In this episode of the Committed Creative Podcast, I interview Ashley Matkovic, the founder of one of Perth's biggest business networking groups, Fusion Biz Co.
Ash shares her journey over the past seven years - from quitting the corporate job she hated to navigating an events business during covid.
Possibly my favourite moment from the podcast was when I asked Ash if she'd ever envisioned Fusion growing as big as it's become, only for her to answer with a resounding 'yes'.
I friggin' loved that confidence and self-belief that Ash knew she was going to create an epic community for women before she'd even done it - I believe it's this mindset that has got her so far.
In the podcast, Ash talks about:
🌸 How she started Fusion to create a space where women can have authentic conversations and connect on a deeper level.
🌸 The challenges of running a business, including feeling lonely and not having a support network, which is why Fusion is so important.
🌸 Her journey as an introvert running networking events, and how she has learned to step into her role as a leader and create a welcoming environment for others.
🌸 Why celebrating wins is important in business, as it helps to acknowledge and appreciate your achievements.
🌸 How the biggest challenge for many businesses is getting in front of more people and marketing their business effectively.
🌸 Why mindset is a major challenge for business owners, and how having a supportive community can help to shift perspectives and overcome mindset roadblocks.
If you want to learn more about Ash, check out Fusion here, and grab tickets to their Christmas do here.
If you love this episode, please drop us a DM on Instagram @redplatypuscreative
Feel free to take a screenshot of the episode and share it, along with why you loved it.
Want to find out more about what we do?
(Heads up - I'm a content strategist and PR consultant who helps businesses tell their stories clearly and consistently to make more conversion$.)
You can check us out at www.redplatypuscreative.com
Or book in a free call and let's discuss we might be able to help you.
0:00:03 - (Carmen): Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the Committed Creative Podcast. I'm your host, Carmen Allan-Petale. Now, this week on the podcast, I had the amazing founder of Fusion Bisco with me having a chat. Her name is Ashley Matkovic and I joined Fusion a few months ago now, and and I immediately love the vibe of the group of women that come together a few times a month and share their stories about business, what's happening in their lives, and really just connect with one another.
0:00:40 - (Carmen): Because as we know, running your own business can be quite lonely. Sometimes you're in your home all day on your own. I certainly am right now.
0:00:49 - (Ashley): And sometimes it can feel like we.
0:00:51 - (Carmen): Can'T bounce ideas off anyone. Maybe our friends don't own their own businesses, so they don't really get where we're coming from. So it can be a little bit of a lonely experience and that's where Fusion comes in. It's really about connecting like minded women working in business, whether they are just starting out or whether they've been in business for a long while, like myself, ten years. And it's about bringing them together so they feel a little less lonely and they feel a lot more connected and that they're part of a community who truly gets them.
0:01:25 - (Carmen): But without further ado, I'll let Ash share her story. Let's dive in. Hi, Ash, and welcome to the committed Creator podcast.
0:01:36 - (Ashley): Hi Carmen, thanks for having me.
0:01:38 - (Carmen): I'm so excited to have you with me today because I am a Fusion member. But for those of us listening who don't know what Fusion is, perhaps you can begin by telling us a little bit about your business and what it is you do.
0:01:50 - (Ashley): Yeah, so Fusion has been in the works for over ten years now, so I've been running business networking events for women for only probably seven of those years. Before that, it was social networking events in Perth just to kind of have a space where people could come and be welcome, to show their true, authentic self and meet other people from that set point. Rather than just going into a bar and you try to talk to a stranger and they're just looking at you like, why are you talking to me?
0:02:17 - (Ashley): I wanted to create that really open space for people to come and connect on a really genuine level. It kind of like shifted into business networking after I really got into business networking and realized seven years ago there was nothing like genuine networking. There was just like the business cards and the suits and all of that kind of vibe, which I was so not into. I just love to have real, honest conversations that I want to talk about what's on my heart. Like, I don't care about how much money you made.
0:02:46 - (Ashley): I care about what's really going on in your life and where can we kind of get to the nitty gritty and brainstorm some new perspectives and all that kind of thing. So I started running coffee catch ups for women in business, women in Perth, and then that expanded into a membership. So we had the online membership and in person events to really form that strong community. And then that has now expanded into sellout events. And we have two tiers of membership now to suit everyone, every level of business owner and the type of connection they're looking for. So that's kind of where we're at. It's like it's my passion.
0:03:24 - (Ashley): Someone titled me the other day with the title The Queen of Cultivating Authentic Connections and I love that. Yeah, so I put it in my bio now.
0:03:36 - (Carmen): It's so good. So how many members do you have now? Infused?
0:03:40 - (Ashley): So, on the base membership, we just hit over 500 actually on that. So that's exciting. And then VIP members, we're hovering around 60, 70, and that's really only been going for a year now. So VIP membership is where it's all inclusive, so all events are included and just a smaller group where you can really form those strong connections with each other because you're seeing each other more regularly and getting to know each other at the events.
0:04:07 - (Ashley): So that's the numbers.
0:04:08 - (Carmen): That's awesome. So what was Ash doing before you came up with the idea for Fusion? Were you working in events?
0:04:16 - (Ashley): No, I was working in a soul sucking job in the city and actually the idea for running events, I just moved back from London actually. So I was living in London for two years, as we all know those gap years, and went to go find myself over there. Didn't find myself. But then I came back to Perth, got a job at a mining company because I grew up up north, so all my family worked in mining and then I just hated going there every day. It was like a piece of my soul was dying.
0:04:48 - (Ashley): I'm quite naturally introverted and so being in an open plan office for 8 hours a day with people and their energy and it was really difficult for me. So I would just be strategizing in the office, like how I could grow the business to get out of there. But it took me, I would say three or four years since starting the business to be able to comfortably leave corporate and go full time into the business, which the day I did, which was I think like six years ago now, I literally skipped out of there.
0:05:21 - (Ashley): It's the best feeling I think I've ever had, being able to quit my job and go full time on the business with my passion and work from home and still be able to go out and meet people at my events, but then be able to have that downtime at home when I needed it. On the couch, too.
0:05:37 - (Carmen): Amazing. So did you set yourself a goal? Like when you reached X milestone in your business that would be when you would quit or how did that work out?
0:05:46 - (Ashley): Yeah, so I had saved up probably three or four months of living expenses that I knew would kind of back me. I'd started the membership, I think it was seven months prior I'd started the membership. So I had that recurring revenue that I knew I'd be able to grow if I could focus full time on the business. And I just went for it. I knew there was no way I'd be able to go back with my tail between my legs after I quit or no way I'd want to.
0:06:13 - (Ashley): And, yeah, I just hustled for the next three months and haven't had to get another job since. So. Thank God.
0:06:20 - (Carmen): Amazing. And, I mean, you mentioned there that you are an introvert. How does an introvert end up running networking events?
0:06:31 - (Ashley): I know, it's so funny that I'm an introvert and I run networking events. I'll tell you the story behind why I did start, the deeper reason why I started fusion. So I was always a very shy girl, kind of growing up. Never really felt like I fit in anywhere. And when I had the idea to start running events, I was like, this is so out of my comfort zone. But it was something driven internally from me that I knew this kind of was my purpose and I had to do this, I guess, for my soul evolution.
0:07:05 - (Ashley): I don't know, every time I'd go to an event, I'd put an event on, I'd be there and I'd be like to myself, this is the last time I'm ever hosting event. It's too uncomfortable. I feel so awkward. I'm no leader, I'm not a host. And then I'd go home and recuperate and the next few days I'd be planning the next one. And so I never really understood why I was driven to put these events on until I went to a hypnotherapist. A friend of mine, she was like, Ash, let's work on this, because I was having a lot of obviously at the events, I was really feeling out of my body and not in control of myself.
0:07:42 - (Ashley): I was having all these constant chatter in my mind, like, I'm not good enough, I don't fit in, blah, blah, blah. So she was like, let's work on this. And I went to see her and she took me back to the classroom of year two. So I don't know if you've done hypnotherapy before, Carmen, but they take you like so you're working on an issue, they take you back to the first time you felt like that in your life so that you can kind of rewrite that story for yourself.
0:08:06 - (Ashley): So the first time I felt like I didn't fit in was my year two classroom. I just moved schools from one side of the country to the other and I was crying every day going to school because I just could not find my people, right? And I didn't feel safe and my mum had had enough of it. So she got out of the know slippers in her dressing gown, she like, walked me into the classroom, holding my hand and she said, Ashley, who do you want to be friends with? And I pointed to this little girl in the corner, this little blonde girl, and Mum marched me over and she said, elise, will you be friends with Ashley and show her around? And she was like, of course.
0:08:42 - (Ashley): And funny side, like, that's still my best friend to this day. It's so nice. But that was the first time where my little seven year old body didn't feel like I fit in right. She did a lot of work in rewriting that, all the stories and narratives wrapped up in that. And when I came out of that hypnosis, she was like, don't you realize why you've started fusion is because you wanted to create that safe space for people to come and be themselves and feel welcomed and accepted.
0:09:15 - (Ashley): Because you yourself, like you're trying to rewrite that story all along. And just like, that just made so much sense to me that, yeah, this is why I do it, this is why I do what I do. It's so much more than being an introvert or networking. It's connection at the deepest level. Connection is my highest value and it's my passion and my legacy.
0:09:39 - (Carmen): That's beautiful. So do you still feel like that when you go to events that you sometimes?
0:09:45 - (Ashley): Yeah, sometimes I do. I haven't rewritten. That not my events, I must say. I feel like I step into a Sasha Fierce kind of like Beyonce role and get it done. And I guess because I'm in control and I am the leader and I welcomed that into my life. Now, I do feel like I'm more of a leader now, but other people's events and things like that, I still definitely feel like that sometimes.
0:10:09 - (Carmen): Yeah.
0:10:10 - (Ashley): So, yeah, old habits die hard, but I think I wouldn't ever want to be that person who's not always thinking about how other people are feeling and trying to be inclusive and things like that. So it's kind of always rolling in my head. But I am so much more confident now.
0:10:27 - (Carmen): Yeah, it's true. When I go to fusion events, everyone is always so welcoming and I've never felt unwelcome. I've always felt like I belong in the room, even if I felt nervous before turning up. How do you go about welcoming people and making them feel like they are in a safe space?
0:10:44 - (Ashley): Yeah, so it starts way before people buy a ticket or become a member. Everything that you do as a human and as a business owner as well. I really make sure before events, I'll send out a big, long pre event email sharing that I understand that they're probably feeling nervous and these are the things we're doing to counteract that. And this is how we're going to make you feel welcome and just really set the scene.
0:11:11 - (Ashley): Most events which, Carmen, I don't think you might have experienced it before because you've been to the big, big events like the World Entrepreneur Day and the Speed Networking, but a lot of the smaller events, I'll set the scene with some vulnerability. So I'll try and be vulnerable myself by sharing something about me or whatever. And that just is the invitation that people need to open up and share their true, authentic self because everyone wants that invitation, but you don't always get it at events. And so no one feels like they want to kind of break this seal and be real and raw and honest about what's really going on until someone else might do it. And as the host, it's my responsibility to lead the way and do that. So I find if I have the opportunity to do that and we are doing like a deeper kind of mastermind style event, I'll do that. And the conversations that come from it is just so beautiful and the way that people open up and it's not even just talking about business stuff, but people talk about what's going on in their personal life, about infertility issues. And so many things come up.
0:12:10 - (Ashley): I reckon probably every second event we have someone who's crying at the event because their vulnerability has been opened up and they felt safe to do that. So I think if there's any, if any of your community host events, I think my main message would be to give people that invitation to kind of open up and show themselves because people want to do that. And it can be as simple as getting people to connect and sharing one thing that went well for them today or something like that.
0:12:40 - (Ashley): Just giving them the invitation to start connecting outside of the people who they came to the event with is just going to open up for such a beautiful, memorable event.
0:12:51 - (Carmen): I really admire that. And it's true because my friend went to her first event recently and she said that she was feeling really nervous and then she got your email and she felt a lot better because she was even thinking about not going because she was that nervous. And then when she got your letter, your email, and it had attendees listed and everything, she felt a lot more comfortable. And then she saw I was on the list and she was like, oh, that's good because we went to school together and I think it does just make people feel more comfortable.
0:13:19 - (Carmen): What about COVID though? Because obviously that was difficult for events everywhere, globally. How did you manage to survive COVID?
0:13:28 - (Ashley): Yeah, COVID was hard. I feel like I'm still recovering from I've still got like PTSD from that and in saying that Perth didn't really even get it that bad, but there was definitely a couple of events. One event I was even putting my makeup on to go to and a state daddy came on the TV and he was like, we have to shut down everything, no one can leave their home. And so I had to cancel event with 50 people and luckily the Fusion community are the kindest, most understanding people and they're all business owners so they all get it. So we were able to either do refunds or credits for the reschedule but it was just with the mandatory vaccines that split the community in half as well because some people weren't going to get it and so they couldn't come to the venues that I booked. And so then I was trying to do outside events, we did a couple of picnic events to cater to those people but then that created the divide in the community as well because we had like the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
0:14:27 - (Ashley): So it was just really messy and just really went against a lot of my values. So it was tough and I think you don't realize until you come through that and you look back and you're like, wow, yeah, that was a really shit time. And the fact that I kept going, kept putting on events, we still had one event every month, like during COVID for those years. The fact that I still did that and we still pulled through and the business is still thriving now, I'm not going to lie, the business did make a loss for a few months there during COVID but I think that was the biggest test for my passion and the business. Like if I can survive that, I'll be able to survive anything and it's clear that this is my passion and my legacy, like I said. So yeah, it was a test but we came through.
0:15:13 - (Carmen): Well done you. And would you say that was the most challenging time in your business so far?
0:15:19 - (Ashley): Yeah, 100%.
0:15:22 - (Carmen): Sorry.
0:15:23 - (Ashley): No, you go.
0:15:24 - (Carmen): I was just going to say because I know also that you mentioned that you also had kids pretty much just after you founded your business. How has that been? Juggling motherhood and founding a business and running a successful business like you?
0:15:39 - (Ashley): Yeah, I think well my first baby was born three years after no, two years after I was able to go full time in the business. So it was quite well established by then. I had people helping me, I had an event manager and a VA and things like that. So it was actually okay. I think starting a business when you have little ones would be harder. So I'm glad that I did put in the hard yards before I was ready to have kids.
0:16:05 - (Ashley): But my second was born in the peak of COVID like in no, maybe it was just after, but my second was born two years ago, so that would have been just after COVID where I was still struggling with all the anxiety and things. I had a lot of anxiety postnatal anxiety after she was born. And so that was probably the hardest, having to going from the jump from one child to two children, having a successful business, having a FIFO husband, which is fly and fly out if any of your listeners aren't from Perth. But he goes away six months of a year, right? Every second week he's away.
0:16:41 - (Ashley): So having to learn how to navigate that and juggle that, but also keep my nervous system regulated so that I can function for these two little humans and have the creative energy that I need to come up with the event concepts and do all that kind of vision work. That's been the biggest learning curve, but I feel like I'm getting a handle on it now that my youngest is two. I feel like it's been the biggest growth journey I could have ever asked for. The hardest. But you don't get growth through easy times, do you? So I'm grateful for it, but, yeah, it was hard.
0:17:18 - (Carmen): I don't know how you do it with a FIFO husband. I just admire for that. It must be so difficult, those weeks that he's away. Do you ever host events on those weeks?
0:17:28 - (Ashley): Sometimes. My mum is FIFO as well, so she's opposite swing to my husband, which is so handy. So she's just like on call, mom, can you babysit? But I also have an unspoken agreement with my husband that when he's home, he's primary carer. So it's basically like I'm one week on, one week off of the business as well. So when he's away, I'm focused on the girls because if I don't do that, I definitely notice their behavior and their clinginess and their need for attention just grows so much. And so I just need to make sure I'm filling up their little love cups first.
0:18:04 - (Ashley): And then when Daddy's home, like, tag team hand over, I'm off to the office and I'm off to the gym and I'm like doing all stuff for me, so it's a juggle, but it's good. I love having little kids. It's my favorite.
0:18:16 - (Carmen): Yeah, it's pretty great, isn't it? So those are some of the challenging things about running your business. But what about the great things? What have been some of the most pivotal moments in your business that you've just looked back on and thought, wow, I can't believe that happened to me.
0:18:32 - (Ashley): Yeah, so many. So like, how many can I tell? I'll tell a story how it's kind of intertwined with two wins, actually. So back in 2019, when I had my first baby, I flew Lorna Jane over the biggest girl boss in Australia. I flew her over to Perth to interview her live on stage for my community in front of 200 women. Do you remember that?
0:18:54 - (Carmen): I don't think I was living in Perth then. What year was it?
0:18:57 - (Ashley): 2019.
0:18:59 - (Carmen): No, I wasn't in Perth. Yeah.
0:19:03 - (Ashley): So that was a big win for me because I'd been hounding her PR team for like two years. And they kept saying, no, no. And they kept saying, just keep us updated with what you're up to over there. Let us know how you're going. So every few months I'd email them and be like, look, this is what we did. Hosted Lisa Messenger first, so she knew they were friends. Like Lorna Jane and her were friends. So I got the direct introduction with Lorna.
0:19:26 - (Ashley): And so she was like, finally, after two years of handing her, she said yes. She would come over here, obviously for a nice fee, a nice speaker fee, and she said yes, like just a few months before I was about to pop with my first baby. So it's not like I could say, no, it's not going to happen. So I just made it happen with Newborn and having to get sponsorships on board because the speaker fee was so massive, the venue hired and cover all those costs and things like that.
0:20:00 - (Ashley): So did that. That afforded amazing credibility for the business, which was after the event come down from that one was like, oh my was it was huge for um but the lady who helped me get the sponsorships on board for that event, her name is Allie and she was my right hand woman. Just helping me get everything done for the event. And I'm so grateful for her. She actually contacted me a couple of weeks ago. We hadn't really talked because she'd changed companies and kind of just move on.
0:20:33 - (Ashley): And anyway, she landed in my inbox and she said, I have a weird and wonderful opportunity for you and Fusion. And she said, we're doing a marketing campaign with this big internet company in Perth and we want to partner with Fusionbizco and we want to play on internet connections and human connections. So build a campaign around that. So you're going to get all this free exposure on billboards, buses, radio, like Nova.
0:21:00 - (Ashley): Would you be interested in that? And I was like, would I be interested? So from that one contact, like four years ago, she remembered me and my business. Seen it grow throughout that time. And obviously you saw the value in partnering with Fusion. And now that campaign is going to go live next week. So I've redone the website, make sure everything's good to go for some more traffic coming through because I feel like this is like the precipice of big growth because we're going mainstream marketing now.
0:21:33 - (Carmen): That's so freaking exciting.
0:21:36 - (Ashley): Yeah.
0:21:37 - (Carmen): And also, you didn't say about who the photographer was either.
0:21:41 - (Ashley): Oh, yeah, the photographer, yes. This internet company, she was like, can you get to a photo shoot in the next two days? And I was like, initially I was like, no, because I've got my kids at home with me and I'm not going to ask some of the Fusion girls to be there in two days notice. But she talked me around and she was like, you can do, like, okay, yes, I will do it, and got there for the photo shoot, for the billboards and things like that. And the photographer is like, this world renowned photographer who shot Barack Obama, serena Williams, and LeBron James, and has shot people on the front of Times Magazine.
0:22:16 - (Ashley): And so we're like, what? That was a big pinch me moment, actually.
0:22:21 - (Carmen): That's so cool. I cannot wait to see the campaign. It's going to be epic. And you've also done a lot of partnerships. Like, tell us about your partnership with Brooke and who Brooke is and how you guys have collaborated in the past.
0:22:33 - (Ashley): Yeah. So Brooke Villanovich is like, if you're in Perth, everyone would know Brooke. She's, like, famous. So she came to one of my very first events, like, seven years ago. And after that event, she contacted me and asked if she could run an Instagram workshop for my community. And this was even before she was doing Instagram, like, coaching. Right. And she wanted to kind of test the waters because at the Fusion events, we always go around and share what our biggest challenge is. And most people at that event said social media was hard and she was running a successful business, built it, basically, off Instagram.
0:23:09 - (Ashley): So she wanted to kind of pivot into that space. And yeah, since then, we've run International Women's Day together seven times. It's coming up the 7th time in March. And now we have that event at Crown. There's 300 women. We've got a massive sponsor that we're about to announce that's coming on board for that. So that's kind of bringing on a life of its own with that. So we kind of just bounce off each other every now and then, me and Brooke. She lives over in Croatia now, lucky gal.
0:23:38 - (Ashley): But she's coming back for the event, which is so it's really cool. A lot of my best business friends came to the very first events back in the day. So that's why I think it's so important to get out and meet people in person because it's just not the same as connecting on Instagram. Like, you can meet one person once at an event and have a lifelong friendship, or you can talk to someone on Instagram all the time and never really feel fully connected.
0:24:04 - (Carmen): Yeah. What other businesses come to Fusion events?
0:24:07 - (Ashley): There's a mix because we don't necessarily coach or anything like that. It's just connection and talking about the issues that are going on in your business. And I think everyone that comes has experience behind them that can share and add value to the conversation. So it's a really good mix, I would say. I actually did the stats for a sponsorship proposal, I think probably more so business consultants, I would say, like coaches and things like that.
0:24:35 - (Ashley): But we have quite a few creatives as well that come along and just want to chat about all their challenges, too. So it's a really lovely mix of business owners and all different levels, too. Some people have been in business ten, even Lala, she's been in business 20 years. So, yeah, it's a really good mix.
0:24:53 - (Carmen): Yeah, it's so awesome and it's so different to so many other networking events that I've ever been to. It's got a really high energy vibe and yeah, I feel like people, as you say, it's beyond just like that scratching that surface level. People really want to dive deep into who you are and what you're doing. Aside from connection, what would you say are some of the other benefits of being a part of Fusion?
0:25:16 - (Ashley): I think it would definitely grow your business because people buy from people they know, like and trust and meeting people in person fast tracks that know you're going to get referrals because people know you as a person and trust you. You're going to get people that want to buy what you have to offer. Like at the speed networking the other night, Yasha bought her magnesium that she create. Like, she produces her own magnesium powder. I don't know if you met her. Yeah, I I did. Did, yeah. And she had some in her car boot, so she was like, does anyone need any magnesium stock up? Because we're all on it now. Because if I hadn't have met Yasha and I wouldn't have known about the benefits of magnesium because I just wouldn't. And since I met her, I'm like, oh, I need to get on.
0:26:03 - (Ashley): Don't I think there is just so many benefits of getting out from behind Instagram and your computer and meeting people in real life because you're going to get more visible, right? You're going to get more customers, but not only that, you're going to get some random exciting opportunities that are going to drop into your world, like that colab with the Internet company that happened because I knew someone way back when.
0:26:26 - (Ashley): So there's so many different facets of it's going to grow your confidence, you're going to feel like you have a support network around you so that you can get through the tough days. You're going to grow your business, you're going to stay the course. There's just so many benefits I could go on.
0:26:42 - (Carmen): And you also have a sounding board to ask questions, to, pitch questions to. Like you were saying before, obviously you have the finger on the pulse because you speak to so many businesses all the time about what they're going through. What would you say are some of the major challenges that businesses are facing at the moment?
0:27:01 - (Ashley): Oh, good question. I do. I literally sit in circle with these women and talk about problems all the time. What would I say? I mean, the number one thing would be getting in front of more people. Like, how do we market our. Business. That's the main thing, like getting that cash flow and that revenue coming in that regular. Oh, gosh. What else? A lot of the challenges are mindset related. I think that is always going to be 80% mindset, 20% strategy.
0:27:33 - (Ashley): So if you know the right questions to ask and you can dig a little bit deeper into why they're thinking that or why they're feeling that and offer a little different of a perspective, like give them a perspective shift that in itself has the chance to change their whole trajectory. And yeah, I think having we sit in circle with six to eight women in those mastermind sessions, I don't know if you've come to one yet for VIP, but they're quite small, really intimate, and everyone at the table has a different perspective or has been through that before, that can offer their way out of it.
0:28:10 - (Ashley): In challenges, there's so many different ones that are brought to the table, but I like the deep ones. I like to know where's your mindset roadblock, what do you really think about business and things like that? So that's what I like to hear.
0:28:25 - (Carmen): And do you think a lot of it does come down to mindset itself? Like the women in Fusion need to have the right, like a healthy mindset in order to grow their business, otherwise the only thing holding them back, I guess, is themselves.
0:28:38 - (Ashley): Exactly, yeah. If you can think big, you'll play big. The only thing getting in our way is ourselves because I network with big businesses now as well, and startup businesses, so I see the spectrum and the only difference is the belief in themselves. If they can really go after it and get it done, the only difference is the belief shooting bigger, dreaming bigger, and each time you dream big and you hit that goal, you start to dream a bit bigger.
0:29:11 - (Ashley): But at every level there's a new devil. So even business owners that have been around for 1020 years, they're still buting up against different things that come up. So I think that's why you should always be networking, surrounding yourself with people that are a few steps ahead of you so that you can keep bashing through those barriers.
0:29:31 - (Carmen): Yes, good point. And I love how Fusion also celebrates the wins. Like recently at one of your events, you had Sonia, who was presenting, who is like the search Queen SEO specialist, and we were celebrating her business birthday. How important do you think it is to celebrate those wins in business?
0:29:50 - (Ashley): Yeah, it's everything. Otherwise what's the point? You're striving for all these goals. If you don't stop to celebrate and reflect on achieving that or how far you've come or exactly. Then what's the point? I think it's all to do with about how you're feeling inside and you have to make the time and the effort to feel those feelings and feel proud of yourself. And even if you're only six months in your business and you've made your first sale.
0:30:19 - (Ashley): Celebrate that and what you focus on is going to expand and grow from there. Whereas I think we're talking about this before, about event ticket, like ticket sales and things like that. I celebrate every single ticket that comes through because I know that that energy that I'm putting out into the world is just going to expand even more and just understanding that. Like I said to you, whoever's meant to be at the event will be there. I don't put the pressure on trying to make numbers or whatever, but it's all about how you're feeling and what you're appreciating. Because if you're just thinking, oh my God, I only made $100 this month or whatever, then that's not going to appreciate.
0:30:58 - (Ashley): It's all about how you feel and you can get intentional with the feelings that you create within yourself and you.
0:31:04 - (Carmen): Get back what you put out. So if you focus on the positives, you'll attract more of the positives.
0:31:10 - (Ashley): Exactly. Yes. But sometimes easier said than done. I still get stuck into the trap sometimes.
0:31:14 - (Carmen): Oh yeah, me too. Me too. So where do you get inspiration for your events? Because you've had so many different events at so many different locations, what kind of inspires you when you're planning an event?
0:31:30 - (Ashley): I think I get inspiration from everywhere. I don't know, maybe I always have an idea in my head of the pipeline of events that I want to run and just having that creative energy to bring that vision to life. I guess I just drop in and I make sure that I'm doing the work internally to silence the mind chatter and try and be mindful so that I am kind of just clear on the vision that I want to create. But yeah, I don't know. I'm always trying to think about my customer and what they might need in this moment and what's going to be most valuable to them and how are we going to find different ways to get women to connect at a new level and get them to open.
0:32:16 - (Ashley): Yeah, I think because it's my passion. I just am always just thinking about that stuff.
0:32:21 - (Carmen): Yeah, for sure. And what kind of events are your favorites? Do you have any that are real standouts? I mean, obviously the Lorna Jane one, but have there been other standout events that have really stuck in your mind and perhaps inspired you for future events?
0:32:39 - (Ashley): Well, my favorite events are the smallest ones, actually. The ones where we can go deep with the people who are there. So one of my even favorite events of all time, there was only five women there and it was a mental health breakfast and we just sat there and we all talked about what was really going on inside. And yeah, that was one of my favorite because we all got a chance to be in the hot seat and talk about everything that was going on for us internally and really feel that for the person.
0:33:11 - (Ashley): So my favorite events are the smaller ones. And yeah, as I said before, I'm an introvert, so the bigger events are fun, but naturally, for me, it's not easy. It's like a bit of a stretch. It drains me a little bit, but I love being there. But then after, I feel drained. But whereas if I go to these smaller events and I can have real heartfelt conversations and not have to feel like, oh, I've got to cut off talking to this person because I got to go do this now.
0:33:42 - (Ashley): That's why I started fusion and that's.
0:33:45 - (Carmen): What I love about it. That's so beautiful because what other networking events? I can't think of any. Do you go and you've actually spoken about your mental health? It just is a testament to the safe spaces that you're creating that people feel that comfortable, that they can open up. Have you had any? I mean, I guess a lot of women are mums and you touched on it briefly there, that you had some postnatal anxiety.
0:34:12 - (Carmen): Do these mums often help each other out when it comes to running a business as a mum?
0:34:18 - (Ashley): Yeah, definitely. You'll find I'll be at an event and there might be only, like six or seven, and five will be mums, and the conversation just goes to mum in business kind of conversation, because that's what's really hard for us at the moment. And so I always am very trying to make sure I'm steering the conversation away from just, like, the mum stuff, because I think mums in business just have such a different level of mental juggle, I guess.
0:34:54 - (Ashley): Yeah. So I am just mindful that people that don't have kids there because I remember what it was like when I didn't have kids and people were just talking about how hard it was to be a mum. And I was like, everyone just talks about how hard it is to be a mum. And then now I am a mom. And I'm like, oh, now I get it. You need that outlet, you need to have that sounding board and that person that will hold you there and just be like yeah, I feel you. Yeah, it's really fucking hard.
0:35:20 - (Ashley): So, yeah, I even myself now gravitate towards mums in business. Yeah, they get it.
0:35:29 - (Carmen): You find like, for me personally, though, I love working for myself because it's that flexibility. Like if the school calls and they're like, you need to pick up your daughter, she's sick, I can just be there in five minutes. And I love that flexibility, I think it almost prevents me from ever going to work for someone else again. Not that I would want to do that because I love my freedom too much. Do you find that flexibility is great? Like even the fact that you can work one week on, one week off around your husband's roster.
0:35:55 - (Carmen): That must be so awesome.
0:35:57 - (Ashley): Yeah, totally. And the days can be really hard sometimes if you're having a tough day in business or something goes wrong. But then I'll get stuck in that like, oh, this is so hard, why am I doing this? And then I'll think about, okay, what's the alternative is. Like, I could go and get a job and then I could switch off at 05:00 p.m.. But then you don't have that freedom and that flexibility and you can't be there for your kids when they need you, like you were saying. And I think that's an easy kind of like get you out of that funk and switch the energy because I would definitely much rather this hard than the hard of working for someone else.
0:36:35 - (Carmen): Yeah, I'm sure your happiness is a lot greater now that you're not working for the mining company where you felt miserable at. What would you say to someone who perhaps is in that situation right now and they want to make the jump into a creative business or maybe an events business or whatever it might be, but they're feeling quite nervous about it and unsure of themselves. What kind of advice would you give that person?
0:36:59 - (Ashley): Yeah, I would say just base your success of having the courage to do the thing, not the outcome, but having the courage to try. Because so many people get stuck thinking about or planning what they're going to do and never actually do it. But if you have the courage to even just put yourself out there. Like, for me, if I have the courage to put an event on sale, tickets on sale and no one buys, I'm trying to base my success of having the courage to do that in the first place rather than the success of selling like 100 tickets to an event. Right, so I watched this really good it was like a documentary by Brene Brown, I can't remember what it's called, but she was like, just have the courage to get off the starting blocks and then that's what have the courage to ask that person for that partnership or have the courage to even start something, create something.
0:37:58 - (Ashley): So base your success on the courage that you have. That's what I would say. And just try.
0:38:05 - (Carmen): It's almost about taking that first step. And once you do it, you realize it's actually not that scary. We have so many fears, but a lot of them are just unfounded and they're just made up in our heads. Really. The truth is it's probably never going to be that bad. It's probably going to be pretty good. Did you ever envision that fusion would have grown to what it is today?
0:38:24 - (Ashley): Yeah, I always had this vision.
0:38:26 - (Carmen): Yeah, I love that you manifested it.
0:38:30 - (Ashley): Yeah, exactly. I remember writing in my journal. I remember writing because I do this thing with my journaling. It's called future paced journaling. You journal as if it's already happened, as if your goals have already happened and how it feels. And way back when I was in my day job, I was journaling, oh my God, the 200th member just joined. I'm so excited. All the women are so incredible. They're getting so much value from meeting each other and yeah, I look back in those journals, I'm like, wow, yes.
0:39:00 - (Carmen): That came 500 members.
0:39:02 - (Ashley): Yeah, exactly. I did always have and I've been talking for years about how eventually I want to take Fusion national, but it hasn't felt right with the little kids, but next year it's happening. So I've just started talking about it a bit more and it's felt more right. So, yeah, I think this is just the beginning for Fusion with WA, I want to go national and then, who knows, maybe globally one day.
0:39:27 - (Carmen): But yeah, so exciting. Is there anything like when you look back that you would have done differently to what you have done? Is there any kind of mistakes you learned along the way that you would let people know about so that they don't make the same mistakes?
0:39:46 - (Ashley): Good one. Yeah, okay. I would say you're never going to be able to make everyone happy, so don't try. That sounds good.
0:39:55 - (Carmen): Tip.
0:39:57 - (Ashley): There's been so many times I've made a decision and when you're growing past 100, 200 members and you're getting all these opinions and I've received emails before that put me in bed for like two days because it hurts so much. I'm such a sensitive soul and like, obviously membership based business, people cancel all the time. So kind of dealing with that and the mindset that comes around, that is hard. But yeah, the feedback that you're going to get from people is not always going to be positive.
0:40:35 - (Ashley): So I would say do what's right for you and your business and make sure your business is funding your lifestyle as well because you need to make sure that it's a business and not a hobby because it's taking time away from your kids and things like that. So it's okay to make money and you're not going to please everyone and that's still a hard thing for me. I still want to please everyone and I still take on people's opinions and viewpoints. But if it's just one random comment, then I recover a lot quicker these days because my skin is getting a lot thicker and my self worth is growing a lot and I know what I'm doing is valuable.
0:41:18 - (Ashley): But in the early days that was one of the hardest things is having being so sensitive to everyone's comments, hearing things through grapevine because it's a community of women, right? So you can't control everyone's view and how they're interacting with everyone outside that. So all you can do is have everyone's interests at heart, but do what's right for you as well.
0:41:45 - (Carmen): That's such sound advice. There's always going to be one person who complains. It's so true. You cannot make everyone happy and you'll die trying, honestly. And I think it's all about growing resilience as well. As you say you've got a thicker skin now and you can kind of brush it off a lot faster than you could have when you were starting out. So that's awesome. It's all a learning curve. What are the future plans for Fusion? I mean, you touched on it briefly there that you want to go national and perhaps it's happening next year, but what other exciting things are in the pipeline?
0:42:19 - (Ashley): So yeah, I'm going to go national next year, which is exciting, so I'm going to start an online version of networking and then grow Fusion presence in all the different states and then eventually launch in person networking events in each of the states. So that's the plan for next year with the VIP membership. I'm just about to launch a new members hub online, which is very exciting. So you'll get first access to that. Carmen Woohoo so yeah, in the past it's been a bit disjointed. We've had event ticketing software, we've had Facebook groups, we've had websites, kind of like you have to kind of emails, you have to kind of go everywhere to find everything.
0:42:56 - (Ashley): But now it's going to be all housed in one place. So all the past coaching calls, the past master classes, all the events, all the member perks and stuff's all going to be in one home, which is really exciting. And also it's going to be off Facebook. I find a lot of people are moving away from the Facebook platform nowadays, so it's going to be kind of a standalone app, so people can have the app and get the push notifications if they want.
0:43:22 - (Ashley): So I feel like this is like next level version of professional business. So that's what's exciting.
0:43:30 - (Carmen): Yeah, that sounds like it would have been a lot of effort to bring it all together. Have you had help putting it all together? Like how have you managed that?
0:43:37 - (Ashley): Well, no, it's a membership software that already exists and you can white label it with your business logo and name on there. So it hasn't been a lot of work. There is so much tech out there these days that makes it easy for smaller businesses like mine that can jump on board and provide this experience for the members. So it hasn't actually been hard at all and it's not even really that expensive either. So I think there's so much opportunity for business owners now in terms of tech and AI and making it easy for people that this is why I'm saying business is all about mindset because there's so many tools and apps and you can find out everything about growing a business on YouTube.
0:44:21 - (Ashley): So it only comes down to your mindset of can you implement that strategy? Can you bust through the blocks and the barriers in your own inner world to be able to believe that's possible for you.
0:44:34 - (Carmen): And yeah, so true. That's a great way to finish. So, if anyone is thinking about coming along to a Fusion event, what have you got coming up that you can share with our listeners?
0:44:45 - (Ashley): Yes. So we have the Christmas party coming up. That's on the 13 December and it's going to be a night under the stars and it's my dream event that I've wanted to put on for years. So it's going to be fairy lights everywhere, it's going to be on the banks of the Swan River, it's going to be a balmy night and it's going to be the best businesswomen in town, all celebrating another year. And I really just wanted to create a magical experience to celebrate these women because everyone works so hard, but then as a sole trader or even like a small team, you don't get that chance to really let your hair down and celebrate an amazing year in business. So I want to do that for the businesswomen of Perth. And you're coming, not wait.
0:45:25 - (Carmen): It's going to be so much fun. I'm really looking forward to it. So anyone listening, you should really get your butts along to the event because it's going to be epic.
0:45:32 - (Ashley): Yeah. Thank you.
0:45:34 - (Carmen): Thank you so much, Ash. I really enjoyed our chat today. You have so much great insight into running a business and it's a testament to Fusion because what you've done is simply amazing and bringing so many women together and being a business owner can be really lonely. So hats off to you for creating this wonderful community where women can connect and feel like they're a part of something. So thank you so much, Ash.
0:46:00 - (Ashley): Thank you, Carmen. This has been such a good chat. You have had such good questions and I feel like it really brought out the best. So you're an incredible thank you.
0:46:10 - (Carmen): Oh, thanks. Thank you for listening to the committee creative podcast. I would be ever so appreciative if you could head on over and subscribe to the pod or leave me a review. Or if you're so inclined, head on over to my website, Redplatypuscreative.com, and send me an email with some feedback. I'm all ears. Until next time, here's to going all in on your creative pursuits.