In Conversation with Ashlee Ammons of Mixtroz
Describe your business in a few words?
Mixtroz is a tool used where 50+ gather to increase engagement and collect useful data. Think of Zoom or the event space as the dress and Mixtroz the Spanx to give the event shape!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
We (My Mom/Cofounder and I) experienced the problem (networking) over the same weekend, we looked for a solution, couldn’t find it so we built it!
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I established a career as an Events Producer in NYC (started as an Executive Assistant) working with A-listers like Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jay-Z, as well as legacy brands like Moet Hennessy and Coca-Cola. Before NYC, I was LeBron James 1st intern in Undergrad!
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Absolutely not. I have a Type-A, ESFJ personality and I appreciate the structure and security that working for someone else can provide. This, entrepreneurship, was a huge leap for me but it has made me stronger, humble and well-rounded. I would never change the incredible journey that I’ve been blessed to take alongside my Mom.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Simply put, there was no marketing strategy. In the beginning, we were called “Quad Outsiders” Black, Female, Non-Technical Tech Founders so we had that to contend with for years before it became en vogue.
We got the word out on our product by letting it speak for itself. It delighted the customer and their attendees so much that they would naturally refer us and we built the business initially on word of mouth. Last, we recognized our difference as an asset, it is that difference that has helped us stick out become news and noteworthy. My best example of this is wearing a t-shirt that said Black, Female, Founder, Fund Me to a tech conference, that $12 marketing spend landed us our 1st major press in Forbes among other awesome connects.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
With the pandemic our target market, live events, was decimated overnight but good news is we already knew what to do. The 1st several years of our business were bootstrapped and friends and family funded so we knew how to run the business on a shoe-string budget as well as how to pivot the business quickly. The majority of entrepreneurial journeys are marathons opposed to sprints which gives you the ability to refer back to the starting line and continue to iterate in real-time as you move your feet. With the pivot we made to virtual we experienced enough growth to be attractive for another funding round to scale a now hybrid (live/virtual) business.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Sticking with it. This has been the hardest thing I’ve done in my life and nearly 6 years in we are still arguably at the beginning. This endeavor has pushed me at times to the edge of my sanity but it also has got me to where I am today both hungry and at peace within most aspects of my life.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Q: Tell me about who you are outside of work…
When you are working on a small team, personality matters! As a Founder these early employees will see you at your best and worst. Find team members that are different from you in ALL ways; that fill your gaps (yes, you have them and so do I), making you and the business stronger.
In addition, I’ll take street to book smarts any day!
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We were profoundly impacted as our flagship product was live events based. With the pivot, we survived and now we are on the road to thrive as we meet a new market need. Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams etc… get you securely online and we are the tool to really help your people connect while you learn.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
At this stage and in my position I tend to be a micro thinker (thankfully my Cofounder/Mom is macro), the day-to-day the next 90 days at most. Over the course of our next 90 we are focused on 3 things:
- Expanding our Team
- Go To Market
It is critical to distill things down to the most important at the early stage so that you as a founder can feel and build on momentum when milestones are hit.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Life prepares you for what is prepared for you.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Comparison is the thief of joy…
When I joined Mixtroz full-time it required me to get uncomfortable (move from NYC to my family home for the first time since Undergrad, giving up a 6-figure salary) and that was MY journey but I continued to compare myself to others who were on a totally different trajectory. Over time this led to depression for which I sought treatment and got better; today I am in my lane, I am building my life’s work and everything else is mostly over-filtered noise.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
This is not an #ad but I got a therapist via BetterHelp that I speak to once a week. I believe in therapy and the fact that when you are healthy is a great time to seek therapy out as that can prepare you for the natural ebbs and flows of life. Because I work in a family business and all time is MIXTROZ time it is incredibly helpful to have a neutral 3rd party to share my thoughts and feelings with.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I am a workaholic yet YES I believe balance. I am better when I take the space to do things that have nothing to do with this business that bring me joy. For example, even on the busiest days I MAKE the time to stop for 45 minutes to do a boxing workout and that endorphin rush makes me better and ready to dive back in to work following if need be.
In addition, I did most of the pandemic alone as a single woman in a new-ish city. A large part of my 2020 was spent working, working out and Netflix-ing and I realized I needed something else. I did the recon and got a puppy, something that was mine that has brought me SO much JOY. You must actively seek your joy for the most part; it isn’t a natural phenomenon.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I exude confidence (I hear) yet I am hypercritical of myself. For example, I have never in my adult life worn a bikini and I am looking to change that this year, life’s just too short not to live it fully.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Feed your mind (I do this w/ podcasts).
- Actively seek joy outside of work.
- End the day with that inbox at zero.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
I live in Alabama, as a Southern business woman being just the right mix of sugar and vinegar… in other words I love the Lord but don’t take no sh*t!