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.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
I didn’t think much could get better about the blissful high that comes with oral. That was until I came across the Kivin Method.
As someone who was never a huge fan of oral sex and could largely take it or leave it, I must admit that I have started to come around in recent years. With my head thrown back, hands gripping sheets and hair, and toes curling from the intense sensations of the work my partner is putting in at my center, I now give myself over to the pleasurable act wholly and unapologetically.
When I came across a way to maximize the pleasure I receive from cunnilingus (already), I had no choice but to tap in. Who knew the key to taking oral sex to new heights was giving it a sideways twist? For those of you who might also be interested in ways to spice up the way you do oral, experience faster and stronger orgasms, or simply want to indulge in something new with your partner, the Kivin Method could definitely be the oral sex technique for you, too.
Keep reading to learn about the method that is sure to have you writhing in ecstasy in no time at all.
What Is The Kivin Method?
For the uninitiated, the Kivin Method is an oral sex technique that focuses on stimulating the clitoris from a different angle. Dubbed “sideways oral” by some, this method involves the action of giving head from a side-to-side movement as opposed to the up-and-down motion that people typically perform when giving head. (If you need a visual, this illustration is helpful.)
The difference in approach as you’re receiving head can be a game-changer in how you receive pleasure. Not only does the giving partner have access to the clitoris, but they can also access more easily the vulva and the labia, which are objectively a bigger focus in this version of cunnilingus. More access means wider coverage, and that, plus the new sensation of oral from a different angle, can heighten the way you experience oral sex that much more.
Where more pleasure flows, intense orgasms are sure to follow.
How To Do The Kivin Method
If you want to know how to do the Kivin Method, it’s actually pretty straightforward. The receiver lays on their back while the giver positions themselves perpendicular to the receiver. Their head will be facing the vulva, but instead of vertical, their face will be horizontal to the vulva.
From there, the giver can get to business, ensuring that they keep their head perpendicular to the receiver’s vulva while working on their craft. Because this technique can be more intense for some receivers, start slowly by stroking the vulva and clitoris sideways with the tongue, and allow sensations and communication from the receiver to be a guide of what you need more or less of with the Kivin Method.
Ultimately, the Kivin Method allows experimentation and unlocking what pressure, rhythm, and tricks work best for the giver and the receiver. Try implementing a finger or two, or adding a sex toy to the mix to intensify the act even further.
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Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images