“I have a positive view on life and of people, I approach everything (and everyone) as an opportunity and not a challenge.”
I feel so lucky to live in a city where there are so many local creative people. For many creatives it can be a challenge to do business with their craft. Nowadays seems that we have more creative entrepreneurs that live out of what they love. Today I present to you an interview with Ashland Viscosi, a lady that will not only help you to be sustainable with what you do, but look for the best strategies and practices for your business. Aside from the fact that she rocks her own business, she is an amazing woman. Please read on because I can’t wait for you to read her words, she is fun, intelligent, and truly stands for what she believes in. It is an honor to present this interview on my blog. As always, I hope you can be inspired and curious about following the steps of these amazing women who are doing meaningful things for this world. We really need to empower, love, and help each other more than ever!
Who are you and what do you do?
Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die. Ok, so that’s not true, my name is actually Ashland Viscosi. I do have a sense of humor though and happen to absolutely love the Princess Bride (among many other films). My special sauce is making connections and I use those “powers” to help connect people in ways that help them grow and become more sustainable. I help create connections in a variety of ways, ranging from one to one relationships to small group to larger-scale community.
Where did you grow up and how does that shape what you do today?
I grew up in two places. I’m one of those rare unicorns who can actually say they were born in Austin. My parents divorced when I was five and my mom remarried her high school sweetheart from Oklahoma when I was eight. So we packed up and moved to a ranch in Duncan, Oklahoma. Oh, you’ve never heard of it? Strange, it’s a huge town of about 25,000…and is the original home of Halliburton (which is usually how people know Duncan, if they know it all, which is .01% of the time).
Growing up in two radically different places gave me a huge amount of perspective, especially into what’s happened with the recent election. Even though I moved to Duncan, my dad remained in Austin for several more years. My sister and I would come to visit him every other weekend and during summers. My dad is more of the “fun uncle” type, meaning I’d get to go to bars and other places in Austin that 10 year olds probably shouldn’t frequent. Even at 10, I knew what Austin was and what made it special. I never really left Austin and always wanted to come back, it was always home and the connection that I always felt to the city never left me. I can’t say that I fit in well in Duncan, Oklahoma, but I definitely found my way in the world. I was a middle school chess champion (and have a trophy that almost hits me at the waist), flutist in the marching band and a member of the Jolly Jills Social Club (because yes, Duncan has high school sororities. If you’re picturing DAZED AND CONFUSED right now, good, because that’s a fairly accurate depiction of what hazing is like – except ours lasted a full summer).
All of my experiences have shaped and will continue to shape me. My hybrid urban / rural youth definitely gave me perspective, but so too have my other experiences – like serving in the Peace Corps. What I learned from all of my experiences was: I’ve always been interested in people, I have a love for them, and I want to help use my “powers” of connecting for good.
Name something you love, and why?
I love horror films, I love comic books, I love cheese plates and I love brunch. I also wholeheartedly love “Bat Out of Hell” by Meatloaf (on vinyl). Come to think of it, I love a great many things and dislike very little. I find enjoyment in just about everything. With horror films, I love the range of emotions that you feel when watching them (it’s pretty much like experiencing all of the seasons of weather in 90 minutes). I love comic books because I love storytelling, the variety of the artwork, how contributors affect storylines and comic sans (in comics only…). Cheese plates and brunch – need no explanation…
What skills or talents do you think would make you even more successful?
I don’t think it’s that easy, that there’s just one thing that will make someone more successful. I think always being open to new ideas, questioning your models and belief systems and really evaluating why you do what you do and how you’re applying it will help push you to become more aligned with yourself. Success is something that everyone measures differently (or should anyway). Having one generalized notion that we all collectively agree and define as “success” sets us all up to fail. Having an idea for success that you define and make personalized is the best way forward.
How did you find your passion?
I think my passion found me. I have a lot of things in my background (two degrees in Political Science, Peace Corps, statistician, non-profit development and marketing, filmmaker, etc), but the common thread is people. After going through Leadership Austin in 2014, I asked myself questions that I’d always skirted and really learned much more about myself and how I wanted to show up. Self-exploration and self-knowledge is such a huge key into unlocking who you really are and how you’re responsible for creating your own happiness.
What is your ideology as a creative person?
I have a positive view on life and of people, I approach everything (and everyone) as an opportunity and not a challenge.
How do you overcome your fears?
By doing (except for my fear of heights). I love lighthouses, especially the walk up, but I abhor standing on the ledge of the lighthouse with the wind whipping all around me and taking note of the surprisingly huge distance between me and the ground. Thanks, but no thanks. I do love me a fresnel lens, so thank goodness they’re enclosed 😉
In what way have you changed by empowering creatives?
Change happens all of the time, it’s the only thing that’s constant. I don’t think that empowering creatives, per se, has changed me. I think every moment that I do anything, questioning it and seeing how that works for me is what ultimately changes me. It’s about how we choose to respond to inputs. I don’t think people are fixed, unchangeable beings. I think the decision to change or desire to change has to be self-motivated. I keep a constant dialogue with myself about what things are working, what things aren’t, how does this fit into how I want to grow, etc. Empowering creatives is a huge part of what I do and I think one of the best ways to help empower others is by being myself and helping explain my process to those who are interested
Who inspires you today?
Lots of people and things, it’s constantly evolving and I’m always adding more here. Of late, the authors Peter Block and Susan Cain. Hillary Clinton, Wonder Woman (who was created as a feminist icon and the only thing that removes her powers is when she’s bound in chains…fascinating), community builders, Fareed Zakaria, my friends, people I just met, it’s always evolving. I find inspiration just about everywhere and from anyone.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
I have lots of goals. The main one is to continue growing the Creatives Meet Business community so that it can help more creatives connect with each other, with professional services and move toward sustainability in their craft. In the next few years, I want to take this model to other cities so that they can also develop and grow in-person communities.
How is it owning a business as a woman?
I don’t know any other way than by being a woman who owns her own business. I love it, absolutely love it. I love the successes and I love the “failures” (which are just experiences you learn from), I love the growth, I love the relationships I create and help grow. I love being on my own with my company and forging my own path.
What business advice have you happily ignored?
Everybody has an opinion, period. And most people like to share their (unsolicited) thoughts and advice, period. The intention behind the advice is well meant, but for the most part it’s mostly irrelevant or totally based on personal preference. I love hearing people’s feedback and thoughts and will occasionally pull an interesting nugget from the advice, but rarely. Having said that though, there are several folks in my world that have given solid advice and I always return back to them with new ideas I’m testing for their feedback early on.
What is the best piece of advice you will to someone who wants to be start their own business?
Measure twice, cut once. Really think about opportunities, obligations, everything from multiple angles before making a decision. It’ll save you time, money and heartbreak (every single time).
How can women become more empowered?
By collaborating instead of competing.
What being “free” means to you?
Choosing how I allocate my time, having the discretion to decide when and how I do things.