How many times have you felt defeated before you even got started? Part of being an entrepreneur is learning to quiet those doubts and to use whatever resources you have, to keep moving forward (and up). Ashley Shelly is the epitome of a creative who crushes it in this area with her “think big, dream big” mentality.
In just two short years she has hustled her way into the planner scene and established herself as an authority in her niche. The secret to her success? Good, old fashioned hard work and perseverance. When faced with a challenge, Ashley doesn’t waste time dwelling. She figures it out. Through continuous self-education and personal growth, she has already accomplished so much, but she makes it no secret that she has her sights set on even grander goals.
I look up to Ashley as an example of a true entrepreneur and feel so grateful to call her a friend. I know that her story and spirit will inspire you to take things to the next level, the way she does every day.
What is your background in art + design? Are you formally educated or self-taught?
I have always loved being creative, probably from the age when I started to have memories, I was creating. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design & Digital Media from the University of North Florida, so I am formally educated, but SO much of my education came from working in the field.
What made you want to start your own business?
I wanted freedom. There is no life like the one you can live if you are working on your own terms. I would stay up and work on my own passion until 2 or 3AM. I’d never want to do that for a corporate job. I was working on my very first product, The Budget Notebook, in the evenings and on weekends while working my corporate job. After I started promoting it on Instagram and Etsy, it grew enough to start replacing some of my income. I waited until my shop income started matching my corporate income most weeks, and then I knew it was time to go for it.
Did you have any hesitations or setbacks after your business launched? How did you find solutions and overcome them?
For me being a product business, I have created products that sell really well, but also those that didn’t sell. The setbacks in that just pushed me to create something better and learn what my customers need. I try to look at the setbacks as learning experiences and grow from there. I would say that’s a key factor in owning a business, moving forward over and over and over again.
Can you identify a moment on your journey that felt like a turning point in your business? How did it come to be?
Yes. I have had a few of these moments in my 2 years so far running my business full-time. Every time I ever get in a financially uncomfortable spot, if sales are down, that drive kicks in for survival and it pushes me to come up with the best products! There is no drive like the one that nature gives you when you need to make something happen, or go back to corporate. If you’re truly an entrepreneur, you have a thirst for the freedom it allows, and you’ll do whatever you can to keep it going.
From cart to customer
How did you go about finding a manufacturer for your products?
Lots and lots and lots of calling. Googling, then calling, leaving voicemails, waiting for a returned call, repeat. Sometimes it means calling a company you think might be able to help, and finding out they can’t, but they share someone’s name who can. So much of finding product manufacturers is about relationships. Like so many other parts of entrepreneurship. You have to put in the time. I should keep a log of the hours I’ve spent calling and Googling, haha.
How do you manage fulfillment? Do you package and ship everything yourself?
I have most of my products printed professionally as well as assembled outside of my office, although I do still bind some of my own notebooks in-house. For packaging and shipping, that’s all me, right here in my home office in Jacksonville, Florida. I really enjoy that part. Putting the packages together with pretty details, being excited for the customer to receive it, is so much fun to me! I love being connected in that way.
Is there a particular system or software you use to keep track of your customers? What happens if there’s a customer service issue?
I have a WordPress website with the WooCommerce shop setup. That keeps track of all orders and customers. If they ever need to get in touch with me, there’s a Contact form on my website that goes directly to my inbox, so I answer all of the inquiries personally.
Behind the scenes
As a solopreneur, working from home, how do you define your working hours and avoid burnout?
One of my favorite things about being a solopreneur is being able to set my own schedule. It allows me to be the best I can be for my business and my family. I generally work until 6PM when my husband gets home from work, and we do dinner together every night. Spending time with him and taking a solid break from work is really important to me. Not having children yet gives me more flexibility though. I will work on projects later at night because I am a total night owl if I need to get something done. I take the weekends off. That is family time for us and time to refuel for me.
Can you name a book, podcast, conference, or individual who has had a lasting positive impact on you and your business?
Oh yes! I love people who are blunt and honest, that just give it to you straight. That always resonates with me the most, so I love the SeanWes Podcast, watching Gary Vaynerchuk on YouTube (AskGaryVee and DailyVee editions). Those two guys just share the concepts they truly believe in and really inspire me to take action!
Hopes + dreams
What areas are you still working on becoming better at, as a business owner and a creative individual?
Oh my, I think I am always evolving as a business owner. I don’t think this will ever stop. Right now, I’m really focusing on consistency in my brand products, building a solid style that people will recognize when they see my products out in the world, marketing better, taking calculated risks to grow faster, and I could definitely be doing a better job at keeping track of my business tax info throughout the year, haha. It’s the most boring part, but necessary.
What do you envision for the future of your business? Do you have any personal dreams that you still have your sights set on?
I shoot for the stars. I’d love the Ashley Shelly brand to be like a Kate Spade level brand eventually. It would be amazing to reach that many customers and bring quality products to the women who need them. Personally, my husband and I are working on saving to build our first home from the ground up, designed completely by us. Talk about creating your environment and lifestyle, that’s the ultimate way for me! So excited for the future professionally and personally.
Anything exciting on the horizon? Tell us about what you’ve been up to lately and what we can look forward to:
Yes! The 2018 line of Ashley Shelly Planners in launching this September and I cannot WAIT! So much time and love goes into the planners every year, and this will be the 3rd year of planners for my brand. They just keep getting better and better, and I am so looking forward to the launch!
How can we stay connected?