate career, prior to founding The Artisan Group one of my greatest strengths has proven to be mentoring others. I enjoy watching people grow, learn, and become more successful, and will do whatever I can to inspire, mentor, and teach what I’ve fine-tuned in my career to be successful.
Building a business mentoring artisans who handcraft their products has been a natural fit for me.
I wanted to be a teacher when I was a child. I can remember in the summers, I would gather the children my mother babysat, and organize a little “school” in our living room, whereby I used the piano bench as my “desk”, and I created worksheets, and homework for my youngster students.
I was also always very art-focused, taking private art lessons, making my own greeting cards, painting, crafts … if it involved art, or creating, I wanted to be a part of it.
I began my career in the 1990s as a graphic designer for several major investment banks, and quickly moved up in the ranks to managing 35+ employees and 5 locations for Morgan Stanley directing their desktop publishing/graphics departments. This was during the dot.com boom, and I worked a lot of 80-hour weeks, and traveled quite a bit. After almost a decade in the industry, I wanted and needed to take a break, and just be a designer again, so I joined Cisco Systems as a designer; an individual contributor. It was just the break I needed to re-charge my batteries!
One day, a former boss asked me to design her a gag t-shirt for her friend’s dad. I researched how I could upload my design to a website/t-shirt site where she could buy it (Zazzle). She bought the shirt, and I thought nothing else of it. Until *other* people started buying that shirt.
I didn’t realize it was in a “marketplace”, and other people could buy that design! I started designing more t-shirts, and leading up to the 2008 election, I created countless campaign buttons, bumperstickers, etc. I was racking up the sales, and it was unbelievable.
Soon, I was making more money in my Zazzle design shoppe than I was at Cisco, so I laid plans to phase out my 9-5 job, and work for myself designing. I expanded into paper goods; baby announcements, party invitations, and wedding invitations. The sales kept growing and growing, and I became one of Zazzle’s first platinum pro-sellers.
I wanted a new way to be able to market my stationery goods, and I stumbled upon celebrity gifting, but was hesitant to involve my brand with just any company. I soon found out those celebrity red-carpet events were very, very expensive to participate in as a solo brand. But, if lots of small brands collaborated, we could all split the cost and we’d all be able to participate. Shortly thereafter The Artisan Group was born.
After the first two events, and at around 100 members, I no longer had time to work on my own designs — which was actually a good thing! I was able to combine my love of handmade and organizing events into the perfect job.
I am drawn to and inspired by successful women in business. Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design inspired me to become a #girlboss. She built her design firm from the ground up, and has successfully reinvented her brand into a powerhouse messaging company. Her firm created Al Gore’s presentation for “An Inconvenient Truth”. She’s also now a best-selling author.
I’m also greatly inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org. She’s the quintessential leader and I’ve learned a lot from her about work-life balance, and how important self care is.
I’m also inspired by so many members of The Artisan Group, which is chock full of #girlbosses. Mentoring and watching these ladies grow their businesses over the years has been the most rewarding part of my career, hands down.
One of my greatest strengths is efficiency and organization. I’m able to juggle an inordinate amount of tasks and keep everything on track. And I do it all without caffeine! Seriously, I rarely touch the stuff. Not a huge coffee drinker, either. I run on pure adrenaline and the desire to be better today than I was yesterday.
I also know a lot of gangster rap, so there’s that. Nineties hip-hop is my life!
Yes! Visualization is one of the most powerful mind exercises you can do. I’m constantly adding to mine. I’m a pretty positive person, and try to keep myself focused on the good, not my short-comings, which is SO HARD!
Over the past 7 years managing The Artisan Group, I’ve collected the most lovely, inspiring hand-written notes from my team, and I save them all to remind myself on the days when I’m pulling my hair out and stressed, that I’ve impacted people’s lives in a positive way, and helped them to visualize their own goals and successes. I have two photo albums full of these notes, and I read them often.
I try to learn something new every week, and it’s easy to do when you’re surrounded by a huge group of superstar business owners. We are constantly learning from each other since everyone has their own important skill-sets. I’m in awe of these ladies, and it’s an amazing feeling to connect them altogether in an ego-free, positive environment, where we foster learning.
I also set lots of incremental achievement goals for myself, such as landing new popular TV shows for my team to submit products to. I can’t disclose it yet, but we just started working with one of the best shows on TV, and I can’t wait to see my member’s products on this show! We’ve placed over 700 artisan products on 50 TV shows so far. My goal is 1,000 by the end of 2017, and we are right on track to hit that milestone and then some.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
This quote is often attributed to the ancient Chinese sage Confucius, but it’s applicable in modern day for sure. I genuinely love my job, and most days it doesn’t really seem like work.
If your passion isn’t already a job out there, create the job yourself — build your own niche! And then surround yourself with the best-of-the-best people. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
Do you have a passion you’d like to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in our next blog and email newsletter!