About a couple of months ago, at the set of Great Day Houston (a local TV show), I got a chance to meet this young petite lady whom I thought for sure was in high school until I found out that she's married and owns her own PR company.
Meet Ashley Small…but don't let the last name fool you.
Ashley Small is the President of Medley Incorporated, a Texas Southern University graduate and a lover of technology, fashion and public relations. She was recently named a Face of Houston by Fast Company Magazine and was recognized as a "Big Name in PR," by Business Insider. In addition to Medley, Ashley was a cast member on the docu-soap, Keeping up with the Joneses on Centric TV and contributed to the highly anticipated national launch of Jones Magazine. Prior to Medley, Ashley worked with with top national brands, political figures and non-profits such as Nintendo, Chilli’s, former Houston Mayor Bill White and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She's been featured on ABC News, Great Day Houston, and Fox 26 just to name a few.
Ashley was kind enough to share with us her story as a thriving business owner in a struggling economy…
What inspired you to go into business for yourself?
I don't think there was one particular source of inspiration. I think this is just what God intended for me to be doing. I've always been a busy bee- working multiple jobs in high school, juggling management positions while in college and always, always looking for something new to learn and do.
Medley came about as a result of several contract jobs that I'd been working on. Eventually, it made sense to go into business for myself.
Were you at all afraid or hesitant before branching out on your own?
Yes, for sure. But I had a great support system. My husband was always there, telling me how great he thought I was and will be. He sees something in me that I don't think I'll ever see. It's a blessing.
My greatest fear was breaking free from the comfort that comes with being attached to a particular brand. The keyword here is comfort. I was comfortable with being attached to brands other than my own. This, (entrepreneurship) is never about comfort, but challenges instead.
What are the greatest challenges you've faced as a business owner?
Learning to be good in this role. It sounds simple, but great is still a major aspiration- I just want to be good for now. To own a business, that's geared toward service and teamwork- you have to be strong, assertive and confident, yet kind and compassionate. You have to always fight for your clients and your team…and yourself. You can never neglect your personal brand, but you must always understand how it impacts your business. You must learn what inspires people to believe in you, trust you and respect you.
So yes, still learning what this (entrepreneurship) should look like.
What have been the highlights so far as a business owner?
The firsts are highlights. First retainer client, first client on the cover of a magazine, first logo design- turned store decal. The firsts are always humbling for me and remind me why I love what I do.
Do you plan to pursue any other entrepreneur endeavors?
That's a good question. I'm madly in love with Medley and I can't imagine directing my attention elsewhere. I do hope to take it to different places. I love our current services, but I'd like to get more into production and marketing. I created Medley with the idea in mind that it will always be transcending.
How do you market Medley?
I've recently discovered that media placements are my single most valuable form of marketing. TV appearances, magazine features, online features (like this) tend to always result in new business. I originally struggled with the idea of a "publicist getting PR," but I had to remind myself that my bottom line is Medley and what works…works. It's incredible, because most of my placements come about organically via social media.
How have you managed to stay successful in this economy?
I have a great team. It's a blessing to have colleagues who are on the cutting edge of technology, but still value traditional PR and branding methods. I think brands that "get it," are those that see the value of having a publicist who rocks on social media, or a video director who also edits and understands viral marketing.
Essentially, we embody what the future of PR and branding looks like.
What are your words of advice to new or aspiring business owners?
Know your reason for going into business. While I'm one to encourage pursuing your passions, I'm also one to encourage having a plan in place before starting. For example, if I were a designer- I wouldn't even be thinking about opening a store until I built a great web platform to drive sales.
Be confident in who you are as an individual. Think of all that you've accomplished and how your input at other organizations has contributed to their growth. You have to truly believe that you're a rockstar and have people around you who expect you to be nothing less.
Great things indeed come in small packages! In her spare time, Ashley also volunteers for Women Empowering Nations, a global non-profit geared toward empowering and education young women worldwide and the Houston Association of Black Journalists.