Owner of Lady V's Fun Snow Cones
Owner of The Sophisticated Lady
Story and Interview by Teresa Nguyen
"I love meeting new people, talking to people and learning new things about people. I think my personality helps sell my products!"
~ Valencia Riley
The Road to Janesville
Originally, I’m from Chicago, but have been in Madison for around 28 years and then moved to Janesville almost four years ago. We live up on the northeast side of town, but it’s been amazing to see the downtown changing.
I love it, it’s quiet here. It’s different than Madison. There’s definitely less diversity, but at least there’s some. And I’m getting to know my neighbors more and some of the people on my block.
Schooling and Education
I attended UW Oshkosh to study Fashion Marketing. After an associates degree, I changed my major to Business Leadership and Organization.
But I went through six years of schooling and kind of burned myself out. Then I realized that I’m truly self-taught. I’d been taking online classes and had someone telling me what I needed to read, write a summary about what I read and then join the discussion. Even though I had a professor, I realized I could continue educating myself.
Does one really need college? It gives you a status, but also a lot of debt from student loans for the rest of your life. You can get a library card and become educated on your own. One can also learn a lot from other sources like YouTube and from learning a trade. It’s fascinating.
My youngest son had special needs, attention deficit disorder, and yet he got into a trade and learned to become a concrete pourer. He makes good money working for a company in Madison, laying foundations and concrete floors. He said he feels he doesn’t apply everything he learned in school to his every day life, but has learned a lot on the job. I’m very proud of him.
Starting A Business
I’ve always had a natural business sense. Ever since I was young, I’ve been an entrepreneur.
The Sophisticated Lady got started when I went to a women’s expo in Chicago at Soldier Field. That was about six years ago. I bought a whipped butter product that smelled so good, but the only problem I had was that it had dyes in it and my skin was sensitive. But I didn’t have a card from the vendor or a way to order products from him.
I ended up doing a lot of research on butters and other ingredients and mixed things through trial and error and finally found something that worked for me.
Valencia Riley at her beauty product stand in the mall.
I have eczema and psoriasis, so needed something good. It also worked well for my mom and my grandmother.
My mother said, “You know, you should start selling this. It’s good stuff!” I began making it for my family and friends and then started selling it to the public.
This is my fifth year with The Sophisticated Lady business and my second with Lady V’s Fun Snow Cones.
With both of my businesses I travel around the area to local farmers markets, craft fairs and such. I’m at Janesville’s Farmers Market, Whitewater Farmers Market, Music at the Marv, Nights on Festival on the third Thursday of the month, at the Fort Atkinson’s Crafter’s Market on the last Saturday of each month (through the end of December) and at The Winter Farmer’s Market at Uptown Janesville (formerly The Janesville Mall).
The businesses depend on the season. In the warm months, I work the snow cone business, which is a perfect treat for hot days! Then, in the colder seasons, I work The Sophisticated Lady stand, because the skin gets sensitive in winter and people need these special products.
Nights on Festival in Janesville
I love meeting new people, talking to people and learning new things about people. I think my personality helps sell my products! I’m not big on social media, but if you meet me in person, I’ll chat you up!
Lady V’s Fun Snow Cones
I started the snow cone stand two years ago. It was kind of a challenge last year in 2020, but it’s picked up full speed this year!
I have about 16 flavors of snow cones. It seems the blue raspberry is hugely popular. I keep at least three large bottles of that flavor on the table at each event! Cherry is also another very popular flavor.
Oh, my goodness, it’s messy! And I’ve had to fight bees in late summer. So, I’m working on a new method of keeping the lid on while I fill the cups with the flavors. Hopefully that will make less mess and fewer bees!
My husband, JW, helps me out at the stand sometimes, when he’s not working. He’s a contractor for Direct TV.
Music at the Marv is fun because I love all genres of music. Music transcends any lines between race and gender and everything. One of the nights a big band came down and that was so fun. I told my husband, “Too bad you don’t dance, because we’d be swingin’!’” I think I married a man with two left feet!
You’ll cool off on these hot humid days with my fun snow cones and you’ll get some friendly service with a smile!
The Sophisticated Lady
My brand includes several product & services, including whipped butters, magnesium oil, beard oils, other bath & body products, and personal styling. I make & sell my unique whipped shea, mango and kukui butters, with magnesium oil.
Then, I scent them with 600 different scents, both fragranced oil or essential oils. I also have a variety of natural scrubs.
Really, my natural products can meet all of your dry skin needs.
I became a member of Forward Janesville Inc. this year and hope to attend more FJI events. The BA5 events happen to fall on the same Thursday as Nights on Festival, and I have to be at my snow cone stand for that, so have not been able to attend the BA5s lately.
I’m also an original member of a Prayer Line group. Every morning, Monday through Friday, about 7 or 8 women get on a conference call. During the Prayer Line we pray, read a Bible chapter, and then expand on what we’ve read. This is our 13th year! We all live in a lot of different places; Florida, Illinois, California, Wisconsin and Georgia. My grandmother started the group with just some family members and a friend. Since then, it has expanded to others. I’ve brought in a couple of friends.
We used to jump around in the Scripture. But, this year, we started at the beginning of the Bible and read a chapter at a time. Each person’s interpretation or perspective is different. It helps us to understand God’s word differently than what you’d get in a church service. I’ve attended a variety of churches, but it’s hard to break down The Word to where you can understand it. This Prayer Line has really helped me to understand it better.
Sometimes we have differences of opinion. As old as we are, and I’m one of the youngest in the group, we try to respect each other’s differences. Some have left because of the back and forth. And I’ll admit, I’ve considered quitting, because I don’t like confrontation. But I’m still learning from this and don’t want to let the distraction deter me from learning God’s word.
I met my husband when I was working as a shift manager at Aldi’s. He had a girlfriend at the time. I’d see them come in often, but didn’t pay much attention because they were just customers.
One day I saw him somewhere outside the store. He recognized me, started talking to me and asked, “Aren’t you that lady who works at Aldi’s?” I said, “Yes!” But that was about it for that first conversation.
The next time he came in, I kind of noticed him. He was smiling at me a lot, kind of hanging around in my eye sight. It was very cheesy!
Valencia and JW Riley
I was stocking some juice or something and he kind of brushed past me and then flashed his smile. So, I dropped my number to his friend who was with him, and he called me. We had a rocky start, because it took him a while to break up with the other girl.
Eventually, we were married in Jamaica. I was the one who suggested marriage, because I don’t believe in “shacking up”. I had boys and didn’t want to just run around with men. JW didn't hesitate!
We were married in May on his birthday. My boys love him and he’s laid back and allows them to do all sorts of things. I’m the strict one. I guess I’m the more cautious one. We balance each other out. We’ve been married now 12 years. He’s a good one, a totally different man than my ex. I don’t think I could have gotten a better husband!
I have three boys, who are now 28, 22 and 21. They’re all in the Madison area, which is a good thing because they’re close.
Now, I have two granddaughters! My oldest granddaughter just turned six. I’m hoping to take her and some family to downtown Janesville to celebrate and then take her to The Sugar Exchange on Main Street. Those ice cream nachos look like the perfect treat for her.
Valencia Riley enjoying downtown Janesville
“God did not give the spirit of fear! Face whatever it is head on and you'll find it was nothing to be scared of!”
~ Business Woman, Valencia Riley