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Life and Work with Martha Valdes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Martha Valdes.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Martha. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started my own business in 2015 while working with my family in our family business, VALSAN. VALSAN is a chain of retail stores throughout South Florida that caters to the Latin consumer. I would have loved to continue in the family business, but I didn’t feel that my creative side had room to grow with VALSAN.

I always enjoyed being creative whether it was in art or designing. I was in the middle of designing a fun artwork for a friend when I accidentally combined two artworks that turned out to be my first design, the Piña Colada (a pineapple with a Cuban colada by its side.) I knew that the design was original and unique, and felt that this was a funny design that would resonate well with Miami. What pushed me to start my business was the feeling that I didn’t want to let another thought or idea die out.

In 2017, I left the family business to fully focus on my business. I have continued to grow through Social Media, my website, vendor events, and collaborations. Recently, I received a license to officially design apparel and accessories for Florida International University. I have a few projects coming up that I can’t give full details on, but I am very excited for what is to come!

I don’t have a physical store just yet. I sell via my website and at vendor events or when I host events at venues.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
When I started in 2015, I was working for my self and for the family business, so it was hard at times to manage both. I would work at Valsan from 9-7pm to then come home and work on Martha of Miami from 9 until 1 or 2 am at times. I managed all aspects of my business. Social media content, emails, designs, website development, order fulfillment, going to the post office. I had a company that would print or embroider for me, but it wasn’t until my business started growing so much that I had to inquire about Order Fulfillment from them.

The most frustrating part of my journey has been the infringers, the copycats, who use my designs as their own. I have to protect everything with Copyright and Trademark logos, but there are still other companies that don’t respect one’s creative work. I reach out them personally first, but if they refuse to discontinue the sale of the products they’re infringing on, I have to get my lawyers involved. I always try to avoid having to do that, but I also can’t let them disrespect me that way. When I come up with designs or an idea, I always do my research to make sure that I am creating something original.

My advice is don’t give up. In the first month of being in business, I only had four orders. It was very discouraging because I felt that I had a presence on social media, a website, and an original design. But I also only had one design when I started. Even though I felt like giving up, I continued creating, posting, and designing. I knew that what I had started was something that wasn’t being done in Miami and its potential was great. I was creating something that resonated with my background, with Miami’s background, and the Latino community.

Please tell us about your work.
I design the artworks for my brand. I recently have been focusing also on my Social Media presence as an individual and not just a brand.

What makes me proud about what I started is when people write to me saying how proud they are to wear something that says “Cuban Bred” or “Raised on Croquetas”! I created my brand, not for myself, but for my people, all Latinos raised in Miami who don’t feel they are being represented. If you walk into a Target or Walmart, their Latino-based shirts are either about Tacos or Nachos or Margaritas; there is so much more to our Latino background than that. I think that what sets Martha of Miami apart from any other brand is that I don’t want to represent my brand in a tacky, Latino way that these Americanized brands tend to feel that what the Latino market likes is loud, bright, and tacky.

What advice would you give to someone at the start of her career?
Don’t let anyone intimidate you. I have come across a lot of male-dominated business, who in the beginning didn’t think that Martha of Miami would amount to what it is today. I have had to work hard and show them that I am just as creative, talented, and driven to manage and grow my business. I have an amazing father who has run his business for 36 years and with his guidance, I have been able to build my own.

Surround yourself with the right people. I have an amazing support system from my family and friends who saw the vision from the beginning and has continued to believe in me.

Sometimes you’re going to be scared of making that jump into starting your business, releasing that design, making a financial decision, posting on social media, becoming personable to the world. You can’t let that fear consume you. We are naturally going to hesitate in making new decisions in our lives, and if we don’t break that fear we wouldn’t grow. You don’t what life has in store for you until you say Yes to that meeting, or releasing new artwork, or expanding your presence and showing the world what you can do.

If it makes me nervous, I know that I’m making a decision that is going to let me grow and learn whether the outcome is good or bad.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Michelle Tulande (FIU), Danielle Margherite (But First, Cafecito)

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