Ashley Hassard, Editor-in-Chief of SKYN Magazine, is bursting with both energy, focus, and a heck of a lot of curiosity. She’s a teacher by trade, model by chance, speaker by choice, and optimist by creed. She’s the definition of a Renaissance woman, always doing a million different things all at once.
Your Name: Ashley J. Hassard
Business Name: SKYN Magazine
Education: M.A. Hon BA, ECE, OCT, Ph Ec.
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Tell us about yourself!
My latest gig has been acting as Editor-in-Chief of SKYN Magazine, an online magazine that I co-founded about two years ago. With the class of GQ and the zest of Sports Illustrated, SKYN picks up where Playboy left off doing a sensual take on pop-culture, but this time with an empowerment twist.
Describe your most recent business success and tell us about your next big goal.
My most recent business success would be the launch of SKYN Underwear. Coming from the publishing world, I never expected to jump into apparel quite so quickly, but we realized there was a niche, leapt at the opportunity, and we now find ourselves with a phenomenal line of SKYN branded underwear that not only make you look good, but make you feel good too. For every pair of SKYN Underwear sold we donate a pair to someone in need. It’s fashion with a heart, and I love really LOVE that.
In terms of what’s next with the business?
We’re definitely going to be expanding SKYN Underwear to include a wide variety of apparel options, and I’d love to launch a SKYN Podcast and potentially a Vlog, expanding the brand into a full-fledged international multimedia agency.
I’m also in the process of designing my own swimwear line! That is a big business goal that I’m super excited to be able to cross off my bucket list.
In terms of a personal goal, I’d love to be able to take a little of what I’ve learned over the past few years and turn it into a TED Talk. As a Motivational Speaker, I’ve spent years touring the country empowering kids to think critically about leadership and social justice issues, and now that I’ve got some new experiences under my belt, I’d love to be able to do the same for a more mature female audience. I think with a lot of the amazing movements that are going on right now, a lot more women are starting to find their voices – and I’d love to be able to hopefully inspire them to use those voices, and empower them to live the life of their dreams.
How would you define success?
Success to me is defined by how you feel, not by what you have. Yes, being financially comfortable is important, but to me, true success is defined by how you feel about who you are as a person and what you’re doing. If you can wake up each day with a sense of purpose, happiness, and pride for all that you are and all that you’re becoming, that’s what I call successful.
Give us the ‘inside scoop’ – what does a day in your business life look like?
Ha, goodness, that’s a tough one. Because I do so many different things no two days are ever alike. Typically though, they involve me waking up early to answer a whole bunch of emails and make a couple posts, then running from classroom to photoshoot, and ending my day tucked away in some nook at Soho House where I do most of my SKYN publishing and hold all of my meetings. My days are ridiculously long, the hours are insane, and there’s always something to be done. However, I absolutely love what I do and I feel so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given, so it never really feels like work.
What types of customers are in your business ‘pink book’ and who are you looking to connect with?
Oh I love that idea of having a ‘pink book’! I feel like because I do so many different things I’ve actually got a couple of different ‘Pink Books’ always going all at once.
For SKYN alone there would probably be at least two! One would be filled with our customers (typically, males 18-35) and the phenomenal clients looking to connect with them, and the other would be filled with our amazing creatives who we work with on the daily. They’d basically be a collection of some of the most beautiful, talented and influential people around, and I feel so fortunate to be able to call so many of them a part of the SKYN family.
My favorite ‘pink book’ that I have though would probably be my personal one. The one that’s full of all the names and numbers of those I love and care about most. I’m a firm believer that you are who you surrounded yourself with, and so I make a point to surround myself with wonderful souls who inspire me to be better, work smarter, dream bigger, and love harder.
If you were not doing this job, what is your plan B? Are you still chasing your dream job?
If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing who knows where I’d be. Honestly, 10 years ago I could have never predicted I’d be where I am today. I didn’t have a plan A, and I definitely didn’t have a plan B. I just followed my heart, my passions, and my interests. I studied a lot, I volunteered a lot, I worked a lot, and I tried EVERYTHING. I just never stopped doing what I loved and it all led me to this wonderful and crazy life I now call my own.
I didn’t really chase my dream job, I created my dream life.
Do you think it’s important to love what you do, or make good money?
To me the most important thing is to find something you love. That being said though, I find that the more you love what you do, the more successful you will be at it, and the more successful you are at something, the more rewards you will reap from it. So to me, the two aren’t really mutually exclusive. Love what you do enough and you’re bound to work hard enough to make good money at it.
Is owning your own business as glamorous as it sounds?
Not in the slightest. There are perks to it, but it definitely isn’t as glamorous as most would make it seem. There are a lot of late nights, a lot of early mornings, and a heck of a lot of learning curves. Regardless, the end product of being able to say you created something from the ground up is so ridiculously worth it.
What inspired you to start your own business and finally take the leap?
Honestly it wasn’t something I really set out to do purposefully. It all happened by accident. It started when my partner Emmanuel Alexander decided to get into photography. At first he was shooting products, then he started shooting himself, and from there transitioned on to women. As it turns out, he had a lot of talent and his portraits of women were actually really captivating, so we started to submit his work to various publications. What we found though was that for as many publications as there were out there, there really weren’t that many that we really wanted to be a part of. The ones that we aspired to have his work in were unattainable, and the ones that we could get his work in really didn’t present the pieces in the best way possible.
We wanted a platform where artists and contributors felt valued, whether it was how their work was being displayed or how they were being treated behind the scenes – we just knew the whole process could be better, and so rather than wait for someone else to do it, we decided to create it ourselves.
Where did you get your education? Tell us about this experience.
Funny enough, by trade I’m actually a teacher. I did my Undergrad at Western University in Human Ecology & Sociology and then completed my Masters in Child Study & Education at the University of Toronto. It was six straight years of intensive learning, that definitely wasn’t always easy, but it was absolutely more than worth it.
As someone who struggled all throughout her younger life with academics, I honestly never really knew if formalized education was the right fit for me. I failed a lot of tests, skipped a lot of class, and nearly dropped out more than a handful of times. It took me a long time to find my academic groove, but once I finally found it, nothing, and I mean nothing could stop me. I graduated with honours, I received countless awards, and I went on to become the first female in my family to receive her postgraduate degree. It sounds silly, especially considering the fact that I barely use those degrees now, but the fact that I was even able to get them instilled a confidence in me that still resonates today.
What was your first job after college/ university?
My first couple of jobs after university though were three part. After I graduated my modeling career took off so I started doing that full time, then I was fortunate enough to get hired right away by the Toronto District School Board, so I started working as a supply teacher on my days off. I also found myself lucky enough to be hired as a Motivational Speaker and Leadership Facilitator for Me to We and Free the Children. I went on a nation wide speaking tour, facilitated in India, Kenya, Nicaragua, and China, shot campaigns all over the country, filmed a whole bunch of music videos and taught at a myriad of inner city schools all around Toronto.
SKYN happened not long after that, and the rest is kind of history!
What are your tips for setting yourself apart in the workplace?
The best way to secure your future whether at a workplace, in a career, or just in life itself is to learn as much as you can from as many as you can. Ask questions, do research, and take initiative. You’d be surprised how many are willing to help you succeed if you only take the time to ask and to learn how.
How do you achieve work/ life balance? How do you unplug?
Ha, now that is something that even I’m still working on. It’s tough because so much of my job is on my phone, and as we all know, there isn’t often a point in time when your phone isn’t’ on you. So I’m kind of always at the office. That being said though I do try to unplug as much as possible, whether it’s taking the time out of my day to ensure I get a good workout in, see friends or simply take a nice long bath at the end of the day. These are the little things that keep me sane. I think the key thing to remember with anything is “Wherever you are, be there.” I find so often in our society we’re so often caught up in doing a million different things at once that it can be hard to just be present, which makes maintaining that work/life balance tricky, as we’re never really doing either effectively.
Once you decide to really be present and focus on whatever it is your doing, I find it’s way easier to make the most of your time and find that balance.
Where do you manufacture your products? How did you source the correct manufacturer?
We were actually very fortunate to partner with a great company called ‘Simple’ who helped us launch our first line of SKYN Underwear. They were much more familiar with sourcing and manufacturing and really helped us to understand the process and navigate the system. I find it’s always much easier to work with those who have done it before, so rather than reinvent the wheel, we found people who could kind of show us the ropes.
What are your plans for expansion?
When it comes to SKYN, now that we’ve ventured into the underwear realm, we’re ready to start the foyer into the apparel world – so SKYN Apparel will definitely be something that will be coming in the New Year.
What is your favourite travel hot spot?
Miami is my home away from home, so I definitely always love being able to travel there. I also got to spend some time in Turks & Caicos recently, and I absolutely loved that! To be honest though, it’s less about the destination and more about the experience for me. While I love going back to great places I know, my favorite thing to do is go somewhere new. I’m a huge adventure junkie and I love being able to explore new places and try new things, so anywhere I haven’t been is my favorite place to go.
Can you offer any advice for new graduates looking for a job or new entrepreneurs?
Honestly my best piece of advice would be just to believe in yourself. That’s the biggest thing – everything you do in life is 90% and the other 10% is in your head, so you quite literally can accomplish anything you set your mind to. All you’ve got to do is decide you want to.
Aside from that, if you’re just graduating or looking to start your career just remember:
- You know both way more and way less than you think you do. So have confidence in who you are and what you know, but also be humble enough to recognize that you still have a lot to learn.
- Network like mad. Most of the best opportunities I’ve ever received came about because I happened to meet the right person at the right time and took the time to foster the right kind of relationship.
- If you want to do something most people can’t, you’ve got to be willing to put in the effort that most people won’t. Wake up early, stay up late, and put your all into everything that you do.
And lastly – never underestimate the power of kindness, it gets you everywhere.
Social Media Links: @TheHassard | @SKYNMagazine