At the age of 17 Ashley Mason began freelancing, working with companies on their social media presence. By 19 she officially started her social media management and consulting service called Dash of Social. Now at the age of 23 she runs both Dash of Social as well as Student to CEO which is a website meant to provide valuable information for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Check out part 1 before you read this interview!
*Please note, most of Ashley Mason’s responses are paraphrased because the interview was conducted over the phone*
Can you talk about how you managed your time running a business and attending college at the same time?
It’s funny you asked that; I wrote a blog post about this a few weeks ago. Fortunately, I was blessed with time management skills. For people that tend to procrastinate, doing both school and running a business at the same time can be really difficult. I will admit that my time at college was full of very early mornings and very late nights - a typical day for me (Monday through Thursday) would be 4 AM to midnight. For me, it ended up being okay just because I knew that if I wanted to grow something, I had to hustle. Truthfully, I am not a fan of the hustle culture anymore because people glorify the hustle - but I believe that I had to hustle in order to be able to get where I wanted.
The main thing I do to stay organized, even to this day, is time block my schedule - I write out what I need to be doing at each hour of the day because it really helps to keep me on track, especially with something like school going on. During school I would wake up at 4 AM because I started my day at the gym, then in the morning, I focused on homework or client work, making sure that I was focusing on what needed to be prioritized. From there, I went to class, and then at night again it was client work and homework. Pretty much every waking moment of the mornings, nights, and weekends was devoted to doing work.
Also, one thing that I decided to do was not participate in any extracurricular activities during college just because I did not have the time with everything going on. There are some things I wish I did, but again, I just took every waking moment that wasn’t spent in school or doing homework working on my business.
Can you talk about how you went from a one-person operation to a three person operation? How did you make sure consistency was kept in your business?
When I first started Dash of Social, it was just me and I just focused on social media because that is what I was passionate about. From there, I started getting current and potential clients to come to me, asking if I offered SEO, blogging, and Facebook ads, all of which were services that I wasn’t offering. I ended up referring all of these potential clients to other people, and then I realized that I was sending other people money when I could be keeping these people in house and making more money myself - this was my indication to grow a team who could do these tasks that I am not really good at.
I also hired my assistant in February of 2019 and what actually made me realize that I needed to hire her was that I did a time audit - I tracked what I did everyday and I added up all of the things that I hated doing as well as how long it took me to do the things that someone else can easily do, and I started to realize how much time these tasks took me. I started to realize, for example, that it took me 30 hours per month to engage with other accounts on Instagram, and I said “wait a minute, imagine what I could do to grow the business if I had 30 extra hours to work a month.” I decided to outsource so I would have more time working on the business rather than working in the business.
For the second part of the question, I use Asana which is a project management tool where I can put in all of the tasks we need to complete for our clients, what the due dates are for these tasks, and who needs to do the work on our team. This program helps ensure that the people who are working with me are really supported in doing their jobs.
As of now, what has been the highlight of your career?
I would say there are a few different things. Definitely paying off of my student loans was pretty big. Then also my Ted Talk, being able to work full time the day I graduated, and getting an official office space. Overall I would say the freedom. Being from Massachusetts, I love the beach and so during the summer every Friday, I take the day off from work and just chill at the beach. Being able to make decisions like that has been really crucial, especially when my mom was sick - being able to adjust to be able to take care of her was something that was huge.
Focusing on the present day, what makes your company more attractive than your competitors?
One of the things that makes us stand out is the specific packages and services that we offer. For example, with our social media and management package, we have specific growth strategies we focus on that many other companies do not do.
I have also invested a lot of time in connecting with people - I have invested a lot of my time going into Facebook groups, providing value. 76% of our clients come from Facebook groups because I do not sell myself, rather I am just human and I help others. I often say my business model focuses on humans rather than dollar signs. And so, one thing people really value about me is that I spend so much time giving free advice, sharing tips, and focusing on giving rather than expecting to receive.
What is some advice you would want to give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Just get started. The earlier you get started, the more time you have to make an impact which is huge. Also, don’t let the college process daunt you - this is one thing that I was really tied up a lot in. It’s funny, the college that I ended up going to was not the college that I thought I was going to go to. I had my mind set on Babson in Massachusetts - I was waitlisted and then rejected, but I was able to realize that I did not need to go to an entrepreneur college to become an entrepreneur. It is more about what you do with your college experience rather than where you go.
Above all, don’t be afraid to get your feet wet. Get some experience under your belt so you have things to use and learn from to help you get started later on in life.