One of the most challenging things in business is creating an real connection with your audience. It is so easy to hide behind a logo. However, we are more than logos and more than our products. Our networks desire connection and sharing our authentic selves gives us a leg up on the competition.
Once you’ve made the decision to make that connection it can be difficult to know what to do or how to go about it. This is where Ashley Hoffman comes into the picture. As a brand story teller her expertise is telling your story in a way the resonates with your clients and customers. Her unique experience with marketing and branding makes her a valuable asset that ANY business will find useful. You can reach her on her website, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m an anxious writer, avid reader, coffee snob, cat mom, and female entrepreneur. In my business, I help creative woman-owned businesses tell their stories through content marketing and copywriting.
I’m fascinated by stories and the power they have to bring people closer together and form communities. That’s why I started a brand storytelling business – I believe brands have the opportunity to utilize the power of stories to form deeper connections with their customers, grow their businesses, and create significant change in the world.
On the side, I’m also the co-founder of two Seattle-based creative organizations: Creative Connect Seattle and the Seattle Creative League.
How did you get into your business?
I started reading at an early age. As soon as I was old enough to do so, I was always carrying a book around, sitting in a corner and escaping into the world within the words every chance I could get.
When I was about 13 years old, I would write stories in class all the time. Then, when I got home, I’d write poetry. I actually wrote my first short story in 8th grade – it was about a girl who finds a book in an attic and got sucked into a world with dragons and she had to kill them all in order to escape. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a writer. It was just inside of me. Writing always came so easily to me and I loved being able to create whole new words just with words.
My career path, on the other hand, wasn’t always so clear to me. I had it stuck in my head early on I could never make money just writing, so I had to figure something else out. I changed my degree a number of times in college – switching from Journalism to Film to Fashion Marketing – before finally graduating with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Fashion Marketing.
Before graduating, I took a storytelling class where every week our assignment was to write a one-page story with very tight constraints. It was my favorite class by far and I was so good at it that one day, my professor pulled me aside and said, “I think you should seriously consider a career in this – you have talent.”
That’s when it all became clear to me: great marketing is successful storytelling.
I worked for a few years as a marketing manager for a couple of different companies and what always attracted me the most was being able to write content and watch how it actually worked to help grow the business.
After a while, I grew restless. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and I always knew I wanted to start my own business someday. In June 2018, that day finally came. I put in my notice at my day job and launched my business full time in July 2018.
What has been your biggest challenge?
This is still new to me, but something I’m struggling with and foresee continuing to struggle with is balancing everything. As fellow entrepreneurs know, you have to strike a balance between wearing all the hats, doing all the things, but also making time to take care of yourself throughout it all. The past few months have been a whirlwind. I’ve worked many 12+ hour days, had a few sleepless nights, and have questioned myself a thousand times.
What keeps me going is knowing this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I remember why I got into this in the first place – to help empower creative women to tell their story, build their brand, and do what they love – and I get back up and keep going. I can do this because I know that no matter what, even if I’m not OK right now, I’m going to be.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
You’re never going to have enough time for all the things.
When I was balancing the day job with the part-time freelancing, I kept convincing myself that once I quit I would have way more time to figure things out as I go along. While I do technically have more time to focus on the business, that to-do list never seems to end and it’s important to set up those boundaries to keep from burning out.
If you could narrow your success down to one thing, what would it be?
My one thing is a mix of two things – mindset and doing the work. You can’t have success without just one; it’s important to do both.
If you don’t have a positive mindset, then every setback and every downfall will absolutely crush you. It makes it that much harder to get back up again and keep going on your path.
On the other hand, your mindset is worth nothing if you don’t actually sit down and do the work. You can’t just sit on your couch and wish things will just happen! You have to hustle it out and only then will things come together.
Where do you see yourself in a year?
In a year, I’ll be launching my new brand which will eventually grow into a larger brand storytelling agency. Until then, I’m sticking with my name and freelancer status.
What are your top three tips for women starting a business?
You can’t do it alone. Even soloprenuers need community to survive. Find yourself a “business bestie” or two and confide in them. Take part in various Facebook groups and be active in them. Attend events and put yourself out there in the world.
Don’t underestimate the power of community or take advantage of the fact that everyone will be there to help you whenever you need it. Text people in your network at least once a week and ask them how you can make their life/day better. Be specific and don’t ask for anything in return. You get as much as you put into a relationship!
Outsource things you don’t like or aren’t good at doing as soon as you can. Not only does this make you happier and saner, but it also frees you up to focus on doing the things you’re good at to grow your business!
What is a typical day for you like?
I don’t really have much of a typical day, but I start off most days with the alarm going off at 6:45 and me lying in bed until 7:15. I then stretch and go on my morning jog before getting ready for the day and settling down to work by around 9:30-10.
I will then make any client work I have a priority and focus on that first. At the beginning of the week, I also check and update my goals and task management for the week. Towards the end of the week, I’m usually writing the next week’s blog content and preparing my weekly newsletter.
Outside of that, sometimes I’m meeting prospective and current clients for coffee or attending events in the Seattle area.
What’s your business motto or quote you live by?
We’re all going to die someday – why not make life worth living while you’re here?
If you were starting your business over again, what would you do differently?
Nothing! I firmly believe every mistake is a learning experience, every conflict makes for a better story and every moment shapes who I am both as a person and as a business.