Sometimes, the people you meet are so immediately aligned with your same vision and purpose that you just click. Luckily for me, that’s exactly what happened when I first connected with Ashley.
Although we’ve never met in person (yet!), a former boss of mine upon hearing about Quarter for Your Crisis told me I had to connect with this entrepreneur. Two years later and I’m still thankful to be connected to this inspirational woman. While RIZZARR is a different kind of platform than QFYC, we’ve both known from the start how aligned our communities and missions are. It’s been so exciting watching Ashley – and RIZZARR’s – journey unfold and growth these past few years, and I can’t wait to introduce our community to the amazing resource that is RIZZARR.
1. Could you give us a little background on you? How did RIZZARR come to life?
I have been giving birth to RIZZARR since January of 2015. LOL I say birth because it has literally felt like I have been in labor trying to bring her into the world. Sometimes I didn’t want to keep pushing, but I know I had to do so. She had to come out, even as painful as it has been along the way. The thing has been the motivator has been the impact that I believe RIZZARR can have on this generation, future generations, and really, all of humanity. My love for my generation and the next generation started in high school.
I went through a number of different issues as a teen, like battling eating disorders, depression, bullying… the list goes on. It was very hard for me to deal with those issues and to navigate them. But the one thing that I found that really helped me to do so was writing. I have always loved writing and all things related to journalism. As I was trying to overcome my issues in my freshman year of high school, I accidentally discovered my district’s television production center that happened to be situated in my school. I was just wandering the halls. When I went into the studio and saw all of the equipment, the cameras, the lights… I fell in love. I was so intrigued and thought this is something that would be freeing and a good release. Growing up, I loved acting so I loved all things dealing with production. That day, I talked to the Television Advisor and he liked my personality. He suggested that I audition to host their shows. He became a huge mentor to me and I started hosting shows and even decided to create my own show called, Teen Issues Overrated.
I really wanted the show to be a way for me to cope with my issues to be quite honest and to not feel so alone. Yet, I also realized that maybe other students I know might be going through the same things so I and another girl who I produced and hosted the show with got some people we knew to take part in the show. We would also have a doctor or psychologist come on the show as well to discuss the issues with us. I didn’t know it then, but all of those experiences I had with issues I suffered from and that experience alone with the television station was the very beginning of RIZZARR. It was simply in broadcast form and now RIZZARR is in tech form.
But I also had a passion for reporting and hosting shows. Once I really started hosting more shows and getting my feet wet, I realized I really wanted to pursue journalism. I went to USC, did tons of internships, and decided to pursue a broadcast career after college. It was a great experience to work for NBC News, WBAL Radio in Baltimore, and USA TODAY. However, after being in the industry for a few years and seeing what is happening in the lives of young people and major issues happening within our society, I wanted to create something that I believed could help young people and empower them. That’s where RIZZARR came in.
2. So many of us have ideas and get too afraid to start or make a change. What made you decide to go for it? When did you know you were “ready” to go full time with it?
I started around the idea for RIZZARR back in 2012, but it was really something like a side project. It wasn’t my focus. I was really focused on becoming a reporter and maybe even an anchor one day or talk show host. It was a basic site for young people that was terrible (well, looking back at least!). But at the time I loved it and loved being able to empower my peers and other young journalists to write about topics that interested them. It was cool to be able to have a space for my generation and to be able to publish meaningful content that I was not able to always do in my career. Then in 2014, we entered into a Harvard Lean Startup Competition and ended up placing 2nd. I literally applied on a whim just to see what would happen. With making it that far, I thought maybe I should really look into cultivating this idea and improving it. I started doing tons of research and talking to people. And all of a sudden my passion was starting to shift to RIZZARR. Long story, short, I think you know when you know. Things also were happening that were convincing me and pointing me in that direction. Though I was so scared, nervous, overwhelmed, and felt like how in the world am I going to do this? But I think I became more empowered by my faith and by those around me, particularly one of my spiritual mentors who has always been such a great mentor to me who has encouraged me to go after the calling and the dreams that God has placed over my life. So I did. I leaped.
I don’t think I ever knew or thought I was “ready,” you know? I just think I had to leap. I had to make the choice to say I believe in myself and together with God all things are possible. I know if He has given me this idea, this notion, and has continued to guide me throughout my life, I should choose to continue to listen to Him now. Though the journey has not be easy; it has been painful and wonderful all at the same time. Entrepreneurship is a complete roller coaster ride and I think that’s the beauty of it and the scary part about it. But I wholeheartedly believe that if you can envision something or dream something, then you can do it. That vision and dream was for you to fulfill.
3. What is your mission? How does it align to what you are building with RIZZARR?
I want to help young people to realize that they matter… there is a purpose for him/her being here… and they have something to contribute to the world through their lives, which only they can contribute. I want them to understand the depth of impact that their lives can have not only on the people around them, but also the greater world. I want them to strongly believe in these notions. My mission is to live following God’s calling on my life and to use my life to empower and inspire the next generation and future generations. I don’t know why but I have always had this great love and passion for the issues young people face and wanting to greatly help them to overcome them. I think my personal battles with many of the issues young people face have allowed me to understand these issues from a different angle and I want to use my life inspiring others to realize their greatest dreams, to believe that they can overcome the issues they face, and to never lose sight of who it is that they want to become regardless of what they may face.
I also want them to realize, like RIZZARR’s mission, age is only a number. You are never too young to make an impact on the world. So in that sense of these, I think this all align with what my team and I are aiming to build with RIZZARR… this sense of encouraging and pushing Millennials to live their best lives, to believe they can rise above the obstacles, and to never, ever, ever stop fighting for their dreams. Ever. I feel like my whole being in a sense is revealed in the building and creation of RIZZARR. Everything inside of me in terms of the positive impact that I hope to manifest through my life and purpose as well as my great belief in my generation and future ones.
4. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face while building your own company? How did you overcome it?
Well, there are several, I think overcoming my own feelings of inadequacy; of my own feelings of feeling bad for not knowing what I don’t know; of continuously believing in myself, and of just realizing I need to always listen to my intuition—which goes in a sense to believing in yourself and trusting yourself. I guess it’s something that many of us deal with, especially when deciding whether to take the leap into entrepreneurship. From this process of gaining my inner strength and in striving to become who God has created me to be, I have to say I have really cleaned house with identifying who really is for me and who is against me. I have also really turned to God a lot more and developed my relationship with Him. He has been my Solid Rock and has kept me strong in my hardest moments.
In creating RIZZARR, I feel like I have experienced a soul searching process in understanding who it is that I want to be and identifying the people who truly are for me in becoming that person. I think you just realize people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime and that’s ok. Just move forward and choose to spend your time with those who matter most. In doing so, I am also choosing to surround myself with great advisors and a team who I love. I believe they all have the best interest of the company at heart and are incredibly kind, smart, and talented people. It has been such a gift and blessing for me to connect with these people and I will hold them in my heart always. They are my people are turn to for advice, my people who are my rocks, and my people who have been really great knowledge in many areas. I think anyone starting a company should have these people and clean house with those who don’t have your best interest. Because at the end of the day, ain’t nobody got time for that! Also, as far as overcoming my self-doubt, mistakes, etc. I constantly try to not be too hard on myself, knowing that I am trying my best and that is all that I can do. I embrace this idea of being human, because it’s beautiful. I want to experience all that life has to offer, even its challenges if that means I can become who I was created to be.
5. You are now working on RIZZAR full-time. Can you speak about the transition into a full-time entrepreneur? How do you stay motivated each day? Do you have a routine that you follow now that your passion is your career?
When I first started working on RIZZARR, I was trying to navigate it all, it took a second, but then I started making all the tasks I had to do based on information I learned or knowing what I should be working on. I think my journalism career and college definitely prepared me for what I needed to know to run a company like RIZZARR and to navigate towards becoming a self-learner. In the beginning, I reached out to people for advice and that was helpful. The transition I would say has been good. At first, it was kind of weird, you know, to literally be running your own company, but overtime it was fine and I became more confident in knowing what I needed to do. I think you just figure it out as you go for your particularly business.
Weirdly and I’m sure most entrepreneurs will say this, but I have realized that routine is VERY important to remain focused, dedicated, and determined to do what you are setting out to do. I constantly make to-do lists to get stuff done and to prioritize what is needed. I love waking up in the morning and working on RIZZARR. I started getting myself into a routine of waking up between 5 and 5:30 a.m. I like waking up early because the world is quiet and it’s refreshing to get that head start. But I’m still also getting used to make that time frame, the time frame I get up.
Here’s how I try to start my day: normally, I stay motivated every day by praying in the morning and having a quiet time with God. I then go work out (still working on making this my “normal” routine every day/ every other day) and then I listen to something motivational to empower me. After this, I begin my emails and then work on the site. After that, I usually have a few meetings and more things related to content on the site.
But through the day, I have to say that I constantly trying to learn and stay inspired as much as I can. I listen to NUMEROUS motivational videos and messages while I am working or driving to renew my mind and refresh my thoughts. Les Brown, Jack Canfield, Lisa Nichols, and Terri Savelle Foy have become my best friends via YouTube. I also like listening and watching the videos of Evan Carmichael on success- very empowering, informative, and engaging! In the morning, I also read a lot of articles and books on entrepreneurship, marketing, leadership, and faith. So to summarize my thoughts, I just learn to overcome things but just pushing forward, never giving up and finding the strength inside and from others to rise above. I think things are some of only things one can do.
6. RIZZARR, like QFYC, is all about community. How do you find other like-minded people to connect with? What’s your advice for those of us looking to surround ourselves with other creative entrepreneurs?
I have to say I have been noticing something lately that I have always heard, but am really seeing and feeling now. What you want or believe is what you attract. I think maybe at different points of my life, I was focusing my intentions on the wrong kinds of people. I wasn’t valuing myself, my time, etc. and as a result, I found it hard to find or connect with people just like me. When I really started to love myself, be true/ authentic with myself about who I am, and focus on the types of people who I wanted to have in my life, somehow they came my way. It has been so miraculous to me and amazing. It goes the same as well with the team and even the students who will take part in our company. We all have the same energy and manta about life. I can’t tell you how beautiful and refreshing that is. So I think instead of focusing on what you don’t want, focus on what you do want, focus on the types of people you envision yourself being around, and then eventually you will meet them. And same with entrepreneurs, I have found that when I attend events or like know someone who knows someone who I should connect with, the same thing keeps happening. I keep saying to myself this is crazy. But again I believe it’s all about your intention. And in any case, I would first decide who it is that you want to be, the true types of people you really want to surround yourself with, and go to events/ connect with likeminded people who most certainly usually know similar likeminded people who you can connect with too.
7. What are things you do each day to live more intentionally?
I try to live in the moment and to soak in gratitude… like gratitude even in the little things or things that don’t go my way. I think having an attitude of gratitude is essential in living and becoming your best self. At the beginning of each day during my quiet time with God, I try to have a positive mindset, take a step back, and realize that this is where God wants me to be at this moment of my life. I meditate on how I should embrace this part of my journey and intentionally try to do so. I think, what should I be learning? How am I using my time? Am I happy and if not, why? And am I really living? I really try to think about my time a lot more – understanding that is one of the most valuable things we have. I want to be strategic with it.
Yes, life is not always full of rainbows and butterflies. It’s hard to go after your dreams and to be intentional about living. But I try to remind myself that everything is a process. In the morning, I try to remind myself that you only have one life to live and you can literally do anything with it. Anything is possible. ANYTHING. By taking this approach, it has made me more organized, get my vision board in order, and to make the most use of my time that I can. I really try to live with the thought of how beautiful life is… this gift that we are given.
My advice on living intentionally is realizing that you know, life is TRULY what you don’t plan, so live. LIVE NOW. Start doing what you keep saying you will. What if you don’t have tomorrow or another day? What if? So LIVE. Choose to really live as you have always dreamed. And as you are striving towards your dreams, enjoy each part of your journey and who it is that you are becoming. Embrace the good and not so good moments, knowing they are needed for you to get to the next place you are meant to be. Believe in your dreams and live each day as much as you can going after them. You don’t want to look back 20 years from now or on your death bed and say to yourself, why didn’t I leap… why didn’t choose to live the life I once dreamed? You have everything in you that you need to become who you were created to be.
Thank you, Ashley, for sharing your insights and journey with our community! If you’d like to learn more about RIZZAR, we encourage you to check out their site at http://www.rizzarr.com/.