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Conversations with the Inspiring Valery Ackley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Valery Ackley.

Valery, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My dad owned a screen printing business when I was a kid – he operated it (mostly) out of our house and I spent a lot of time watching an idea turn into a t-shirt that was worn by someone. I was RIVETED by the entire process, and especially loved when I saw a shirt and could exclaim “hey, my dad made that!”

In early 2016, I decided I wanted to open my own online t-shirt shop, but I couldn’t decide on a “niche.” It was an idea in the back of my head but not much came out of it. Then, the 2016 election happened and, like many people, I was devastated. I chose to turn my despair into something more productive and I opened (what Fiercely was called at the time), Everyday Unicorns. Yeah, yeah, it was a terrible name for the brand, lol. In January 2018, we rebranded as Fiercely, a term that I think is empowering for feminists like me. We live Fiercely, we love Fiercely, we fight Fiercely, we do EVERYTHING Fiercely.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Is owning a small business ever a smooth road? Lol. I think for me, time management is always the biggest struggle. I still have a part-time day job (that I love!), but it means I’m not able to commit as much time to Fiercely as I would like. Thankfully, I have learned how to offer myself more grace and be okay with things not moving as fast as I want them to at times. I’m also an enneagram type 3 so I’m a natural “workaholic,” so I have to force myself to not work EVERY waking hour. It’s a blessing and a curse.

My number one piece of advice for women starting their journey is to JUST DO IT. Don’t wait until next week, next month, next year… just freaking start. Despite what the internet tells you, you don’t have to have a huge “launch” because (sorry to tell ya) your product or service probably isn’t going to be that great initially. I know that sounds harsh, but if you wait until things are perfect, you’ll never start. So, just START. You will learn and change things as you go and that’s just part of it. Don’t wait any longer. Stop researching. Stop taking courses. You know what you want to do, so do it.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Fiercely story. Tell us more about it.
Fiercely is an online retailer that provides empowering, ethically made products. We mostly focus on feminism and women’s empowerment and there are a few things that really set us apart:
1. All of our products are designed by a womxn (right now, it’s me, Valery!).
2. We carry sizes XS-4X (5X for sweatshirts) and we put body positivity into practice by ensuring that ALL sizes are the same price.
3. All of our products are ethically-made, for us, that means they are sweatshop-free and have a focus on sustainability and having a minimal impact on the environment.
4. When you purchase a feminist shirt from Fiercely, we make a donation to an organization on your behalf. We currently sponsor six organizations, at checkout you can select the organization you would like to benefit from your purchase – End the Backlog, Trans Lifeline, Sustainable Health Enterprises, Sex Workers Outreach Project, Women’s Prison Association, or Planned Parenthood.

For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
I don’t really believe “women” as a whole are good at certain things, we are all completely unique individuals with varied strengths, talents, interests and (of course) weaknesses. I DO think that women are resilient and strong as hell because life (a.k.a. the patriarchy) tries to get us down, but we will never let it. For me, sometimes conversations about different strengths women (as a whole) have started to feel like a 2019 version of traditional gender roles so I typically try to avoid digging into that too much.

I just want every woman out there to know that she can and should reach for any opportunity she wants, even if the world doesn’t think she’s well positioned for it.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Mackenzie Nemeth-Suko, Blue Flame Studio Co.

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