We had the good fortune of connecting with Zulema Verduzco and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Zulema, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
One of the most important lessons my business has taught me is that things don’t always turn out the way you wanted but you have to keep pushing forward to reach your goals. There is no set timeline for when you have to reach success. When I was in college I took some entrepreneurial courses because I knew that someday I wanted to eventually own my own business. Exceptional Elegance Designs was just an idea I had been playing with, but hadn’t really thought about in a realistic way, I hadn’t even settled on a name for my business. Then, in one of my business classes, our semester project was to design a new business. This business could be real or imaginary so I took the opportunity to really think about what I wanted to do and what kind of services I wanted to provide my future clients. I already knew that I enjoyed weddings, parties, and social events. Every aspect of putting an event together like deciding on the theme, picking out color schemes, making decorations, and designing invitations were all elements that I was truly passionate about. I began designing my business plan as something I would actually use in the future to bring my business to life. I researched realistic options for the potential cities I wanted to start my business in along with the costs of everything I would need and who my target audience would be. I eventually settled on New York City because it had always been my dream to move there and own a business in that city. At the beginning of 2015, I was offered a position working in the Event Management department at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel in Fort Worth. I accepted the position, packed my things, and made the move. I wanted to gain more experience in the field before I took a leap of faith and started my own business right out of the gate. But I quickly realized that Event Management and Event Planning were actually two VERY different things and what I really wanted was to be an Event Planner, not an Event Manager. I wanted to work hands on with the events I was putting together and I wanted to be as involved as I could in the entire process of planning an event. When I was let go from the hotel, at first I was devastated because it was my only source of income. I was in a new city, and not the one I had planned on being in, in a new apartment, newly married, without a job, and with a broken heart because I had failed in the pursuit my dreams. It took me a little while, but eventually, I came to realize that working at the hotel and then being let go was actually a blessing in disguise. I had learned the true difference between Event Management and Event Planning and I was able to see that my job was just an obstacle I had to overcome on my way to doing what I actually wanted. But after the hotel, I didn’t feel as sure about being able to start my own business. I took a job tutoring in order to obtain some sort of income and in my spare time, I began creating websites, business cards, logos, and invitations, along with planning and organizing small family events here and there. In 2016, I became pregnant and because we didn’t have any family that could provide free childcare and the cost of a nanny or other types of childcare far outweighed the income we had, I left my tutoring job to become a stay at home mom. At this point, it was becoming more and more clear that owning my own business would not happen as soon as I expected it to. I continued designing invitations for family and friends but it wasn’t until after my daughter’s first birthday that I decided to do something with this rediscovered passion. I had a few invitation designs already completed and was looking for a way to offer my services to more people. I reached out to a friend who had recently opened an Etsy shop, read some articles and did more research on the platform to see if this was the right step for me. Early in 2018 I launched my Etsy shop and have been introducing new, digital invitation designs since then. Since I am still a stay at home mom, this allows me to provide some sort of Event Planning service to my clients. One day, I hope to be able to provide printed invitations to my clients as opposed to just digital designs as well as the other event planning services I mentioned before. I know my business is not where I hoped it would be by this point but, I am still working in my chosen career, doing the things I love. Slowly but surely, I will continue to grow my business so that it becomes what I have imagined it to be. As of right now, I have made 500 sales on Etsy alone and I have also opened a Zazzle store where customers can purchase physical copies of my invitation designs. If my customers ask for them, I will make them (for a fee) party supplies like centerpieces, photo booth props, cupcake toppers, and birthday/high chair banners.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am such a perfectionist so I think the thing that keeps me the busiest is executing a new invitation design. I have never considered myself to be an artistic person and I had a habit of avoiding art classes through out high school and college. I would take the bare minimum I needed to complete the curriculum then fill the rest of my time with things like math or foreign languages. However I’ve come to realize that creating new invitations is an art. There are many elements that go into designing a new invitation. I have to consider everything like the style I’m hoping to accomplish, the color and font combinations that will work the best together, what kind of graphics I may want to include, the space available to incorporate all of my ideas and who the target audience would be. Sometimes I can put out a new design within a few hours of thinking of it. Other times, it takes me a week or longer to get everything perfect. There have also been times where I complete a design, then when I look at it after a few days, I decide to change some things because the design wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be. But, I think what sets me apart from others is that I try to make my invitation designs as unique as possible. Nowadays if you have a specific character or idea in mind for a party and you do a Google search you can find 100’s of ideas. It’s hard coming up with new ways to present old ideas but I think that’s part of the reason I’m so passionate about my business. New ideas are presented daily and there is always room to grow. I truly enjoy learning and am always looking for new techniques or methods I can apply to new designs. If I don’t know how to do something, I will find a way to learn how to do it so that I can apply those lessons to my work. As with any career, there are always challenges we have to overcome in order to succeed. For me the greatest challenge so far, has been finding my creative spirit so I can make designs that excite my customers. Yes I understand that there are many other challenges in the event planning industry but as I mentioned before, most of my current work is digital so I’m taking it one step at a time. I know that If I keep pushing towards my goal, I will eventually do more with my business and career. I’ve offered local customers my services in making party supplies and I hope to one day be able to offer those same services to everyone else because I’ve learned that making those items brings me a lot of joy.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Honestly this is a tough question for me. I have been in Fort Worth for almost six years but this is a big city and I haven’t spent as much time exploring as I probably should have. However there are some places I can recommend with absolute certainty. The first is the Fort Worth Zoo which is truly an amazing experience. Walking in you can tell you’re entering the zoo but once you’re inside, you feel like you’re actually in the animals’ natural habitats and they have a wide variety of animals which make the experience even more interesting. As for restaurants, some of my favorites are Heim Barbecue and Velvet Taco, which are both a short distance from Downtown Fort Worth. If you’re looking for a place to just casually hang out, eat, or maybe do some shopping, Sundance Square in Downtown Fort Worth is a perfect place. It’s right in the center of Downtown Fort Worth and everything is within walking distance. A few other restaurants I enjoy are Aladdin Café and Fattoush Mediterranean Kitchen. These two are each about a 20 minute drive from Sundance Square but totally worth it. They serve quality food that always leave you wanting more. If you’re like me and enjoy shopping, there’s plenty of that around too! As I mentioned before, Sundance Square features a variety of shops and there are quite a few malls in the area.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This shoutout is dedicated to my husband and my daughter. Ever since we met, my husband has been 100 percent supportive of everything I do. From the moment I was let go of the hotel to the moment we decided that I would be a stay at home mom, to the present, my husband has always been there. He’s always there to provide advice when I need it or to cheer me on during difficult times. And my daughter’s excitement at seeing the designs or the party supplies I create helps me be more excited about them too. I love when I’m working on a new design and I show my husband what I’ve done up to that point because I can tell when he is genuinely excited about it. His excitement helps me feel more confident about the designs I create. And I know what you’re thinking “He’s your husband, of course he’s going to like everything you design.” Let me tell you, that is not true. Just like I can see how his face lights up at a “good design” I can also see how it falls flat when it doesn’t make sense to him or when my vision wasn’t executed how I had planned it.

Website: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ExceptionalInvites
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/exceptionalelegancedesigns/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/exceptionalelegancedesigns
Other: https://www.zazzle.com/store/exceptionalinvites

Image Credits
Younes Barhdadi Zulema Verduzco

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