Founder’s Story: Where It All Began

IMG_0046

Entrepreneur in the Making

Most kids want to be doctors, firefighters, police officers, or teachers when they grow up. I wanted to be an entrepreneur–and that was something that I knew since I was 6 years old.

There was a game that my three sisters and I used to play called “Stores,” where we each pretended to own a store and buy things from each other with fake money. I became obsessed with the game and begged them to play it with me so much that they eventually became sick of it, but there was just something about the idea of money–and hopefully making a lot of it one day–that really drew me in.

From there, I was always trying to find ways to make money, despite not even needing it at a young age. I vividly recall being 10 years old and sitting at my family computer to Google “how to make money as a 10 year old” and feeling incredibly disappointed with the search results of becoming a mother’s helper, running a lemonade stand, and asking your parents for chores. The reason why I felt so disappointed was because I wanted something more–and it’s that whole feeling of wanting something more that has led me to where I am today.

Where It All Began: Starting A Blog

Being someone who can never sit still, and also loves to read and write, I eventually got my first taste of entrepreneurship at the age of 15 when I started my fashion and lifestyle blog. I treated that blog as if it was a part-time job–spending at least 10 to 15 hours per week writing posts, creating social media content, connecting with brands and other bloggers, and more. I grew that blog organically through social media, which led me to accepting paid partnerships with companies to promote their products, attend press events, and write about their brands.

After working with many companies, I realized that most of them were barely utilizing social media–yet through my own experience of building a brand through this channel, I knew how important it was for other companies to do the same. Discovering a passion for marketing and wanting to support the companies I had relationships with, I offered pro bono services and helped them to develop marketing strategies, manage influencer relationships, optimize their social media profiles, and more.

I was then opened up to the freelance marketing world at the age of 17, where I casually worked with clients on short-term projects. After working with various industries, I quickly realized that I loved marketing and that I was good at it–and after wanting to own a business for years, but having no idea what that business would be, I decided that one day I would start a marketing firm.

But the keyword here is “one day.” I always thought that I had to follow society’s standards of going through college, getting my degree, and building a successful 20+ year career before going off on my own… because that is the narrative that’s put in our heads since the very first day that we start school. I believed that was what I needed to do in life until one day, I didn’t.

The Cancer Diagnosis That Led to Dash of Social

On January 5th, 2016–the day after my 19th birthday–my mom was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme… stage IV brain cancer. For someone who was so incredibly healthy, hardworking, kind, and compassionate, this diagnosis came as a shock to all. Her diagnosis made me realize that life is short and the best time to follow your dreams is now–so I did.

Who cares if I’m only 19? Who cares if I’m still in college? Who cares if I didn’t work for another marketing agency first? I realized that no matter what I want to do in life, I’m always going to be able to find an excuse that stops me from moving forward–so I decided to kick those excuses to the curb. I stopped focusing on what other people thought I should do and instead started focusing on what I wanted to do. My parents have always believed in me and supported me in everything I do–so if the two people closest to me knew I could do it, I knew, too. What did it matter what other people thought?

8 months later–on September 19th, 2016–Dash of Social was born.

Experiencing Entrepreneurship As A College Student

As if being a full-time college student wasn’t already a job of its own, I threw a business on top of that. My days were literally jam packed from 4 am to midnight because I needed to juggle going to the gym, taking care of my mom, attending school, working, spending time with friends, eating, and sleeping. It was a lot… but there was a quote that I came across one day that stuck with me and inspired me to keep moving forward, despite all that I had on my plate: “Entrepreneurs will work 80 hours per week just to avoid working 40 hours per week.”

And that’s exactly what I did. Every single spare second I had during my day was used to build my business. I spent breaks in between classes talking on the phone to clients, I did client work while in some classes (sorry professors!), I gave up weekend fun to work, and I reserved hours upon hours for networking with as many people as I could.

My 3 years of nonstop hustling showed as senior year approached. When I was asked the stereotypical question, “What are your plans for after graduation?” upon entering my senior year, my answer was always, “I’m taking my business full-time!” And as you can imagine, that was never the answer that people expected. Becoming an entrepreneur straight out of college isn’t even an option to people–either you continue your education or you follow the 9-5 route.

I knew that I was doing neither and I stopped trying to convince other people that my decision was the right one. I didn’t need to try to show people how busy I was, because I knew how hard I worked. I didn’t need to try to explain that I was making enough money to pay all of my bills and support my lifestyle, because I saw my revenue each month. And I didn’t need to try to persuade people that this wasn’t just a “hobby” or something that I did “just for fun,” because I knew I was a professional and an expert.

After years of self-doubt, I finally knew that I was taking the right step forward and felt proud to have hit a multitude of milestones by the time I was 22 that I never would have experienced had I worked for someone else.

I made over $100,000 in 2018 alone, when I was only 21 and still a senior in college. I leased an office space to work someplace other than my house. I paid off my entire student loan debt and car payment, totaling almost $50,000. And I gave a TEDx talk on the challenge of starting a business in college.

But most importantly, I built a life I love. I’m grateful that owning a business gave me the flexibility to spend so much time with my mom up until she passed away in June 2018. I feel excited to work in my office when I get there each morning. I enjoy taking every Friday off in the summer to go to the beach. And I’m thrilled that I’m surrounded by such cool and talented people every single day.

Despite experiencing all of this already, I’m only just getting started… and that’s exactly what led me to start Student to CEO.

A Need For A Community

To put it briefly: being an entrepreneur in college was HARD.

I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to teach myself everything, I dealt with people constantly doubting me, I was getting pulled in a million different directions, but most importantly, I felt alone. I knew no one else my age who was also in this position and all I really wanted was to surround myself with people who would truly “get it.” People who could answer my questions, give me advice, and understand the ups and downs of business.

But instead, I managed everything all by myself. Sure, I’m lucky to have met tons of great people online and in person who became a part of my circle and supported me in various ways–as well as my amazing family and friends–but I always felt like something was “lacking” in my professional life and that was the opportunity to connect and grow with other entrepreneurs my age.

It’s obvious that I’m passionate about pursuing entrepreneurship at a young age. And if I can do it, so can others–but I know that having a community to rely on during the time you start a business is crucial.

What I needed was something like Student to CEO. And I realized that if I needed it, other people did, too.

So, after not being able to stop thinking about creating something like this over the past year, I finally put things into motion and did the damn thing.

I’m thrilled to offer this resource hub to young individuals who want to start businesses. By inspiring them with the stories and expertise of people who have done it before through our podcast, blog, Facebook group, and resource area, I know that so many brilliant ventures are going to rise from this. The dialogue around starting a business while young needs to change–and as a society, we need to be better.

It’s my goal to inspire thousands of students… but for now, I will start small 😉

Look through our site yourself and share it with anyone you know who could benefit from having it in their life. These individuals are going to change the world one day… and if Student to CEO plays even a tiny part in that, my world will be changed.

Ashley Mason is a marketing consultant, speaker, and founder of both Dash of Social and Student to CEO.

Starting her business at the age of 19, Ashley successfully grew it to reach six figures by the time she was 21 and now works for it full-time. Since then, she has been featured in prominent publications such as TEDx, The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, SWAAY Magazine, and more.

Passionate about pursuing entrepreneurship at a young age, Ashley hopes to inspires others to take that leap, just like she did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Interested in learning more about us?

Scroll to Top