Ashley Ebert went to school with a plan to become a marriage and family therapist, but quickly discovered that being an employee in someone else’s small business wasn’t for her. When her grandmother had a stroke, Ashley took her home and stepped up to become her caregiver, and soon after launched and scaled a wedding planning company.
Now, at The Abundance Group, Ashley helps wedding professionals build thriving businesses of their own. She provides personalized coaching, weekly teachings, and access to a wide variety of resources to help her members solve problems and get answers to the biggest challenges they face in life and business.
Today, Ashley joins the podcast to share the story of her incredible pivot, building a business with her father, and what it means to empower and transform her industry for the better.
- How being part of someone else’s small business helped Ashley see what she wanted from life and a business of her own.
- What Ashley did wrong as she built her membership – and how they solved these problems as the membership grew.
- How Ashley has been able to help her members in a year full of postponements, delays, and cancellations..
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- “We need to pause for a second and realize, we have an opportunity right now. I know it doesn’t feel like it but we have an opportunity.”– Ashley Ebert
- The Abundance Group
- The Abundance Group Instagram
- The Simply Elegant Group
- Wedding Pros Guide to Abundance Public Group
- Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business
TranscriptRead The Transcript
Shelli Varela: Ashley Ebert, welcome to the It’s a TRIBE Thing Podcast. Bud, how are you?
Ashley Ebert: I am good. So awesome to be here. So excited.
Shelli Varela: I loved our pre-chat and I loved all of the things you have to say and I know that our audience is going to love it as well. But the name of your membership site is The Abundance Group. What better name than that? And we’re going to get into who you are and what you do. But before we talk about your membership site and the genius of all that that is and we’ll unpack that in a little bit, would you mind sharing with us the journey of how you became who you are and who you serve, and the person that you are now with this amazing membership site? Who were you previous to that?
Ashley Ebert: Yeah. So, it started a decade ago. It started 10 years ago. I was fresh out of college, 20, 22, 23 years old and went to work, kind of in the workforce, being a good college student, getting a job, and I quickly realized that being an employee was not my thing. I was not an employee.
Shelli Varela: And what did you go to school for again? Just so we can explain that for people.
Ashley Ebert: Yeah, psychology. So, I went and I got a job. I was hoping and thinking I would do marriage and family therapy but I wanted to go work in that environment before I invested more years in school. And I went and I worked at a counseling center for a small business so I was really scaling her business. So, she had contractors. I got to really see inside of like a small business and how it ran. So, unfortunately, in that job, the leadership that I had wouldn’t give me the tools I needed to succeed. And I think that kind of prompted me of like I say, being an employee wasn’t my thing. The other side of that is actually my dad is an entrepreneurial business coach and has been for 30 years. So, he was always kind of poking me to like, “Hey, let’s start our own business.” And so, kind of those two things together along with some other life circumstances really allowed me to explore owning my own business. And so, I had worked for this counseling center for about six, eight months I think and my grandmother actually ended up having a massive stroke. She was driving while she had her stroke and ran into a house, the side of a house.
And that was kind of the moment where like my whole life changed. My grandmother and I were very, very close and she was basically bedridden, incontinent, ate through a feeding tube like very much completely a different human. Obviously, she was driving to her house at night like she was vivacious and 80. So, this is a big change for our family and we kind of experienced the nursing home and for any of you listening that have had that experience of a loved one going into a nursing home, it’s a really hard season. And I kind of looked at my life and I said, “You know, there’s something here. I need to step up. I need to walk the walk. Family is number one for me and here’s a moment where I can show it. And so, I actually took her home with me.
Shelli Varela: By the way, not to get you off your stride, but that’s what a hero looks like. Sorry. Continue.
Ashley Ebert: Oh, yeah. Thank you. And it was just one of those things of like you have it on your heart. You’re like, “Man, I can’t not do this and I can’t not,” and it was funny because the nursing home that she was in, they basically said, “We’ve never seen anybody leave in her condition.” They actually kept her room for a week. They’re like, “She’ll be back,” and I was like, “There’s no way she’s coming back now.” You’re saying that to me I’m such a like, “Okay, cool. I’ll prove you wrong.” So, I was with her for the last year of her life and it was very challenging. It was the best and worst probably season of my life. Best because I felt like the work was so important that I was doing with her, but it was draped in sadness. It was draped in hardship and she had severe dementia. She thought she was in a lot of pain. She wasn’t because of the amount of medication she was on, but it’s hard when you would see your person in that state. But honestly, also during that season, she slept a lot. So, I had a lot of time to think about, “Well, what am I doing with my career and my life?”
It was the season of a fortunate pause, I guess, of where I went, “Okay. That wasn’t what I thought it was going to look like when I came out of school and went into this counseling environment but something else is here.” And so, there’s my dad too like nudging me like, “Remember, remember that whole business owner thing? Remember that?”
Shelli Varela: Which is ironic because most people have the opposite. People say, “Hey, I have this idea,” and everyone’s going, “Well, you should kind of get a job.”
Ashley Ebert: Totally. It’s comfortable. It’s safe, right? We all know right now that’s not the case in 2020. But it is. He’s always been somebody who’s like loves the freedom, again, that entrepreneurship brings. So, he was there kind of elbowing me, and I’ve been thinking. I thought, “I love family and that is so important to me but, man, am I getting drained by this really dark, hard time. So, that kind of brought me to like, well, what’s the opposite? Well, celebration and beauty and being together. And so, that’s actually where weddings came to be. So, I’m actually the owner of a company called the Simply Elegant Group which actually is one of the largest planning companies in the US. And that’s kind of how I first started. So, when I was 23, I bootstrapped this small business with the help of my dad and we scaled that. In about three years, we opened a second market and from there, duplicated and again now we have eight locations and a team of 40 planners that work at Simply Elegant.
Shelli Varela: Incredible.
Ashley Ebert: Yeah. And it’s been such a, you know, to know that that’s what was going to come from that season, there’s no way I would have thought that. There’s no way that that would have been what I thought that – I thought that season was me just stepping up helping her in this time of need and I was going to go do my thing. But very often I think when we have these pullings on our hearts, it’s like there’s something more that you don’t even realize that’s on the other side when you take this.
Shelli Varela: Just want to circle back on what you said just for the benefit of everybody listening because I hear this a lot like I have this saying and it’s not all gifts come wrapped in a bow and certainly, you would never choose that circumstance. But oftentimes, I see this again and again with people who are telling their membership stories is when you trace the root back of all of the things and we were talking before this chat we’re having and I said, was there any relationship between you went to school for psychology and you were going to be doing like family and relationship counseling, and then you ended up doing wedding things? So, when we pause and when we look at what are all the things that I’m just naturally drawn to and what negativity can I turn into an opportunity? Oftentimes, people will end up with the thing they’re meant to do.
Ashley Ebert: When jokingly, all myself and my team joke, we are therapists as wedding planners like that’s part of our job. It’s just a different title. Especially this season in 2020 with all the postponements and things that are happening, like definitely, absolutely a kind of cornerstone of what we do as work as wedding planners. But yes, it was great because there’s obviously, it took about 10 years for me to scale and build the business and I always had dad by my side strategically talking to my ear. And so, probably about three years ago, myself and my husband were going to start a family and have a baby and it was just going to look different. My role there was solely leadership. So, I wasn’t taking any weddings anymore and I just love working. I love work and I love serving people. And so, I was kind of, I didn’t have the room to run because I had built the company exactly the way that I wanted and scaled it but I wasn’t working. So, it was kind of like I needed something new. And my dad was in this beautiful season of his career. He’s kind of rolling through retirement. So, what’s his next legacy work that he wants to leave? He has a prolific career.
And so, he and I sat down for dinner and one day I said, “You know, all of my wedding-pro friends are incredible creatives. They’re incredibly talented at their craft. They do beautiful work, but something is lacking oftentimes in feeling really secure with the strategy built in your business.” And that’s something I had. It was kind of like I said, the ace in my pocket that I had with my dad where he would always say like we joke, “What’s your differentiator? And what are your KPIs?” And like I’m 23, I was like, “I don’t know what that means. I got to google it.” But like that’s something that I was cognizant of and thinking about at 23 and that completely changed my business. And so, he and I were sitting down to dinner and dreaming. And this was like a three-hour dinner where we’re just like making up what we wanted to do if we could build our best life. And we built in that dinner, this concept of the abundance group, of the membership we have now. And it was funny. This was probably about a year before we were introduced to TRIBE and introduced to Stu so, of course, we did everything wrong. We did like the first module, let’s do this. He’s like, “Don’t do all these things.” We were like check, check. Oh, yeah, we did it backwards like exactly the wrong way.
Shelli Varela: The opposite pyramid.
Ashley Ebert: 100%. It was like, “Yeah. Well, okay, now we know why we’re feeling stuck or we’re feeling like this isn’t getting the momentum that we think it should.” And so, that’s kind of the evolution like I say from the very beginning of my career. Like you mentioned, so many things are intertwined that make up where we land in this particular phase in my career now.
Shelli Varela: That’s incredible. Can you talk a little bit about your dad’s experience and I always have this phrase that I like to use, aces in their places.
Ashley Ebert: Yeah.
Shelli Varela: So, for you, many of the people that you were working with were this incredible genius, creative people. And typically, people lean either to the creative or to the logical, pragmatic, practical, tactical side. And you were in a very unusual position that you were just indoctrinated with this balance going throughout your life. Can you talk about your dad? And you said something interesting as we were chatting before. You’re like, “My dad is like everybody’s dad.” Can you talk about his previous experience and how now that is allowing your people to have balance in the ways that they do now?
Ashley Ebert: Yeah. And when I say dad, he’s that warm and fuzzy like dad who just like protects and wants the best for you. But also, he has, like I mentioned, just a prolific career of leadership in working with entrepreneurs as well as big corporations. So, he’s actually a founding partner with John Maxwell. He was involved with Gallup when they built StrengthsFinders. He has worked with over 50 Fortune 500 companies being brought in to have companies like Best Buy, Cargo, Marriott, Bell to build leadership models within their organization. So, when I say he’s got a strategic mindset, that’s putting it very lightly like he’s just this brilliant mind. He’s such a people person too. I always say when you meet a guy of his caliber, if we didn’t have the relationship we had and he wasn’t my dad, you would be almost dwarfed by like walking up to him. It’s like a person that has this like innate ability or the skill set that’s just beyond measure. And you walk up to him and he just got this warm smile and he’s like, “Hey,” and he’s so in the zone of like learning about you and how he can add value in your life.
And it’s been such a humbling thing to watch him work within the wedding pro community and see how he’s just there and present and with them and just wants them to have thriving businesses that allow them to have the life they want. And I think a lot of the times when I say, “Hey, it’s my dad,” you know, I have to stop and say, “Let me tell you the backstory though like, it’s not just dad. It’s like this guy that deserve, you know?”
Shelli Varela: Right. [Crosstalk – 12:54]
Ashley Ebert: Yeah, absolutely. So, that’s a little bit about him. I could, gosh, going on about him. I just adore him. He is such a mentor and role model of mine. But he, yeah, truly and he would be so embarrassed if he ever listened which I’m sure he’ll want to listen to this broadcast. He’ll be so embarrassed.
Shelli Varela: Why did you choose to call your membership site The Abundance Group?
Ashley Ebert: Great question. Abundance has always been a word for me that has the warmth and the real I think richness of what life can bring for us. So, it’s not we think about monetary wealth, but for me, abundance is more than that. It’s like joy and happiness. And for us, especially in the wedding world, honestly, there’s a lot of and right now truly, like, I know how much my community is hurting and trying to get through 2020. There’s just this overwhelming scarcity and we want it to bring a solution that was kind of the opposite of that for them to know to have a real strong connection to this concept of abundance. And it’s been something that jokingly people that I’ve been friends with for a long time. That’s a word I use a lot. So, they’re like, “Oh, it’s abundant Ashley.” So, that was something for me, and what an honor to have people think of me. I mean, that just warms my heart and that was something I think when we first created this idea of our membership. I was like, “It’s the abundance group.” That just was what the name was.
And now for us, it’s really about our members are part of that abundance group. They’re a part of that group of wedding professionals that really want to change the industry. They want to give to everybody. They don’t see it is in yours or mine. It’s kind of how do we build it up together? And, yeah, so that’s kind of how I think the name really has been something that we’ve known for a long time.
Shelli Varela: I can only imagine the benefit that these people are getting from being part of your community both with you and your dad but I just wanted to circle back to something you said that I don’t even know if you’re aware of the gift you have in the way you think because the way you steer and the way you envision things. What you said earlier was, “I was in a situation where I was with my grandmother and it was terrible and it was hard and it was heavy, as much as it was on my heart to be there and I want it to be there.” So, when I was envisioning my business or what I wanted to do, what was the opposite of that feeling? And you went straight to celebration. And I think that’s such a gift you have because often people will try and think their way through something and I love the way that you feel your way through something. And then you get your dad up to the bat and it’s a home run every time.
Ashley Ebert: Oh yeah.
Shelli Varela: What’s your best piece of feedback that you’ve received from your community as you’re bringing all of this experience and love and support and abundance to them?
Ashley Ebert: Yeah, it’s funny. I’m so proud of the work. So, dad built the education. So, he built the training. He’s a coach. So, like that’s his kind of brainchild. So, before we knew of the success path, we built up something called The Grid, of course, 10 times as complicated as the success path. But it was like this beautifully packaged, it was literally like idea of a business through exit strategy. So, we cover 150 different topics and we cover them very robustly. So, of course, right, we overwhelm them like we did it. We weren’t as, well, we didn’t understand the membership model as we do now with all of Stu’s help. But he took probably eight, nine months of his life and like I always say like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind where he has like that board he’s connecting all of it like that was they all like in it and he was just building and this connects here. And so, it came out with like Entrepreneur University truly. And the content that he produced, I mean, it’s just true, I think college level, master’s level content. I mean, what we have within the membership we have SWOT analysis, we have KPI workbooks. He built something similar to a VTO if you know Traction, but it actually also tracks your metrics. So, it’s called a business at a glance. It’s this hugely robust training.
Shelli Varela: What’s a VTO?
Ashley Ebert: So, it’s something from a book called Traction, where it basically helps you know like the rocks in your business and it helps you plan. It’s kind of a planning tool that a lot of Fortune 500 companies are using. So, it was cool because he’s bringing these huge mega concepts down to the small business owner world. And you could use these sophisticated tools to help you project your business and get your pillars of your business so solidly in a foundation that your business is unshakable. And so, he built all this. Again, I was so proud to watch. It was one of those things where it’s like one of your humans that you love so much is in their element in crafting the thing that they were meant to do. So, that was a really beautiful season. And I think we’re tweaking it and changing it really to best serve wedding professionals. So, now we’re looking at it and we’re saying what’s really irrelevant. That’s kind of you’re always tinkering in your memberships. So, we have that and I’m like it’s a diamond mine of education. And I think a lot of the community right now is really loving the attitude that we have that we bring. It’s just a trying time. Like I say, for example, I’ve said to him, “You know, we need to pause for a second and realize, actually, we have an opportunity right now. I know it doesn’t feel like it but we have an opportunity.”
The thing that wedding pros are always up against is you are either in sales season or you are in delivery season. So, you’re either selling or you’re implementing, you’re doing the weddings, you’re doing the work. You don’t have any kind of length of time to pause and like get your business right.
Shelli Varela: Right.
Ashley Ebert: And that’s exactly what we have right now. We’re in this season where we can’t execute weddings because a lot of our couples are choosing to postpone. And also, there are a lot of couples that are kind of waiting to see what happens before they book. So, we are in this place of like we have an abundance of time. Let’s leverage it really well. And so, that’s where for us it’s like dig in. Really know your ideal client. Make sure you’re building a strategic marketing plan. Are you systematized? Like all of these different things, let’s get your sales framework really speaking to the client that you want to work with. So, that’s what we can do right now. And I think that switching mentality and I’m vocal about that in our community, that’s what we have to do to persevere to get us to 2021 and really get us through what we’re experiencing right now.
Shelli Varela: That’s brilliant. And it’s another example of the gift of the insight and the way that you frame things instead of, “There’s no opportunity. This is a hard time.” It’s like what is the opportunity in this time? I could talk to you forever but…
Ashley Ebert: Me as well. This is so much fun.
Shelli Varela: I have so enjoyed this but if people are looking to connect with you online or be part of your amazing community, where is the best place they can find you?
Ashley Ebert: Yeah. We hang out on Instagram. The Abundance Group are super active over there. Honestly, we tell pros like DM us your questions if you’re struggling like we want to help you. I’ll send voice texts. Our team will send voice texts of giving you real-world like here’s where we’re at, here’s what we think can be helpful. We also have a Facebook community called The Wedding Pros Guide to Abundance. So, that’s really fun. We’re active in there. And again, our team is just chatting with the community and the wedding world. So, the cool thing is I think there’s a lot of creative communities out there for kind of the creative entrepreneur as a whole. But we really dive deep in the wedding world because we just have different seasonality. We basically don’t have return clients, hopefully. They get married and so we’re always prospecting. We always have to have lead generation. So, we just have a little bit of different challenges and some creative entrepreneurs. And we really speak to that within our Facebook group. So, yeah, those are two great places to connecting with us.
Shelli Varela: Amazing. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing these incredible insights and we wish you every possible success.
Ashley Ebert: Yeah. Thanks so much.
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