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Meet Ashley Stephens of Blkbyash in Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Stephens.

Ashley, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in Inglewood, California and I operate my business “blkbyash” out of Culver City. I created blkbyash as a way for me to express what I see and feel being black in America.

Being an entrepreneur was always something that was exciting to me, like who doesn’t want to be their own boss? In 2017, television and social media exposed a lot of injustices happening in the black community. I believed that something in what we were seeing about ourselves wasn’t right. The depiction of my people fostered negativity. It clicked for me that I needed to create an avenue to change the narrative. At the time when I started blkbyash I was working two jobs, one in finance and one in retail. I decided it was time for me to utilize the skills and tools I had access to and create something for myself, so that’s exactly what I did.

Being unfulfilled with my job in finance, I decided to use my downtime to research and find inspiration to create change. I used vacation days to run errands and do the footwork on finding quality t-shirts, printing services, and so much more. In April of 2017, I launched my website and it is still surreal. I keep thinking to myself “yo, I’ve created something and I hope people like it”.

The goal behind blkbyash was to create t-shirts inspired by being black in America and naming them after people I have been inspired by and have made contributions to the culture.

I kept working in silence on blkbyash and that was mostly due to lack of confidence about what I was really doing, considering I never started a business. But everything was falling into place one thing at a time. The day I launched my website I was nervous and I only started out with two designs “King” and “Queen”. With the support of my family and friends, my official first day was a success.

Over the next year, I kept creating designs and worked on brand awareness. During that time, I was still unfulfilled in my job in finance so I created an exit strategy. In July of 2019, I decided to quit my full-time job and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I have been blessed with many opportunities since.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve had a few struggles along the way, it has not been easy. When I first started I wanted to create black and white t-shirts. My first huge order of white t-shirts got ruined during the printing process, I felt defeated. I remember being so sad and not knowing what to do. I had to turn this negative into a positive and I decided to give some t-shirts away and I put some on sale. My goal was to keep the white t-shirts on sale and give them away until they were all gone.

Another struggle I experience is talking about myself and my brand, it’s still so surreal. To get through it, I practice positive self-talk and remind myself this is apart of my purpose. My message is powerful and I’ve created something dope.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Blkbyash – what should we know?
Blkbyash is a clothing brand that is inspired by being black in America. My business specializes in t-shirts named after influential African Americans of the past and present. Blkbyash is known for bringing the culture to the closet. Our t-shirts are soft and smooth, tagless, and do not shrink in the wash. Our vision of the perfect t-shirt sets us apart from others.

Our most proud moment to date is participating in the Taste of Inglewood. Being selected for this event was a huge milestone for blkbyash. We were able to touch many people and many households within the community. Working this event reassured me and my team that all of our hard work does not go unnoticed. Customers complimented all the products and our customer service. My dedication and resilience has allowed me the opportunity to share my experiences being a black woman through my business. I am so very proud of myself, my team, and all who have supported me.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Building my confidence about what I have created has really helped me succeed, along with faith and vision. I am always open to feedback from my close family and friends when I have a new ideas. Their input is extremely valuable to me and I consider their thoughts and critiques.

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