Ashley aka Ash + Oak
Hi, my name is Ashley Mueller and I am the founder of Ash + Oak. I started my business over 5 years ago. It all started with a bad break up and turning 30. I wasn’t your typical American worrying about a white picket fence, career and kids. It wasn’t my thing. Somehow, I was approaching 30 and I started to realize I didn’t want to keep waiting tables or live on the beach in Mexico forever. Well, maybe living in Mexico wasn’t so bad.
I was in Austin, Texas alone and heart-broken at a music festival when I realized my favorite job I had ever had was working with flowers. I was 18 or 19 and worked at a hippy kind of co-op grocery store in Tacoma, Washington. They put me in charge of keeping the buckets clean and flowers organized. I loved it.
I got back to my hostel after the music festival and sent an email to my favorite design studio in SF. Thankfully, they were interested in an intern. I expected to sweep floors and clean buckets but I also was hoping to learn a lot more behind the scenes and how to build. Since I didn’t get the lessons I was hoping I jumped ship and move on to starting my own business.
My biggest struggle was “the business.” I had no idea what I was doing. I went to Art school and let me tell you I did not learn a thing about starting your own business. I ran businesses for other people but still had no idea. A few other struggles a had to deal with involved having a tiny car for giant weddings, getting a cease and desist letter from my landlord for working from home and living in the bay with a huge rent to pay and little income. That did not stop me.
My biggest fear is not succeeding. Since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be my own boss. This probably came from my dad and grandpa who both ran their own companies. I thought I was going to New York to be a fashion designer but when the time came I didn’t have it in me. I crushed Fashion School so it wasn’t that I couldn’t design I just didn’t have the courage to take that leap. I still don’t know if I have the courage to keep going to succeed. I spent hundreds of dollars trying to break this wall down in therapy but it didn’t help. It’s just my biggest fear.
Things that do help me keep my sanity through the rough, busy and broke moments are being with my puppies. It sounds so lame (super basic Instagram tag) but I struggle with anxiety and those little pups calm me down. A few pets in and I am chill as can be. Hiking and a glass of wine with my friends totally help too. If it’s wasn’t for my 5 best friends and our girl trips (about 4 times a year) I would definitely lose it. One piece of advice you should learn from me is taking girl trips. Get wild and weird and be you. Let it all out, cry and laugh with your besties.
A few other tips for women you thinking about starting a business or changing careers is just do it and don’t stop. Make sure you’re doing it for you and your passion. I know I am in the right career for me because during the slow season I crave working with flowers. There are many times owning your own business you don’t get to be creative and it’s soul-sucking. During January I spend most of my time on vacation and prepping for the new year. About mid-month I start to feel a little crazy. At first, I didn’t know why but I pick up a few flowers locked myself in my studio aka laundry room and went at it. OMG, I was a new person. Don’t forget why you started and don’t let it slip away.
I am sure I could go on forever but I won't. This is 1 of the 52 posts you will see about working women. Each Wednesday I will blog about another woman doing her thing. From screenwriters to beauty products from Oakland to Australia I will be sharing all sorts of love with you. Each woman gets to write or answer a few questions but each week there will be two guest questions. For this week I must answer……..
What keeps you going when you start to doubt yourself?
Hummmm, my passion for the flowers. Honestly, I hate weddings and lovey things but it’s a place for me to create what I love. Working with my hands and touching every stem drives me to keep going. Someday I will give up weddings and create living art for galleries. Big dreams but my goals.
The most fun you’ve had creatively that didn’t involve work?
As I mentioned before I take these wonderful girls trips and on the trips, we usually do a creative project. One of the first was for the Dakota Pipe Line. Well, let me start this off by saying we had good intentions. During these girls trips, we usually take psychedelics and drink a lot. This one trip we wanted to send a sign to the pipeline as well as supplies and money. My dear friend let use her leather sign from her wedding but we had painted over it. Well, do I need to say more. Painting and drugs are by far my favorite things to do besides flowers.