I met Ashley years back when I worked at Bazaar and she introduced me to some of the clients she represented at her public relations company, Wick & Co. Ashley is good at what she does because she picks clients and companies that connect with her personal interests and adventurous spirit. Strong women designers such as Kendall Conrad and Chance’s Julia Leach, the travel site Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and the global online bazaar, ShopLatitude have all benefited from her p.r. expertise.
Two months ago, Ashley did the unthinkable(!) and left the West Village of NYC for Boulder, Colorado. She is also in the process of completing a year-long leadership coaching course, which has caused to her to rethink and reevaluate the role she plays in companies and women she works with. I am always so thrilled (and slightly envious on occasion) when someone leaves the big city to refocus their career and life, and also fascinated with Ashley’s new, thoughtful approach to her business.
Please tell TFI readers what you do:
I’m in transition, and it’s an interesting time to answer that question. I originally set up Wick & Co in 2010 with the aim of continuing my communications work that I had done at Diane Von Furstenberg and Anya Hindmarch. I’ve always been drawn to p.r. for the story telling aspect. I like being a microphone. I love teasing out the why from people who are brilliant and have great ideas and then putting it out into the world.
As the industry has changed over the last six years, I felt I also needed to evolve. I found that a lot of the mid-size and start up companies I had been working with needed internal communications advice in terms of how they were telling their story, and why they were doing what they were doing—to really get to the heart of their business. I thought how can I tend to that part? Plus I had an inner desire to create more meaning in the work I was doing. The way I decided to go after that was to get certified as a leadership coach through a program called CTI. What that is allowing me to do is help my clients create better intimacy with their internal teams in their company and also work through what motivates them. It helps them work through problems and challenges. As a result, they are creating better work that’s more thoughtful, heartfelt and true to who they are.
So Wick & Co now is pivoting more to look at the work that proceeds that external communications work. I love it because I can make an immediate impact in individual’s lives. I’m really excited and passionate about working with high-level executive women. And not necessarily women working in fashion, I want to dedicate more of my work to connecting powerful people and ideas. Luckily coaching is a very popular industry here in Boulder so I’m in good company.
Why did you decide to move to Boulder and how does it affect your work?
In many ways, I thought moving to Boulder would be professional suicide. But in this day and age you can really work from anywhere. One of the main reasons why we moved was because we are creating a family and wanted to be closer to nature. Boulder represents a lot of our values. And from a professional standpoint, it’s a very entrepreneurial town where there is a lot happening. Both Google and Twitter have offices here. So in many ways it’s the best of both worlds. People who choose to live in Boulder are really moving here for the lifestyle.
The move has also allowed me to gain perspective on my work in terms of what is important to me and how I want to spend my time. And I think some of that comes from becoming a mother because you’re forced to prioritize. I never envisioned having a family in New York and I appreciate the outdoors and want it to be apart of my life. I like going against the grain and fighting the idea that you have to be in New York to be in communications.
What do you miss most about New York? And what do you miss the least?
What I miss least is the noise. It is so extraordinarily loud and now when I visit I’m attuned to it. It’s so chaotic and I don’t miss the pace either. I do miss the culture and I miss the energy and convenience.
But we really haven’t looked back. It’s important to evolve both in your professional and your personal life and I think there is a part of me that never envisioned living behind a white picket fence and I don’t think I’ll be in Boulder forever. It’s one step in an adventure.
Three words that describe your work: Values driven, connected, empowering
Three words that describe you: Spirited, curious, charismatic
What was the hardest part when you started Wick & Co?
It was challenging. What was exciting for me was building a creative team, whether it was a graphic designer or copywriter or a person to help with digital marketing. It’s fun to find your tribe and once you have that network everything is a well-oiled machine. But that transition where you’re building that support system and a network of people you really want to work with, that took longer than I expected.
What came easiest?
I was surprised at how quickly individuals reached out who wanted help. I think there are a lot of great p.r. agencies out there, but when I launched there were fewer individual consultants like myself. I think I got lucky. And I was having a lot of fun with it. It was daunting to be working alone at first. But I chose my work based on what excited me at the time. I worked for Mr. & Mrs. Smith and that boutique hotel world which was new and exciting. And then it grew by word of mouth from there.
I’ve been lucky to work with some of my partners for the long term whether it’s Julia Leach or Kendall Conrad. I’ve had the luxury of finding like-minded people and built long-term partnerships. And that’s something I don’t take that for granted. I feel lucky to have those women in my life who’ve now become really close friends. I’ve always positioned my consultancy as part of the team and not an agency at arm’s length. I’m personally invested in the companies that I work with and I think that shows.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed.
I think I’m real. I’m down to earth and candid and I think people appreciate that. There is a lot of over-promising and under-delivering in my industry. I think being able to have trust in your relationship is everything and also being able to have straight talk. And empathy; that’s something that’s surfacing in the coaching work I’m doing. Really understanding where the client is coming from and what they want—I do a much better job of that now than I did the first year in business.
Role models: I don’t necessarily look up to specific role models, but I have adopted mentors over the years that share similar qualities in that they are all strong, independent trailblazing women who are dedicated to something larger than themselves, and passionate about creating a positive, lasting impact. Ask Cathryn Collins [of IPEZZI DIPINTI]–one of the extraordinarily bright woman I make a point of seeing regularly because she energizes and inspires me.
Best career advice you received: Fail often and fail fast. Failing is often when the best learning takes place…. I have to remind myself of this often!
What advice would give for someone starting out in p.r.?
Embrace your individuality. I think there is a tendency to believe that in order to be successful you need to conform to certain roles and ways of doing things. I would really focus on who you are and what your personal assets are. Don’t be afraid of being your whole self in the workplace. I think this extends beyond p.r.; you do your best work when you feel like yourself at work in whatever capacity that is.
What motivates you?
Adventure. I’m a really curious person. I had an opportunity to work with the U.N. when I was four months pregnant and against my better judgment decided to go to Papa New Guinea for a short-term project with a community of women who were artisans. That was one of the most exciting invitations I’ve received. I love traveling to parts of the world I’ve never seen and learning about how people live. Specifically I was excited by the idea I might be able to help this artisan group and lift these women out of poverty through craftsmanship and trade. That is something I’d like to do more of. I’m motivated by the idea that I can help others evolve and transform and live more fulfilling lives. That I could be an agent of change in that way really motivates me.
Life goals: To love and accept myself, to continue to find greater meaning in my professional life, and to raise children who are joyful and confident being themselves.
Daily goals: To be present with my one-and-a-half year old daughter. To indulge her in the things which excite her and make her happy. And in Boulder I’m excited to cook more often and garden.
Favorite inspirational book: Yes, there are many, but Jerry and Esther Hicks, Ask and It Is Given.
Daily rituals: For me a daily ritual is to connect with something larger than yourself that allows you to be present. Since moving to Boulder my daily ritual is getting out of the house early and going for a walk or a hike. Every morning I also water our roses. I’d love to read more. That’s on my to do list. Something I started doing was creating a gratitude list in the evenings before I go to bed, writing down three things I’m grateful for.
How do you unplug? Again connecting with the outdoors. Nature is really powerful that way. We were just in Moab. And it’s just so extraordinary the scale of the rock formations there and to think it was all under water. Sometimes it takes changing your scenery to re-center oneself. It quiets the brain and I think that’s really important. Travel gets me out of my comfort zone—I see things from a new perspective and often surprise myself.
Hidden talents/hobbies: I played Division One lacrosse in college at Duke, so I guess that counts. I haven’t picked up my stick since but I dedicated a lot of time to playing for seven years. And I love horse back riding and photography. And since I got here, I started taking a pottery class. Getting your hands dirty and that organic process of making things is really appealing to me.
Do you collect anything? I am a sodium addict. I have salt from all over, Ibiza, Bali, Himalyan sea salt. It’s easy to transport from a trip and I use it on a daily basis.
Biggest splurge you don’t regret: On a whim I just bought a Ken Zan Sickle photograph from Soco Gallery. It’s of a woman half-naked on a couch. The story goes the woman is Ken’s wife and the photo is from when they lived in Paris and he had told her to look for a job. So there she is falling half naked off the couch with a cigarette in her hand and the classifieds. I love the nonchalance about it; it almost made the idea of looking for a job sexy and fun.
Coffee/tea: Coffee. I have a whole milk latte, I don’t believe in skim—it’s the Boulderite coming out in me.
Heels/Flats. Both, I’m determined not to get rid of my heels now that I live in Colorado.
Cat/Dogs. Definitely dogs. I would love to get a dog, but not yet. Maybe I’ll borrow our neighbors in the meantime.
photograph by Clairborne Swanson Frank, courtesy Ashley Wick