Everyone has talent in some area. The trick is figuring out how to encourage that talent to emerge.

Janet Valenza ’81 (accounting) has blazed a multi-faceted career path marked by interpersonal connections. She landed her first job in the business affairs department at marketing firm Young & Rubicam thanks to a meeting with Larry Shapiro ’59, a Y&R executive she met through Bucknell's alumni career counseling services. Some 30 years later in 2011, continued networking created the opportunity for Valenza — by then a fashion and interior designer — to embark on a career-altering "dream trip" to design a store in China.

Valenza's passion for design began in early childhood. "I was an artist at 5, but when I went to college I took my father's advice and put that aside for a business degree." Twelve years after graduation, as a C-level executive at Y&R, she realized that in her speedy ascent up the corporate ladder she had sidestepped her own desires. "I wanted to pursue my own dream. I was impassioned to develop my talent and bring it to the world." Making a leap of faith, she quit her job, took freelance design work and enrolled at Fashion Institute of Technology. In 1994, she graduated from FIT and founded Janet Valenza Ltd., a broad-based marketing and design firm serving clients large and small in fashion, retail and home décor.

The trip to China inspired her to redefine her company's mission. "When I came back," she says, "I realized what I liked most about that project involved combining commercial interior design with merchandising and the implementation of product lines. I wanted to take our experience and develop it for New York." After some thoughtful market study, Valenza concluded that pop-ups, short-term selling spaces in urban areas, could integrate eCommerce with hands-on shopping. Pop-ups provide online retailers with physical selling space and find homes in a variety of spaces, from shops in shops to dedicated storefronts. To work more effectively with brokerage firms, Valenza became a licensed real estate professional and often represents tenants in lease deals.

With Pop-Up Artists, Valenza says, she is in the business of building business, relationships and product lines. Pop-Up Artists is nimble and adaptable, but often challenged by limited access to resources. "It's almost always overwhelming," she laughs, "but I do this because I believe in myself, my team and our ability to help our clients grow. I try to pass on what's come to me in the spirit of human connection and mentoring. It's satisfying to help people, especially loyal members of my team. Everyone has talent in some area. The trick is figuring out how to encourage that talent to emerge."

Posted May 2014