389 Ashley Daly: Be Candylicious
What makes a woman leave a high powered and lucrative executive career to leap into entrepreneurship? How hard is it to make that transition from boardroom to startup?
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who says she always had a little bit of rule breaker in her … just enough rebelliousness to pre-destine her for entrepreneurship.
One day Ashley Daly simply walked off the stage after her keynote to 1,000 of the worlds top marketers at an annual event she’d hosted for 10 years… and left the corporate world behind at age 40. She’d cut all her safety nets and suddenly there was nothing on her calendar, no team, and she was in shock.
Still, she believed in her mission of making fashion fun … like candy for the soul … and in the past year she’s grown her clothing company at warp speed. It’s called
BeCandylicious, and her bright and playful designs can be found online, in several boutiques and surf shops throughout California and in Dylan’s Candy Bar retail locations across the US.
Ashley Daly will be here in a moment … first
Time is running out to join us at the Wings of the Empowered Retreat and Mastermind. This is a unique experience like no other for female founders and CEOs who want to Lift as We Climb. It’s NOT about gurus …
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Now back to the inspiring Ashley Daly.
Ashley doesn’t believe in thinking small. She says she wants to “Dress every human being on the planet”, have fun doing it, and inspire women to “becandylicious”. She says the name of her company is like a mantra, candy for the soul and inspiring joy and kindness.
Ashley is a 20 year marketing executive who wanted to take back control of her life, spend more time with her family and realize her ultimate childhood dream of designing comfortable everyday clothing that makes your soul smile no matter what age or size you are. As a New Yorker, this mom of two mixes her southern Californian roots with the excitement and edge of NYC to create contemporary clothing that delivers an epic dose of happy.
Melinda Wittstock: Ashley, welcome to wings.
Ashley Daly: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m excited to talk to you because like many female entrepreneurs, we come into entrepreneurship a little bit later in life after having a successful career in the corporate world. And of course you have all this amazing marketing expertise having done that for 20 years before starting your company. What was it first of all that made you take the leap?
Ashley Daly: It was a couple of things to be honest with you. One thing was that I traveled all the time, and my last big project at Experian where I loved my job, but we had convinced them to rebrand the company. And it’s a global organization of 44 different countries. So I just looked at what my schedule is going to look like. And I was rarely going to be home. I actually really love my husband and enjoy spending time with him, and my two children. And I just realized how much I was missing. And even though every flight I took to London, I was on the red eye. Same thing with Japan, Australia. I flew in and out. And tried never to miss a game, but you miss a lot. And I realized how much my family was missing me. And I realized that at this level in my career, not a lot’s going to change.
So I had that. And then at the same time, our organization had really started a movement about mentorship and a whole women’s initiative. So I spent a lot of time talking to women throughout our organization at various positions, whether they were interns or VPs. And one of the questions they always asked was, “How did you know you wanted to do this?” I said I stumbled into it. I actually always wanted to be a clothing designer. And while I’ve always loved marketing and PR, I just figured that that would go along with being a clothing designer.
And the more that I said that out loud and the more that I read just articles about people who have launched companies at 40 plus and had found their their next journey, that started inspiring me too.
I turned 40 and I thought, “Wow, it’s kind of now or never for me to start this company.” And I weighed the pros and cons, and my family was all for it and said, “You know what, we believe in you.” And I thought and said it’s time for me to stop marketing the dreams of others and start marketing my own.
So I literally Melinda, walked off the stage was my last day. In front of over a thousand of some of the top CMOs and marketers from some of the best brands around the world at this annual event that I had put together every year for 10 years. And they still wanted me to host it even though I was going to be leaving right after that. So I legitimately hosted an event on the stage all three days, and then walked off and that was it. That was my last day.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s a nice way to leave. Leave on a high.
Ashley, I find your timing so interesting. It’s so consistent with so many female founder journeys that I know of, of women in their late thirties, early forties, even well into their fifties. Long after they’ve had children or to be able to be, to have more time for their children decide, “Okay, that’s it. The time is now.” And we enter into entrepreneurship with all these credentials, with that sort of the credentialing, the confidence that perhaps we need to be able to make that leap.
When you were younger, did you always think that you are going to be an entrepreneur? Did you think one day when I have all these credentials I’m going to take the leap? Or was this just something that was a lot more organic and came to you later in life?
Ashley Daly: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting question. I think for me, I always had thought that I might take that leap where I’d always had a side hustle before side hustles were a thing. Whether it was having this side PR company helping restaurants and clubs out while I was working at a startup. I did a lot of startups, even my career at Experian began through a small startup that was acquired. And then the trajectory of my career there just took off. Because I think of my work ethic.
But in the back of my mind, I just always thought that I would do this. But thinking and dreaming about something is very different than actually doing it. So the reality of actually executing this was very different than I thought it would be.
So I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. And if people were ever to read interviews with me from my past life, one of my biggest things was that I am by nature a rule breaker, and I fundamentally believe that rules are meant to be seen as guidelines. That they should evolve as necessary, as the environment evolves. So I’m one of those people where if you say you can’t do something, my inclination is to say, “I kind of think I can.”
Melinda Wittstock: That’s entrepreneurial. I’ve always been like that too. I think that’s something that entrepreneurs have in common because we’re literally rewriting the rules.
Ashley Daly: Yeah. We’re a little bit rebellious. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. When I decided to leave my company and my position, it was tough because I really loved the people I work with. I really loved where I got to in my career and the influence that I had. But people were like, “Are you out of your mind?” And you think about it, there goes your insurance. There goes your great paycheck, there goes your expense account, there goes every safety net that you’ve had. And you go into this unknown. So for me, I knew I wanted to do this. I knew I wanted to show my daughter and my son that you cannot be afraid of chasing a dream just because your situation is so comfortable. Sometimes you have to step out of a comfort zone to create something even better than what you already have.
Melinda Wittstock: To grow, you do have to. It’s just like you think of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. I mean, you literally have to leave something behind to take it to the next level. And I think so many people inherently are afraid of change, and that makes entrepreneurship quite difficult for them on a psychological level.
Ashley Daly: Yeah, 100%. Just the unknown. They always say if there’s a house half built, it’s not going to sell as well as the one that’s built, even though people can customize it to what they want, right? Because the fear of all the hidden costs, the fear of the unknown, is outweighed by just the comfort of knowing what you’re getting. Right? So they’ll go for the completed house. Whereas I’m the one who’s like, “I’ll just buy the lot and build up.”
And I think for me, when I made this leap, it was just such a mix of emotions. 100% support from my husband and my children, and my mom who’s always been my biggest champion, who’s always reminded me, “Don’t you remember when you always wanted to design; you always said you were going to do this?” And I would always tell her, “Stop saying that mom. I’ve already created this career.” It’s too late. I went in a completely different direction.
So it was great to have that support and friends of mine who had grown up with with me. I still have the same best friends I had in sixth grade, and they’re like, “This is what you were meant to be doing.” But that transition I have to say Melinda, was much harder than I thought it would be. I thought I’d read enough books about entrepreneurship and that most businesses fail after four or five years because people give up. And you have to be willing to risk it all. And all of these things though, it’s like, “Yep, Yep, Yep. I know what I’m getting into.” And then actually waking up that next day when I walked off that stage, and looking at my phone, and having nothing on my calendar. Mind you, it had been over-scheduled before. Like many people, their assistants have to schedule actual breaks and time to use the restroom to have just even, throw down food in five minutes. And I had nothing, nothing on my schedule. And then that happened day after day where it was really shocking to me.
And I suddenly realized what I didn’t realize before, which was I had put so much of my self-worth in what I did for a living. So that pivot was actually much more severe and much more consequential than just throwing myself into another position or role, or function if you will. But it was getting to know me better and, which was very interesting.
Melinda Wittstock: Well it’s interesting too, when you go from having all this support and all the team around you; you have all those resources. And then all of a sudden it’s just you, you don’t necessarily have the money to hire people right out of the gate. You’ve got to persuade people to work for free or at least to defer their compensation. You’ve got to do a lot of things that you’re not necessarily used to doing or even good at doing to begin with. And it can really be very isolating. How did you deal with the isolation of that in the beginning? Because there you are, you’re going to an office. You have that whole social thing, that kind of support system, safety net. And then suddenly there’s you.
Ashley Daly: You kind of just nailed it. It was really hard, and I really believe I went through a dark time where I felt guilty, right, for having any negative feelings. Because I was living my dream. I had the opportunity to do what I wanted. So people would always say, “Yeah, but you’re doing exactly what you want. So why would you be stressed out? If you’re stressed out, then just don’t do it anymore.” And you’re like, “But it doesn’t work like that.” Of course there’s going to be stress and pressure, and that’s okay. But I just found for me, I realized that my network of people got smaller, I realized that a lot of the friendships I thought I had in a business setting, were really just business relationships. And I think I confuse business relationships with friendships. And I realized that sometimes that once you don’t add any more value, then for some people, there’s just no value in continuing that relationship.
So that was hard. I think that isolation of being by yourself where in a business setting, you celebrate things. So you know people liked your presentation whether they liked it or not, right? You got feedback. So that feedback loop is also missing in that process until it goes to market. Then you see our consumers responding to it. And that becomes your barometer. But that initial, when you’re just starting your company and like you said, it’s small, you’ve got this small renegade team that’s come together to just support you. And many of them have full time jobs, and they’re doing this on the side, or you’re paying interns, just an array of different types of people.
But it’s one of those things where you’ve got to solve the problem. If there’s an issue with technology, there’s not a tech department to call. There’s a shipping inquiry? You’re the shipping department. And then when you’re stressed out, I found that my network, my immediate network, they just didn’t get it. And that’s when I realized that when I confided and spoke to other friends of mine, that had similar positions to what I had had before or had started their companies, totally got what I was going through. And had actually told me, “You’re going to go through a really hard time as you transition from what you used to do to what you’re currently doing.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no. It should be fine. I’ll just fight through it.”
And they were the ones who were like, “No, no, no, this is a big, big, big change.” So I realized too that as a female founder, you have to understand that the dark side of starting a business is that isolation and is that self doubt that creeps in around that time. So it’s so important to also, to not only fight through it, but to find that network of other female bosses that you can connect with that will 100% get what you’re going through, and can just be there to support you and not make you feel guilty, because you’re living your dream that you should no longer feel these negative feelings. For me, that’s been such a lifeline when I’ve said, “Oh my God, what a day I had.” We had orders that went out a day late. But luckily the customers were fun. They were like, “Oh yeah, but it’s great. Just keep doing it. These are just part of the roadblocks and tomorrow’s a new day.” And you’re like, “You know what, you’re right.” So I think that’s been really, really helpful to me.
And then also, because I realized that I was going through a much darker time than I had thought, and my brand is so light and happy that I’m just like, “What is going on with me?” So I went to Canyon Ranch for a week, which was my first time ever just investing in myself and trying meditation, and just really self care. It was transformative to me on so many levels. So every morning I start the day with a positive intent. And I’ve found my way out of that where I’m a year and a half in, and I feel like I’ve come through that transition period. And I feel really good about where I am, and I’ve got that support system. And I feel like I have those tools that I can set my day up in a really positive way.
Because as an entrepreneur, you’re thinking every night before you go to bed, you think of the gazillion things you have to do. And in the morning, it’s like a race to all the things again, that you have to do. So it’s nice for me at least. And some of the other women I’ve told this to have found this to be helpful as well. But just take five minutes or even a minute, and set a positive intent and that today is going to be a great day. and you’re going to get what you need accomplished. And what doesn’t get finished, you’ll do the next day. But let’s just focus on what we can get out today. So that’s been really big for me. But yeah, what a big transition it was.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. You mentioned a couple of things that really stand out for me and really resonate. That’s about surrounding ourselves with other women who are going through the same thing. I notice in myself and in so many other female entrepreneurial journeys that our initial instance is to think, “I better put my head down and perfect everything, and be really good at all the different pieces. Be competent, and just work hard and it’s all going to come in isolation.” And that actually doesn’t get you very far in the end. It’s a better use of your time to really make sure that yeah, you’re surrounded, have that support and commonality, we all learn so much more from each other. And actually it’s interesting when we’re collaborating, women in particular, we all release the brain chemical oxytocin. So we should all do masterminds. We should all have other female coaches, and mentors, and all that kind of stuff. It’s the fastest, fastest way to get where you’re going. So how long did it take for you to realize that like, “Oh man, I better create a network for myself”?
Ashley Daly: That was early on. I’ve always been a big believer in networking. It was like one of those little threads that a friend introduced me to this other woman, and she was just so inspiring. Then she introduced me to these other women, and that thread just kept pulling and pulling. And whatever block I had, that just pulled it all away. And I just realized that women are so powerful when we work together. I mean it’s amazing. You just talked about what happens with our brain and what it releases, and it’s just such a high. But women, I literally float out of a room after I’ve had a great brainstorm session with women. And they don’t even have to be from my industry. It’s just when you meet strong women who really have a desire to help other women and truly lift each other up, it is like everything is possible. The connections that they make. We talked about how we don’t know everything, but we feel like we do. And we feel like sometimes, we have to overcompensate. Especially as women. I don’t know this. But instead of asking I’ll try and figure it out.
When we ask for help, what I have found is that these women are like, “I know somebody who,” and I’ll interject to say, “I can’t pay that much.” “Don’t worry about it.” They love helping other women. You just realize suddenly how where once you saw this very small universe of people suddenly gets so large.
Because I’m a big believer that it’s not six degrees of separation: It’s really one degree of separation or two. You’re only one or two people away from getting in contact with what you want, whether that’s a person, or a brand, or what have you. It’s just a matter of making sure that you are continuing to expand your network, and calling people, and sending an email to people you haven’t spoken to in awhile and said, “Hey,” my [inaudible 00:36:54] email is just, “Hey, I was just thinking about you. BeCandylicious it’s now just over a year old. We’re starting to do really well. Would love to talk to you more about it or let me know if you have anybody you think I should talk to.” That little thread that suddenly gets pulled, and then they’re like, “In what capacity? Manufacturing, or media, or this, or that?” And it’s kind of like all. Anything you can do to help would be great.
Melinda Wittstock: So this is amazing. So you’re a year in and you have this lovely brand. I love that you refer to it as soul candy, and that our clothes should make us feel joyful and happy, and with bright colors. Remind us of candy.
Ashley Daly: [inaudible 00:37:51].
Melinda Wittstock: For the soul. That’s wonderful. So tell me a little bit more about it, where people can find the clothes, where you get your inspiration. And also, where do you see the company going?
Ashley Daly: Yeah. So people can find us online, we’re a D2C brand primarily. We’re now in a lot of retail stores across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Panama, including one of my favorite major retailers, Dylan’s Candy stores. So that’s really exciting to see our wholesale business picking up. But again, consumers can buy direct from us as well. On our website at www.becandylicious.com, or Instagram is one of the places I think people should go because I also post a lot of photos. We post a lot of photos that we get from our customers, of just living what we call the sweet life in our clothing.
So for us, there’s just what’s next for BeCandylicious I say is global expansion. My big, lofty goal for our brand is that we will dress every human on the planet at some point, whether that’s from a pay it forward initiative, from people that are buying, and wearing, and loving in our clothes.
And, also the other thing that we’re working on. So BeCandylicious, when we launched that brand, we had always said that BeCandylicious, it’s more than a brand, it’s a mantra. It’s a way of life. So we say if you can be anything, be kind, have the confidence to be you, and be sweet, which is BeCandylicious.
But what we’ve also realized, and this is part of being able to evolve and pivot with your brand and your creation, is that BeCandylicious seemed to really resonate, while it resonated with a lot of adults, it really connected with youth more. So you mentioned soul candy, and people love that. I love it. We were able to secure the trademark on it. So we’ll be rebranding the women’s line soul candy. But we’ll still have the connection because almost everything we make in youth, we make in adult. And vice versa, obviously with some exceptions.B
Because we always said … I have a little girl who is now going into fifth grade, she’s nine. She still likes to dress like me. So I always say these little girls want to, they’re inspired by their number one mentors, and that’s their moms or other women in their life. So it’s fun when we can wear adult clothes and clothes again that make us happy, and match if we want.
So that’s really exciting I think for a growth perspective from us, and also being able to rebrand to soul candy, which is something that we’ve seen really connect with our customers. They get excited about it. And anytime they say it, they smile, which to me is all the validation in the world.
Melinda Wittstock: I love it. It’s so wonderful when we can take clothing and really attach it or any kind of physical product, and attach it to something that is just so important for the world right now. We live in really divisive times. There’s a lot of positive going on, but there’s also a lot of negative. And when you see any way that we can be the change we want to see and attach something to a bigger important message and use business for social good, that’s so inspiring. Your customers get inspired because they feel part of a movement that’s bigger than themselves. It’s bigger than just the transaction of buying a pair of pants, you know?
Ashley Daly: 100%. I love what you just said, be the change you wish to see in the world, which is one of my favorite quotes. And that’s actually on our mantra tank. It leads with that, and then turns into our BeCandylicious version of it, which is one of our top sellers. So I’m going to have to send you that.
But yeah. And it’s also exciting from a brand’s perspective because we get so … so our mission says to deliver an epic dose of happy through our clothes. Basically, creating clothes that not only make the person wearing them happy, but make other people around them happy as well. And we get a lot of feedback from people saying, “If I ever feel like I’m having a bad day, I’ll wear it a BeCandylicious, and I know I’m going to get complimented.” People will say, “Every time I wear this sweatshirt, the be kind be you, I get stopped, and people always comment on the message.”
So that’s our soul candy. That makes us feel so good that the clothes that we’re designing, the clothes that we’re putting out there are not only fantastic quality. But they make the people wearing them feel good, and they make those that see them wearing it feel good and inspired as well. So it’s kind of a win win. But that was amazing validation for us. That is something that motivates me on those tough days. That no, we’re doing something right. That even in a saturated market, there’s absolutely a place for BeCandylicious and soul candy.
Melinda Wittstock: Well yeah, because it is a very saturated market. Especially, you have to swim in this Instagram ecosystem and on social media. And I find one of the best ways to stand out is to have that very specific social mission. And you can be really authentic if it really does come from the heart. If it’s really meaningful, people can tell.
Ashley Daly: 100%. They’ve gotten really good at being able to see what’s authentic and what isn’t. For us to, when we created the brand, there’s so many pay it forward brands out there, which we love. And we wanted to be a brand like that, but one that didn’t commit to one cause. So we through many of our, proceeds go towards anti-bullying organizations. We also launched a tee shirt called the Brian tee where we had 100% of the profits go directly to an organization called Break the Bold, BTH, which was created in memory of just this amazing young man named Brian [Halleran 00:44:56] who lost his life prematurely to suicide. So the organization is focused on crushing the stigma associated with mental health and bringing awareness towards youth suicide prevention.
And that was exciting, and we sold out of those shirts. We had to do a second run within four days of its release. And that was exciting to be able to do that for the family too, because we used Brian’s actual handwriting in the design, so it was very personal and it was just something that I wanted to give the family. And now we just launched, or we just have, we’ll be putting it up on the website probably in the next week. But it’s available in stores right now. It’s called the [Aria 00:45:51] hoodie. And this was a sweatshirt that I code designed with a little girl named Aria. She’s eight years old. Her and her family moved from Atlanta up to New York to to fight a really nasty monster, neuroblastoma. So every day for the past almost year and a half, every single day she goes to Sloan Kettering for very aggressive treatments. She doesn’t miss a day, not her birthday, not Christmas, not a holiday. Every single day, she’s got to go for these pretty extreme treatments and she is such a warrior.
So 10% of the proceeds from the Aria hoodie will go towards pediatric cancer research so that children do not have to face this monster again. And that’s something we get really inspired by. So it’s nice to be able to see when we meet people and people just have that impression on us that we can turn something around fairly quickly and in collaboration with them hopefully bring more awareness, more funds, and more emphasis to specific causes.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. So Ashley, how can people find you, work with you? I want everybody to check out your Instagram, check out your website, all of that good stuff. And I know you have a very generous offer for our listeners today too. So I want you to explain all about that
Ashley Daly: We do. We do. Well, I just appreciate you allowing me to fly with you, and just all the support that you give towards really supporting fellow female entrepreneurs. So people can visit our website at www.becandylicious.com that’s B-E Candylicious. And in the promotion code section, just put Melinda. It’s not case sensitive. And you’ll get 30% off and free shipping around the U.S. So 30% off outside of the U.S. still, but free shipping applies to U.S. orders only.
You can also find us on Instagram. We’re on Pinterest, Twitter, we’re across. We’re on Facebook. I always tell people visit our website or our Twitter, those are the best places to really experience the brand and see what we have to offer. And then of course the local retailers. And if we’re not in a store, make sure you ask them.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we’ll all do that. We’ll thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us, and being so authentic about the entrepreneurial journey.
Ashley Daly: Yeah. It was such a pleasure. So thank you so much for the opportunity. This was a great talk. See, I’m already inspired. Now I’m going to go design right after this.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s wonderful. Oh my goodness. Well, you have to share the outcome of that. I would love to see what you design as a result of being on Wings. Gosh.
Ashley Daly: Yeah. I see wings, like angel wings, and some cookie wings and some-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh yes, please. You can fit me out in all of that. I’m game. That’s wonderful. Ashley, thank you so much.
Ashley Daly: Thank you so much, Melinda. Take care.