How one former teacher turned entrepreneur follows passion, gets it done
Posted July 19, 2015
Val Creager stays busy. The Apex mom of two, wife, professional photographer, specialty food creator, small business owner and farmers' market organizer, is juggling a pretty big daily to-do list.
But, despite a packed schedule with all sorts of responsibilities, she wouldn't change a moment of it, she tells me. She's living her dream and following her passions even if it isn't the life that she originally planned.
Dial back more than a decade ago and Creager, a former teacher, found herself a single mom with a preschooler after a divorce. She took the year off to spend more focused time with her son, turning her hobby of photography into a business. That business took off, landing her assignments that included wedding and commercial work, along with family portraits.
"There was no way I could justify going back to teach," Creager tells me.
Val Stone Photography continued to grow as she settled into a life with her son, now a teenager. At one point, she hired Neighbor Boy Home Services to do some work at her studio. She struck up a friendship with the owner, eventually partnering with him on his annual Apex Christmas tree lot. That friendship eventually turned into something more. Val married Dave Creager. The two now have a young daughter.
Val started helping her new husband with marketing and other tasks for his businesses, while still continuing her photography business. And the two also launched a food products company in 2011 called Tequila Dale's. Dave has long been interested in opening his own restaurant.
Tequila Dale's offers gourmet sauce and salsas made with all natural, gluten free ingredients. The products are available at Whole Foods, Publix, Lowe's Foods and smaller stores across the region. Val said she's had a steep learning curve as the company launched, quickly learning about food manufacturing and the grocery industry.
And it's Tequila Dale's that led Val to another task - keeping the Apex Farmers' Market together. Val serves as market co-manager and is president of the non-profit Apex Farmers' Market and Local Food Alliance. She works to highlight local farmers and producers, connecting them directly with their customers.
The market is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on most Saturdays from mid-April to mid-October. The market offers regular activities for kids and other educational opportunities - important pieces of the market experience for Val.
I should also mention that Val also gets plenty of sleep each night, has a regular exercise routine and takes time out to spend with her husband.
How does she do it all? Val credits her husband for his support. The two work together on all of the businesses, bouncing ideas, working through issues and celebrating success.
"When we get a dream ... it just motivates us," she said.
Why does she do it? There's no boss to report to, she said. She's able to live on her own terms, cutting work so she can spend more time with her young daughter or adding projects when necessary.
"Sometimes it's really fun and sometimes it's really stressful," she said. "But, at the end of the day, I can't imagine anything else."
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.