Defying the norm
"No matter what your age is, go for what you believe in and what makes you happy, instead of what society expects you to do."
Ashley always dreamed of running her own business, but thought it would take many years of working her way up the corporate ladder to get there. However, with the flexibility and low start-up costs of online business models, she was able to launch hers earlier than she expected.
Timing is everything
In 2010, Ashley saw that one of her friends was enjoying a nice side income selling bags online. That inspired her to put her free time to more productive use. She began researching market trends and decided to focus her energy on the niche world of men’s accessories.
She was fortunate that her job at the time was shuttling her regularly between China and her home in Singapore. As a result, she was able to tap into the world of Taobao—a Chinese e-commerce site similar to eBay—which is how she secured her first main supplier.
Juggling her priorities
In 2011, Ashley launched The Little Link, a business specialising in affordable cufflinks, and not long after went into business with two friends to set up a hostel. During this time, she briefly worked at a local digital agency, and then accepted a role at Facebook.
Time became an extremely scarce resource for Ashley. She would often work late and through weekends to keep things going.
Ashley’s family was very supportive, often taking on parts of the business to ease her workload. “One big thing I have learnt is that you have to surround yourself with the right network of supportive family and friends,” she says.
With support also comes criticism. “There were quite a number of people I knew, mostly women, with very traditional mind-sets who told me to my face that as a woman, I should be settling down to have a family instead of building a career,” she says.
Determined to succeed, Ashley had her own agenda.
Teaching herself to be an expert
With no previous coding experience, Ashley took it upon herself to learn new skills and successfully built the websites for both her businesses from scratch.
Facebook ads and building an online community made a huge difference in getting both businesses off the ground.
“I spent a lot of time reading up, trying out new methods and continuously optimising. The determination to succeed in my own business kept me going day and night,” Ashley says.
Her strategic role at Facebook enabled her to test out the latest creative strategies on her business, and it paid off. Facebook ads now contribute to 50% of The Little Link’s traffic and sales, and from that, Ashley was able to increase her sales by 200-500% year-on-year.
Full-time business owner
Last year, Ashley made the decision to focus on The Little Link full-time. She’s planning to expand into a wider product range, forging more exclusive partnerships and expanding to more markets via international e-commerce platforms.
She’s also ramping up Facebook advertising and says this has already proven to be effective as the business has been winning a large market share in the United Arab Emirates.
As she continues to forge her way as a powerful young business owner, Ashley says her advice to other women is to reject people and environments that silo you into a predetermined path.
“No matter what your age is, go for what you believe in and what makes you happy, instead of what society expects you to do,” she advises.