Who knew that a mom on-the-go could become a full-time, award-winning business owner? Ashlee Willis, founder and CEO of Michigan Premier Events (MPE), proved that this can be done and done well.
“Schedule your day,” Willis advised. “I’m an event planner, so I understand the role that it takes to schedule your day. You can do a lot of things — it’s just all about planning and prioritizing.”
Willis started MPE from her home as an artificial florist completing jobs here and there. As the years went on, people began asking for different services such as event planning, so she decided to expand her services to meet the demand. What keeps her business fresh is all the different services provided, ranging from photography to floral arrangements.
Like all things, there are certain struggles that come with running a business. One of the big ones is exposure. To overcome setbacks in exposure, Willis stays active in the community, and word of mouth from clients is a huge help. When the going gets tough, Willis turns to her family for inspiration and support. “I have a great support system with my husband and children,” she said. “My husband and I are a great team.”
MPE is not the only way Willis stretches her business intellect. She’s a member of the Greater Lansing News Boys Association and the Lansing Black Chamber of Commerce (LBCC); she instructs for the Young Entrepreneur Academy, an organization for children that inspire to become business owners, as well as one recently joined the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Her dedication to learning and natural business savvy has won her various awards, such as The Entrepreneur on the Move Award at the 2017 Community Pillar Awards Gala.
What advice does Willis have for full-time moms who have dreams? Experience. Courses and school are important, but experience shows what it takes to run a successful business. Make mistakes, “get messy” as Miss Frizzle would say and find mentors that are willing to take you out of your comfort zone.
“Keep going. Don’t give up,” said Willis. “Even though you feel like no one is watching what you’re doing, they are watching.”