We had the good fortune of connecting with Stacy Agee Martin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Stacy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve always been a doodler and hand-letterer. As far back as the 80s, my high school friends would often ask me to decorate their book covers; I might have bartered with a few of them to help me with my math homework in exchange. Since then, I’ve dabbled in various forms of artistic expression just to satisfy my own need for creativity, but those pursuits turned into unexpected side hustles every time. I’ve scrapbooked professionally, worked in digital design and typesetting, mural painting… and during a healing phase of life about 8 years ago, returned to my old habit of doodling. One evening I was sitting alone in my living room staring at a lamp and decided to write song lyrics and quotes on the shade. I posted a photo online and it blew up. I instantly had requests for custom lampshades, which turned into orders for crib sheets, shoes, jeans, photo canvases, doors – literally anything that could be written and doodled on, people were asking for it. I was newly single with two tween boys and wasn’t making much at my nonprofit job, so I thought, “This could be a great supplement to my income, it will be a form of self care through creativity, AND it will give me something to do on these lonely evenings and weekends when the boys are at their dad’s.” So WordyBirdy was born.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m blessed to have a career I love and that makes a difference. A favorite quote I once saw on some Mary Engelbright art describes my role as Executive Director of Fortress perfectly: “To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?” I never expected to land in the nonprofit sector, much less in an organization focused on children. In fact, when I first began volunteering at Fortress in 2003, my first words were, “I don’t want to work with kids.” I love my own kids, and I love my Fortress kids, because in so many ways, they feel like my own. But my gifting is NOT in the classroom. I’m useless there – too impatient and too averse to tight structure. Instead, I was allowed to use all my various giftings – I wrote newsletters, created graphics and logos, redesigned all of our interior spaces, planned the first and what would be become the organization’s annual Dinner and Auction fundraiser, and edited grant proposals. I’m passionate about our mission “building bridges from poverty to promise” and am so grateful that there are people gifted to make such incredible impacts on kids in the classroom. It is my life’s honor and privilege to support them in that effort as we work together to provide high quality, outcomes-based preschool, after school, and parent-engagement programs for our community. Through academic, social-emotional and concrete supports grounded in our Christian faith, I know that we’re making a difference for the kids and families we love so much in Fort Worth’s Historic Southside, and that’s what drives me.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh boy. Absolute must-eats would top the list, starting with the chicken salad and Grown Folk’s Banana Pudding at Carpenter’s Cafe, bacon burnt ends at Heim Barbecue, a burger at Charley’s, and anything on the menu at Taste Community Restaurant. One day would start with brunch at Brewed and end with dinner at Shinjuku Station, with a stroll down Magnolia Avenue, Bryan Avenue and South Main to check out all the locally-owned shops in between. We’d visit the museum district, including the Kimbell, the Amon Carter and the Modern, as well as the Botanic Gardens. We’d rent bikes from one of the many B-Cycle stations and explore the Trinity Trails, stopping along the way for refreshments at Press Cafe. We’d spend a day window shopping and maybe splurging a bit at Clearfork, with a definite visit to Wrare, my absolute favorite gift/decor/inspiration stop in town. A visit to Fort Worth isn’t complete without a day at one of the country’s top zoos, nor without a visit to the Stockyards to take in the daily Longhorn Cattle Drive down Exchange Avenue, which one of my friends visiting from South Carolina once hilariously dubbed a “longhorn mosey”.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are two books that continue to shape and inspire me each time I open them: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. My first love is writing, and both of these books, without fail, reaffirm for me that writing is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. They have been especially helpful during seasons of professional burnout in my role as a nonprofit executive – which I absolutely love because about 75% of it is writing – but which is also a highly demanding job. But aside from that aspect, the books are also really valuable tools for sparking and reigniting the creative pursuits that feed me. If I’m in a rut personally or professionally, it’s almost always because I’ve neglected to feed that part of my soul.

Along the way, there have been so many people who encouraged and supported both my writing and my art. My second grade teacher Sarah Jane Wright, my 10th grade English teacher Cheryl Brown, my precious Dad, Wayne Agee, who instilled in me a can-do-anything spirit and a tireless work ethic, my first professional boss and mentor, Sharon Elrod, who championed me in ways no one else had ever done, and my incredibly supportive husband, who joyfully sets up and helps me work every market, art show, and random pop-up I sign up for.

Website: fortressfw.org

Instagram: @wordybirdyfw

Linkedin: Stacy Agee Martin

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