By Milo Smith, Alumni Review Editor
Ashley Rae, ’02, is a whirlwind of energy and focus. She has to be as the Grand Forks entrepreneur runs a web-based marketing and mentoring business aimed at helping women succeed, heads a non-profit foundation, and this summer she added retail store owner to her résumé.
“Life is short,” Rae says of her decision to jump into another business venture. “I never want to look back and say that was a really good opportunity. ‘What could have come from it if I’d tried?’”
Rae launched her first business, Brand Logic, a web design and marketing company, after working post-graduation for a Minneapolis web design company. Thanks to the growing acceptance of web-based consultancy, she was able to move from Minneapolis to the West Coast and back to Grand Forks while building her business from the comfort of her home.
But despite loving her business, Rae had the feeling that something was missing. She decided that she really wanted to focus on helping women in their business ventures. So two years ago, she opened an office for Brand Logic in the UND Center for Innovation business incubator (see page 10) in order to “take it to the next level.” She also began retooling her business model by adding a mentoring and empowerment program called Her Brand Development Group (HBDG). The goal: to help women reach their full potential as entrepreneurs.
“It’s really rewarding to help women realize that their dream is attainable,” says Rae. “And we are here to walk them through the process step by step to make it easy for them so that it isn’t so overwhelming and confusing. Because too many people step back and don’t do it because they don’t know how to start.”
Once their business is launched, HBDG members receive mentoring and education opportunities through web-based training seminars, chat sessions and email. The online business model allows HBDG to help women around the country. “We provide constant support and encouragement and guidance and that inspiration and empowerment to keep that passion that they had inside to start the business.”
Rae says a number of her clients operate independent consulting or franchise businesses, which is why she purchased the Grand Forks store of the regional franchise MODE, a discount designer fashion outlet. She says she wanted to have the same experiences as some of her franchisee clients, so she can better understand their struggles and successes.
“I knew it would be a big commitment, but I was also excited about it.”
Rae admits she wouldn’t be able to keep so many balls in the air if not for having the right support team. She says it’s important to find people who share your vision and passion. “It’s not just me in the trenches,” she says.
With her personal experience and having worked with many others who’ve done it, Rae offers this as her biggest piece of advice to someone planning to launch a business: Be prepared.
“Whether it was my non-profit, whether it was my own business, whether it was MODE, you sometimes get only that one first impression, so make sure you are thoroughly prepared. As an owner, I should know more about my business than anyone else does. You should be very hands-on and very involved from day one. From the ground up, you need to know what’s going on within your business.”
“Once you hear that you have cancer, your life will forever change. And there are a lot of emotional burdens and frustrations and stress and confusion of the unknown. And if you don’t cope with that and deal with that, it can linger for a long time.”
Cope Well lines up counseling sessions, hosts support groups and puts its members in touch with mentors who’ve experienced the journey themselves.
“I started talking to other cancer survivors about what they were going through and what was lacking in their survivorship journey. Always it came back to the same thing: it was the emotional side of it. There is so much attention put on the physical side of recovery, rightfully so, but sometimes it’s that emotional side that is overlooked and ignored and is very misunderstood.”
In addition to Brand Logic, Her Brand Development Group and now MODE, Rae is also the founder of The Cope Well Foundation, a non-profit charity that focuses on the emotional needs of cancer patients, their caregivers and family members. Rae launched Cope Well after being diagnosed with Melanoma Skin Cancer in 2008.
A cancer battle led Ashley Rae to launch a non-profit foundation to help other deal with the emotional traumas of cancer.
Learn more at: www.copewell.org