Work and Money
This 20-Something Entrepreneur Paid Off Her Entire Student Debt in 6 Months
Starting a business at any age is difficult, but we’re especially impressed by Ashley Mason, 23, who created her own marketing firm at the age of 19. CircleAround caught up with the young entrepreneur from Boston to learn more about her company, Dash of Social, and what it’s like to grow a business right after high school.
CA: How were you able to start your own company at such a young age?
AM: I've been entrepreneurial-minded since the age of 6! I've always loved to read and write, so I decided to start a blog at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, when I was 15. I treated that blog as a part-time job and worked on it for 10 to 15 hours per week, writing the posts, connecting with other bloggers, partnering with companies, etc.
"It wasn't until my mom was diagnosed with Glioblastoma that made me realize life is short, so the best time to follow our dreams is now."
Society teaches us that we should go to college, get a degree, and build up a successful 20+ year career before going off on our own and starting a business. It wasn't until my mom was diagnosed with Glioblastoma the day after I turned 19 that made me realize that life is short, so the best time to follow our dreams is now. Because of that, I officially launched Dash of Social just eight months later in September 2016.
CA: How did you leverage social media to help your business grow?
AM: I grew my blog organically through social media, which led me to working on multiple brand partnerships. I realized that most of these companies didn't use social media, but I knew how important it was from my own experience to use it to build a brand.
After becoming intrigued by the world of marketing, and wanting to learn more about it, I worked with the companies that I already had relationships with on a pro bono basis. I helped them build marketing strategies, manage their social media profiles, etc. That led me to take on casual freelance projects, which made me realize that, after years of knowing I wanted to own a business one day but not knowing what it would be, I now knew that I wanted to own a marketing firm.
CA: What are your main responsibilities as the founder?
AM: As the founder, I work with clients on multiple services in collaboration with my team. We offer social media management, marketing strategy, paid ads, SEO, and content marketing. I work with a variety of industries and companies, and have so much fun doing so! These are some of the things I’ve been able to accomplish since I began:
- I hit my first six-figure year by the end of 2018, when I was just 21 and a senior in college.
- I took Dash of Social full-time in May 2019 after graduating from college.
- I got my own office space in October 2019.
- I paid off my entire student loan debt less than six months after graduating.
- I gave a TEDx talk.
CA: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
AM: Starting a business is lonely, especially when you're young. I was fortunate to have constant support from family and friends, but not everyone does. I wanted to provide a space where these aspiring entrepreneurs could get advice, ask questions, and have someone to lean on. When you're just starting out, you also don't know what you don't know — so I wanted to provide a ton of valuable resources that would teach people the ins-and-outs of running a business.
CA: How are you impacting the future business leaders of tomorrow?
AM: I launched a passion project called Student to CEO that inspires young individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial interests, rather than follow the 9 to 5 route through the support of our podcast, blog, Facebook group, and resource hub.
Student to CEO is the platform that I needed when I was just starting my entrepreneurial journey, and now it's my way of helping others. I had a big calling over the past year to start something like this because young individuals were constantly asking me for advice, what I did to become successful, what I recommend they do, etc. But really, I'm just a normal person, and if I can do it, so can they!