I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Mason, founder of Dash of Social. Ashley is a marketing consultant who works with entrepreneurs and small business owners to help them create and execute social media strategies that establish an online presence and attract their target market. Starting her business at the age of 19 and now successfully running it at the age of 21 while being a full-time college student, Ashley has applied strategies and tactics to her clients’ current marketing efforts that have doubled their Instagram followings, grown their email lists by 20%, and landed media gigs — all within one month of working with them.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

At the age of 15, I started a fashion and lifestyle blog and grew that organically through social media. As my blog continued to grow, I received multiple opportunities to work with companies on sponsored content through press events, product reviews, and more. However, I realized that most of these companies barely had a social media presence, which I knew was vital for staying afloat.

Because I felt I knew a thing or two about marketing, I offered to work with the companies I already had relationships with on a pro bono basis to manage their social media accounts and become more familiarized with the process. I started freelancing by the age of 17 and then officially established Dash of Social at the age of 19 in September 2016!

Why did you found your company?

Even though I haven’t gone through the typical “corporate world” route that so many others face, I’ve always known that I wanted to own a business, and I knew that a 9–5 wouldn’t be the right fit for me.

I couldn’t justify working so hard for someone else just for them to make boatloads of money off of me, and for me to make just a sliver of what they make, when I can work just as hard for myself and continuously make more money.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I’m young! Millennials are expected to go to college and enter the corporate world upon graduation to get a “real job” with a “stable income” and “good benefits.” And THEN start a business years down the line.

I’m adamant about continuing with my business upon my college graduation, which is something that’s difficult for a lot of people to accept.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

My best business friend Liz Theresa as well as two of my business coaches, Taylor Manning and Kelly Roach.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I’m becoming more of an all-inclusive marketing company that will offer social media marketing, SEO, publicity, blogging, and email marketing!

I’m excited to serve my clients even more to get the full visibility online.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Don’t craft every excuse in the book that will prevent you from starting your business — just do it! I actually started my business so early because my mom, also known as my best friend, was diagnosed with grade IV brain cancer in January 2016. Seeing how quickly life can change made me realize that I needed to get started NOW. I hustled to build a business that I’m so proud of, and although my mom passed away in June 2018, I know she’s proud of me, too.

Successful people wake up early. It’s true! My clients think it’s hilarious that I’m such an early bird. I’m known for waking up at 4:15 am Monday — Friday so I can get to my local gym by 5 for an hour-long run. I’m back at home, showered, and ready to start my work day with a coffee in my hand by 7 am, and I find that the amount of productivity I have that day just because of my morning routine is incredible.

We ALL need support from others. It’s impossible to run a business alone. I’m so thankful to have entrepreneurial friends and business coaches who pick me up when I’m feeling down, celebrate my wins with me, provide feedback on my ideas, and support me in a way that others are unable to. Without other women entrepreneurs, I would NOT be where I am today!

What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker is excellent! Being a perfectionist who sets very high expectations for herself, I was so caught up on my definition of “success” for so long. Eric provides dozens of case studies that dive into what exactly it means to be successful.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Sara Blakely! Her story of starting a business with her life savings of only $5,000 and turning it into a billion-dollar enterprise is remarkable. We need more inspirational women like her in the world!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @dashofsocial or head to my website at www.dashofsocial.com!

Originally published at medium.com