Howdy y'all we are back again!! We are excited to bring you this weeks feature. Ashley is a teacher by day and business owner by night. That's all about to change though and we are so pumped that she has shared her story with us. So, lets jump right in and read all about this gal from Correctionville, Iowa.
Ashley attended college at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO. She went to school here for 4 years and received her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education. "Being a teacher is the only thing I ever wanted to be. I had a whole school classroom set up in my basement as a kid. I would make all of my friends be the students and I was always the teacher. I would even play by myself and pretend to have students. I had everything from lesson plan books, whiteboards, desks, and I even asked for an overhead projector for Christmas and I still have it today."
I asked Ashley what was the one thing she loved about being a teacher. She said something that really hit me. I feel like there are so many teachers who feel the same way as she does. This makes my heart happy to know how many teachers love what they do. Ashley said, "The number one thing I love about my job is the relationships I make with every student, and seeing them learn so much about themselves in a year. I love the feeling of someone depending on me and needing me. Being a teacher is the most rewarding career." When you start a business there are so many things that go into that. What makes you want to start your business? Ashley said there were many things that went into starting her business. So let's hear from her. "My senior year of college I started to really get into western fashion. I feel like this is when it started to really become a huge trend. By the beginning of 2020 I had really started to change my entire wardrobe style, and “dress up” more. By dress up I mean jewelry and just putting outfits together more than I ever tried to. In February 2020 my life was pretty much flipped upside down. I had been in a long term, long distance, relationship all throughout college. We ended up breaking up in February and it was pretty ugly. A week or so after this break up, my best friend committed suicide. Now I’m not here looking for sympathy by any means, this was truly the foundation of my business. About a week or so after this had happened, COVID had finally hit our area. The beginning of March we were told we would not be returning to school for the remainder of the year. This was honestly a very surreal feeling as this was my first year teaching. We left on a Friday, not knowing, and I never returned to my classroom with my students. At this point, I had truly felt like I had nothing left and everything had been taken from me. So from March on I taught from home over a computer, but I had no idea what I was going to do with my time. I was at probably the lowest point I had ever been in my life. My best friend had her own business, ranging from earrings to graphic tees. This is what gave me an idea, and the ambition, to create something. If you know me, you know I’ve never really been one to dress up, so I thought something with graphic tees would be perfect. So one day, I just went and bought a few supplies, and got started. I had NO idea that my business would be where it is today, or take off how quick it did. I wasn’t sure what goals I really had, I didn’t really know what to expect I guess with this. I just knew that whatever I did, if I wanted it to become huge and successful, it was going to take work and I had to be consistent.
When owning a business you have so many goals that you want to accomplish. Just like us all Ashley has her own. "Today, I have more goals than I can even think of. Right now my main goal is to take on this business full time, and expand as much as I can. I want to go on the road and attend shows and rodeos with my Western T, setting up a booth and making an even bigger name for myself. This is a nerve-wrecking step but I know I can achieve it since I’ve come this far!"
Here's the big question we all want to know. Will you ever leave teaching to pursue your business full time? "I originally signed my contract for next year, and then I got out of it. This was easily the biggest decision I have had to make so far in my life. I had contemplated it back and forth all year long. I love teaching so much, but this business has absolutely consumed my life, which is okay. I cannot be the teacher I want and CAN be because I have to give my time to this business. I am afraid if I keep trying to teach and do both I am going to end up finding hatred and frustration with teaching. I am taking this year off and seeing what happens. I am excited and nervous at the same time. Teaching is my passion but this business has made me the strongest person, and I have grown in so many ways and I am way too proud of myself to not take this chance."
Were there people who said your business wasn’t gong to be successful? If so, who did you handle it? "Well, when I told my parents I was going to do this, my dad literally said, “T-shirts?” … like how are you going to make any money by selling t-shirts? And to think back to where I even started, I don’t know how I have come this far in just 2 years. It is crazy to think back. I can honestly say maybe I wasn’t even really thinking, I was just going for it and winging it. Now that I think back, I say, wow I must have been crazy to think I could build something this big and this successful. I think everyone was pretty hesitant at first… like okay.. This could be interesting. But if you ask anyone that knows me, they didn’t doubt me because anything I put my mind to, I’m not stopping until I have achieved what I wanted to."
Any advice on those who are working full time and want to start a side hustle? I’m still trying to find the right words to answer this question. Mainly because I don’t take my own advice I would give. All I can say is, it is hard. And it is going to take WORK. A LOT of work. Consistency is the only word that comes to mind. You have to stay consistent with literally anything in your life if you want it to be successful. You have to have discipline. And by discipline I mean, choosing your work over doing fun things that everyone else is doing. I have zero time for friends and extra things. It is so important to make time for those things, and that is why I decided to focus on one career at this point in my life. Remember this is just life, and work is not everything, money is not everything, and you can change ANYTHING you want, seriously, it’s your life.
Every now and then we need some advice on friendships. We all know how hard they can be and people come and go. Ashley has some good advice for us on friendships. "Friendships are HARD, especially at age 24, or in your 20s at all. Everyone is in a different season, and this really takes a toll on friendships. I have been really struggling with this aspect in my life. All of my friends have a significant other, or a family of their own, and I am on my own. Don’t get me wrong I love everything about my life, but this is always something in the back of my mind. If I had any advice to give, on the outside looking in, is DO NOT put your friends on the back burner. A boy, a career, anything. Your friends are going to be the ones that are there when that boy breaks your heart, or you lose or find struggles in your work. Friendships take WORK. Now, don’t go thinking that I am an expert and have never put friends on the back burner for either of these things, because trust me I have. The person I was in my last relationship is someone I never want to be again. I truly believe you have to be your own person, find yoursel,f and figure things out on your own before, to know the person you want to be.. a friend, girlfriend, wife, mother, whatever. Take the trips, call your friends, text your friends, drive and see your friends. SHOW UP FOR YOUR FRIENDS. I don’t care if they need a ride, to call, it’s their birthday, a baby shower, a wedding. SHOW UP."
Just for fun. If you could have an unlimited storage of one thing, what would it be? If I could have an unlimited storage of one thing, I think it would have to be jeans/flares and Brand Hoodies. I have so many and I don’t have enough room for them the way it is.
Ashley leaves us with this piece of advice. "Take a chance, on literally anything. If you can dream it up in your head, I am positive you can make it happen, but only if you are willing to put in the work, using consistency and discipline along the way.
Don’t wait for shit to happen, just go make it happen. If you really want to, you will.
Everyone should own at least one pair of flare jeans and one pair of boots."
If you would like to check out Ashley's brand and everything she has to offer in her store you can find it here. Just follow this link Western T Brand
You will find, hoodies, tees, athleisure wear, and so much more! We love Ashley and hope y'all do too!
Follow her on Instagram @akhunwardsen & @westerntbrand