Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a passion for drawing. I could always be found making cards for friends and family for every occasion I could find. During my sophomore year of high school, I created four cupcake greeting cards for some friends’ birthdays. These four cupcake drawings sparked an idea that turned my passion into a business.
I started researching how to reproduce my artwork into products and how to market and sell them. I was very new to the business world, and I had a lot of questions that could only be answered by someone who had gone through the same trials that I had. One initial challenge was reproducing my work at the high quality that I desired, while keeping the retail prices fair for customers. Another challenge was organizing my business so that it could grow in the future. So, I e-mailed my favorite artist and lifelong inspiration, Mary Engelbreit. I did not really know if my letter would ever reach her, so I was very surprised and excited when she responded to me!
That summer, my family and I traveled to St. Louis to visit Mary at her studio. Meeting Mary and seeing her studio showed me what a passion can evolve into with dedication, motivation, and perseverance. Mary started out just like me when she was younger; a girl with a gift and a dream. Today, her company is a large corporation with products available across the world. Her advice and example has taught me a lot about running my own business and the importance of always seeking new opportunities and never giving up. After many trials and experimentations with reproducing my artwork into professional products, I succeeded in coining my processes.
In August 2013, I started Ashley Ink, a printing press company featuring high quality reproductions of my hand-rendered illustrations. Since then, my business has grown significantly and continues to grow every day. Currently, I have an online Etsy shop, and my products are sold in stores in Arkansas and Alabama. My business has participated in shopping events including the Junior League Northwest Arkansas Boutique Show and Vintage Market Days craft show. I am always seeking new ways for my business to improve, expand, and reach more customers. I have learned a lot about being an effective leader through my role as a business owner. I have learned the importance of delegating roles and prioritizing in order to complete tasks successfully. Being a business owner has shaped me into the organized, driven, and problem-solving artist that I am today.
Without the many learning opportunities that entrepreneurship brings, such as paying monthly taxes, calculating shipping costs, and working with other businesses, I would not have gained the same experiences of working to achieve a greater goal. My business is no longer about me, but instead it is focused on serving my customers through providing them inspiration from the blessings of everyday life. My business would not be possible without the support of my customers, friends, and family. It definitely takes a village to raise a business! My next venture is licensing products, and I cannot wait to see where the future will take Ashley Ink next!
This essay was written by Ashley Steiner 1 of 10 finalists for the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Ashley and the other finalists were selected from more than 1300 applications reviewed by the SuretyBonds.com Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Ashley or any of the other finalists, visit the SuretyBonds.com Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.