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Life and Work with Ashlee Holland

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashlee Holland.

Ashlee, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
In 1984, I was born profoundly deaf in Vermont. I was diagnosed at age ten months after several doctor appointments. My parents were determined for me to learn how to speak and to wear hearing aids. There were not many resources like we have today with the internet, blogs, and support groups. While growing up, I learned to accept myself and my deafness slowly. I was different from others. I was fortunate to have people along my journey to accept me for who I am. I became a mother almost eleven years ago to a hearing daughter. While parenting, I have had a recurring interest to help deaf and hard of hearing children and families. I did not know how. The first step, I became a teacher’s aide to work with deaf and hard of hearing children – ages three to six years old. Over time, while communicating with parents about parenting and my personal experiences with deafness and working with their children in an educational environment, I had a vision. I was at home sick and was sitting on the couch when an idea came to me. I already knew the name of my business in less than five minutes. I started researching and sketching ideas. I was reflecting on my time with the students and the joy they bring to the classroom. They would show their clothes, shoes, headband, jacket and anything they personally love that gives them the freedom to be them. I felt creating unique tee shirts would give the children the freedom to be themselves. The parents, teachers, and supporting community could embrace their journey with them and spreading the deaf awareness at the same time. It takes a village to support any child. Almost two years later, I have reached over 45 States and two countries. I receive personal emails from customers, or I call them “Clients” because they are personal and loyal. They send me emails about how much a shirt brings joy to their child, to their job, to their own identities with a hearing loss, and it is really humbling. It opens the door for them to have a conversation with other people out in the world about their personal journey. I now am doing blog interviews on other deaf and hard of hearing individuals and parents of deaf and hard of hearing children to bring the community closer and to make it a home for others to relate to, have support, and not to feel alone.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road. It is an online business. A few days before I launched it, my daughter created a scavenger hunt. It was all my business related pieces and it was her way of saying “Do it and I support you on your dreams”, so I finally faced my fear. On the first day as soon as I announced the business, I was shaking. I was thinking “what if I fail or what if this becomes a disaster? What if they think my tees are not good?” My advice for other women is: do not give up, do not doubt yourself, and open the door to find out. Some of my struggles have been that I am a one-woman show – I do all of my designs, work with a printer company, take photos of the shirts, upload it on the website, print orders, post office, inventory, social media, photo shoots, blogs, and the list goes on. I look back, “I did all of that?” During the one-woman show, I had to learn how to create a website, to deal with inventory and finances, and figure out the best ways to make a quality of shirts along with the shipping process. Research is the key, asking others for advice who have run a business, and doing the steps helps you learn the mistakes and correcting the mistakes.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am the owner and operator of Love, Ashlee Rose. I am known for Deaf Awareness Apparel, an online shop. I am proud of my brand and organization that is bringing the community together who has a hearing loss, working with a hearing loss, or raising a child with a hearing loss. My business is unique because it is related to Deaf Awareness, it strings individuals together to accept themselves and show support to someone who has a hearing loss. A portion of the proceeds is donated to Deaf Education. Deaf education does not have enough funding. Families have to pay it out of their pocket or apply for grants or district approvals. This process can be stressful for families. Selling the products with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and sign language designs connects me to a variety of people in the community and writing personal blogs as well as interview blogs, I feel this is a home for all of us.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that a lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
I went to participate in Christy Wright’s Business Boutique seminar in Nashville, Tennessee with my mother who is my best friend. My mother surprised me with front row seating arrangements to allow me to understand Christy and she took notes for me. On a daily basis, I see my mother as my mentor because she believes in me and supports my dreams. During the seminar, Christy Wright inspired me and her motto was “Do It Scared” as she explained there is no perfect timing when we postpone making everything perfect, we just have to do it and start the ride. However, there are several fantastic mentors in the valley. It helps with research, following them on social media for tips and advice, and connect with other women who are running their own business.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Mark Holland, Cindy Holland, Makayla

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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