ENOR Brands & Public Relations, a boutique public relations, digital marketing, and brand strategy firm in Nashville.
She is also the founder of #LiveYourBrand, an online community for emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs who want to move beyond the ideation phase and take massive action to turn their business dream into a reality.
The host of The #LiveYourBrandShow, Ashley is committed to empowering and inspiring entrepreneurs to stop procrastinating and kick their businesses into overdrive. Through her work with DENOR, Ashley and her team are focused on helping people, brands, organizations and companies share the right story to the right people at the right time on the right platforms. Her firm specializes in blending media and influencer relations with thoughtful digital marketing strategies to create powerhouse brands that make the world a better place.
Ashley has been featured by numerous publications including The Entrepreneurial Mind, Tennessee Tribune, Tennessean, Pulling Purse Strings, Common Cents Radio, The Connect Magazine and more. Ashley is a proud graduate of Tennessee State University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in women’s studies. She also earned a Master of Public Administration with concentrations in public policy and higher education from Louisiana State University.
DENOR Brands & Public Relations is a team of people committed to finding new and exciting ways to communicate on behalf of people, brands, organizations and companies. We have more than a decade of experience in communications. Learn more about how we can help you increase your visibility and ultimately boost your revenue at denorbrands.com.
#LiveYourBrand is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs grow to wherever they want to go through strategic action, thoughtful conversations, and engaging live events. Through its signature podcast, personal brand class, vision and goal setting workshop, and virtual conference, #LiveYourBrand is committed to empowering and inspiring emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs to move beyond talking about their dreams to actually living them.
Learn more about how you can start living your brand at LiveYourBrand.co. Learn more how you can turn your dream into a reality at DreamFestDigital.com.
Deb Bailey: Welcome to the Secrets of Success blog, Ashley. Please share how you got started as an entrepreneur.
Ashley Northington: Glad to be here, Deb. I started my business at the encouragement of my friend, Raymond, a fellow entrepreneur. He was gearing up to produce several live events and he thought my background as a communications professional would be perfect to help him promote his urban concert series. We did amazingly well. Together, we produced shows that brought in talent such as Kevin Hart, Erykah Badu, Monica, Mint Condition, Anthony Hamilton, Chrisette Michele, and many others.
My work in media relations and brand management shined. I helped him sell out countless shows, and through strategic media placements and thoughtful social media strategy, we secured millions in brand impressions. Here’s the thing: I did all this work as a passion project, a hobby. I did not ask for payment and did not even think about payment. At the time, I worked a very demanding and very well paid fulltime job that paid my bills.
Although my friend was ultimately very successful, I saw Raymond struggle a great deal trying to produce those live events. I looked at my work with him as pure fun. It was exciting. Plus, I felt I was helping him – it was like I was paying him back for everything he had done for me. It was he who helped me learn several valuable lessons about entrepreneurship – especially rebounding from failure, unyielding persistence, and determination to do a job well done.
Eventually, others began to ask me if I could help them. It was at that point that I thought, ‘Oh! I can do this for other people – and get PAID to do it.’ Thus, DENOR was born on June 7, 2010.
It wasn’t until about three years later, in 2013, where I began to wonder if I should try to make it on my own as a fulltime entrepreneur. I spent several months agonizing over what I should do. By this time, I had moved into another comfortable job, doing something I basically liked, but I was certainly not fulfilled. The way I saw it, I had three choices: 1) become a fulltime entrepreneur; 2) stay put; and 3) go get another job. Like I said, I internalized these three choices, but I did not make a move until I was sure I had done the right thing. And then, I didn’t even have to move. It just happened. The stars aligned and I became a fulltime entrepreneur.
That decision has been one of the most painful and joyful decisions of my life. While I’m still striving for more success, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Deb: Are there any “lessons learned” that you’d like to share?
Ashley: I have learned several lessons through my own entrepreneurial process and through the processes of many of my clients and business friends.
I think there are three that are most important: 1) It is not enough to just have an idea or plan, you have to implement it; 2) It is not enough to know what someone else charges or know what is standard in your industry, you have to understand brand positioning, demand, and your own unique worth; and 3) success is not reserved for those who know the most or look the best or know the most people; it is reserved for those who put the most focus on working for it consistently. It is reserved for those who can endure the wins of the process as well as the losses of the process - no matter how painful, embarrassing, or difficult.
As it relates to implementation, I think many business owners or aspiring ones get caught in three traps. The first is the idea or plan trap. This is where we have so many ideas swirling around in our heads and so many plans that we cripple ourselves with thoughts instead of freeing our idea or plan with action. The second is the consumption trap. This is where we consume so much of other people’s content and we read so much about how to do things that we never actually get around to doing them.
We voice what we are going to do, but we never really actually DO. And the last trap is the ‘changing courses’ trap. This happens when we have a plan, we’re on the path to implementation, and then something comes up and scares us – a customer gets mad, a vendor botches, or we run out of cash – and then we buckle. Instead of implementing the plan with fidelity, we let our insecurities consume us and we change directions, never allowing success to take root in the plan we initially set out to deliver.
As it relates to value, I have had a long journey here, both professionally with my own company and socially through the experiences of my clients and friends. I am embarrassed to admit that when I first began pricing for my services that my monthly retainer was less than what I now charge per hour. People were getting thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of services, and I was getting pennies. I had a ‘generalist’ mindset, even though I was positioning my personal and business brands as ‘expert’ in my field. I wrongly thought that I could get more of the pie if I gave more and more.
Of course, as I always say now, you do not get more of the pie by doing more; you get more of the pie by doing less. I did not know that then. I got less of the pie while I did more! I knew what others were charging and that excited me. I knew what was standard in the industry, but my insecurities led me to believe that – despite years of experience, a solid education, and actual results doing the work – I was not worthy or good enough to charge those rates. It wasn’t until after I jumped fulltime into entrepreneurship and after I had gone through my savings that it hit me: I have tremendous value and I bring that value to the table and people need to pay me for it.
And lastly, as it relates to success, I have learned that success is not reserved for those who, on paper, are most destined to have it. I had this foolish belief that because I had earned bachelors and master’s degrees (which, by the way, benefit me each day) and because I had worked in jobs that many deem ‘important’ and because I had connections to leaders, that I was just guaranteed to be successful. I was annoyed when I experienced setbacks and I was easily frustrated when things weren’t working out how I had intended. I knew I would have to work hard, of course.
But I didn’t expect to fail so much and to sacrifice so much and to feel guilty so much. This is the game of entrepreneurship – especially in the early stages. It is a constant process of being selfish and feeling guilty and feeling deprived and feeling like you are missing out. It is a constant test of being comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is not all four-hour work weeks, and sipping margaritas on the beach, and instant social media success, and 6-figure paychecks in two weeks. Once I learned that success isn’t reserved for folks ‘like me,’ I put a serious plan in place and I began working it with fidelity. It’s a process.
I’m going to be sharing more on embracing the process – no matter what – in November during DreamFest Digital, a virtual conference my agency is hosting for emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs.
We've got more to share from Ashley. Read Part 2 of How She Does It with Ashley Northington of DENOR Brands & Public Relations.