Hi, I'm Ashlie. Owner and lead designer at Wolf & Willow Design! I'm a 12 year corporate accountant turned full-time designer helping other small-business entrepreneurs chase their dreams. I'm also a wife, #girlmom, and Air Force veteran.
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I never thought I would be a website designer. I’ve never taken a design course in my life. It wasn’t until I went through the painstaking process of trying to build my own website (although I was still unsure of what kind of business I was building). All I knew, was that I wanted to leave the miserable corporate 9-5 career behind so I could take back control of my life and focus on what was most important to me: my family.
My husband and I got married early in life, a month after we graduated from high school in fact 😳. And I knew early on that meant taking on the role of a military spouse, as a month later he left for Basic Training. If you’ve never been a military spouse, let’s just say it’s hard to be an aspiring, driven career woman while you’re following your spouse wherever the Air Force sends you. But, nonetheless I knew I wanted to be the first person in my family to get a college degree. So in between moving and having our first daughter, Piper, I went to school online. For psychology. Because what the hell was I going to do with that, right?!
As a young family and with me working in jobs where I could (I made a killer receptionist, might I add), it became apparent my senior year of college that going beyond a Bachelors degree would be nearly impossible since practically all psychology programs worth pursuing required unpaid internships. At the time I was working as a bookkeeper, again another job that I landed with no experience out of convenience, and yet I ended up having a knack for it. So to keep things short and sweet here, I went back to college and got a second BA in accounting. Which was seemingly leading to the path of a CPA. But alas, the Air Force moved us again and I was on the hunt for my next job. Albeit this time I was equipped with some education and experience in my back pocket.
And I landed my dream job. ‘Wait, I thought we were talking about how you became a website designer?’ It took a while to get me here, ok?!
I still had dreams of being a successful corporate, 6-figure earning female badass. I got hired at 24 years old as the CFO of one of the largest law firms in the state 👀. And I LOVED it. I seriously could have made a career out of it. And that is precisely why I left it. Because the only thing that remains constant about being a miltary family, is that nothing remains constant. 🙄 My husband had ten years invested in a military career at this point. It was time to decide whether to get off that retirement train so I could grow my career, which being the most amazing supportive husband he is he was 100% willing to do, or apply to be an Officer in the Air Force so he could keep his career too. The alternative was to leave another job that I actually loved and have zero chance of a stable career.
So in 2015, I went to Officer Training School and spent 5 1/2 years with a successful military career. But as my kids got older and I realized just how much I was missing I became bitter, and wondered what my life would have been like if I had been more intentional with what I chose to do. I had allowed my military life to dictate the course of my career out of convenient or accidental opportunities. What would I have done if I had the choice?
The one thing I knew for sure: I was tired of living a life ruled by alarm clocks, paychecks and traffic. Ugh. Traffic.
I was tired of people telling me where, when, and how to show up. I lived for the weekends. Which, let’s face it, were full of catching up on #momlife and #wifelife. What was left? So what do you do when you don’t want people telling you what to do anymore?
You quit your 6-figure 12+ year corporate career and become a starving entrepreneur, of course! 🤣
Becoming an entrepreneur led to trying to decide what kind of business I wanted, which led to 3 different “great” ideas, which led to needing to build a website (I was going to be a Virtual Assistant in case you’re curious), and that led to all. the. website builders. Seriously, I almost gave up after finally switching to WordPress only to buy and install a template that I then had to pay someone $40 every time I wanted to add a box somewhere.
Then one glorious day someone introduced me to the one thing that would change my life forever: Showit.
I was in love. In fact, I spent more time playing around building different designs than I did actually building my own website. And that’s when I knew I had finally found my passion. After almost four years of wishing, researching, testing, learning how to build a business from scratch and wondering if becoming an entrepreneur to leave the corporate world behind was really possible, I had hope. And I made my one year exit plan.
In April of 2021, after two years of learning Showit, designing templates, and getting my feet wet as a designer by building sites for people as a side-hustle, I left the miliary and my corporate career to become a full-time entrepreneur. Finally, in September of 2021 Wolf & Willow Design was born. Prior to W&W I operated under just my name, which for some people is great, but I knew I wanted something that captured the essence of my inspiration for starting a business in the first place: my girls.
It took quite a bit of soul searching and hiring someone to help me brainstorm, but we finally came up with the wolf as a symbol of my oldest daughter, Piper. She is fierce, loyal, courageous, and loves humans for who they are. She bravely came out to us as LGBTQ+ in 2019. How lucky are we to have somehow raised a daughter, especially in society today, that is capable of loving anyone, without judgement? Piper has a hard exterior but loves her people intensely, and is like me in her contentedness with being surrounded only by our closest circle, like the wolf. The willow is symbolic of our youngest daughter Jaycee. She is soft, emotional, compassionate and all around the most selfless little girl I have ever met. Her name means healer, and she is just that for our family: a symbol of hope, happiness and positivity.
Together, they are the two halves that make up my whole world. And becoming an entrepreneur taught me that success is not defined by a degree or how much money you make. It’s defined by you, your happiness, and what lights you up. Now, I encourage my girls to chase their dreams and explore their hobbies and passions. My hope is that Wolf & Willow, and I, inspire them to chart their own journey to a successful life, whatever that looks like for them. And I hope it leaves a legacy of strength, love, and defining your own success.
Honestly, I didn’t. I started researching and trying to learn how to start an online based business back in 2016. I kept it tucked away as a pipe dream for years until I found Showit. My best advice would be to know when staying in your full-time job is more harm than good. Sure, I made a solid income to help support my family, but my mental health and the strain on my family just wasn’t worth it anymore. Surround yourself with people who support you and dig in. If your gut tells you it’s time…it probably is.
Allow yourself to fully explore not only what you’re good at, but what you enjoy! This is what held me captive for a long time. I had all these skills I had acquired over the years as a successful corporate woman, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Once I started focusing more of my free time on my hobbies and creative outlets I had deprived myself of for so long, I began to realize that I could couple my business savviness with my creativity to start a web design business.
Find a mentor and/or support group. (You thought I was going to say get a website didn’t ya? 😜) Honestly, this was the best thing I did early on. I found a ton of Facebook groups filled with other like-minded women, other creatives, and entrepreneurs. I spent hours reading through people’s questions and the answers that came with them from others who were already succeeding in building a business themselves. I got involved in groups of all kinds, from general entrepreneurs, to virtual assistants, to writers and designers…by digging into groups with all different types of expertise, I was able to use that knowledge along with my own to put the pieces together on how to start a business from scratch. And having a support system just helps in general. Then, once you’ve nailed down your niche, find others in your industry who have established businesses. Follow them, engage with them, and ask questions. Most of them are so helpful and willing to give advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Hell no! When I finally took the leap and quit to go full-time entrepreneur, I was generating zero income, didn’t have a well developed brand or website, and only knew two things: I wanted to be a Showit designer and I wanted to help other aspiring entrepreneurs. I jumped on every job opportunity I came across for assistant Showit designers. I kept putting myself out there until I got contracted for a couple of other studios to do white-label design work. That allowed me to practice and hone my craft, learn from other designers I look up to, get comfortable with the client design and communication process, and build my portfolio. The money I made from those contract jobs was invested right back into my business to finally re-launch my business as Wolf & Willow Design Studio.
“Where you are a year from now will be decided by the choices you make today.” – Yours Truly
Till next time,