My entire life I considered myself an entrepreneur at heart. I remember in college they had a whole class on entrepreneurship and the students wrote a business plan and if it was that good, well they would get funding from some outside investors. This type of talk always got my blood flowing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a part of the school of Management at Purdue, so that class wasn’t an option for me.
After I graduated I waited tables for about 6 months then found a job as a food broker, aka the bottom of the totem pole, as far as the professional food sales world is concerned. This job was actually perfect for me. I was able to make my own schedule, I got basically zero on the job training and I ran my own little business with the support of a larger (at the time there were about 5 of us) company.
I’ve always gravitated towards small to medium size companies for this exact reason; no process. No process can be a catch 22, but for the entrepreneur that lives deep inside of me, this was ideal; I would create my own process that worked for the little business I ran.
After four years of selling various food ingredients to hotel Chefs across Chicagoland, I decided it was time for a change; time for more challenge and quite frankly, more money. I had learned a lot about the industry (and myself) and was ready for more. I got a job at a specialty ingredient company and managed a whole different side of the business. I actually wasn’t overly qualified for the job, but somehow I talked my way into it and excelled. But it was not easy.
There was a big learning curve and my peers were at minimum 15-20 years my senior. However, the same rules applied as last time. Go out and make it happen. No formal training, no hand-holding. Make it you own and the more you make us, the more you will make. Sounds like a good deal. It was. It was a great deal. I had so much fun. I started to travel across the country, ate at amazing restaurants, met a lot of great people, learned about how they do business on the West Coast, Pac NW and other parts of the Midwest and East, all while running my own little business with the support and comfort of the corporation. But the time came. My soul ached and I knew I needed to branch off on my own. So I started to write a business plan for a foodservice and ingredient consulting role I would fill in the industry. I met with different brands that I believed in and pitched my services to them. One of those companies became my place of employment for the next 3.5 years. So much for those entrepreneurial dreams, eh?
Not so fast.
Timing is everything and I do believe things happen for a reason. The 3.5 years I spent at my last full-time job were filled with a lot of fun memories and many rich learning experiences. Some were severely uncomfortable, but all were beneficial, and looking back, necessary. Work still needed to be done. My confidence grew. I met amazing like-minded people in the plant-based food industry and was fortunate enough to have made life-long friends. A year and a half ago I became a mom and as they say, a baby changes everything.
And it did.
I was traveling a lot for my job and the next year the travel demands were going to be even greater. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. I love staying in hotels where they make your bed and clean up after you. I love eating out, and meeting up with friends or family in different parts of the country when I’d be traveling on business, but it started to sting a little bit more than it used to. I was leaving behind my precious little boy who was only four months old when it was time to get back on the plane.
When I took this past role, I made a commitment to myself that I would stay three years then it was time to finally do my own thing. No matter what. I didn’t know what that would look like, but that was the promise I made. And I always make good on my promises.
Three years arrived with the blink of an eye and I had my inspiration. My son had just turned a year and I was wrapping up the introduction of solid foods to him for the previous 7 months. Turns out this was exhausting! I was adamant about making everything from scratch, organic and of course, plant-based. Everything had to be dynamic, flavorful, fresh and each meal needed to be perfectly paired so he was getting optimal nutrition.
Well, my son went to daycare full-time and so this meant that I was writing meal plans for them daily and cooking literally all day each Saturday or Sunday. I was spent. Working full-time and making all of this food, writing the meal plans, packaging, labeling, shopping, etc. etc. WAS exhausting! All I wanted to be doing was spending time with my baby boy before the new work week arrived, all to quick at that. I thought, boy wouldn’t it be nice if someone could just check all of the boxes that mattered to me and deliver his food, fresh, each week to my door?
That was my inspiration.
I was going to do that for all of the moms (and dads) like me. I am going to check all of the boxes that matter to us, and get our babies the freshest, healthiest and most dynamic foods in one box, conveniently dropped at our front door.
That was it.
The time came where it was time to crap or get off the pot so… I crapped. It was one of the scariest things I’ve done in my entire life. A friend of mine, who started and sold a healthy restaurant chain, and is now on to his second venture, said, point-blank to my face, “Ashley are you a Wantrepreneur or an Entrepreneur?”. That stung a bit. He was right. So here I am building my Little Harvest empire. Yeah, that’s the name of the baby & tot meal delivery company I’m starting.
Walking away from a steady paycheck with incredible benefits and starting from zero is scary, but I’m the happiest I’ve been in many years. I’m able to be as creative as I’d like to be. I’m making a difference in the lives of others, I’m finding myself being more generous (financially) then I’ve ever been in my life and I am making no money presently. Isn’t that funny? Turns out money does not equate to happiness.
Here’s to an exciting ride ahead. I don’t know what the future stores, but I know it will be great. Follow your dreams. We only get one chance at this thing called life.
I’m so excited for you! You have worked hard and you will excel at your new venture. I think you’ve found a niche market and success is yours to be had. Best of luck! And I’d love to see you guys the next time I come to the Windy City. I really miss some of you!
Sooo happy for you Ashley! Are you ready for Shark Tank?