Skip to main content

In this episode of Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, join Susan Sly as she explores the authentic and motivational narrative of Ashley Stanford, co-founder of Ice Cream Social and a freelance digital marketer. Uncover the unfiltered and genuine reality of entrepreneurial struggles, particularly the formidable battle with depression that Ashley has courageously confronted and triumphed over.

-Ashley Stanford

Topics covered in the interview

Navigating Mental Health Challenges as an Entrepreneur
Balancing Parenthood and Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurial Journey Amidst Challenges
Building Confidence and Problem-Solving Skills
Role of Self-Care
AI’s Impact on Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship
Utilizing AI Tools for Productivity and Entrepreneurship

Ashley Stanford’s Bio

Ashley Stanford is a Digital Marketing Consultant and Freelancing Expert. With more than 15 years of experience in the digital marketing space, she specializes in building strategic marketing plans, mapping strategy execution, and collaborating to optimize tactics that drive increased performance for clients, primarily in the Events & Entertainment space but has extensive experience working with Medical Device/Healthcare and Finance Technology sectors as well. She is also the EVP of Client Strategy at TicketSocket and Vice President and Co-Founder of Ice Cream Social.

Ice Cream Social is a widget that can easily bolt on to any website or checkout flow. On the front end, it’s Incentivizing word-of-mouth marketing in the digital world we live in today while also collecting first-party data for you on who these consumers and who their friends are on the backend. Ice Cream Social is backed by Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech, which invested in the company in early 2022.

Across her tenure in the field, Ashley has held nearly every role in the digital marketing space, giving her unmatched expertise in customer acquisition and email, search, and content marketing.

Follow Ashley Stanford

Show Notes

Read Full Transcript

Susan Sly 00:00
Well, hey everyone, Susan here, whatever you've got going on today, I'm so glad that you decided to listen. And you know, here we are, it's a new year, hopefully you are creating some new habits, maybe you're making some decisions, some decisions to perhaps get healthier, get a business started, scale your business, maybe you've got funding rounds ahead, maybe you've got revamping a company, whatever it is, the thing I will tell you is this, that how we approach change, or how we approach challenge often dictates the outcome. And what I mean by that is, when we look at it as a negative, we often focus more on the problem than we do on seeking out solutions. And my guest today is going to get very raw and real. She's going to talk about her struggle with depression. She is going to talk about how she came back from it, how she operates with her back against the wall, but how she had to learn lessons, because she was so addicted to productivity, that the collateral damage was almost herself. And she is not only an expert Digital Marketer, she is the co founder of Ice Cream Social. And she's a mom of two incredible kids. And in this episode, we're going to talk about the raw and real truth of our mental health as entrepreneurs. So my guest is the amazing Ashley Stanford and that is coming up in just a moment. And before I take you to my interview with Ashley, a couple things, one, thank you for being here. Yes, the show grew last year. But it's thanks to all of you. And I would ask that you do subscribe to the show. And follow me personally on social @SusanSly on Instagram, I am on x @SusanSlyLive. I'm on LinkedIn, it's not hard to find me. And follow the show channels on X, on Instagram. And also head over to LinkedIn. And I am LinkedIn obsessed. So I'm on LinkedIn all the time. I do have a team that runs other channels for me. But if you're engaging in LinkedIn, probably you're engaging with yours truly, me. And I have a big Facebook fan page as well. There are some things coming up in the new year for subscribers. So if you go to, you get on the list, it's free. Right now, I will tell you, I will invite you to free coaching with yours truly. So normally, to have a membership where you might get to coach with an entrepreneur, once a month, it might be $250, $500, right now it's free. And you just go to and get on the list. There are a lot of exciting things coming. I always seed in my entrepreneurial journey. So some of you might know I founded a menopause AI company called TPT. And I am the founder and CEO and my co founder is Dr. Mia Chorney. You're gonna be hearing more about that company as the year goes on. And you can check out more on the website which is So with that, I want to take you to my episode with the one and only Ashley Stanford, co founder of Ice Cream Social.

Susan Sly 03:20
This is Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, the show that brings the no nonsense truth of what is required to start, grow and scale your business. I am your host Susan Sly.

Susan Sly 03:34
Well, what is up Raw and Real Entrepreneurs wherever you are in the world, I hope you are having an amazing, amazing day. And I'm just going to tell you, we are about to have a lot of fun in this episode, because we're going to talk about everything from marketing to mommy guilt to co founding companies to who knows what we're actually going to end up talking about. It's gonna be, but it's gonna be great. I already know. And Ashley, I want to jump right in just before the show, we were talking about you have two kids, 11 and 14. And you know, they've been raised in this entrepreneur life, right? And what, there are so many people that are listening to the show, I have friends in the tech world and they work at some of the biggest tech companies we all know. And they come up to me or like, I listen to the show. And I'm getting really close to starting something. I just want to start my own business. What advice would you say to someone especially who's a parent who's listening and saying, I think I want to try to be an entrepreneur. I'm still working, but I'm worried about the kids. What advice would you give?

Ashley Stanford 04:43
Sure. So interestingly enough, I started, really my entrepreneurship journey when I was eight months pregnant, quit my job and thought I'm going to start a company. So I enjoy putting myself in back against the wall situations when it comes to business, because I've been able to prove to myself at a very young age, you can figure this out, as Marie Forleo says, everything's figured outable. And I have built up confidence in myself. And if you haven't yet, you know, there's always a great time and honestly, you know, I don't want to necessarily say, Hey, quit your job and just do it. But, you know, pressure creates diamonds. And when you give yourself no other choice, but to succeed, you will succeed. And you just have to create the opportunity for you, for yourself. If you're too comfortable, I've been there in my business where you get too complacent, it is hard to keep pushing forward and dream bigger, because you've gotten comfortable.

Susan Sly 05:55
So What business did you start at eight months pregnant? Because I have been eight months pregnant four times myself.

Ashley Stanford 06:02
So in my career, I was working for a web development agency, so I was selling websites. And I became known kind of in my network community of you know, because I was pretty young at this point, and everyone came to me for social media questions, because this was just when Facebook opened up to the world, which at one point, it was just college students, if you don't remember that long ago, but it opened up to the world. And people started promoting their business on there. So people started to ask, asking me questions. And I was like, Okay, I'm like no expert in this, but I'm going to capitalize on everybody coming to me, because for so long, I struggled in business thinking, I'm too young, no one's going to take me seriously, to now, Oh, me, being young is now working to my advantage. And so I essentially just created a business where I would design people's Facebook profile images and header photos. And from there, it just continued on and on, into a world of digital marketing until I essentially, you know, had touched kind of every piece of digital marketing.

Susan Sly 07:15
That's, that's so interesting, because a lot of, you know as I was saying, in the episode I did with Jennifer Ryan, the co founder of Croux, we were talking about this whole concept of 70% of Americans, and I know this is a global show, but 70% of Americans, USA Today did a poll, Ashley, you probably know this. And 70% of Americans say they want to start their own business, but less than 7% of them ever do. And here you are 8 months pregnant, you're like, I'm gonna start a business. Why not? Yeah, there's a baby coming. Like, what, what was the biggest challenge for you, juggling an infant, and a new company, especially in those early days of Facebook, when the demand just grew and grew and grew? Because the wonderful thing about your business, that business was you do the profile and someone's like, oh, that profile looks really good. Oh, you need to see Ashley. And they were essentially doing your advertising for you. They were, they were paying you but they were your advertisers, which is, Yeah. So how did you, How did you navigate that?

Ashley Stanford 08:25
Yeah, I mean, to give you a little more background of just kind of putting yourself in situations, it was 2009, recession just started, eight months pregnant. I was very young. And I had just moved from a very small town where I grew up, you know, one stoplight kind of farm town, and grew up there my whole life and moved to California. So I didn't know anybody like really starting over extremely homesick. And I just had this fire inside of, I didn't want to have to go back home and kind of tell everyone that I didn't succeed, or I couldn't do it. I couldn't do what I set out to do. And it's interesting because I look back in different moments in my life where I achieved a certain level of success, and it's always something like that from the outside that has fueled me of, you know, I don't want to let so and so down or, you know, want to make somebody proud and so, sometimes I'll just try. I've outgrown that a lot now. Now that I'm almost 40 but I do try to kind of find those situations and dwell on it because, you know, at a younger age, that is what really fueled me and I think the biggest struggle outside of just like figuring it out and having a newborn and all that was we're still, the internet was very early. So it wasn't, you didn't have all this information at your fingertips like you do today. You can figure out anything today. And if you can't figure it out, you can get on Upwork and hire someone to figure it out for you really quickly. And I was just at a point where I didn't have all the answers, I didn't have enough income to like, outsource everything or find the right people. And so it was really pushing myself, teaching myself how to do things that I didn't know how to do, and didn't have, you know, the money to figure it out, or the educational resources to figure it out. And really kind of pushing myself beyond what I knew I was capable of doing.

Susan Sly 10:52
I love that like, the concept of, you and I we're talking about Marie Forleo's book, Everything is Figureoutable, right? And, and this concept of now, like, you know, if I want to learn something, I just go on, ChatGPT4 and I'm like, okay, just tell me, you know, and, and of course, yes, I'm disclaiming this, everyone, since you all know, all over the world that I, you know, co founded an AI company, I just founded a new one. That yes, I know, not all the references are accurate, but it's just this pointing of saying, oh, I want to learn whatever it is, and how to build a website or you know, whatever. And I could learn it. During that time, what was a skill you learned that it either surprised you that you learned it or that people might be surprised to know that that's something in your toolbox?

Ashley Stanford 11:44
I would say coding HTML, little bit JavaScript. I mean, today, I, since don't really touch that stuff. But if I'm tinkering and trying to figure something out, at least knowing the basics, and enough to be dangerous to kind of troubleshoot or find where a problem could be. That's one skill that I had to figure out. I had to teach myself, had to read a book. And very valuable to this day.

Susan Sly 12:19
Oh, definitely is to understand that and so much has changed too, there are no code websites. There's no code, everything I built an LLM, I built several now, without coding it, it's just putting the right data into it for the I know, my friend Kelly, always says to me, Susan, you speak in acronyms that some people don't know what they mean. So I mean, large language model, like my own GPT. But there, you can just build everything. And actually, there's a new AI program that you probably know about, and you just can clone any website you want, and just modify it, and it's 100 bucks a year for that. And, you know, it's amazing how the world has changed. But knowing how to ask the right questions, I think Ashley, is a gift for sure. So you co founded Ice Cream social, and, you know, it's legit, it has a CrunchBase profile, it's been in the media tell, like, how did that journey happen?

Ashley Stanford 13:21
Yeah, so Ice Cream Social, which I won't get into it, it's a social referral widget. But it was birthed from a need of my clients. And I was working, still do, with a lot of clients in the event industry, helping them with their marketing strategies. And a lot of my clients were just kind of hitting this wall and needing to sell more tickets, but not wanting to increase their marketing budgets. And so I love optimization, tinkering, like grew up playing video games, really only loved playing Mario. So play over and over and over again. And you have to like create new challenges of like, Okay, this time, I'm gonna see how many coins I can collect. And so just that filter I have on things of looking at things over and over again and trying to figure out you know, what can I fix or Tony Robbins has this whole like, 2% philosophy like, what is that like, little tiny thing that you can do that's going to make a difference. And from there, we created Ice Cream Social to help people essentially take word of mouth marketing to that digital format, and help people sell more tickets in this particular case without having to spend more money on social media ads or, you know, acquire a larger email list or whatever the case may be. So really, it was just born from a need of something.

Ashley Stanford 13:25
Well, and that, that's how most great businesses are born. How long did it take you to go from, Oh, I'm hearing this problem to, I think I can solve it to actually, solution generation? What was the length of time?

Ashley Stanford 15:16
Sure, so I think from hearing the problem, coming up with an idea and having some sort of iteration of Ice Cream Social, at the time, before it was even called Ice Cream Social, it was just like a tool that we had in our software, maybe six to eight months. And, you know, we continued to refine it over time. And it really wasn't until COVID hit. And I was working in events, and events were not happening. So scary time to be working in events. And in talking to a lot of our clients, some of our clients, you know, our larger brands that have, you know, like a retail component to their event as well, where they'll sell athletic wear and whatnot. And so those clients came to us, and we're like, hey, we loved Ice Cream Social to help sell more tickets. What if we put it on our e commerce website? Like, can we do that? And we were like, Okay, sure. So we essentially peeled off Ice Cream Social, which was just a feature set within another software tool, that is our parent company, peeled it off and made it its own company, to which it did, you know, succeed and catch the attention of people like NBC, Comcast, who came in as a partner to our company, to work with us, which has been really cool and a great experience. So it's, again, those uncomfortable situations where your back is against the wall. And what are you going to do, you're not just going to accept failure, no matter what the circumstances are. So you push yourself and create something.

Susan Sly 17:05
I love that because I had a dear friend who was in the ticket business. And I don't know if his transaction is fully gone through, I won't disclose who it is. But we're talking like tickets like, Formula One tickets and US Ppen tickets, and then suddenly the world shuts down. And he's like, you know, what do I, What do I do? Because some of those events don't virtualize. Well, no. But then you see someone like Tony Robbins, who said, Okay, well, you've mentioned Tony, right. I've done a couple of speaking events, where Tony speaking, I'm speaking and, and he takes, you know, Unleash the Power Within which it's a rite of passage in our house, like the kids, when they turn 13 I take them, they walk the fire, and the youngest one hasn't yet because he takes the event and he's like, we're gonna do it all virtually. Like such a huge pivot to be able to do that. So I want to, because of your expertise, and your background in marketing, in event marketing, and people listening and, and how you are so able to, like I'm putting you on the big stage right now. Because you have been able to use that, my back's up against the wall and I'm able to create, if you had to put that process into how your mind works, Ashley Stanford's mind works like, my backs against the wall. I've got to come up with a solution. Do you have a process for that? Or like sort of if you look at it forensically, Ashley, is there a way you kind of go about problem solving? Because I think it's a, it's an incredible skill.

Ashley Stanford 18:50
Great question. I've got a few thoughts around that. And also fellow Firewalker by the way, so I love that you do that. So the first one is, I know I mentioned you know just putting your back against the wall, giving yourself no choice. If you haven't taken big risks in your life before, that just sounds like yeah, not for me. So once I kind of reached a place as I mentioned before, where I got pretty complacent, you know, things were going really smoothly and it can get hard to motivate yourself or you know, find that drive to take things to the next level, I had to dig in and figure out how, how can I build that confidence muscle if I don't have like, a ginormous risk that I want to take right now, necessarily? And so one thing that I learned was, you know, you have to build that confidence muscle in yourself. And sure, maybe today it's not quitting your job and starting your business, but what are those little things that you can do every day to build habits that build trust within yourself? And I'm talking, you know, essentially, discipline and good habits. And it can be as little as you know, sticking to a strict, maybe health and diet routine, maybe you're cutting out sugar and alcohol or whatever the case may be, or you know, maybe a fitness regimen where you're going to work out every day. Or if you've heard of like, 75 hard, maybe you want to do a program like that. Those are things that can build your confidence right now. It can be small. Start by like habit stacking, essentially. Because subliminally, you're just telling yourself that, okay, you can do this, you're building that belief in yourself. And then you know, maybe six months from now, whatever the case may be, you're going to have a stronger confidence in yourself to say, you're going to do something and actually do it. So if something as drastic is quitting your job sounds too much right now, start small. Start by eating a healthy breakfast every day, or whatever the case may be, whatever that looks like for you, I'm sure we all have those habits that we know in the back of our head that we want to implement into our life, but we're not, maybe it's not hitting the snooze button, something as simple as that. So I would say that would be a really great place to start. And then the other big thing for me that I found that I need to do is I love working, when it's something I've like, found passion in like, I can lose myself in that. And I found that it's really important for me to give myself space to problem solve. And I know that sounds so simple, but for me, what that looks like is taking regular walks, or you can see all these books behind me, I love to read. And for the longest time I restricted myself from reading anything fun. If it wasn't self help, or business, I didn't, I couldn't understand why it was worth my time to read. And one day, I just, you know, could, I was done. Like, I just couldn't open a self help book, like I just kind of needed a breather. And I picked up a book for fun. And the creativity in my mind just started rolling again. You know, so giving yourself that space to play and have emptiness without trying to fill it, as I mentioned, I love optimization. So I'm always like, okay, how can I optimize my routine and like, make sure I'm really utilizing every minute of every day the way it should be. And that can get exhausting. And I found just making sure I have space to be empty to think, to play, whatever the case may be.

Susan Sly 23:08
I think that's huge. And I love what you said, because the whole concept of walking. And as, as when I, when I stepped down, it was in the media so I can talk about it. But when I stepped down as Co-CEO of Radius, that it's in the press, and people are asking me, you know what's going on? And what's the story behind the story? And then my new company was just in the media. And you know, the startup that is in the menopause space using AI and gamification you mentioned, you know, gaming. And, and I can't tell you, if I don't get out there, I work out every morning. And that's my workout. That's the necessity, but the walking, and I find if I'm not doing a lot of walking during the day, like I'll just grab my husband and say, Okay, let's go for 20 minutes, let's go for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, because I need that brain dump to clear the space to either solve the problem or come up with you know, whatever is the next step for something. So I love that you said that. In your career someone might say, oh, girlfriend has got this together. I mean, man oh man, she's walked the fire. She's read, you know, all of these books, she knows what she's doing. She can teach herself, coach, you could do all these things. What has been one of the most challenging things in your career that people might not know about or expect just getting to know you?

Ashley Stanford 24:41
Great question. I would say kind of a difficult lesson for me to learn which I kind of touched on already was that you know, giving myself space and I had to learn to really give myself space to enjoy life. That's still a little bit of a dance for me. And so I've had to kind of adjust my life and make sure I surround myself with people who, you know, do bring me joy, who do make me see a different side of life, because I could very well like, work my life away. And I have to a point that it's just caused, you know, crippling depression, where there was a period where I couldn't even quit everything I was doing shut down my computer, couldn't even turn it back on for months, and just trying to define like, who am I, if I'm not doing this, and you know, just finding a way to really be that example for my children to, you know, not necessarily show them this entrepreneur life but my goal, as a mom, as a parent is to just show them a life that like, I love living a life that's fun and a life that's worth getting out of bed for, they can go do whatever they want. They want to be an entrepreneur, if they want to go to college, if they don't want to go to college, if they want to do this, that, I don't care. I'm just here to set an example of like, what life could be if they do, you know, work hard, be a good person, and you know, all those things. So, I would say, it looks like you know, from the outside, and in these highlights and podcasts, interviews, like it can look like someone really has their things together. But it's also come from some really dark places and having to put things back together.

Susan Sly 26:45
How did you come back from that? You know, we've, we've had, we've talked about David Phillips, and I talked about depression, and he was severely depressed. And we've had other guests talk about, you know, all sorts of trauma that has happened. And I think anytime we can gift listeners with, because there are people listening right now who might be going through depression, or have a family member who is, and they're always looking for new strategies. So as the woman who solves things, right, Harry Potter was the boy who lives, you're the woman who solves things. How did you solve that for yourself? How did you come back?

Ashley Stanford 27:30
Very fitting, we just had a giant, rainy night at Hogwarts sleepover for my daughter's birthday last week, a lovely group Potter reference. So as someone who, for a long time valued myself for my productivity, like if I wasn't being productive, like, I did not think I was worthy of being loved or loving myself. And that was hard to let go off and just realize, Okay, we are not, you know, these little robots, and so allowing myself grace, but really how I was able to come through that dark period, I would say it was, it was very situational, depression, you know, something that I dealt with for about eight months, where I could not work, I could not do anything other than, like, Get up, get my kids to school, feed them. And, you know, just like the basics of each day. And I did it exactly how I described earlier with that habit stacking. Okay, I just have to take care of myself and take care of myself in a way that I've never been taken care of, ever. So it was, you know, forcing myself to work out, which in many cases, last thing you want to do when you're depressed is workout. So in a lot of cases, that was a walk around the block, and if that's all I could do, like that's all I could do. And you know, learning to play with my food and eating healthy, but trying to find a way to make it fun, like making smoothie bowls, like all the super basic, basic self care of just working out, eating right. And I did just a lot of meditation, journaling, and reading software books. There's a book that I love called The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte and it's really more of a workbook and you just figure out essentially how to create a life that is built around how you want to feel day to day. You know, it was really just a matter of self nurturing, which can be difficult when you do have, you know, children that you're responsible for and, but just, yeah, really that's all I can do and just giving myself the grace, but I was able to rebuild that confidence to pick myself up again, because I just focused on self care. Which obviously shouldn't, you should be doing that always and not have to stop work and spend several months teaching yourself that. So building those little habits while you're, before you become an entrepreneur is very helpful.

Susan Sly 30:26
Well, entrepreneurial, depression is real. And I love your candor, Ashley. It's real because the, in the entrepreneurial life there, you know, one shouldn't get too high and too low, like, Oh, I got funding, and then yeah, and then the next day, like my top, you know, data scientist quits, or, you know, whatever. It's that it's, it's real and often happens after a win, and you're holding yourself to the next one and the next one. I have to prove myself, then I have to, you know, and at what cost and often the collateral damage, the divorce rate is highest in entrepreneurs, drug and alcohol use, like the list goes on and on. And to be able to say, Okay, wait a minute, I'm still going to be an entrepreneur, and still committed to this path. But I can't keep doing it the way I was doing it, and I can, I can resonate so deeply with you, because I got to that point myself, in 2016, where I said, I can't, my mentor died, my best friend died of cancer. I, you know, it was, and I just, I was like, I can't do this the way I was doing it, it doesn't work. Those strategies to quote unquote, push myself, they don't work anymore at this stage of my life. And I'm 51 now. So you know, I was in my 40s at the time, it just didn't work. And when it didn't work, I was like, oh, I need a new playbook for me, because this doesn't work for me. And, and that shift, and I also shifted my brain to think about things like going for a massage, as actually more productive, because I saw the net gain in it like, Oh, if I go for a massage, and I step out, and I'm not like wired, wired, wired, that I come back, I'm calmer. If I look at something through the lens of being calm, oh, my gosh, this is a revelation. It's this new perspective. And shifting, like Tony talks about, you know, if you want to shift your psychology, shift your physiology. You and I were talking about, before we started the show, we're talking about digital marketing, and artificial intelligence. And so you have, as you mentioned, you know, some big brand clients, you also have, you know, you have been in this space for a long time, and you are an expert in this space. So what are your thoughts around AI, specifically, and digital marketing? And are you nervous about AI potentially taking away the role of the digital marketer for a client?

Ashley Stanford 33:29
Great question. And I think at first, as you know, ChatGPT and other AI tools quickly, got released. Yeah, it was a scary thought at first of, oh, my gosh, everyone can write their own email copy, their own social media posts, like everything, they're not going to need us. It's a scary thought at first, until I played with it myself, and thought, oh, my gosh, my productivity is going through the roof. Now, I can do things so much quicker. And you know, I don't know what it'll look like for a digital marketer, let's say five years from now. But you asked me about my first business. And it was actually, I called it Innovative Fox. And it was just this whole idea that a fox is one of the only animals that can rapidly adapt to their environment. So I've always kind of lived by that philosophy of fine, we'll adapt whatever happens, and I do as a digital marketer. I don't know what I'll be doing five years from now, but I do still see the value in strategic thinking and tactical thinking and how those two play together. And of course, again, it does become a little bit of an art of knowing how to use the AI. It's one thing to have this tool available to everyone, but it is a lot in how you ask questions to get the right answers. There are, of course, still very important human skills, critical thinking needed. And these tools, you know, can be an asset to you, if you let them. It can allow you to free up some of your brain space to grow and learn something new, that's going to be a value and help move forward in society.

Susan Sly 35:31
To that point, the productivity piece, I, you know, in one of my businesses, you know, put out the email for the show that my team will tell you, and I love you all, because they listen to the show, that I'm very particular in how I want that email to go out, because I want, you know, proper tagging, I want the guest to look really good. And so in all my quote, unquote, spare time, I've taken back the role of content creator for those emails, and I will use GPT for and you know, the great thing, I can take this show transcript, I can take your bio, I can take interviews about you. And I can also say, this is the tone, I want you to write this in, you know, etc, etc. And it used to take me hours to do all the research, do everything, and now it's like, I can get that done. And are the readers, are the listeners still getting the value? Yeah, I actually think they're getting more value. Because you know, when you're trying to produce something, and you mentioned, you know, being a mom, because you actually have a whole other life going on. And my dad is very ill right now, as I've got aging parents, kids going through exams, like all this stuff going on. And it's like, okay, I can get that when? You know, I can get that copy created, or I can get those things done. Right. And so right now, AI is great to help enhance human productivity, where it's going in the future. I mean, look at the advancements last 18 months, it's really hard to say, but to your point, right now, I think everyone should be using these AI tools to create, help them enhance what they're creating.

Ashley Stanford 37:18
Absolutely, especially if you are someone who has not yet taken that leap into entrepreneurship, and you're kind of you know, using your free hours, you know, this is something that can really help you move faster. So I think it's a great skill to play with and try out.

Susan Sly 37:38
And I love that you, because you and I are similar in the fact that, you know, we love to be productive. But there's a balance to that. Right. So yeah, definitely. So let me, let me ask you this question. The final question I have. If you, I'm going to ask you a question Tony would ask you. Because I can, because this is a question, right? So it's this, for people whose first language isn't English, just track along with me, and it'll make sense. So it is 20 years from now. Okay. And you're looking back 15 years to five years from now in your life as an entrepreneur. Okay, so because the reason I'm asking this was kind of how Tony asked it because we, we have a different perspective, time changes perspective, right? So imagine that, you know, Ashley is like, almost, you know, 60 and now she's looking back to age 45. Where are you at? What's happened in your entrepreneurial journey?

Ashley Stanford 38:53
Great question. I- loaded question. Hmm. I would say I am kind of in this place in my career where, yes, I built my mastery in digital marketing. I do not think that is my life calling in any way it is, it is going to be an important tool set for me to really cultivate what my calling will be, or is going to be. And I want to make that shift now and moving into you know, what this new career will be, which will involve a lot more, play a lot more space, a lot more, cultivating of my hobbies, and I've had this idea that I've always wanted to open a coffee shop and a bakery, but it's all like very healthy. Eating some courses came from my period of depression, and how I was able to, you know, work to rewire my brain and I want to be able to bring that to somebody else. And so I do want to make that leap, which is scary, you know, even if I've done it however many times, it's still always scary. And so, yes, I think looking back on myself at 45, I definitely want to know that I've taken that leap. And I've made, you know, continue to make more space. And I'm not so caught up in the productivity, in the hustle and bustle, which I'm not saying you shouldn't, I do think it is a real part of, you know, getting a business off the ground. So I'm not against like hustle and bustle. But when that's all you know, you also want to make space and kind of reinvent your idea of success. Really, think about what you want and what success looks like to you. It can be really easy to mold your success after mentors or people you see on the internet. But you have to get so quiet with yourself to really define what success looks like for you. Even if you don't think it's possible, because you haven't seen someone else do it. You have to, again, build that confidence in yourself and say it's possible and no way to make it happen.

Susan Sly 41:32
And that's the space too, that I hear in your voice, about that vision and casting a vision for yourself, that it doesn't matter what you know, anyone else thinks. You're an entrepreneur. So, you know, love and condolences because it's really tough to work for someone else once you have that in your blood. And Jennifer Ryan, who is the episode that aired before this one, she did that when she, her husband was transferred to Birmingham, Alabama, she was from New York, she didn't know anyone. And she missed all of that, like the healthy bakeries, cafes, juice bars. And she wrote all these letters, Ashley, to get bigger brands to come to Birmingham. And she comes from finance. So she had like all of the data, and this is why you should do it. And no one did. So she opened her own Blueroot. And she still owns it. And guess how much restaurant experience she had. Zero. Eating in restaurants, she had eaten, Right. And that's the, that's the point. And that, that vision for you. And that dream for you is your dream and it's no one else's. And I think for people listening and I know you have, you know, the the range of guests for the show. You know, we've had 12 year old entrepreneurs, we've had billionaires and it's a different, the thing I want to emphasize to everyone listening as your host, and your friend, is this, you will know your dream by how it feels. And how it feels is what you need at that time. And what Ashley is saying is, she, I can hear it in her voice. She's got this Zen about that vision. She's got this calm about that vision. She doesn't need that. And I've done, years ago I did a speaking event and Gary Vee came on after me. He's like that nice lady was talking about balance and then like 10 years later Gary's, all his stuff is like all about balance. I'm like, Dude, you made fun of me and then you go and talk about the same thing. You just didn't get it because he didn't need that that time. He was just like, Yeah, I've gotta go, go go until he did need it. Right. And we go through seasons. And that's the thing that I love. And I love that, you know, again, in this episode, like how transparent you are like, I was depressed, I came back from it. You can do, this is what I did. Because it's not that it's necessarily going to happen to everyone, but it could.

Ashley Stanford 44:09
Yeah, it could. And now it's normal, and you're not alone. And you can find a way out of it. And while there was then in my voice when I told you my dream, there was also a little bit of stutter and hesitation and thoughts of it feeling crazy, which is also a great thing like that's when you know it's probably a dream of yours when you don't want to tell anybody out loud.

Susan Sly 44:37
Well 1000s of people who listen to this episode have now heard it. When you hear the saying it's out there in the world, it's literally out there in the world. So if you think that Ashley should pursue this, tag us on social and let her know. And the thing I will say to you Ashley, the number one reason you know this that any business fails is lack of cashflow. Number two is lack of marketing. And I know with your background, it doesn't matter that you've never owned a restaurant, we've had so many founders who like one gal, she bought a landscaping company she had never like, you know, ridden a lawn mower in her life. So the, having marketing and finance background, you can basically build any kind of business and I just wish you every success. And I know you've touched a lot of people in this episode and including myself. And so I'm excited for you. You need to invite me to the grand opening because you know, I'll be there.

Ashley Stanford 45:35
Yes. Everyone come out to California. You're all invited.

Susan Sly 45:40
And especially where you live, it will not take a second invitation. I'll be there in a heartbeat. It's beautiful.

Ashley Stanford 45:47
Susan, and I'm looking forward to seeing how your AI businesses develop. Very exciting time to be in that.

Susan Sly 45:54
Hey, this is Susan and thanks so much for listening to this episode on Raw and Real Entrepreneurship. If this episode or any episode has been helpful to you, you've gotten at least one solid tip from myself or my guests, I would love it if you would leave a five star review wherever you listen to podcast. After you leave your review, go ahead and email Let us know where you left the review. And if I read your review on air, you could get a $50 amazon gift card and we would so appreciate it because reviews do help boost the show and get this message all over the world. If you're interested in any of the resources we discussed on the show, go to That's where all the show notes live. And with that, go out there rock your day, God bless and I will see you in the next episode.

Susan Sly 45:54
Thank you. Yeah, it's solving menopause for women using AI and gamification. Yeah, 50 million women suffering from menopause right now, just the United States alone as we have this conversation. So it's a big problem. And like Ashley, I'm kind of the girl who does a really good job when her back's against the wall. So it's going to be a fun journey. Well, Ashley, thank you so much for being here. I'm so grateful for our time together and for everyone listening, sending you all so much love. You've got this. All of the world's problems can be solved by entrepreneurs. So get out there, get the courage to get your business going. And with that, God bless. Go rock your day. And I will see you in the next episode.

Susan Sly 47:36
Are you currently an employee looking to start your own business? Maybe you've been thinking about it for a while and you're just not sure where to start? Well, my course Employee to Entrepreneur combines my decades of experience as an entrepreneur with proven methods, techniques and skills to help you take that leap and start your own business. This course is self paced, Learn on Demand and comes with an incredible workbook. And that will allow you to go through this content piece by piece by piece, absorb it take action and then go on to the next module. So check out my course on Employee to Entrepreneur.

Follow Susan Sly

Check on previous episodes

Susan Sly

Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

More posts by Susan Sly