Ruthie: I’m really excited to introduce my first guest for season 6 of The Defiant Business Podcast, Ashley M. Williams! I’m going to tell you a little about her, and then we’re going to dive right into everything about Ashley and her business.
Ashley is the leading Millennial and Gen Z content marketing strategist. She’s a spokesperson consultant and global speaker for brands that want to reach younger generations, helping brands create the right content, craft the right messages and produce experiences that bring Millennials and Gen Z together.
She’s excited and determined to use her love of journalism, social media, and live experiences to inform and inspire. Ashley is the founder and CEO of RIZZARR, a tech-enabled content marketplace. Through RIZZARR, brands are able to find and work with Millennial and Gen Z content creators worldwide- particularly nano and micro-influencers.
She is also the founder of Millennials Change, an event series created to inspire Millennials to make a positive impact on the world. Ashley, thank you so much for joining me.
Ashley: Of course. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Ruthie: So I like to start my episodes off by recounting how we know each other. I know Ashley because she is also a speaker for the C3EB Summit– created by Dr. AJ, one of my season 5 guests. It goes to show the power your network can have, and how our networks are always growing through this type of work. You never know when you’re going to meet someone awesome, like when I got to meet Ashley.
The Story Behind the Name “RIZZARR”
Ruthie: So Ashley, can you tell us the story behind your company’s name? I have to imagine getting that domain name was pretty easy. Can you tell us a bit more about how you settled on that name?
Ashley: The original spelling was the actual Spanish spelling, which was taken as a domain. I had to think creatively, because I wanted the name to have the same effect. So I just doubled the Z and R, and that ended up working out.
But I was really inspired by water at the time. Whenever I had a moment, I would go on Google Images and look at ripples of water. I was just so fascinated by how a drop could expand and create this beautiful pattern, and I thought, “I would love to create my company with that meaning in mind.”
I started thinking about the ripple effect or the butterfly effect, and I had some horrible names before I landed on RIZZARR. Some people may still not like it, but I love RIZZARR. So that’s when I decided that the name should really focus on the idea of the ripple effect, and how one person can share their thoughts to make an impact.
Ruthie: So RIZZARR means ripple in Spanish.
Ashley: There’s two meanings, actually. It can mean “to curl” or “to ripple”, so I chose the latter.
Ruthie: I think the changed meaning is going to serve you well. I actually had a different idea for my company name, but it was taken. What made it even more frustrating was that it just redirected to something else, and the owner was not planning on giving that name up.
This forced me to come up with Defy the Status Quo. I was going to do something like Beyond the Status Quo, but I ended up settling on defy, which I ended up liking better!
Ashley: I do too! It’s more powerful.
Ruthie: Yes, exactly. So I think the altered spelling for that is going to serve you well.
How Did You Get Started with Your Business Idea?
Ruthie: Speaking of, I wanted to ask you how you got started. Having this tech enabled content marketplace that connects Millennials and Gen Z with brands who want to reach those audiences is not something you roll out of bed and just bring to the world. How did you determine that was even a need that you could fill?
Ashley: It’s definitely been a journey. When I was a young girl, I was going through a lot of different teen issues- like depression and eating disorders- and I really wanted to help young people with those same issues. So I wanted to create a platform for that, but that also led me to want to do more things related to teen issues as an adult.
Creating a Company that Helps Young Adults
Eventually, I started thinking, “How could I create a company that can help young adults with what they’re going through and make them realize that they’re not alone?” That was the first premise.
Studying journalism in college, I was able to get opportunities, but me and my peers had a hard time getting them. It was hard for me to get my first reporting opportunity, and I kept hearing, “You need to have more real-world experience.” Well, how am I going to get more real-world experience if no one’s giving me real-world experience?
So I wanted to be a launching pad for young journalists, marketers and advertisers to be able to create a portfolio and work with brands. As for the brand aspect, I was seeing all these brands in the market having such a hard time reaching younger generations. So why can’t you just put the two together? The content creators are making content for the brands. The brands get the content and the content creators get paid to do what they love doing.
Ruthie: That’s awesome. It makes me think of when people talk about how you became an overnight success, years and years later. For you, it started when you were a teenager. It wasn’t recognizable as RIZZARR, but that was the seed. And not even you could have predicted that is exactly how it would have turned out.
I like to think that if I could take my brain and go back to being a teenager, I would crush it. But at the same time, I can look back and acknowledge that being a teenager was so hard!
Ashley: Think about what it’s like for them now, with all the technology and social media.
Ruthie: I’m so grateful I did not have such a high tech cell phone and get myself in trouble. I know people are like, “Well, back in my day, we never sent pictures doing blah, blah, blah.” You didn’t even have anything to send pictures like that on! Everybody makes dumb decisions. I could barely play Pacman on my cell phone, besides these grainy pictures that it took. So your work is just very inspiring.
How Do Your Brand and Personal Development Connect?
Ruthie: You also focus a lot on your personal brand and personal development. How has that focus on personal development helped push the growth of your company? From a high-level view, it would almost look like those 2 things are pretty unrelated. So how does one relate to the other for you?
Ashley: I still think we have a lot to prove. I felt like we really started seeing traction in the 2nd year of RIZZARR. The momentum kept going, but there was something that happened in the 3rd year, particularly once we got our first client.
I love listening to things in the morning for inspiration or just to get my day going, and I happened to listen to something by Jim Rowan. His quote was, “Success is what you attract by the person you become.” And he asked: what are your habits? Are you really becoming the person that you aspire to be? Are you waking up early? Are your habits getting you to become this person in that moment?
I realized that there are a lot of things that I’m not doing. I say I want the company to be super successful, but I’m not waking up as early as I could. I don’t really like having more infrastructure in my schedule. I just wasn’t doing the things that I should be doing. So I sat with myself and was like, “Okay, what are we going to start doing?”
Changing Her Schedule for More Success
One, we’re going to start waking up even earlier, before everybody starts hitting you with emails. Two, we’re going to start getting more coaching. I started hearing about business coaching, so I started seeking out business coaches and like. Now I have business coaches that I meet with every month.
As I’ve worked on myself, it’s also attracted more things to me. The intentionality of being more determined to become my best self has also allowed other things to show up in my life that serve me.
It’s almost like you’re attracting whatever state of being you’re in. I still have so much personal growth to do, but I did notice a shift with that. And I also wanted to really work on my personal branding, being a leader of the company. And hopefully, I’m helping a lot of other Millennials or young people with getting to where they want to go.
Ruthie: Makes me feel like I’ve got some things to do. I’ve got the “get up early” thing down pat, because of the kids and all of my animals. But I can definitely work on some of the other things.
Ashley: You’re preaching to the choir. I feel like we all have things we can work on.
Ruthie: The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. I think that the personal development journey is just never going to end, as it shouldn’t. Everyone likes saying, “Nobody’s perfect.” Nobody will ever be perfect, which means all of us can always be better.
Being a parent, I already know that I’m probably an even better parent for my younger kids than I was for my older kids. Thankfully they’re close together, so it’s not like one of them is getting a serious advantage over the other.
But my 8-year-old and my 5-year-old have done a lot of the work in terms of helping me understand little kid brains, so my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old get the benefit of that.
Ashley: That’s so cool though. That’s exactly it.