We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Hayes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, how do you think about risk?
Whether you own a business or are an artist or lover of any kind, risk is essential to growth. And risk is essential to creativity. For inherent in the word ‘create’ is the fact that your vision and the act of bringing it to life are something new, something not yet seen. When we step into unknown realms, when we pull from the invisible world of inspiration and bring it down to this material world, we create. Society is not always accepting of the “new” because it’s inherently different than what’s done but, if we never tried, then we’d never know. And for those of us with creative spirits, not honoring our visions with action, not taking that risk means we’ve settled for the ordinary and there’s nothing more heart-breaking than that. “If you are not wiling to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” Jim Rohn When I think of my creative growth and the growth of my brands over the years, it has been my heart that has guided me and urged me to take risks. In 2009, I graduated from law school with a heavy heart lacking of creative direction. I knew that my family’s and society’s vision for me was to become a hot shot, top-earning lawyer yet my heart pleaded with me to go in a different direction. I’d tried so many avenues of law yet nothing felt fulfilling. So my heart guided me to leave law behind, much to the dissatisfaction of my family, and to pursue a series of odd jobs that allowed me to expand my creativity and work in fields that I loved. Doing something I loved, devoting my time and this life to a field that resonated deeply with my soul was the only way I was ever going to feel fulfilled. There are times when playing it safe makes sense, but when it comes to how I spend the majority of my days, I am not willing to settle. This in and of itself is the greatest risk I continue to take. “A ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what a ship was built for.” William H Shedd From sewing my own creations and putting them up for sale to purchasing my first products from Peru, from the first day I stepped foot on my creative path, I took the risk of putting myself out there, of being seen in my creativity and then putting money and resources behind my visions and my designs. I took organic risks that aligned with where I was in the business – I started with the craft fair circuit and with each successful show I then signed up for another show or two the next season until by 2016 I was traveling all over the country doing craft fairs. By the time 2019 rolled around and a physical space of my own presented itself, I had the history to know that my creations sell well and the confidence in my abilities to know that I could handle a retail site myself (and it meant I wouldn’t have to schlep all over the country if I didn’t want to :). Opening the store took my hobby job to the full-time career that I’d always dreamed it would be. Woo hoo! The confidence-in-myself piece is a big part of my personal journey of risk taking. All along, my heart has led me AND I believe in myself to step up and find solutions, to take the steps necessary to grow, to ask for help when I need it. I believe in my professional acumen. And I believe in my heart. I took a risk leaving the established path. It’s not always smooth sailing, the waters can be shark infested and choppy, a wave or two has threatened to capsize the whole operation. I could’ve stayed in the safe harbor, taken the path most traveled, but then I would never have had the expansive views, the exhilaration of seeing my products in the hands of happy customers and watching my dreams come to life from the efforts I put into them, all the while working with a sense of soul fulfillment. “If it’s still in your mind, it’s worth taking the risk” Paulo Coelho My very favorite risk that I’ve taken in my career is my Math Print clothing line. In 2016, I had my daughter, Cora. She received a lot of princess clothing, which is fine, but I wanted her to have math clothing to balance out that message. She is beautiful AND she is smart, empowered and capable! I had a vision of the math clothing I wanted to buy her and I was shocked that I couldn’t find what I had in mind. For many years, I had wanted to get into children’s clothing yet I wanted to wait until I had kids to see if I could find a unique entrance to the market. And here it was – or could be if I took a risk. At the time, my brand consisted solely of alpaca items: blankets, ponchos, beanies – all things alpaca. Adding children’s clothing to the brand seemed to many of my friends and family too random and not cohesive. “It’s too risky” they said. “I’d hate to see everything you’ve worked for go down in flames because you’ve invested in the wrong direction.” Yet my vision was strong and my heart called me to do this. I sat with the possibility for a few months, I researched the children’s clothing sector and finally I thought “I can’t be the only person that will appreciate math clothing” and decided to go for it. I invested all the extra money I’d made doing holiday craft shows (about $10,000) and put it into designing two prints, my Math Print and my Fluorascaurus Print (neon dinosaurs because at the time there were no pink dinosaurs or unisex dinosaur clothing). When your risk is aligned, pieces seem to fall into place. Shortly after making my decision to create the children’s line, I had drinks with a friend. During the course of our conversation, I discovered her friend’s daughter was a children’s clothing manufacturer in Peru, the place where all my alpaca goods were made. Peru, it turned out, is a top manufacturer of luxury cotton in the world, a perfect place to make children’s clothing. Within a month, I was in Peru designing alpaca AND children’s clothing and two months after that, I had my first collection of children’s clothing in hand, showcasing it first at Los Angeles Renegade Craft Fair. To this day, my Math Print is my best-selling item. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who appreciated math clothing. It has been so fun meeting all the math lovers, the math teachers, the engineers and scientists! And the brand adapted to include not only children but the whole family. I now have sizes ranging from newborn to adult men’s XL (new adult hoodies coming soon!). Opening my brick-and-mortar location in Santa Barbara meant I had more space to fill and Asher Baby brand emerged next to Asher Market. One side of the store is adult clothing and alpaca goods and the other side is children’s clothing and accessories. When I decided to expand the Math Print to adult sizes, I allowed myself to design other adult clothing as well which has been another creative risk-taking adventure. Some risks go straight to the sale section but many of them are on their second, third, seventh rendition and counting. Had I not taken my vision seriously, had I not allowed myself to consider the possibility despite the risk, I may not have had the success that I’ve had these last years and certainly would not have the physical location. Overall, I’ve followed my heart and done my best to honor my visions all these years. It hasn’t been the easy path but it’s been and continues to be the fulfilling way, for me. Had I not taken risks, had I settled for the known path, I would not be where I am today. A captain has all the information she can have before leaving the harbor. If the weather and conditions are favorable to sail, the choice is then the captain’s. Do your research, gather the information and then, if the conditions are favorable and you believe in yourself and your vision, sail away! The world needs more conscious creators! I’ll see you out there on the high seas. XO Ash
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I feel like I answered many of these questions in my first essay.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Santa Barbara and the surrounding county is endlessly entertaining. If my best friend was visiting SB, we’d probably start out hiking Parma Park or one of the other more local trails that aren’t super crowded these days. Afterwards, we’d eat breakfast on State Street. My current favorite is Brasil Arts Cafe. We’d have eggs and turmeric lattes and take in the cool morning breeze while sitting out on the newly designated pedestrian State Street. With our running shoes on, we’d start our way down State Street toward the pier. We’d check out all the local shops (including Asher Market obviously) as we made our way down to the Funk Zone for a glass of wine (it’s 5 o’clock somewhere). Afterwards, we’d head out to look for sea glass on the beach across from the pier (one of the best places to find sea glass these days – shhhh don’t tell anyone, it’s a local secret). Then we’d head on down to the harbor for sushi at my favorite local spot underneath Brophy’s. With our bellies full, we’d walk out on the breakwater and take in the city from that unusual vantage. Imagining it’s a warm day, we’d then take our towels out to the beach at the end of the breakwater and relax or maybe rent a paddle board at the dive shop and paddle around the harbor for a while. Or both! Santa Barbara is an amazing town to rent electric bikes in so we’d then hop on and ride Cabrillo up and down, feeling the wind in our hair. To wrap up the afternoon, we’d end up on my favorite back patio at Foxtail Kitchen, with a hookah and beer and chat the night away. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A huge shoutout to my family who has always supported me in my unusual ways, even when we disagreed on the direction. To my sister for being the creative icon that she is, always inspiring me in new ways, forever expanding my creative horizons. To all the women who have believed in me and given me opportunities along the way. As long as I’ve had retail spaces, my landlords have all been women. Thanks for seeing me and believing in my creative offering. And thanks times a million to my wonderful employee, Olivia, without whom I would be overworked, disorganized and without a good friend. To my community of friends and customers, thank you. I certainly would not be here without you!
Christian Maike, Arna B, Kristen Tait