When Wellington C. Mepham High School graduate Valerie Manzo found the chance to start her own business during the pandemic, she jumped at the opportunity.
Under Val’s Crafty Creations, Manzo, 23, is able to design, create and sell a variety of trendy, hand-made craft goods from t-shirts to wine glasses — a long sought after goal of hers.
When the pandemic hit, Manzo was employed at a payroll company, where she felt “overworked,” “uncomfortable” and taken advantage of, she said. She also had to work in the company’s office as the virus continued to spread.
“Me, my coworkers and my manager actually ended up leaving,” Manzo said. “I started thinking, ‘Well, I can start something that I enjoy and turn that into a business.’”
With a liberal arts degree from Nassau Community College, Manzo did not have much opportunity to flex her creative muscles where she found herself employed. After she finished school, she went to work at a bank as a teller before joining the payroll company.
“That wasn’t really what I wanted to do with life,” Manzo said.
Her inspiration and creativity was maintained with a side job at the South Shore Art Center in Bellmore. There, she helped organize birthday parties and summer camps with plenty of art projects enjoyed by the kids.
After she started Val’s Crafty Creations, though, she had to stop that job because her new business was “blowing up.”
“I started receiving so many sales I had to focus on that,” she said.
She started off with custom t-shirts — tie-dye is a personal favorite — homeware, such as different kinds of glasses, and even clothes for babies. She’s since branched off into more unfamiliar territory with digital and laser-engraved art.
It’s all Long Island-themed as well, she said.
“Long Island is one of the best places to live,” Manzo said.
Manzo said her main goal is to appear at local Long Island craft fairs, including the Bellmore Street Festival, at which she will have a table. She also takes orders through Etsy. Referring to herself as “the company,” Manzo said she handles every step of the process herself.
Manzo has also used her business to partner with good causes. On June 12, she helped the Pit of our Souls event, which aims to have dozens of pit bulls, bull dogs and other dog breeds leave with new adopted families. Manzo donated goods for a raffle, and every dog available was adopted that day.
The new business venture also allowed Manzo to connect with other Mepham alumni, despite the pandemic’s restrictions. She met Sabrina Casiraro, a 2014 graduate and owner of Flavors & Flavors by B, which focuses on baking, and the two attended the Pit of our Souls event together.
“It was a great opportunity to bake some goods,” Casiraro said. “It was a beautiful experience.”
“It’s great to have support [from Manzo],” she added, “and it’s nice to able to meet through all of this.”
“If I have a thought, I always go through with it,” Manzo said, “and at the same time I always try to support people locally.”