It may just be me, but I’m incredibly nosy and LOVE to hear people’s “why” behind their business – what made them want to start the entrepreneurial journey. I’ve shared a little bit here and there as to why I started Dash of Social, but I’ve never shared the whole story. So for those of you who are just as nosy as I am, here you go!

In September 2012, when I was starting my sophomore year of high school, I created a fashion + lifestyle blog known as Private School Prepster (now known as Lilly & Lemons) as a creative outlet to help me get through what was going to be an incredibly stressful year academically. I didn’t realize at the time that blogging would become so important to me – I have always loved to write, and had always wanted to start a blog, but I had never known what to blog about until I decided to just take the plunge and start Private School Prepster.

My blog consisted of everything that a high school girl would love to know about: fashion, study tips for school, what I was doing in my life, and more. I loved my blog and put a ton of work into it by creating solid blog post ideas and actually writing and scheduling the posts. However, I knew that blogs don’t become popular overnight, and they require strategy to get there.

I spent hours researching blogs that were similar to mine and reaching out to the girls behind those blogs to tell them about mine as well as creating separate Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts for my blog that I used to promote my blog posts and network with other bloggers. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this is part of what marketing is.

Emailing other bloggers and promoting myself through social media helped my blog to thrive. As my blog grew, I began to work with small companies to help promote their brand – I would receive money AND products, from clothes to office supplies to accessories, to write a blog post about their company and post some social media content. It was a total win-win situation – I got some pretty cool stuff and they were able to promote their brand!

The more brands that I worked with, the more I realized how important social media is for growing a brand – I was able to prove that through the brands that I worked with as well as my own blog’s growth. However, I realized that most small companies were lacking in their social media presence because they were typically made of just one person or a very small team – they didn’t have the time to dedicate to marketing on top of everything else they had to do.

This realization is what made me switch from my life-long dream of working in a bank to owning a social media consulting business in which I would help small business owners to create + implement killer marketing strategies.

I couldn’t contain the entrepreneurial itch any longer, so I eventually launched my first business, known as Ashley J. Marketing, in October 2014 – but it failed. It was hard to accept that failure, as I had poured so much time and effort into it, but I eventually realized it was for the best. After finishing out that business, I took some time off to focus on graduating high school and spending time with family and friends before starting college – but I still had my dreams of owning a business, which is what influenced me to choose marketing as my major.

Fast forward to December 2015, winter break of my freshman year of college. During my winter break, I had so much extra time on my hands, which ended up bringing that entrepreneurial itch back, but I couldn’t justify starting another business so soon. I kept telling myself to just wait it out because I didn’t think I would be able to balance a business on top of school, family and friends, and my part-time job – so I continued to push the thoughts away.

However, on January 5, 2016, the day after my 19th birthday, my whole world changed: my mom, who is also my very best friend, was diagnosed with glioblastoma – the most aggressive form of brain cancer that exists. It was devastating, stressful, and overwhelming – but it made me realize that life is short, anything can change in an instant, and you don’t always get second chances.

My mom’s diagnosis is what inspired to me start Dash of Social. Although I knew I wanted to own a business at some point in life, the news of her terminal cancer is what influenced me to start Dash of Social at 19 years old. She always knew I would be an entrepreneur and always said that when I own a company, she would be my “greeter” when clients come in – and for anyone who knows my mom, they know that is the PERFECT position for her because she will seriously talk to anyone about anything. But I do have to give some credit to my dad, too – he has always told me that I’m special, driven, and hardworking, and he always knew that I was meant to be something.

From January 2016 to September 2016, I spent hours and hours and hours researching anything and everything about marketing and entrepreneurship. I really wanted this business to become successful, and I didn’t want to just jump into it again. I even wrote out a business plan that was over 20 pages long to follow as a guide. When I finally felt comfortable enough, I made everything legit – I bought a website, I registered my business with my town hall, and I set up a business bank account. I never thought that owning a debit card that says “Dash of Social” on it would feel so cool!!!

Being an entrepreneur has been far from easy – I have to balance owning a business, being a full-time student, working a part-time job, having a social life, and taking care of my mom. I wake up at 6 AM every morning (unless I’m at my part-time job – then it’s 3:45 AM!!) and go to bed at midnight every night just so I have enough time to complete everything. I experience first-hand that there truly aren’t enough hours in the day. However, I’m incredibly thankful for my amazing support system – my family and friends never fail to remind me how proud of me they are, and their never-ending encouragement never goes unnoticed.

But most of all, I’m thankful for my mom – if it weren’t for her, Dash of Social would not have been started six months ago. On the days that I feel exhausted and aggravated, she’s the reminder of why I started it all in the first place.