This Is Why: Vibrance by Victoria
My name is Victoria Gray
I’m the owner and founder of Vibrance by Victoria, an art business that focuses on simple, colorful, inspirational home decor. My short bio includes being born and raised in central Florida, leaving briefly for college and then returning to start my professional life here. I absolutely love reading, drawing, watching the fluffy clouds of summer, and getting together with friends at some overtly indie coffee house. My best and worst characteristic is my obsessive persistence: I am passionate about and not easily swayed from my purpose. And developing my art business is a direct result of that particular character trait.
Let's jump back for a second. My bachelor’s degree is in Biblical Counseling, a psychology and theology double major. I graduated in just three years and was determined to start post-graduate studies in the pre-medical field. The plan was to get my medical doctorate and open my own counseling clinic, where people could receive professional medical advice for their problems that also reflected a Christian worldview. I honestly believed (and still do) that Christians need better choices when it comes to mental and physical healthcare.
How did I go from wanting to be a doctor to painting for a living?
I’ve already told you that I am virtually unstoppable when it comes to my goals, so the shift seems rather radical and sudden. To make a very long and painful story short, I was not succeeding like I needed to in my pre-med classes to get accepted into medical school. As if that wasn’t enough of an ego blow, I realized I didn’t actually like any of my coursework. I loved psychology. I loved biology. But chemistry, physics, biostatistics…None of that inspired the love and passion I wanted to pursue my work with. I don’t think work always has to be fun. But you also shouldn’t hate every second of what you’re doing.
But just because I was giving up on medical school did not mean I was giving up on my dream of practicing psychology. I decided to go the more traditional route of pursuing my master’s, getting the psych equivalent of a residency at an existing office, and then continue on to my Ph. D. Before I could do any of that, I needed a job. Yes, school costs money and I was at the place in my life where I didn’t have any.
So in January of 2016, I moved back home to my parents’ house, confident I could get an entry level office job based on my previous work experience. But after a few months of turning in resume after resume, applying for every office job within a 20 mile radius, and then even trying fast food and service industry positions, I still didn’t have a job. I hadn’t even gotten a call to schedule an interview.
I’m not going to lie: I was pretty devastated.
I’d grown up my whole life hearing that I was brilliant, a hard worker, someone who would go far and accomplish great things and now not even McDonald’s would return my calls. I had essentially flunked out of my initial career path and couldn’t pursue my second because I didn’t have the necessary education yet. I felt like God had lead me down a very specific path, called me to a dire need, and then slammed the very door I was meant to go through.
Out of desperation, I started doing some research. In high school, I’d done a variety of odd jobs: primarily house cleaning and car detailing. But something that was far more lucrative and fulfilling were the custom art pieces I had done for a lady at my church. She had this enormous, exotic garden that she would photograph religiously. She commissioned several plant portraits from me and those commissions had spawned a few more from other women in the church. I thought that maybe, just maybe, that kind of artwork might be more widely popular.
Finding "my people"
Stumbling around on Pinterest of all places, I found my business coach. She specializes in handmade business, which is a little more niched than information based business. Creating a product from scratch and then making it reproducible AND profitable are tricky (as I’m sure many of you are aware). How to price your offerings based on the market and not your emotions. How to release collections and not just uploading random listings and hoping something will sell. She gave me every single step by step moment.
I buckled down. I sunk the last of my savings into start-up costs: equipment and software, getting my domain and web hosting, my physical supplies. I did everything myself, because there was absolutely no money for anyone else to do it.
That first year was by no means a disaster, but it was definitely a roller coaster. I was creating a brand new line of home décor: graphic botanical prints with bold messages. It wasn’t something I’d ever seen anywhere else. I was learning how to find “my people,” the ones who loved what I did and who I could speak to the most. I learned how to send out good email campaigns, ones that people actually wanted to respond to and buy from. I set up an internet shop from scratch (and y’all. That is SOMETHING ELSE). But I was still doing this just as a stop gap. This new business was how I was going to fund my schooling, even if it meant postponing school a little longer. After all, I still believed the real way to make a difference was through my original plan.
Fast forward to the summer of 2017. I found another training, this time on branding. Lo and behold, branding is not just about what fonts you use or the colors of your logo. Branding is about what you believe in, the why behind your company. And I didn’t really have a why. There was a semi-formed elevator pitch floating around somewhere, but my basic why was so much more of a “because I couldn’t get hired and I need the money” instead of a positive, forward force. So I sat down and prayed through the questions my branding coach was asking me.
Why did it matter that I was painting pretty flowers with happy messages?
And I remembered that my entire life has centered on color. All my good memories are vivid, almost gaudy, with the amount of color that saturates them. The dark parts of my life were literally dark, murky, and greyscale. The items that I kept around me and used as touchstones to remember who loved me and were supporting me were all colorful, vibrant little artifacts that demanded my attention. And I realized that although I had started my company because I enjoyed the work and needed the money, the reasons I painted what I did was because of what I truly believed about the world.
I believe that God gave us color and light to combat pain and darkness. My paintings are filled with messages of hope, but it is not an apathetic, waiting for rescue kind of hope. It is a rebellious, defiant hope, because we KNOW that if God is for us, who can be against us? In fact, I named one of my collections “Radical Peace,” because peace is something we must do, something we must fight for. Peace is not a passive process.
This is why I now cling to my art business, now rebranded to Vibrance by Victoria. My business is not a placeholder, a temporary assignment until something better and more lucrative comes along. The desire I had to help God’s people fight their inner demons and put together the pieces for a healthy lifestyle is what motivates me: no longer to create a clinic (although anything is possible with God), but with my work and the influence I have on my followers.
Running Vibrance is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I did end up getting a few other side jobs along the way, but they were all about making Vibrance work. I’m working harder now than I was in pre-med, but surprisingly: I don’t hate this. I WANT to do everything necessary to make Vibrance work. I sincerely hope that this is my permanent career path. But I also know that if God decides to make another shift in my trajectory, that it’s ok. He’s given me a burden to help people and quite obviously: there are plenty of ways for me to do that.