New Address: Two Embarcadero Center, 8th floor, San Francisco, CA 94111     

Valerie Velazquez, Meet Your Makers

Thanks to Women’s Economic Ventures for this story!


What prompted you to start your business?

I wanted to create a platform that promotes sustainability on all levels- starting with individuals and spreading from there to the community, the environment and the planet. For me, the first step was to become self-sufficient by starting my own business, and in turn help others do the same.

What aspect of your business are you most passionate about?

The thing that I love most is feeling a sense of empowerment knowing that Meet Your Makers and the businesses we represent are (at the very least) a part of the solution to today’s problems.

Making the choice to become an informed consumer was a difficult one for me — it came with a lot of responsibility and guilt about how the choices I was making everyday affected not only my own health and well-being, but were actually contributing to the depletion of our planet’s resources and to the welfare of people around the world an even in my own community. That’s a lot to take on when you just need a new pair of shoes! Fortunately, I realized quickly that with a little research, intuition, and creativity I was able to navigate this new way of shopping quite well. I started acquiring new products and items from people whose story I knew or met in person. Suddenly, these “things” started becoming like small investments in the people who made them and in the future I wanted to help create.

My hope is to make this transition, from senseless consumerism to a meaningful exchange, an easy one for those who are interested in making a difference. The markets are a central place for people to meet independent makers (artists, artisans, designers, crafters, healthy food producers) and other small creative businesses that engage in sustainable, socially and environmentally responsible practices. My mission is to provide a unique opportunity for savvy, conscious consumers to vote for causes and products they believe in and can feel good about.

What has been the most surprising lesson you’ve learned through this process?

One of the most surprising things to me has been the level of support I have gotten from like-minded organizations and individuals in the community who have reached out to me and offered their help. For me, it really goes to show that people respond well when they see others reaching for their goals. I think deep down we all want to see each other succeed.

What role did WEV play in the opening of your business?

The WEV class I took is really the only reason that I didn’t just give up and tuck my idea away along with all the others. School doesn’t really teach you how to become an entrepreneur; it also doesn’t introduce you to other people with great ideas who are in your same shoes. I knew how organizations and companies worked — because I had worked for them — but I had no idea what it took to start one. It’s one thing to want to start a business, but it’s quite another to actually sit down, think about and actually do all the things you need to do before that becomes a reality. WEV helped me through those steps and introduced me to people who inspired me and whom I still think about and contact to this day when I need a little push.

Do you have any upcoming events?

Yes! Our summer season will run EVERY Saturday from July 6th–September 21st, from 9am – 2pm at Plaza de Veracruz Park in Downtown Santa Barbara — next to the Farmer’s Market. We will also be taking applications continuously through summer! Interested vendors should go here!

Please describe how you have helped/collaborated with WEV, and list any other WEV clients you’ve collaborated with.

I try and collaborate with WEV businesses as much as possible. If someone went through the program, then you know they are serious about their business. In my experience, all WEV clients, staff, etc. I’ve met are professional, supportive and all around great people and entrepreneurs!

A couple examples include:

  • I helped put together a spread in Ventana Magazine which included: Boys and Arrows Swimwear, Hoyte Surfboards, and Agnette Todd Shoes
  • I am offering a special discount on booth fees for WEV clients to participate in the markets!
  • Current vendors who were WEV clients include Asher Market and Amy DiGregorio

What advice do you offer others who might want to start their own business?

I always say weigh the risks and benefits. Think about the kind of life you want to live and decide if starting a business is really a part of that. Know that it will take a lot of work and sacrifice in the beginning, and really it’s a leap of faith. That’s kind of the fun part. Also, take a WEV class!

Have a success story of your own to share? Email us!