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Meet Trailblazer Ashley Velez

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

Ashley, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I didn’t start out in the marketing field. With a degree in English Literature, I thought I wanted to teach or write, but got my first job at a commercial real estate firm right out of school. I was there for a couple of years until the market crashed and I was let go. I was blindsided, and spent the next 12 months trying to find contract and part-time work (at the same time everyone else was). However, during that same time, I discovered my entrepreneurial spirit and started my own company, Literally Efficient, which offered Marketing and Administrative Assistant Services. Through the years, I have maintained a steady client base, even during other full-time roles.

In 2010, I met my now business partner, James Ball. James had just been hired as the Digital Marketing Director for a local magazine and found me online because of my online presence and blog. We stayed in contact, and in 2012, he was able to offer me my first full-time job in almost three years–a marketing specialist position with a digital marketing agency he built called TrustWorkz.

While there, I discovered that I love being a hero for small business. I loved the people I worked with. We built the most amazing, hardworking, empathetic team, and my years with that agency were some of the days I felt most creative and the freest.

When I left in 2014, I worked for a few different companies, trying to figure out where I fit. I worked for a medical device company that enlightened me to being fulfilled by work that has meaning, and I loved being part of an organization that placed importance on servant leadership and thriving outreach programs. Next was a software development company, which fueled my desire to learn more about building communities and creating a thriving, positive work environment, and then I re-entered the healthcare industry as a digital marketing manager for an ob-gyn office.

While I was grateful for these opportunities to explore different industries, I realized that I didn’t feel the connection with work that I had at my first agency. Ever since my days at TrustWorkz, I found myself with an increased desire to grow and scale a business while simultaneously building a thriving company culture.

So, I jumped. My entrepreneurial spirit and ambition led me to start the Atlanta SEO Pro with my former work associate, James Ball. We’re building Atlanta SEO Pro to be our very own empathetic, radically candid, full-service digital marketing agency. We specialize in website design, search engine optimization, paid to advertise, and web presence management.

James and I work well together: we both want the very best for our clients and for our people. And we believe that candor and integrity are paramount to our success. Furthermore, we both recognize that marketing is about understanding people. The experiences we’ve both had in a variety of industries has given us more insight into people and small businesses.

Our goal is to build a passionate, sometimes-quirky, fun-loving group of top-level marketing professionals. Large or small, our goal is to help businesses scale their marketing organizations to lead digital marketing initiatives across multiple platforms. Our vision for Atlanta SEO Pro remains a smaller firm with more transparency and close relationships with small business owners. We’re different because we share the same values and experiences as our clients.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Definitely not–but I wouldn’t change any of it. Our biggest hurdle has been building an agency on a budget. Atlanta SEO Pro is 100% self-funded by my partner James Ball and me—no capital partners, no business loans, no funding of any kind. Last spring, when I first made the commitment to help grow the company, I was working full-time and spent all my extra time working on building the brand and doing the actual client work with our first clients. James and I handled every aspect of the business, and we’re learning the value of scaling slowly. We just hired our third account manager at one year in, but we’ve had ups and downs. It’s easy to let doubt creep in during the “down” periods, but if it inspires you, figure out ways to make it work.

Also, find a mentor or a tribe—a person or group of people who can hold you and lift you up along the way. For me, it’s many of the amazing women that I’ve met through writer and retreat leader Jen Pastiloff. It was actually because of the continued support from many of the women I’ve met through Jen that I decided to take the leap and partner with James on Atlanta SEO Pro. I look forward to her retreats and workshops as a way to re-center and re-focus and get back to the heart of being human, which I incorporate into my work with clients and as a leader building a business.

We’d love to hear more about Atlanta SEO Pro.
Our team designs and builds content management platforms that enhance a business’ digital presence, we create marketing campaigns and content that build connection, and we develop strategies and experiences that drive growth and engage consumers. We also coach our clients on how to do all of this better. Our goal isn’t to keep them as customers and not share our insight—we want to educate and edify them and let them take ownership of their own brand if they want to.

Our ideal client is someone who wants to grow their business but doesn’t have the time or knowledge to do it all themselves. They know they need SEO, a good website, and an online presence, and they know the value of the same. They’re willing to collaborate with a team who possesses the digital marketing know-how to help raise their search results and get more lead conversions. We help them by running an audit of their current site and showing them where they need to make improvements. By having a guideline of what needs to be improved, we can move forward with competitive analysis and creating impactful goals to win over their competitors.

We’re different because the tenets of our business model are integrity, empathy, and candor. So many of our clients come to us and have been promised the same marketing services too many times and they don’t trust the follow-through we offer. Because of this, we exist to be the professional nemesis of any who would profit by any business model that exploits their fear and ignorance.

We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
I think one of the biggest challenges for female leaders is equality in the workplace. This goes for leaders with and without children, although personally, I’ve faced many of the inequalities that other working mothers face, such as the reality of “flexible work schedules” and being passed up for positions due to assumptions that working mothers are unable to get it all done.

It’s easy to feel undeserving and give up without honing the skills necessary to give you more opportunities. Feeling confident is also still a key issue for many women. Women leaders fear being ostracized or rejected, but respect comes when one’s voice is heard.

It’s so important for women to continue to speak up about these obstacles. There’s strength in numbers–by supporting and empowering each other, we inspire more women to have enough confidence to face their own career challenges, and we also show dedication and togetherness, two huge factors in making positive changes for ourselves going forward.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rachel Pastiloff, Your Right Hand, LLC

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