We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I wasn’t fulfilled in my job. And that was hard to admit, because my job was super prestigious: Investment Banking Analyst on Wall Street. I was making six figures at 22 and “living the dream”… except it wasn’t a dream. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being challenged, the hustle, the grind. All of that fueled me. I was learning so much and being pushed to my limits almost every day. But at the end of the day, I felt a bit empty. I was helping a huge bank make a bunch of money, and that simply wasn’t motivation enough. I’ll never forget that defining moment. I was working with teams all over the world, as the sole analyst in the U.S. on a $4 billion IPO. It was a landmark transaction for our firm, so we had a company party to celebrate, and I remember one of my colleagues coming up to me raving about what an opportunity it must have been. And I… well, I was indifferent. And a lightbulb went off as I thought, “This should move me, and it doesn’t.” I’d accepted the offer to stay on with the firm for a third year, but I knew in that moment that I didn’t want to have this career. And I also knew that accepting the third year offer would make it harder for me to leave: promotion = more pay = lifestyle adjustment = harder to say goodbye. But I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and that terrified me. So I made a list. What would I do if money didn’t matter? What do I like to do for fun? What do people tell me I’m good at that I also enjoy? What do I find myself doing for hours and hours before I realized that much time has gone by? The list was super random; everything from volleyball to dancing to planning. And I stuck that list on my computer screen and sort of meditated on it for weeks. One day, out of the blue, it clicked: I want to run a business. But I didn’t have a “thing.” I just wanted to run the behind the scenes, but didn’t necessarily have a specific talent for a business. But my mom did! She’d always wanted to have a Tea Room so I convinced her that I could make it happen. I made one the hardest decisions of my life, at that time, to forgo the third year offer from the firm, leave my six-figure job and move back home to start this tea business with my mom. I went to the World Tea Expo and started lining up investors, and this entrepreneurship life felt right. Soon after, however, my mom changed her mind (ahhh) and decided she didn’t want to move forward with the tea room. I was utterly devastated and went into a mild depression. Newly married, I didn’t like the idea of just being home and not working, because that just wasn’t me. My husband, Terry, had been crushing it at fitness studios all over town, and dreamed of one day having a gym of his own. I convinced him that now (since I was jobless, haha) was better than ever! So we created a business plan and one year later launched The League: Elite Training Facility. Our gym is now over 6 years old, and I’m so grateful for the incredible community we have and the lives we’ve been able to impact. Stories from “I’m off my blood pressure medication” to “This saved my marriage” — that impact, the life change, makes it all so worth it. This was the key ingredient I was missing with my job on Wall Street, and I’m so glad I had the courage back then to make the very intimidating jump into entrepreneurship and then bouncing back when it didn’t go exactly as planned. I encourage anyone out there considering starting a business to create a business plan (this proves your business idea to yourself) and then take the leap! Do it afraid. It won’t be perfect, but you won’t be able to make it better until you actually start. You’ll learn to adapt and figure things out as you go. That’s how we all do it. I’m cheering you on!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Through Bird Williams Consulting, I help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses, by bringing strategic systems to help dreams become ventures that soar. Through my podcast, Bird Means Business, I share practical tips from my 7-year journey in entrepreneurship. Humbly, I’d say what sets me apart is having lived it. When I create my services and online courses, I’m thinking about Ashley in 2013 and what I would have needed as I launched my business back then, as well as what practical tips and strategies are most helpful to grow a business sustainably. I’m most excited about helping others! I know that could seem cliche, but it is absolutely the motivation behind everything I do. For some, it could be just a bit of guidance, one phone call, or a simple process, that would make all the difference. Being that guide to entrepreneurs fires me up! I got to where I am today by adapting, taking things one step at a time, while thinking long-term and always trusting that Inner Voice. It most certainly was not easy! Rather, it’s been one of the most intense experiences of my life. But nothing has been wasted. Every hard moment, every bump in the road… it all worked together for good. I’d have it no other way. When faced with any challenge, it’s best to get clear on what you can and can’t control. There are some things that you have to just let go. It’s unproductive to continue to worry; that takes you nowhere. On the other side, there are things that you can break apart and strategize around. You’ll try one approach, then you may “fail” (and learn), and then you’ll simply apply a different approach. A lot of entrepreneurship is trial and error. Keep believing in yourself and get around people who believe in you too! I’d want the world to know that Bird Williams Consulting is here to serve. One of our core values is generosity. This is why I created the Bird Means Business Podcast, a completely free resource to anyone launching or growing their business. I’d also want people to know they don’t have to navigate entrepreneurship alone — it’s much less fun that way!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Gosh! I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, but this is a hard question for me. As an owner of 4 businesses with two little boys at home, I have a pretty strict routine: daycare, work/meetings, home, church. We love having friends over at our home often, but outside of that, I’m pretty low-key! But I could dream up an ideal girl’s weekend: Friday Afternoon: – Check into Hotel Zaza – Hot Yoga at YogaWorks on Travis – Shower/Change – Dinner at North Italia Saturday: – Brunch at Snooze – The Menil Collection – Nap – Run at Buffalo Bayou – Happy Hour at Ra Sushi – Dinner and a Movie at IPIC Theaters Sunday: – Worship at Lakewood Church – Lunch at Peli Peli – Shopping at the Galleria
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Gosh, my parents! They’ve been 100% supportive through the entire process, even though they didn’t always “get” my entrepreneurial lifestyle. They’re old school, so, for example, the concept of “working from home” didn’t make much sense to them. At one point, I’m pretty sure my dad thought I was playing make-believe business, haha! Nevertheless, they believed in me and supported my dreams and invested their time, money and energy in whatever I had going on. I owe them so much.
Matt Daniel (IG: @mattjdaniel) for all photos