Never stop learning, researching and asking questions. Knowledge is power.
Ashley Marks is Founder & CEO of Life Proper a luxury women’s handbag brand for working women. Each bag features carefully placed interior pockets for laptop and sketchpad storage. A visionary for clean modern design and function, Ashley sought to develop a brand she believed filled a niche for the 21st century woman. With a passion for creating and an eye for design, she began to develop the Life Proper brand in the fall of 2015, with the first collection launching in September 2016. Her love for all things creative inspired her to fulfill a lifelong dream of designing products she felt were needed in the market. Believing the risk is worth the reward, she began sketching the CAPSULE Collection.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The idea came from a men’s brand that I really admired called This is Ground. They create a high-end leather bound portfolio style small briefcase that encompasses tools to work effectively. Inside their “mods” are organized pockets for tech gadgets. I started thinking that I had never seen a woman’s brand of this nature and I love how high end these “mods” looked with leather and zippers and I thought to myself I want to create something similar for women, but make the product high-end and sleek for working women. Our first round was very intricate with organize interior pockets for everything you could think of that may be needed throughout the work day, but after a few rounds of edits we edited with a high end luxury handbag line that allow for a laptop and/or portfolio storage.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
When I am working, I am a very scheduled person. I usually schedule my meetings and appointments in outlook and live by my calendar to stay organized. I think true entrepreneurs are juggling many things at once and have crafted the art of maximizing 5 minutes like no one else can.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I start with a mood board via Pinterest to source inspiration for the initial concept. Then when I am thinking about the specifics of the product I want to develop, I sketch it out and make a 3-D model. This is when it is time to work with the sample maker and go through the process of creating the product.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Women in business. There is so much emphasis right now with women’s marches, National Women’s Day, and female entrepreneurs. I recently became a member of the Female Founder Collective founded by Rebecca Minkoff, which is a network of businesses led by women, supporting women. We are in a very exciting time for women to be in business.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Multi-tasking. There is just something about multi-tasking that entrepreneurs excel at in my opinion. More than that, it is about managing your time in a way that maximizes each moment. Every moment is an opportunity to accomplish something great. While I drink my coffee in the morning, I am making sure I am connecting and interacting with other brands and influencers via social media. Every moment is utilized. Every minute is capitalized upon.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Never doubt yourself because no one has it all together. You learn so much from putting forth your best effort and figuring it out along the way versus thinking it has to all be perfect before you start. The best advice I would give is to just get started.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Spend the money. I believe in “go big or go home”. If you are trying to brand something or create something, the vision cannot be compromised so find the funds to create what you truly want. If you put in the work, the effort will be worth the risk. I don’t believe in compromising your vision for cost. If you have a great idea, chances are, someone else will believe in your vision and would love to invest to make that thought a reality.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Networking – I would not be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for relationship building and meeting new people.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Trade – When I first started out I would give photographers a product in order to get high quality professional images. It kept cost down and I was able to secure editorial opportunities because I had high quality imagery that was able to be used.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I felt I had failed because my business wasn’t where I wanted it to be a year into establishing it. I overcame this struggle by pushing through mentally and reaching out to secure an investor to help grow the brand so that I could reach my professional business goals.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A business idea that I think would be very fruitful for business is having the buy option during streaming short 15-30 second ads on say Hulu. Similarly to what we have today on social media where an ad pops up and you can “learn more” or “shop now.” If this feature was embedded into streaming ads companies might see high sales and conversion rates.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I would say getting a massage or going to yoga. Self care is very important especially in the beginning stages of a business. If your cup is empty, how can you fill anyone else’s? In the beginning of building a business, it can be difficult to spend money anywhere but back into the business, but I say treat yourself so that you don’t resent what you worked so hard to build.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Google Drive – since it is a cloud based format. I store everything company related on this platform so that any team member can access it when they need information.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
While I cherish the opportunity to read, with my busy schedule, I tend to lean towards Ted Talks, or go onto youtube for tidbits of interviews with authors I admire, Brene Brown being one of my favorites. One of her recent books, Dare to Lead, has invaluable advice on vulnerability, taking risks, and rising above it all.
What is your favorite quote?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
This is very important when working with a team. Most entrepreneurs used to work for someone else at one point in time and we should all remember how it felt when we had a boss who made us feel anything but inspired and capable.
- How others view your leadership is extremely important to the success of your business.
- Never stop learning, researching and asking questions. Knowledge is power.
- Before making decisions, look at the situation from multiple perspectives.
- Transparency is key. Open and honest communication are vital.