#BEYOUROWN MEETS ASHLEY FRANCE
So who is Ashley France? Ashley is the CEO of ANF Consulting, LLC and creator of the Corporate Curly Brand and better known as the serial entrepreneur with the curly fro. Graduating from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Ashely has since also obtained her Juris Doctorate from the University of Maryland School of Law.
Ashley’s leadership skills started before obtaining her CEO title. In undergrad, she was a peer mentor helping incoming freshman navigate through college, on the executive board of Terps Against Homelessness, Teaching Aid, volunteered numerous hours working with children in the local community and became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, INC. While in law school she became the president of Business Law Society and Federal Bar Association, A student attorney defending wrongfully sentenced individuals, aided a free legal clinic in the local community, and became a member of the Black Law Students Association
Upon her law school graduate, Ashley looks a leap of faith and relocated to Atlanta, Georgia to start her career working in-house for a top fortune 500 company. After being inspired by so many young and prosperous entrepreneurs surrounding her, she decided to start her consulting company to aid entrepreneurs, creatives, and entertainers achieve their dreams. Shortly after she decided to create the Corporate Curly brand. Throughout her years working in corporate America, she has seen the struggles, negativity, and shame natural hair women have endured. She created this platform to ensure a safe place for women to express those views and be a driving change of the definition of “ professional.”
Can you share your journey with us so far Ashley?
My journey as an entrepreneur has really just begun. The idea of starting my consulting company came about mid last year. I got the push from my mentor to fully pursue my business around October 2017 and I registered my business in December 2017. The last few months have been the start of me really pushing my business and the type of services that I offer to the public.
I wanted to make sure that I had a good foundation (i.e. website, logo, etc.) before I started to really advertise my company. The idea for my brand Corporate Curly, came about a year ago. I decided to sit on the idea for a while until about February of this year. I knew this type of platform was needed for natural hair women and I wanted to stop procrastinating and just put it out there.
What is the story behind your journey prior to a career as a business consultant?
Before becoming a business consultant I was working in-house for a company as a legal specialist writing and negotiating their non-disclosure agreements. I had just graduated law school that summer and this was my first real job upon graduation.
What was the initial passionate about wanting to help other entrepreneurs build their brands?
My initial passion for wanting to help others build their brand and business, was seeing so many of peers either on social media or in person with amazing products and services. Yet, they just didn’t have the information or tools to actually run a business and be successful. Most businesses don’t last over a year; let alone make money within the first year. I wanted to create a business that can help and teach people about the logistics of running a business at an affordable price.
You offer both businesses consulting services and business coaching sessions, what training or courses did you undertake?
I have taken many business courses throughout my undergrad and law school career. My focus in law school was business and transactional law.
What are you learning about in business so far?
As a business owner, it will push you to do things that you never thought you could do. For example, I created all of my websites on my own, I never thought I would be able to create a website until I needed to make one for my business.
Any common misconceptions about being an entrepreneur?
One common misconception is that being an entrepreneur is easier than working a 9-5 or that you work fewer hours. I usually work every day between 12-14 hours a day. While being an entrepreneur gives me a level of flexibility that I didn’t have at a 9-5, this is the hardest I have ever worked in my entire life.
You also are the creator of #corporatecurlyy, as far as we know you are intending to change the perception on what is deemed as the norm. Can you tell us about this and what inspired you to start this passion project?
I have been working in corporate America since I was about nineteen and I have been natural for about 7 years as well. People would always ask me if I was going to straighten or change my hair because of the type of work setting I was in and I would always tell them no. I never felt that my hair was unprofessional or unfit for the workplace. Thankfully, I have never had an employer or supervisor tell me to change my hair, but a lot of women have.
A lot of women are afraid or ashamed to wear their natural hair to the workplace for fear of getting in trouble. I wanted to create a platform that displays natural hair women working within corporate America. Also, to show that our hair is professional and there is no need to change it. I wanted to create a safe space for women with natural hair to come together and discuss tips and issues that they are facing.
What about any challenging times you has had to overcome? When were they and how did you learn to overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges is questioning if this is what you are supposed to be doing. There are bad days where you ask yourself, is this really my purpose? Am I supposed to be doing this? Will my business be successful? That’s where I turn to pray, the phrase ” I speak to God in public” is too real.
I have conversations with God all the time regarding my business and just when I think I should throw in the town or this isn’t for me, he gives me a sign big or small that tells me this is what I am supposed to be doing.
Have you ever had to deal with any doubts of contention or lack of support from relatives or friends? If so how did you push through?
My friends are very supportive and I am thankful for that! I had to miss a lot of important events when I was setting the groundwork for my business. In terms of my family there were definitely doubts and still are doubts in regards to my business and what I am doing. I do not fault them for that because my family is old school, my parents are older and their traditional ideals of what a career should look like shows that. They grew up in a time where getting a good government job and making six figures was the goal. While now having multiple streams of income and creating your own lane is the way to go.
Even explaining how I get paid through social media (I am an influencer and get paid by brands and companies to post on my page) can be difficult because they don’t understand the possibilities and how everything works.
Did you have a mentor or a coach that advised you whilst getting started?
Yes! I have had this mentor since I was in law school! He is the one that actually gave me the push to start my company last year. I have also recently acquired a business coach to keep me on track with my goals and making sure I am not doing too much at one time.
Seminal moment so far?
Someone reached out to me asking if my company was hiring, I thought that was pretty cool that someone thought that highly of what I was doing with my company that they wanted to work with me.
What does success look like in your eyes?
Being able to live life on my own terms, and give my parents whatever they want or desire.
What outlets do use to market yourself?
The main outlets I use to market myself is social media.
What are the top 3 social media platforms you use that are the most effective to bring in clients and extend your network?
Instagram, Facebook and Groupme
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
Trust the process…. everyone has their own path to reach their goals so just trust what you are going through and know you will come out stronger on the other side.
Best advice you could give to our audience of women looking to have a future career in branding?
Stay true to who you are as a person, don’t try to change yourself to fit a certain mold. Also, let people know who you are, I think that’s why my followers connect with me so well, is that I show my personality and who I truly am throughout my social media platforms.
Are there any inspirational leading female role models that you resonate with? If so why?
Kimora Lee Simons, she is the only woman within her field that is considered a mogul. That is what I want to be known as a mogul, within the business consulting realm. Of course my mom she has made amazing strides in her career from high-profile positions to getting recognised by presidents.
What YouTube or online space channels are watching currently?
You know I really don’t go on YouTube as much as I use too when I was younger
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Rich Dad Poor Dad is a book I just got that I am super excited to read.
How do you wind down?
Listening to music always helps me relax.
Can you give us 3 branding tips for start-ups?
Be consistent, create high-quality content that will draw in your target audience, and find your niche within your industry.
Lastly what projects do you have coming up for 2018 for you?
I will be having my first event for my Corporate Curly brand towards the end of the year and I will be creating webinars on how to become an influencer.
Instagram: @anfconsultingllc @iamashleynicolee @corporatecurlyy
Website: anfconsultants.com iamashleynicolee.com corporatecurly.com