GORHAM – When Holly Valero of Hollyworks got her hands on her first computer, “back when they had a DOS disc,” she fell in love with their “beauty, grace, and speed.”
That was in the 1980s, when having a computer with 128K of memory was a big deal. But Valero saw the potential of computer technology, got a degree in computer science, and started learning the technology from the ground up. Valero was always one of only one or two women in her computer classes, but she never felt that her gender made any difference to her teachers or classmates.
“If you were curious, fast and smart, you were accepted,” she says.
Now, she spends her days providing a one-stop shop for anyone looking to create a presence on the web. She creates responsive websites compatible with iPhone, iPad, Kindle and regular computers. She designs logos and social media campaigns, and can help clients publish interactive e-books suitable for the iPad.
Valero is originally from Pennsylvania, where her family raised sheep on a 100-acre farm. Her first career was as a disc jockey. She moved to Maine 25 years ago and began doing “Internet-specific” work in 1995. She’s worked in radio, television, educational publishing and the newspaper industry. She is married, and has an office in her home in Gorham, which she shares with her partner, who works for the Maine State Library in Augusta. She calls it a “quiet life,” but her days are full of appointments with and projects for customers all over the world. She attributes her success to her responsiveness to her clients.
“Google Hangout, Skype, and video chatting make it possible,” she says. “Eighty percent of success is just showing up. The other 20 percent is not messing up.”
Q What were your most important needs in getting started?
A The only thing I needed to get started was the time and willingness to teach myself. Technology changes so fast and you can’t wait for a community college course to come along. Now I read about 1,500 articles a week just to stay current. This business will eat you alive if you don’t keep up with it.
Q What was there about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
A In my family, everyone has had their own business. My mother is a writer and my father had a sign-painting business. Growing up, we were farmers in the middle of nowhere, so everyone had a job to do. High stakes were placed on being independent. Even when I worked for someone else, I always wanted to be my own boss. If I fail, I have only myself to blame.
Q What do you think the advantages are of being a female entrepreneur?
A The real advantage of being a woman entrepreneur is that you seldom encounter gender bias in the workplace. And if you do? You’re the boss. You set the tone. There’s a difference between working for someone who may be more enlightened about glass ceiling issues – glass ceilings they will never encounter – and being a woman who has encountered them and broken through them on a regular basis. Organizations of all sizes waste valuable time and often lose their best and brightest to these workplace viruses. As an entrepreneur I am already free to run a business at warp speed. As a woman, I am largely immune from those viruses that limit the success of other companies.
Q What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
A Before you launch your business, line up all the things you have to have in advance to present yourself well and quickly. I spent three months creating a logo, photos, bio, resume. You want to pull together a nice package of information on yourself to present to the world. Also, use the best equipment and don’t cut corners. Make sure you pay for things that are worth paying for. My monthly subscription to Lynda.com pays for itself. Finally, I advise women to think like a woman but talk like a man. Women tend to spend too much time giving complex answers when people want it short and sweet.
Q If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
A When I started, I was in my late 30s and technology was so new. Back then I tried to generalize. Now I realize I can’t support every technology. Every two years, you start over because everything keeps changing. I’ve had to find my niche. But I just love computers and technology and I’m surprised how many women want nothing to do with them. There’s no reason why women and girls shouldn’t love this industry.
– Joanne Lannin