Ashley is the creator and founder of Southern Sunshine that creates custom furniture and decor for clients across the country. She has been an advocate for small businesses she works with and non-profits that she founded with Fearless271 Ministries, Inc.
Where did the idea for Southern Sunshine come from?
I sort of stumbled into it but had the background of business, marketing and love for creative design. I started with picking up stumps (yes literally wood stumps on the side of the road) and making them side tables to sell. When I started to take notice that so many stores did not offer a large amount of sizes for customers especially for the smaller loft apartments or city style living that is where I shifted my focus to. After really figuring out who the market was I wanted to focus on the next thing I knew I wanted to do was to have items that were affordable across the boards for younger people with a budget to the higher end style designs for companies etc.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is so different! I used to do so much of it in the beginning but now we have a great team of people who make all of this work along with all of the options we offer. I still focus on a lot of the design research, development, customer service and finishing aspect. We’re constantly testing products or figuring out how we can make something better for our customers whether our products are used in the home or in a commercial setting.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am constantly studying styles and design especially with the city vibes since our biggest markets are NYC, Chicago, Cali, Atlanta etc. We like to take normal designs and incorporate true custom options for our products that you don’t really see anywhere else. Like our Maximus Typography Coffee Table people get to customize their favorite things about their city, town, travel places and more.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Each style has a fan following but what’s cool is the market where all styles can come together to create an incredible design. For instance, new hotels are creating these killer environment experiences that have all different kinds of styles in them. It’s allowing for more creative design than just your typical clean lines, woods etc.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Boundaries. It took a while to get there. It seems cliche but any entrepreneur knows that you finally have to get to the point yourself that you just “shut it off.” I cut off answering emails at a certain point in the day (unless something is blowing up!) and make sure to shift to engaging in my personal life too. It helps me mentally separate business from everything else and not let it run my life as it did years ago.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t try to do it all. It’s natural when you start a business to want to try and do it all yourself but you CAN’T. If you focus on a few small things, become great at it and continue to build/shift as you go — that’s where you will thrive. Even taking one social platform to promote your business on versus trying to do them all, that can wear your out where you need to focus on the actual every business needs.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That sometimes working with natural woods is just flat out a pain in the rear (with a laugh inserted). So many talk about how wonderful it is working with woods on their insta post but they don’t always talk about the shifting issues, stain issues, cracks etc. I can admit it, sometimes it’s not fun ha!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Listen to others who have been there. There is nothing better than someone sharing their wisdom with you from what they’ve learned AND sharing what you know with others for free! There is no secret to business, it’s literally a constant learning curve even with how the economy changes constantly too. Give or receive wisdom to others constantly.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Partnering with other Instagram bloggers that promote our products to their followers. We got the chance to design some new products for some designer bloggers that actually became regulars at our shop people could customize. To this day, those are still some of the most popular designs on our website.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Shipping has been a huge part of our business and took a while to master (as in finding the right option too!). I lost so much in shipping in the beginning with not packaging things right or things getting damaged with no insurance etc. I finally did a ton of research, picked a ton of brains on what they do and then found an incredible broker we have worked with for a few years now that are the best!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Would be cool to do an Instagram live style video feed of describing furniture products, functionality, colors, etc.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Sounds simple but I got some Weather Tech mats for my car since my feet always have some sort of residue on them from the shop. They are the best!!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I LOVE Onenote. I use it constantly with all of my daily routines, designs and work management. It keeps me organized and syncs with outlook which is awesome!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson. It’s an incredible book about if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough!
What is your favorite quote?
From beginnings come great things. There is nothing better than meeting and interacting with someone with a humble attitude in business or life.
- Listen, share and repeat
- Don’t try to do it all.
- Chase your dreams.
- \Failure is okay, just learn from it.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.