Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley McVey.
Hi Ashley, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I’ve always had a desire to be in some kind of service profession and initially thought that the career path I had chosen of counseling would be what I did. One year into graduate school I decided counseling was not my calling and had what I call, a quarter-life crisis. I continued in the field of case management but found I struggled with the reporting/record-keeping aspect and honestly, wasn’t managing my time well. I enjoyed the hands-on service aspect of the job and the opportunity to work with and help people, but the reporting side was a constant struggle. Fast forward, I met my husband, had three fantastic, crazy kids, and became a stay-at-home mom. As much as I love being available for my kids and spending time with them there has been this yearning to do something creative and fulfilling outside of the home.
I’ve always sought out creative outlets in whatever form-painting, baking, dabbling in new hobbies here and there like crochet or piano lessons to fill a craving. I derived a ton of enjoyment from baking and originally thought I would open a small bakery. So I asked my realtor to keep me posted on any spaces that pop up to rent or buy and start a bakery. She called me up one day and introduced me to a little red farmhouse built in the 1890’s sitting on about an acre and a half with an old lean-to building and a hog barn. I pretty quickly decided it was way too much to take on and just wasn’t what I had in mind. My realtor is creative and thinks outside the box so as she shared the various potential she saw in it, I began to quickly see it too. So fast forward a bit again, and I fall madly in love with the place, re-zone it commercially, annex into Cottleville, and start interviewing contractors. My friend and talented designer drew up plans for me and I had the beginning of this dream actually starting to take shape. But as I researched more, I realized the hours and demands of a bakery would not mesh well with a busy life and three small children.
So I decided to keep a portion of the boutique as a cafe that would serve a good latte and light baked goods and the rest would be filled with local crafters, creators, artists, vendors, and stylists. I contemplated carrying my own clothing line as well. I chose a contractor and got to work on seeking out vendors in the community. During the process, I realized offering a good latte was much easier said than done. So as I delved into the world of espresso machines it became slightly all-consuming. After talking to coffee shop owners, roasters, and an espresso equipment salesperson out of Seattle, I settled on a machine and coffee bean grinder. It all shows up at my house and I inform my husband I will need to practice so he’ll need to direct plumb the machine into our laundry room and hook up a water filter. He didn’t mind because a good latte is my husband’s love language.
During the pandemic, I spend a silly amount of hours watching youtube videos trying to learn to pull the perfect shot and make a good latte. I still need help… My friend and talented stylist who will be featured at Hazel and Blues invited me to tag along to LA with her and shop the fashion district. I was thrilled. It was a wonderful opportunity to understand what is involved in the buying process and if carrying my own clothing was something I wanted to do. It was such a fantastic experience and I immediately felt the creative cup filling up! Seeing and touching the clothing, picking out styles and fabrics, it was all so incredibly fulfilling and exciting. It was settled after that.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There are all the obstacles and hurdles along the way-choosing a point of sale system, developing contracts, getting inspections, hiring lawyers, bookkeepers, and figuring how to finance things has been an undertaking. Then there has been the family side of things. How do I juggle raising these kids and starting this business? We take the baby to the daycare in the morning, run errands- today it was choosing and buying stains, running materials to the property and home to return emails, and get more work done. I began to realize that the days we went to the playground and the days we went to a tile store were both fun for my two girls.
They get to go new places, watch mom work, run through huge stores, eat snacks on the run and learn to be resilient and flexible. This has all been a learning process for me, but the support of my husband, friends, and family has been fantastic. We are months from opening and I have about 10 wonderfully talented vendors that I am so excited to introduce at Hazel and Blues. This endeavor has allowed me to be connected with my community, support other entrepreneurs to work towards their goals, and it provided me the creative fulfillment I’ve been so desperately needing. Every day is new and challenging, but also exhilarating and the potential to continue to develop and grow this vision is endless in my mind.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I think I identify most as a mom and entrepreneur most at this point in my life. My degree is in psychology, which I always found fascinating, but it was a stepping stone that was going to allow me to pursue counseling. It wasn’t a good fit for me and I sort of mourned that for a while until I realized there were one million ways to help people and make them feel good.
I think I can tackle things and although I may complain along the way, I typically manage to achieve what I set out to do. At one point it was finding a tribe of mommas to raise my kids alongside and now it’s doing good, fulfilling work. What will set Hazel and Blues aside is the ability to shop regardless of what size you are in a unique environment that supports women and the community. And coffee. And cookies.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
I’m still starting out! What has helped me and been my mantra of sorts, is to be upset for a bit and then let that go. Find a work-around and hone in. It’s really all you can do. And don’t take things too personally! I’m what some would call an empath so I have big intense emotions. Sorry to all that experience this on a daily basis. eek.
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