After years of working in the corporate food service industry, Brooklyn based Ashley Rouse knew she was destined for more. Her Brooklyn, NY-based low-sugar, vegan artisanal jam company Trade St. Jam Co., which she started in a tiny apartment when living in North Carolina was steadily growing in sales and wholesaling opportunities.
However, Ashley knew that time is what she needed in order to grow the company into the vision she had. In early October 2018, she decided to quit her corporate job to venture into the world of full-time entrepreneurship. I sat down with Ashley to chat with her about her road to full-time entrepreneurship and how the decision to choose faith over fear is leading her on this new journey. Ashley shares the steps she took and advice for others who are looking to take the leap and pursue their dreams full-time.
1. Build the dream before you quit.
Every big idea starts small. In the early days of Trade St. Jam Co., Ashley cooked jams in small batches and sold and shipped locally. Over time interest and demand grew. She later expanded to selling in local New York City craft fairs and markets.
Learning the industry and market before you penetrate full-time is also important. Ashley spent her early days building and connecting with other local businesses and #blackowned companies. Ashley took the time to invest in brand basics such as branding, customer profiles, product offerings, sourcing, inventory management, and production – which all allowed her to scale later on.
2. Be open to the signs that it’s time & commit to the decision.
Full-time entrepreneurship was always on Ashley's "to-do" list, but she thought she was being "smart" by holding off. "I always knew [I could] make more money doing this is if I wasn't at work all the time. But, when I thought about the idea of quitting, it was so daunting." In retrospect, Ashley realized that she was actually afraid that things wouldn't work out.
Ashley's "catalyst moment" came two months prior to quitting when she was invited to participate on a panel discussion on entrepreneurship. She originally didn't want to do it – but ended up obliging. During a Q&A with the audience, an attendee's comment changed her entrepreneurial trajectory:
"He said, 'I'm sorry to interrupt but something higher is telling me that I have to say this right now...when you step out on purpose, you won't be afraid because that's what God has for you. You need to be open to that and understand that and pray that you hear that when He speaks to you.'"
During the ride home, she told her husband, "Maybe we need to look at the numbers again and see if I can do this."
This time, Ashley's apprehension was gone. "I know it sounds crazy but every time I talked about it before, I had been so fearful. For whatever reason this time, I felt strongly about it...I wasn't afraid."
3. Make a plan.
After Ashley's transformative experience – she decided to keep momentum moving. "The next night we put a bunch of numbers in the spreadsheet and ran it three times. We talked about it [and I told my husband], 'I think I'm going to do this.'"
Three days later, Ashley put in her notice at work.
Though the decision to quit came suddenly, Ashley took the time to create a plan but left room for her to "work through it as it comes."
To her surprise, after she quit, opportunities and sales began rolling in. A Bon Appetit feature led to 200 jam orders. Bigger brands such as Squarespace, Facebook, and The Gap began to reach out for wholesaling and brand partnerships. Who knew quitting would lead to this?
4. Enlist a support team.
Ashley credits having the support of her mom and husband as being critical to her success. Ashley's mother was one of her first culinary and career inspirations and encouraged her to pursue her love for food via a culinary career. "She was always realistic. [She told me], 'If you do it and you don't like it, then you can do something else.'"
When Ashley decided to quit her corporate position, her mother was also on board. "She was excited to see me say this is what I want to do and told me to go for it."
Ashley's husband is also another crucial team member. "My husband is everything. He's calm, patient, God-fearing, encouraging… he fills in all the little holes I have and helps a ton with the business."
When she initially talked quitting, he agreed and urged her to do it. Though her husband still works full-time, Ashley notes him as being Trade St.'s "analytical side" and he urged her to analyze key metrics, such as business margins early on in the growth process.
5. Prioritize faith & self-care.
It can be daunting to quit your 9-5 to pursue your dreams and many often doubt their decision in the first few months. Ashley mentions, "I spent this whole year strengthening my relationship with God."
Ashley's faith was important to providing her the strength to keep going and is a key pillar in her everyday approach to entrepreneurship. "Recently, I started tithing, which is something I never [had] done before. [Tithing] has shown me that I am making money and how much I'm making. When I finally said I'm going to give 10% of my income...I realized I was giving a lot but it's also because I'm getting a lot."
No matter what your belief system is, having faith that your dream is worth the work you're putting in is a major factor for growth.
"You have to make a decision. I'm going to do this or I'm not going to [do] this. If I am, I'm going to do it all the way. I'm going to be faithful and push through so when I have those days and I feel like I can't do it, I have to be self-aware and tell my[self]...that [I made] this pact to myself."
Throughout the journey, it will be important to celebrate the small wins. Recently, Ashley surprised her mom with a fully-paid trip to Paris and Amsterdam – something she had never been able to do before. She and her husband also went to Jamaica for a wedding – where they were able to destress and relax – something that any full-time entrepreneur needs to schedule into their calendar.
You never know where your journey will lead you once you decide to invest in your passion full-time. Make sure you aren't the one getting in your own way and blocking future blessings. "On December 12th, I went back to Conde Nast and did a Chef's Table. It's full circle because I used to run the Chef's Table program at Conde Nast...and now I'm being featured."
What's next for Ashley and Trade St. Jam Co.? The company recently launched a new IGTV show "You Can't Jam With Us" and Ashley will be featured in an upcoming Vice docu-series "Hustle" airing in February 2019.
To learn more about Ashley's journey, click below or listen to her story on episode 174 of the Dreams In Drive podcast.
Rana Campbell is a Princeton University graduate, storyteller, content marketing strategist, and the founder and host ofDreams In Drive- a weekly podcast that teaches you how to take your dreams from PARK to DRIVE. She loves teaching others how to use their life stories to inspire action within oneself and others. Connect with her on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, Instagram @rainshineluv or @dreamsindrive.
Featured image via Ashley Rouse
Rana Campbell is a Princeton University graduate, storyteller, content marketing strategist, and the founder and host of Dreams In Drive - a weekly podcast that teaches you how to take your dreams from PARK to DRIVE. She loves teaching others how to use their life stories to inspire action within oneself and others. Connect with her on Instagram @rainshineluv or @dreamsindrive.
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Release Stress & Restore Harmony In Your Body With Shaking Meditation
When we reflect on our own path as women in light of the women who came before us, it’s easy to see that the loads we’ve carried haven’t always been the lightest. From everyday stresses to generational trauma with roots that are difficult to trace, one must ask where all that weight goes if we never release it.
The body holds the score for all the anxieties, worries, and unease that we’ve endured over time. Family and society often tell us to quiet our emotions, maintain a brave face, and keep our emotions bottled up within. But as we know, anything with too much pressure will eventually burst.
And while we are steadily discovering self-care methods like meditation to shed this emotional baggage, it may take a little more than sitting still in the quiet of our mind to let go of our deep-rooted tension. Fortunately, mindful movement could be an unexpected way for you to let go of worry and anxiety while building emotional resiliency, and such is the case with shaking meditation.
What Is Shaking Meditation?
Shaking meditation is a form of tension and trauma-releasing exercises or TRE that “assists the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and trauma.” This series of exercises of muscular shaking and vibrating activates a natural reflex mechanism that releases muscular tension, thus calming down the nervous system and encouraging your body to return back to a state of balance.
“Shaking meditation can be powerful because it moves your body — and in Eastern medicine, we say that moves your chi,” says Jenelle Kim, DACM, L.Ac, a ninth-generation doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine and author of Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation.
According to Dr. Kim, understanding chi helps us understand our bodies and how we're feeling mentally, physically, and spiritually. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), chi is known to represent your life force; it is the energy that flows through you and everything, and in many cultures, plays an essential role in our health.
“We have chi that moves in our blood and throughout our entire body; connecting our organ systems, muscles, and joints,” she tells xoNecole. “It allows everything to function and to be nourished. We know blood travels throughout our body through our circulatory system, but chi also travels through our body — much in the same way — through the meridian system. If you picture chi as vital energy, it moves the blood.”
It’s important for our body’s chi to stay in flow. When we go about our daily life with stress, trauma, or even mental injuries, our energy becomes stagnant. But various movement practices like Qigong or shaking meditation encourage your chi to circulate through your body which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which “is in charge of telling our brain and body to calm down, relax, ultimately, let go,” Dr. Kim says.
As Black women, there are times in life when it feels like we bear the weight of the world on our shoulders, with few spaces to go when we need to lighten the load. But as Dr. Kim explains, because women are “naturally yin beings,” we take on more because we can handle more. “According to the energies of nature that have been passed down for thousands of years, women are more complex. And what that almost always means is that we can think a lot more.” And while that speaks to the resiliency of our being, it can have a negative effect on our bodies when we store more than we release.
“If we don't have ways of releasing this, it will ultimately affect our lives physically, mentally, and spiritually. Then it passes on to our children, and that's where we get generational trauma,” she says.
Although shaking meditation may be a new and unfamiliar practice, it’s one that could prove to be beneficial to those who have experienced trauma on an individual and communal level. The movements are simple to follow and accessible, and in a matter of minutes, you’ll feel more calm and relaxed, while relieving any anxiety, frustration, and tension inside of you.
So if you’re ready to restore harmony within your body, here are the steps to perform shaking meditation on your own.
How To Incorporate Shaking Meditation Into Your Daily Routine:
Step 1: “Stand with your feet hip-width apart. You can do this while sitting or standing — depending on your comfort level. Make sure all of your joints are soft, so nothing's locked.
Step 2: “Begin raising onto your tiptoes and falling back onto your heels. Not so hard to where you're shocking your spine, but enough to just kind of wake up your body. Repeat three to five times, dropping down onto your heels.”
Step 3: “Next, start with your hands first and shake them. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Shake them and go up to your arms, to your elbows, and then up to your shoulders. Now your whole arms should be moving.”
Step 4: “Then you can start your legs, repeating the same shaking movement. You then move your feet moving, go up through your core, and then shake everything out through your head.”
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Featured image by Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images