I met Ashley while attending the entrepreneurship program, LeanGap in Boston, MA. As a guest speaker Ashley struck a chord with me. She's young, passionate, hard-working, honors God, and has a vision for bettering young girls' futures.
Meeting Ashley after her speech made me realize that this extraordinarily talented young woman was also a kindred spirit. In high school Ashley found, what would be, her life's passion.
Empowering young girls and counterbalancing the societal presentation of what and where a women's value is.
It took one step to start the MOVEment. She and her best friend held a workshop for her peers on the media's portrayal of female beauty.
Then, the passion grew. She knew that this was what God wanted her to do with her life and slowly she began hosting more and more workshops. It was during this time that she began publicly speaking on the issue of female beauty and teenage self esteem at education conferences.
Now she has a book, Survival of the Prettiest!
She has utilized her strong convictions and kind spirit to grow MOVE into the MOVEment that it is today. By inspiring countless young girls to embrace their personal and unique beauty, she continues to be one of the most inspirational young business women that I have had the pleasure of meeting.
Her most admirable quality? ...Her persistence to fight for what she knows to be right.
She is a leader, a public speaker, and a co-founder of MOVE.
This is Ashley Olafsen.
My Interview with Ashley Olafsen
What do you do?
"I co-run an organization called MOVE, dedicated to helping females reach their full potentials! Through MOVE, I give workshops and run a 5 day summer program, and work with girls on issues like body image, media, self-esteem, mental health, and much more. I’m also the author of Survival of the Prettiest, and a TEDx speaker, Huffington Post Contributor, and more."
Ashley said that she took the original idea of having body image workshops on her school campus, and turned it into a business by simply doing it and never giving up.
Sometimes, all it takes is saying "yes". Doubt can be our biggest inhibitor in life. It holds us back from attempting the impossible and turning it into the probable. At times, it just takes making the definitive choice to do something and accepting your own conviction in order to find yourself doing it in the end.
Ashley, the Entrepreneurial Leader ...
What made you to want to spend your life empowering young girls?
"Hmmm...I don’t know if there was a primary influence, but I do know that my desire to empower females came from a frustration that there wasn’t more people empowering girls! Growing up, I felt like we were all going through so many various crisis’ and no one was talking about it...and I wanted to have those important conversations and I wanted to talk about it! And so, I started the path of working with females to help them reach their full potentials."
How do you overcome obstacles as a young entrepreneur?
"A big challenge was getting past a few really difficult months halfway through writing my book...I had writers block combined with self-doubt and also realized I needed to restructure the entire thing. I overcame it by recognizing what I DO bring to the table, and what my strengths are."
How did you reach a larger audience and acquire a following…. (beyond friends, family and friends of friends)..Any tips and tricks?
"I really wish I knew!! I don’t think that there’s an easy way to do it - at least that I’ve found - but I do know that bringing a newsletter sign up list to every event you attend is certainly important."
Why do girls need to be empowered?
"I believe that girls need to be empowered, because why shouldn’t every female be able to reach her full potential? Self-confidence and body image seriously influence the way a person thinks about themselves, and the way a person thinks about themselves influences their attitude towards life and what they believe they are capable of doing. And that affects EVERYTHING."
Where did you grow up? Has your family been supportive of your entrepreneurial career?
"I grew up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and my family has been extremely helpful in empowering me to do the work that I do...my Dad is always down to creatively brainstorm with me, and my Mom actually edited my entire book!"
Biggest accomplishments, partnerships, organizations, alumni, clubs, activities
"I think my biggest accomplishment is creating a community of MOVE girls who support each other and look out for each other. Growing up, I was involved in theater communities and always felt and still feel very grateful to my theater directors who facilitated that positive, uplifting environment...and so I feel very excited that we have been able to create such a special community for people to grow up in."
Ashley, Beyond the Business:
Favorite stores, clothing brands, makeup, music, sports to watch
"I love love love H and M and Forever 21. I use all kinds of drugstore makeup, but I have to say that I really do love NYX - especially their lingerie line for lipsticks. SO GOOD! As for music, I listen to a wide range of things, but love happy/upbeat songs that I can dance or sing to the most. Right now, my favorite song is Sunday Candy! "
What past times or hobbies do you fit into your busy schedule and college studies?
"I absolutely love theater, and especially comedy...I think improv and stand up are brilliant and inspiring and leave me on the edge of my seat."
Athletic? "Haha I’m not very athletic, so I don’t really keep up with that :) "
What role does your faith play in your everyday life..?.... Work? ….mentoring other girls and the reason why you do what you do?
"Faith plays a huge, monumental role in the work I do - in fact, it is my biggest motivation and is largely THE reason why I do what I do. I really strongly believe that this is God’s purpose and life calling for me, and so I have to follow through and commit to what he wants. I believe that I am here to work with middle and high school aged girls, and so if that’s what God wants, I must do it."
What role models currently influence you, and/or as a child growing up?
"Growing up, I really looked up to people I read about in books...Hermione Granger was amazing because of her commitment to friendship and her intelligence, Scarlett O’Hara was impressive because she was a strong female who was slightly unlikable (and that was okay!), and there was another girl in an Andrew Clements novel who wrote and published an entire book as a PRE-TEEN! I remember being hugely inspired by her. Currently, I am very inspired by individuals like Leymah Gbowee, Emma Watson, Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and more. "
*Ashley is a busy bee. She NOT ONLY runs MOVE and sends out MOVE's monthly newsletter, but also attends university as a full-time student!*
What college are you attending and what is your selected major?
"I am attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst & am designing my own major. I am calling it ‘Empowerment Through Education’ and I am double majoring in Political Science. I recently switched from a Communication double major!"
Goals for the future?
"A big goal of mine is to have MOVE [summer camps] running every week of the summer. I think it would be so incredible to be reaching that many girls. Another goal is to continue to make it as accessible as possible for all girls."
If you could accomplish or do anything what would you do without limitations?..... Will you attempt to accomplish this in life?
"If I could accomplish anything without limitations, I would work as hard as I could so that way every single female is able to reach her full potential. I would work to break down mental health stigmas, to spread awareness on unhealthy and abusive relationships, and I would work hard so that way all body types and shapes are normalized and appreciated."
Thank you to Ashley Olafsen for doing this interview with me. And I hope that you check out her & MOVE's sites below.
Valerie Cagnina is a 14 year old Italian travel blogger, and she happens to be the youngest in the nation! Her successes include teaching herself to code, building robots, speaking at Tedx conferences, and many other exciting adventures. She has also recently been accepted to an entrepreneurship program for the summer, Leangap, where I will be mentoring!
How could such a young girl travel the world? Well, her father works in refrigeration systems and her mother has an e-commerce platform for home and garden furniture; together they are able to travel all over the world with their work and explore new places throughout the year. The blog started as a family endeavor, and as Valeria grew older she came to have her own designated section for her and her adventures!
Valeria has traveled all over the world; including Berlin, Rome, Paris, Iceland, Finland, Holland, Nepal, Austria, and many many more. However when asked where her favorite places to visit was, she stated none of the aforementioned. Instead, Boston and Sri Lanka topped her list. She said that visiting NASA and seeing the incredible technology in Boston was both memorable and inspirational. However, Sri Lanka had its own specialties. The people, wildlife, and scenery she exclaims were spectacular. Her favorite experiences while visiting included riding elephants, seeing pods of dolphins, and coming close to the over 30m long blue whales in the region!
She says that her favorite part about travelling is that she can meet other teens with different life experiences, see new technologies, experience new cultures, observe diverse wildlife, and take part in unique ways of living.
In addition to blogging, Valeria has also spoken at numerous Tedx events. She relates her experience,
“During my Tedx, as an innovation ambassador, I discussed how I held a Coderdojo event, made a robot with ArduinoUNO, began teaching myself programming and learned from online videos, and about how I wrote 6 chapters in the book Guida ai Viaggi Cost (The Low Cost Travel Guide).
A little background, Coderdojo, is an after school program that I branched into the town of Alessandria to teach children from the ages of 7-14 how to code. We utilize Scratch, Arduino, CodeCombat, MakeyMakey, and others to give children the satisfying experience of creating their own digital animations and eventually a video game. I hope to be able to also utilize the iPad’s ScratchJr in order to teach 4-6 year olds, still unable to read, how to code.”
But how did she first get the opportunity to speak? “After my thesis and my nomination like Digital Champion there was a big event in Rome at Tempio di Adriano, we created a Coderdojo in Alessandria and from there I went on a lot of newspapers ( I went on ANSA news) and from there someone came to me with a call and request to participate at TEDx. Imagine my happiness!”
In addition to discussing the successes of those I interview, I always like to learn about how young people overcome trials on their path to early success. When chatting with Valeria she said that her biggest trial was when she began public speaking. Connecting with a large audience of primarily adults was difficult, and Europe (especially Italy) wasn’t like the US in terms of technology. Schools and day to day life in Europe was not run and guided by technology as in the US, and she typically found herself being the only teen in the adult world of the Italian tech field. Overtime, she said she learned to overcome the communication barrier between adults and teens in the tech industry by finding new ways to relate to them.
Though Valeria is surrounded by adults in her work, she likes to keep a balanced life. She enjoys hanging out with friends at rhythmic gymnastics and teaching other young girls how to do gymnastics as well. She thinks it is important to stay rooted with others her age both while travelling and at home.
Her motivation stems from the desire to find and create new innovations that can help make an impact on the world.
Additionally, I asked if she could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be? “Leonardo da Vinci.” Why?” Because he had an open mind and desire to go against the norm in every aspect of life. She states that he was a real revolutionary for his age, without tools, without the support of people surrounding him, risking so much for his work… he really changed the world with inventions and discoveries that we still use today.”
I imagine that Valeria will be very similar to her idol as she continues in the field of robotics, technological education, and public speaking. It is easy to see that this young traveler, blogger, gymnast, and programmer will be making large strides in the technological community one day, and she is one to look after!
Additional & Closing Questions:
If you could give girl's three pieces of advice for life/ happiness/ success what would they be?
1) Always try new things, and don’t be afraid of getting things wrong.
2) Be curious and attracted to things that are unknown.
3) Believe in yourself and in your potential.
Do you think that female empowerment is important? Why?
"After having visited so many different parts of the world, I dream of a balanced world where opportunity is based solely on merit and not gender, nationality or religion…."
How would you like to become involved in female empowerment?
"I would like to teach girls, starting at a young age, that the world can be theirs. I’d like to teach them that by believing in themselves and having a hard work ethic can help you accomplish any goal. Nothing is impossible if you really want it!"
* If you had no limitations, what would you do?
"I’d like to study at MIT and create my startup in the robotics sector that cooperates with NASA; which focuses on space exploration with the use of robotics."
Hope you enjoyed, and learned a thing or two from my talented young friend! She truly inspires me to never let age get in the way of my success.
Until next time-
Kaeya Majmundar is a self starting CEO and the founder of BZbox and ZipTanks. She has appeared on Shark Tank, WGN, and NBC for her companies. To find out more (visit: http://kaeyosinc.com/ )
We first met at the entrepreneurship program Leangap. She the mentor, and I the student. However, we didn't connect until afterwards when I realized how truly amazing her story actually was. I mean what young adult can say that they have ditched the low income just out of college job market hunting to work for themselves? Very few (successfully at least). She continues to slay the market with innovative and socially trending products that keep her on top of the curve. And I wanted to interview her to get to know a little bit more about how she took and idea and made herself a career...
Where did you grow up? Chicago, IL
Has that influenced your city style and Zip Tank collections?
Absolutely, the first pieces I did were Bulls themed for two reasons. First, obviously I wanted to represent my city and see how it sold here since I could be hands on and on site. And second, Bulls team merchandise is the highest selling NBA merchandise.
Where did you go to college? Emory University in Atlanta, GA
Major? Economics with a minor in Sociology
Did you always know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur? No
Brief description of how you took your idea and made it a company… (calling manufacturers, meeting someone to collaborate with?) ex. How did you meet Derrick Rose? I have a step-by-step formula now that I use for anything new I venture into. With ZipTanks in particular, the process of creating the product was nothing new, but the marketing of the brand has been totally different than any other thing I’d been doing before. I started by doing collaborations
with big names like music artists etc. because I had a feeling that would take the product to the next level and I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I had access to these people.
When did you figure out that you could work for yourself, and earn a living? After I started getting so many orders and realizing that I was making more money than any entry level job could offer, I realized it could be a full time effort.
What character traits do you look for in someone to work/collaborate with? First, I look for someone whose eyes light up when I show them my product. Then, I look at their potential value added. Lastly, I look at previous collaborations they have done to see how engaged they were in those engagements. If I feel like I can check off those three boxes, it’s a go for me!
How do you know that a person is someone that you want to partner with?
Entering a business partnership is like entering a marriage, or at least what I would think getting married would be like. You need to casually date to see if you vibe together. You need to get engaged to get deeply acquainted and make sure your visions and work ethic align. And THEN, you can get married once you’ve established that you’ll have each other’s back for the lifetime of the company. It’s also really important to understand that getting a “divorce” from your partner is mentally and financially draining and is also very time consuming. So, to answer the question, I’d say you can determine whether or not you can enter a business partnership with someone the same way you would know if you could enter a marriage with someone.
Your company has a lot of fun and unique designs in your collections. Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs? I draw my inspiration from what’s hot in the social media sphere. I look at social trends, study hashtags on instagrams, and take a look at what were the videos and images that went viral. I try to capitalize on that as soon as I possibly can.
What has been your biggest obstacle and how has it influenced how you are today? Sustaining the momentum I get from major injections of hype I get from things like my appearance on Shark Tank and Steve Harvey show, or celebrities wearing my merchandise has been the biggest challenge. I am working to maintain consistency in sales rather than the fluctuations I experience right now.
What motivates you in life? (happiness/security/adventure/helping others) My biggest motivator is knowing that my paycheck is entirely a result of how hard I work. I don’t get paid if I don’t perform whereas if I had a job, I’d have a steady paycheck regardless of my performance one day. That drives me to continuously push forward, and establish new relationships that will lead to higher sales.
*If you could do/accomplish anything without any setbacks what would it be? My ultimate dream with no setbacks would be having a TV show of my own like Marcus Lemonis’s “The Profit” and do exactly what he does but rather than fixing broken businesses, I would want to mentor brand new ones and share that mentorship with the world. I currently do a lot of mentoring for young entrepreneurs because I really feel that starting a business is so empowering and mobilizing. More people being able to see the process in works means that more people can start businesses of their own with less hesitation.
Who is your female role model? (historical, friend, family?) Beyoncé. I think she embodies everything that I want to be as a female entrepreneur. She is a trendsetter, a fierce competitor, but also a role model for so many people and a loving person.
Thanks again for such a wonderful interview Kaeya, and to check out more of her work and products check out the links below!