If you mention the name Valerie Weber in permanent cosmetic circles, you may get a look of recognition or even admiration. Weber, owner of Dermagrafix Permanent Cosmetic Studio, is an international name in her industry. She is a talented artist and a brilliant business owner. When you meet Val or browse her social media, you will encounter a poised, professional and successful artist-meets-mogul who seems so effortless in her delivery. But the truth is, Weber achieved those things through a lot of hard work, determination, and heartache.
“It used to be that what I did was just art. It became art with a meaning. We give our absolute best when we see people, because we are here to help them.” – Valerie Weber
Weber is an artist who grew up drawing and painting. She put herself through art school and began her career. Permanent cosmetics filled a void that she was feeling at home at the time. It made her feel better to help other people. Today, she helps people who have had breast cancer, alopecia, and other medical conditions as well as people who are just trying to feel better about themselves. She empathizes with her patients, because she felt some of those same feelings without a medical condition. “Most of the people I treat have a medical condition or something else going on in their lives,” says Weber. “It isn’t people who are vain or lazy or just don’t feel like putting on makeup. It is so much more than that.”
The Strength to Make a Change
She began her career as an independent contractor in the midst of an abusive marriage. The toxic relationship found its way into her psyche and eroded her self confidence. “I didn’t understand at the time that the problem was that my ex-husband wasn’t happy enough,” says Weber. “I felt like I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t pretty enough… like I needed to be more supportive.”
When the couple moved back to Bucks County from where they were living in Florida, Weber found herself hundreds of miles away from her family and friends and without a client base for her business, along with a self-destructive and abusive husband and a young son. Valerie feared the toxic behavior would ruin her chance for her son to have a healthy life. She vividly remembers her ex pulling the phone off the wall and smashing it on the ground after she tried to call the police. After several incidents involving the police, she knew that she had to leave her husband. “I knew I didn’t want my son growing up thinking that this is how you treat people,” says Weber.
Weber was a single mom trying to start a business from scratch. She was paying for her business and her home, her son’s daycare, and all her expenses without support from her ex-husband. On the days that she had no clients, she worked on marketing. Because she didn’t own a computer in the beginning, she would take before and after photographs of her clients, save them to a disk, rent a computer at the library, create promotional materials, and print them out at a copy store. She made her own brochures and business cards, arranged meetings, talked to business owners, and dropped off materials to local businesses. “Not only was I the owner, the artist, and the marketing director,” says Weber, “I was answering phones, doing the landscaping, and cleaning the toilets. I did it all.”
That was in the days before Facebook. All her free time went to figuring out new ways to find clients. She sat at the UPS store printing and collating. It was all do-it-yourself in the beginning. She had big dreams and big aspirations, and she never lost sight of them. She had an office in Warminster for four years but dreamed of moving to Doylestown because most of her clients lived in close proximity to that area. A tattoo artist came to visit her to see the kind of work she did and offered her space in his building. Her rent tripled, but it was worth it.
Photos: The transformation from Valerie's original location in Warminster to the 3000+ square foot newly renovated studio in downtown Doylestown.
From Spark to Wildfire
The hard work began to pay off. Soon she was bringing in enough money to hire her first employee, a receptionist. After that, a part-time technician. Today, she proudly employs six people. The business has expanded from permanent cosmetics into a training program for those learning permanent cosmetics. Her work has garnered her praise within the industry, and she has had the opportunity to present at global industry conferences, including Estética e Micro global conference in Brazil and America the Beautiful.
But Valerie isn't yet satisfied; she has goals to expand her business to the West Coast. And she is launching her own podcast, “Valerie Weber's INK-credible Podcast” in February 2019. It's the first of its kind to focus on preserving the history of the cosmetic tattoo industry and educating costumers. Valerie will be interviewing artists from all over the world to gather a regional comparison of how things developed over the years. It will certainly have a positive impact on the industry, consumers, and the longevity of the industry's future. “I want to tell stories so people will be appreciative and proud of the industry and see things from a different perspective.” That is what she has always been about, helping her clients and ultimately herself, see themselves from a different, positive perspective.
Finding True North
Weber isn't just performing a service or building a business. She's acting on a passion. Because of her own struggles, she feels like she can relate to her clients. “I felt like I wasn't good enough, but then I realized … no wait, I am. It was just my negative situation.”
Many times, people are giving all their time and energy to their children or their aging parents and their careers, and they don’t make the time to do things for themselves. People treat themselves in many ways, from vacations to retail therapy, and they come to Weber for treatments when they realize that it is okay to do something to make themselves feel good. Weber explains, “My clients were always amazing, but having this little extra care for their appearance just puts a skip in their step. It makes them feel a certain way. That is the beauty of art.” She continues to say, “We give our absolute best when we see people, because we are here to help them.”
“My clients were always amazing, but having this little extra care for their appearance just puts a skip in their step. It makes them feel a certain way. That is the beauty of art.” – Valerie Weber
Valerie’s team shares her passion and vision. Her cohesive team is successful because they are treated like family by having the ability of self expression in their work, taking part in ideas, and team building activities. Staff is also cared for with a generous PTO package, ongoing training and family-friendly hours.
Weber never took out a loan or borrowed money from family. She saved, sweated, and kept a hold of her vision and ambition to make a business and a better life for herself and her son. Today, she is a mother of two sons, and a wife to a loving and supportive husband. Her experiences taught her to see clients as people who have their own struggles in life and are coming to Weber and her team to feel better. And when she needs a little “me time” of her own, she still goes back to where it all began – drawing and painting.
If you want to hear more about Valerie Weber and Dermagrafix in Valerie's own words, you can catch her podcast episode! Valerie Weber is a Season 1 guest on our new podcast: Extra/Ordinary Small Business. Subscribe to the podcast here.