Meet Ashley, a brand photographer/business owner at Westward Way Photography, and podcast host based in Texas! We connected with Ashley via IG, right away loving her #girlpower vibes. She describes herself as a master complimenter and empowerer of other women, and we are happy to be featuring her on SG!
Name: Ashley Edwards
Location: Austin, TX
Education: B.S. Marketing Management, WGU
How did you determine what you wanted to study in college (and beyond if applicable)?
When I was in high school, I was very ambitious. I was a journalist, a band nerd and a very studious gal. I loved school and thrived in the learning environment so much that I actually found that choosing a major was extremely difficult. I wanted to learn it all!
Straight out of high school, during my first attempt at college, I was actually undeclared because I had such anxiety trying to choose. During my second attempt at college, some years later, I decided on music as my major because I was very passionate about music composition and production. However, when I tried to transfer to my university and get into the music school, I totally bombed the music audition. I was really crushed and had no clue what I was going to do.
It took some introspection, but I eventually realized that I had envisions myself doing something in business and it would be the smartest choice for me. I realized that learning the workings of our economic system, how businesses work and how to market things would be useful knowledge no matter where my career actually headed. When I chose marketing, I actually anticipated that I would likely not land in a marketing position but I knew that just about anywhere I would be, the knowledge I gained in marketing and business would be super valuable.
When did you start doing photography, and what led you to pursue brand photography?
I’ve always been someone who carried a camera around in my purse- and this was long before camera phones were a thing. But what really got me passionate about photography was my daughter, when she was just a baby. I wanted to have beautiful photos of her plastered everywhere but I wasn’t able to afford a professional photographer. I just decided to pick the hobby up for myself. Once I started, with a $100 camera off the internet, I realized it was a great creative outlet for me, especially since I wasn’t pursuing music anymore. Eventually, people asked me to start taking photos for them and it started to turn into a hobby that made a few bucks here and there.
Tell me about your journey to launching Westward Way.
I wasn’t able to do any internships during college since I was also raising a little one, so I took advantage of the opportunity to take my hobby and turn it into a business in order to build up my resume and skills for employers. During the creation of my business, I realized that the market for brand photography was increasing due to the constant need for visual material on social media. Using what I learned about marketing and branding my own business, lots of internet research and all of the valuable information I gained in college, brand photography turned out to be an obvious choice for my photography niche!
What advice do you have for young women who want to get into marketing/branding roles?
My biggest piece of advice for anyone wanting to get into marketing and branding is to always bring your own creative vision to the table. You can learn the basics of marketing anywhere- but what is unique is your own perspective. Use your strengths and creative vision to give people something they won’t find elsewhere. If you can do that, you will be successful in whatever path you go along in marketing (or in life).
What has been your biggest career “hurdle” and what did you learn from it?
I think my biggest hurdle has been learning how to live with making mistakes. I’ve always been afraid to take risks or do things because I’m worried about the mistakes and judgments of others. I want to be perfect at everything I do but it’s absolutely impossible for anyone to be perfect. Once I started taking risks, making mistakes and doing things I was scared to do, I got better each and every time. I still worry about making mistakes and people judging my work, but I’m able to move on without it paralyzing me. I think this will always be a work in progress with me, but as long as I’m pushing myself just a little bit more each day, it is still progress!
What sparked the idea for the Girl Power Interviews — tell me more about the podcast.
The Girl Power Interviews actually started out as a photography project. I wanted to build my portfolio and meet some really awesome gals. It was basically a photojournalistic passion project but I started to envision it in a much bigger way. I began to envision interviewing women with all kinds of backgrounds and experiences and podcasting was a smarter and better way to do that.
I see The Girl Power Interviews as a platform for everyday women to share their voice, be understood, and educate themselves on the things that matter to us as women. In its infancy, it has already inspired women to take action, begin to love themselves and learn more about other women’s perspectives. My message is this, it doesn’t matter who you are- we all have stories worth sharing and there are women out there that understand you, that will cheer for you and will be on your side.
My vision for The Girl Power Interviews goes way beyond podcasting. I believe with the conversations on the podcast, all of the lessons learned and viewpoints expressed can be turned into something magical for women everywhere. The form is yet to be determined, but the vision is getting there!
What does collaboration over competition mean to you?
Collaboration over competition means putting aside all of your ego and selfishness in order to support someone else’s vision or ideas. I believe in the idea that we get back what we give to others. While our economy thrives on competition, we still need to allow ourselves to be giving with our knowledge and time. We can not grow as a society when the individual acts in complete selfishness.
Do you have a mentor? Who do you look to for inspiration and support?
I don’t have a business or marketing mentor, but I have met some very fascinating and inspiring people along the way. I’m inspired by women that do what needs to be done, whether they are CEOs, mothers taking care of babies, entrepreneurs or working women. Women that get things done and take action inspire me to keep chugging along, even when I feel I can’t. When I need moral support, I turn to my husband first, because he sees the best in me when all I can do is see the worst!
Final words of wisdom to all the young women out there who are strategizing to reach their education and career goals?
Enjoy your education even if you have no idea what you’re going to do in life. Don’t worry so much about your grades or job titles, but more so the challenges that you encounter along the way. The challenges you encounter are where you learn the most about yourself! You’ll learn a whole lot more about yourself when you make mistakes than when you don’t take action at all.
If you are open to connecting with our readers, how can they reach you?
You can find me on Instagram and Facebook! Both are @westwardwayphotography and @thegirlpowerinterviews
You can see my brand photography work at www.westwardwayphotography.com