Hometown Hero: Valerie Hicks

Fine art has been part of Valerie Hoffman Hicks’ life since she was a child. She found a creative outlet in several different modalities including painting, drawing and whatever other creative medium she could find. By the time she reached high school, she knew that she wanted her future career to include this passion. She says: “I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to use those talents in some way in my future career. But I didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t want to necessarily have fine art as a career, but I wanted to do something in the creative industry.”

She continues: “I was working at Sears in the hardware department at the time. I had a coworker come in and give me a brochure. She was going to be starting her college career at a school of advertising art. She said, ‘you should really check this out.’”
The brochure opened a new world to Valerie, and along with it, a host of questions about an industry that was unfamiliar. She laughingly says: “I was like, what’s graphic design? I don’t even know what that is. And a step further I read, ‘We use Macintosh computers’. What’s a Macintosh computer? How do you turn that on and off? I didn’t know any of that stuff, but I checked out that brochure and told myself that is where I want to go.”

Valerie secured a scholarship and eventually earned an associate degree, graduating at the top of her class. The timing of her graduation coincided with 9/11, making job hunting a challenge. Eventually she landed a position with a design firm in Cincinnati. When discussing her career progression, Valerie comments, “I knew I was going to take what I could get. I just wanted to get my foot in the door and get started anywhere I could. So I literally started there typesetting business cards three to eight hours, three days a week…Even though it wasn’t glamorous, I just knew to keep at it because I was going to go somewhere with this. And the longer I was there, I had more and more opportunities to jump on some bigger creative projects.” Valerie eventually moved into the role of senior designer and followed the owner through different evolutions of his design company.

In 2014, Valerie started her own business, Val Hoffman Design, where she still works today. When asked about her faith journey at work, Val says, “combining my faith into my work has been something that’s unfolded over the years. I grew up in a Christian home. I had some rebellious years through college, but I knew as I was maturing and growing into adulthood, that I wanted that to be part of my life. To me, I’m very big on what you look like outside of work, what you look like outside of church, what you look like outside of wherever you are should be who you are. You should be grounded in your identity in Christ, no matter what environment you’re in. That’s something that I think is important. As I’ve grown as a person, as I’ve grown in my career, I’ve also been growing in my faith. I never want to be somebody who has stayed in the same place, whether it’s vocationally or spiritually. If Christ is in your heart, if He’s in your life, then it’s going to come out no matter where you work, no matter where you are.”

Since opening her own business, Valerie has seen God provide for her in many ways. She comments, “God provides when you don’t know where you’re going to go or how you’re going to make it, or where the clients are going to come from God will intervene and He will provide for you. When I started my own business, it was a very difficult time. I was seven months pregnant with our fourth child, and we were very reliant on being a two-income family. So leaving an agency to just jump out on your own, not knowing where work is going to come from or if you’re going to be able to pay your bills and how you’re going to maneuver taxes Is a scary, scary thing. But I just knew God was calling me to do that. He’s going to provide. So apparently somebody who needed a designer for their company found me on LinkedIn. They were my first ongoing client giving me continuous work. It really got me through, and it’s just grown over the course of ten years. Since then, I have been able to work with five or six of their different companies. That was just God’s assurance that that, yeah, I’m going to help you with this.”

Valerie is an example of courage in the workplace, jumping out on her own at seven months pregnant because she felt the call of God. She resisted the urge to stay where she was, but instead responded in faith. That is hard to do when so many people are depending on you. This posture of obedience didn’t just emerge as she started her own business, though. It started early when she knew that she is in some fashion, designed for work.

Valerie Hoffman Hicks lives with her husband and family in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a principal designer for At Work on Purpose, bringing the graphic message of the ministry to life. Her website is valhoffmandesign.com