Our New Addition to Ashley & Malone

Over the last year we’ve been preparing for our biggest addition to our little family…and well business too! And that’s the welcoming of our little girl Isla Mae. It was actually a year ago today that we found out we were expecting and we couldn’t have been more excited, scared and happy with this news.

As most of you know, running a business and having a baby is a bit different than a traditional working environment. While my friends were looking forward to having a year maternity leave (hello, Canada), our reality looked very different. Seeing as both Dallas and I are self-employed we couldn’t just shut our business off for the year. We had our office, amazing team and clients to look after.

So we started the planning process and here are some tips of what’s worked for us:

  1. We started saving! Luckily we had nine months to begin figuring out how this was going to work and for us we wanted to have a backup plan, just in case. We were thankful we could save almost a years salary so that we could take on less and not feel financially stressed.
  2. Work now, so you can work less. We took on more work during my pregnancy so we could reduce our client in-take closer to my due date. Since I was due on New Years Eve, we decided to take on no new clients in December, only one in January and then 1-2 a month going forward for the first year. This allowed us some extra time with our baby and I was able to hand off some responsibility to Caryn and Amber on our team.
  3. Expect the unexpected. We lost one of our developers only two weeks after Isla was born and it was pretty stressful figuring out what we were going to do. Hiring and training a new team member with a newborn was not something we could take on. While we still had Dallas (obviously), it put more pressure on him during Isla’s first few weeks as he was taking on more work. In the end, our staff stayed on freelance which was very reassuring and in the end worked better for us. It’s true what they say, everything does work out in the end.
  4. Enjoy your baby. While not everything went as planned, we’re both super happy with how things have been going with our business and being new parents. Our team is beyond amazing and have taken a more active role in our projects. Plus Dallas and I doing things 50/50 with Miss Isla has been so fun. She gets both her parents and we get the personal satisfaction of our work – which is SO rewarding to us.

Now for a little fun! Besides being a Graphic Designer, over the years I’ve fallen in love with Interior Design. I have to say that I think #interiorlust on Instagram and Pinterest has set the bar pretty high and fuelled having everything picture perfect. That being said, when we found out we were expecting a girl, I was in heaven. I knew I wanted to create something special for our little girl so I enlisted the help of our talented client Alyssa from CoCo+Jack, a local interior design firm.

While we were working on her branding and website, they were also developing a box design service. Something a bit more affordable than traditional interior design. What was amazing about this was I could fill out a super fun questionnaire about our style and ideas I had for the space. With some quick measurements and photos, Alyssa was able to virtually develop the most beautiful and detailed design plan. We received a box filled with wallpaper, textiles and carefully selected furniture. The entire design was pulled together in a mood board and room layout so we could envision the space. Needless to say, we were blown away and started pulling the room together.

The icing on the cake was that WayFair come onboard and sponsored our glider chair and wool rug. Have a look at our newborn session we had with Crystal Hahn Photography in our new nursery.

 

xo Ashley

Five Things We’ve Learned Along Our Journey

Every business venture involves a journey, and ours is no exception! Here are five important lessons we’ve learned along our journey at Ashley & Malone:

Ashley-and-Malone-5-things-weve-learned

1. Nothing is ever 100%. Whether it’s finances, a client proposal or a logo that a client fell in love with, we’re always prepared for changes in our business. We might have a whole year where every client pays on time and then boom….three clients are late in a single month. While this isn’t an ideal scenario, we always have a backup plan. This consists of savings, hiring well and only when we need it and living a “somewhat” modest home life. We never want to overextend ourselves so that our business (i.e. our livelihood!) can’t function.

2. Design with purpose. This is something we have explored deeply as we’ve gotten more experience under our belts. It’s not always about what looks pretty, it’s about how it functions, the meaning behind the design and how clients perceive it. This was actually one of the reasons for our last rebrand. People always told us how fun and pretty our brand was, and to me that just wasn’t enough. We wanted to communicate more about our business than just the aesthetic part.

3. Adapt. We’re continually changing our business, always for the better. Our ultimate goal is an exceptional client experience. So, with that in mind, collecting thoughtful feedback from our clients is of the utmost importance. We sit down after EACH client’s project and review what went well, what could have been done better and what comments the client had about our process. As an example, a client may have been confused about how they launch their website or about printing prices….it’s these little things that we adjust along the way to ensure the client is always receiving flawless communication.

4. Ignore your competitors. This one is such a weird subject. From a business perspective, you have to know who your competitors are – it’s just smart. From a solopreneur standpoint, being constantly aware of your competitors is entirely draining – emotionally and creatively. I’ll admit when we first opened Ashley & Malone, almost three years ago, we didn’t have too many competitors. Since then the online design world has grown drastically, and it’s easy to get sucked into what others are doing. I personally find this especially exhausting on Pinterest, with the never-ending stream of everyone’s brand boards and styled mockups. So I just don’t follow anyone! Instead, I get my design-nerd fix by browsing websites like Dribble or Behance, reading magazines and working on my craft through drawing on paper.

5. Do what works best for you. Running a business is hard stuff, and it’s SO easy to see what others are doing online. How they book clients, how many they book and how long they spend with each one. So  you find yourself thinking, “I can do that too – if it works for them, it should work for me.” Well guess what, it might not. Everyone’s process, business and clients are completely different. Over the years we’ve evolved our own intake process, payment schedules and timelines to meet our needs and best serve our clients. No one knows your business better than you, so make sure your processes suit you perfectly.

With all these lessons learned, we’ve become more streamlined in our business and more in love with our work than ever! If you’re planning a brand overhaul next year or are planning to launch something new, we’d love to work with you – please reach out if you’d like to chat about how we can help!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ashley & Malone

As much as we love sharing advice and resources on our blog, we also love having fun! Inspired by lists like those in US Magazine, we decided today we’d share “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ashley & Malone.” Here’s a peek into our lives and personalities that you may not have had otherwise!

10 Things You Didn't Know About Ashley & Malone

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ashley:

  1. If you were lost in the wilderness, you’d want me with you! My longest trip was a 14-day white water canoe trip in one of Ontario’s most beautiful parks.
  2. I slept with my blanky until I met Dallas.
  3. My sister Kelly is my best friend and the chattiest person I know – which might also explain the next item on the list!
  4. I tend to be quiet in large groups.
  5. I wanted to be a lawyer when I was young, just like my dad.
  6. My style comes from my mom and my grandmother, who is 88 and would choose stilettos over flats any day.
  7. I’m addicted to house hunting!
  8. I love to drive, especially fast/nice cars, in no particular order.
  9. Chardonnay, Chardonnay, Chardonnay – enough said!
  10. I would have eloped anywhere to marry Dallas…but instead we ended up with two weddings.

 

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dallas:

  1. I was raised in Nassau, Bahamas.
  2. I am an encyclopedia of weird and strange knowledge.
  3. I tried to pick up Ashley in design class by attempting to relate to the Chanel website she was on. It didn’t go as planned…or maybe it did 😉
  4. I own over 50 pairs of sneakers.
  5. I was a wedding DJ for one summer.
  6. I’m generally shy but will go up to any group of guys and play basketball for hours.
  7. I’m a firm believer in Dr. Google.
  8. I come from a very large family, including 16 aunts and uncles.
  9. My laugh is contagious, or so I’m told!
  10. I’m totally ok standing in front of pink tassels…in fact I didn’t even think about it! (Did I mention I’m easygoing?)

 

So there you have it…the most random facts imaginable about the two of us! Want to know more? Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more behind-the-scenes looks at who we are and what we do. We’d love to connect with you!