Valerie Holstein is co-founder, president and CEO of CableOrganizer.com, now among the world’s leading purveyors of cable and wire management-related products. Prior to co-founding CableOrganizer.com in 2002, Holstein served as assistant drafting engineer at Buchanan Screens, a major fabricator of screen enclosures in South Florida. Prior to this, from 2000 to 2001, Holstein served as an office manager for Transeastern Properties, a large home-building company in Florida.
Sramana: Valerie, let’s start with your background. Where were you born, and where did you grow up? What was the path you took to arrive here today?
Valerie Holstein: I was born in Paris, France. I studied there until it was time to go to college. I decided to attend college in the United States because I wanted to improve my English, and I wanted to take a break from the French academic format. I came to the U.S. as an exchange student, and that is when I met my husband.
Sramana: Where in the U.S. did you come as an exchange student?
Valerie Holstein: I came to Tampa, Florida, in 1993. I enrolled in a community college in Ft. Lauderdale. My fiancé and I decided to get married. He was already working because he is 10 years older than me. He was well out of college while I attended college. I did not study very much in community college because they had me take very basic English classes, which I felt was a complete waste of my time and money. As a result, I quit college and got a job as a landscaper.
Later on I went back to school at a private school to study graphic design and web design. I graduated from the institute and I went on to work for a couple of Internet providers. I set up websites for Sandals Beach Club and FedEx Latin America. This was back in the day when websites were hand coded. I was not making that much money, so I went on to work as a drafting engineer for a screen enclosure company. I was making more money because I was allowed overtime. I also worked in the IT department of an insurance company.
I was job hopping for many years. I was homesick, and I like to go back to France every year. In the U.S. you only get one or two weeks of paid vacation. However, I wanted to take a month every summer, so I basically had to quit my job every year in June. When I returned to the U.S., I would have to find another job. Even if I took an unpaid leave, nobody was interested in having an employee who wanted to have a month off. That was the case until we started CableOrganizer.com.