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Monday, October 3, 2011

Q&A with a Small Business Heavy-Hitter: Ashley from The Shine Project

Here's a cool fact:
Ashley from
is a big believer in Small Business.
In fact, she loves it so much, she has offered us lucky readers her words of wisdom,
her knowledge,
her know-how,
her advice,
her overall AWESOMENESS!

Girlfriend is the founder of The Shine Project, is in the throes of writing her first book, recently opened an online vintage shop, has her first major benefit scheduled in two weeks, might as well place on her resume "interior decorator," and is an incredible wife.
{I know, girlfriend is nuts}
{in a brilliant sort of way}

In reading over her responses, I myself practically executed a back flip in the name of excitement.
{belly and all}
She is just so ON!
Anyway, enjoy Ashley's words, and really take to heart what she is saying in regards to growing your small business.

At what point did you realize that you wanted to take the “activist” route in your business journey? In other words, when did you have your “Ah-Ha!” moment?

My Ah-ha moment happened really unexpectedly. I guess they always happen like that. I chose a word for the year to motivate me, and that word was SHINE. I made my first shine necklace to give to a widow, and her face lit up as she opened the package. When I was leaving she said, "You know, you really should sell these, you'd do a lot of good." And then my journey began...

In what ways have you incorporated “Ashley the Business Woman” into “Ashley the Activist?” Between operating The Shine Project blog, coordinating the extremely ambitious benefit coming up in the name of The Shine Project, writing your book, documenting your life, etc. etc. etc., there has to be some element of straight “business.” In what ways have you found that business woman within you?

I have always been self motivated. Even when I was in college, I would go to school full time during the day, and work 50+ hours a week. During my first year of school, I was a manager of a really large gym chain. I repeatedly set the record for the highest amount of sales each month, and my club was always #1. I realized then that I love motivating people that work for me, and that I have an ability to connect with people. My "business woman" side and "activist" side are all messed into who I am. I don't put on different faces with different groups of people, I am who I am. I always have my end goal in the forefront of my mind, and that is to send many high school students to college. That sole goal influences everything that I do.

You have written extensively about the importance of utilizing social networking sites such as Stumble Upon and Twitter. How would you say these sites have helped to promote your cause, or in the case of small business owners, their vision?

If you want to reach a large audience, you have to use resources that gives you the ability to do so. No one becomes successful sitting in their office, not meeting anyone. Business is all about networking, and introducing your product to as many people as you can. And after you introduce it to them once, you bring it back to them again, and again, and again. Stumble Upon and Twitter are two of the largest social media tools that you have to literally reach millions of people. Don't let them go to waste. 

How important would you say networking is to the promotion of a campaign such as yours, or to a small business? In what ways has networking allowed your cause to grow and flourish?

Networking is vital in any business. Without networking, I'd be nowhere. It's what gets you sales, sponsors, and audience, etc, etc, etc. From networking I've been able to plan a huge event (ah 2 weeks away!) and take an idea and turn it into a reality. Let people know who you are! If you're shy, put on a game face because you have to get out of your comfort zone. There's no growing in a comfort zone, and no comfort in a growing zone :)

In terms of product/image/marketing development (since The Shine Project can be considered a "product"), what were some of the ways you were able to mold and sculpt that intangible thing called a "brand?" Was it mainly through your blog? Networking? What would you tell someone trying to create their own brand?

I created my brand by staying consistent with things that I was blogging about and doing. When people think of The Shine Project, they think of motivation and service. This is because from day one I was showing service projects, writing stories that encouraged my readers success, and I have continued to do this. To create your own brand, you have to be consistent. You also need to create something that is different from everything else. You can do this in the little details, and through your unique personality. People love brands that they can trust and relate to. To me, those are the most important factors. 

Do you have any words of wisdom when it comes to balancing your small business (or in your case, your campaign), home life and social obligations, as so many of us do?

Let's be honest, this is something that's very hard to do. I am SO busy with The Shine Project that I am unable to sleep at night because my mind is on overload. Just this week I started a new rule. When my husband is gone for 11 hours of the day working, that's my time to work as hard as I can. When he gets home, my work is over as well. I realized I was literally working at least 70 hours a week. Allow yourself to unwind. Set limits, reach your goals, and run your business. Don't let it run you.

What are your thoughts on “burning yourself out” in regards to a fledgling small business owner? Some say that’s the only way to build a business, others think that’s the one way to drive your business into the ground. What is your take on placing boundaries on your work time, especially to someone who runs their business/campaign from home?

You have to make sacrifices to be successful, especially when you're first starting out. Be smart about your decisions, and like I said before, don't let your business over run you. Set clear and reachable goals. One of my philosophies is to work smarter, not harder. There's a huge difference between working smart and working hard. Make smart choices.

If you could look back and tell “Beginner Ashley” a piece of advice, what would it be?

You know what, I still am beginner Ashley! I just started The Shine Project in January. My first huge event is coming up in 2 weeks, and it's stressful, fun, and so crazy I can't even begin to tell you. After that, many new things will be introduced to the shine project, and it makes me excited and nervous all at once. Ask me this question in a couple of years, I'm still trying to figure things out :)

Well, thank you so much, Ashley, for giving us some insight into your world as a successful small business owner/campaign founder/book writer/everything amazing! We truly appreciate it, and are so lucky to have your support! 

Don't forget about tomorrow's Link Up Party where we will be discussing
the moment you decided to turn your hobby into your business, and if you haven't done so yet, what is holding you back?
{I'll see you tomorrow with those networking posts!}

Grab a button!

And thanks for making Small Business Month such a success!
All the support, be it through Facebook, Twitter, or just your interest in this little month, is much appreciated!


Winner of Small Business Month kick off giveaway: BRIANNA RICHARDSON

Linking up 

And here

And here
Miscellany Monday @
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  1. i love reading tips from people who rock! thanks for sharing this.

  2. this is so awesome, nicole! i have wanted to ask ashley some of these same questions so thanks for doing it for me! :) btw, your blog looks so great!!

  3. Thank you so much! I'm so excited that I won! Thank you again!

  4. I just received my prizes from your giveaway in the mail! Thank you so much! They are darling! And the packaging you sent them in is adorable! It was like opening a Christmas present...the whole family was involved!
    Thanks again!


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