Female Disruptors: Elizabeth Ashford Of Beyond The Beez On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

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I know these seem overly simple, but there is a reason we hear these pieces of advice so often. For the first piece of advice, don’t compare, it’s clear how easy that is to do but stay focused on your goal, take steps towards them every day, and trust the timing of your life.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth Ashford.

Elizabeth is the founder of BTBz, a stigma-free resource guide, e-commerce platform, and social community supporting young people’s sexual wellness journeys. She hopes that by working to champion affirming and inclusive sex education, she can help form a world where questions, consent, and curiosity are not the unexpected — but the norm.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My sexual education journey started in college. I graduated from Harvard College in 2019 with a degree in psychology. While an undergraduate, I was involved in SHEATH (Sexual Health and Education Throughout Harvard College). We put on what we coined sex week and sex weekend which were a series of events hosted by sex-educators to teach a variety of topics that most education systems don’t provide. Post-graduation, I wanted to put my love for psychology, research, accessible education and sexual wellness into one space…… and BTBz was born!

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

When it comes to BTBz, there is nothing more rewarding. For me, the happiness lies in the small moments when someone opens up about an internal sexual struggle. As a quick overview, sex and shame are deeply intertwined due to cultural norms, parental shaming, toxic masculinity, slut shaming and so much more. Furthermore, that same shame often gets its power from being unspeakable.

That is why it is so rewarding to create a space, even if I am identified as that ‘space’, where people can come to share the feelings/experiences/thoughts that they have been harboring in for months, years, or decades.

When people share their struggles, it gives BTBz a chance to let them know they are, in fact, normal. I can often visibly see a weight lifted off someone’s shoulders when they hear this. The power in this release can be truly life-changing.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I think what’s interesting about being a founder is wearing so many hats. Mistakes can often be made because you are teaching yourself new skill sets every single day. These mistakes can range from a grammar typo to sending an email to the wrong partner (never a fun one!) But you’re learning more than ever before.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

When I think of a mentor, I think of someone who pushes you and questions you — but is always in your corner. My parents come to mind as my biggest mentors. They are always here to support me on my hardest days but keep pushing me to my best. If you are someone who doesn’t have your family’s support, I recommend connecting to like minded communities!

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Being disruptive doesn’t always feel good and it is important to both accept that truth and depersonalize it. That way, the days when you feel like people are putting you down or judging you, you can remind yourself that this is the journey of being disruptive. In that same vein, I remind myself that you will never change the world by thinking just like it. The social norms we have formed around ourselves are just ideas built by other people. It is ok to push against those ideas.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Here are my top three words of advice that I’ve gotten along the way.

  1. Don’t Compare
  2. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room
  3. Treat others the way you would want to be treated

I know these seem overly simple, but there is a reason we hear these pieces of advice so often. For the first piece of advice, don’t compare, it’s clear how easy that is to do but stay focused on your goal, take steps towards them every day, and trust the timing of your life.

When it comes to #2, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room, this allows you to welcome corrections, suggestions, and feedback.

I’ve noticed that when I enter a room with this mindset, it often gives my collaborators permission to give feedback without worrying that their thoughts will be matched with a distasteful response. Bring the experts in, listen to them, and work together.

For #3, treating others the way you would want to be treated, can have a huge impact on the work environment. I worked at a company that had a very bad work culture. As my days there continued, I saw that most complaints whether it was from the intern level, or higher up amongst the directory board, were the same. Bad treatment trickles down through the company and becomes the norm. You want to uplift people and make them happy to be around you and your work. That way no one is cutting corners and there is positive and collaborative energy in its place.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

BTBz is currently undergoing a re-launching. The most exciting part of our relaunch is our content studio. We want our community to be the face (of faceless) aspect of this brand. Our series is called Bodies in Motion, where the content is featuring our community, with no face, just bodies. You can see examples of this all over our Instagram.

Here is what I love about this: too often we let this spotlight shine on the influencers and models … but let’s ask ourselves — why can’t we be the star of our own show? Why can’t we be the center of a campaign — especially one that focuses on human relations and body empowerment. At BTBz, we are ready to put that element back in the hands of our audience and redefine what inclusivity looks like.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

There are many challenges for female disruptors. I am reminded of this in the workplace, in my personal life, with relationships, and more. The double standard is everywhere.

What’s important about the male vs female dynamics is that it isn’t just men upholding ideas that make us feel small. Sometimes our female counterparts or even ourselves are just as guilty of this.

My biggest tip to fight gender oppression is to “flip the scenario”. Let me explain: When you are questioning if gender is a part of the issue you are facing, — flip the narrative — if a man was the one in the context, would it be the same? If its clear misogyn is involved — stand your ground. Make sure you are holding yourself to the same standard you want others to hold you to and not allowing people to belittle or undermine you based on gender.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

One book that changed my life is called The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. The book starts off with a thought-provoking question: “If you were given a choice between getting $3 million in cash today or a single penny that doubles in value every day for 31 days, which one would you choose?” Many of us would go to grab the big chunk of change, but the answer is the penny.

Hardy makes you realize that the slow, consistent pace has such value, and it helps me remember that even the slow days are still a step in the right direction. Take the time to build the foundation for your brand or your goals and exercise little habits that will set you up for success.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

My focus at this current moment would be to galvanize enough support to change the current direction our reproductive rights are headed in. I won’t go too far into this discussion, but I will say that our human rights are on the line. If you are on the side of pro-life, I ask that you at least make sure that you are 100% educated on the matter, because that is often where many go wrong.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote, specifically for disruptors, is by Florence Given in her book Women Don’t Owe You Pretty:

“You cannot win, and the world will judge you either way. Being your authentic self-forces people to reveal whether they deserve a place in your life or not”

I love this quote because this mindset can really help any disruptor keep their head up high despite critique of judgment. Not everyone will understand your path, but continue on with what feels true to you. (P.s if you want more amazing quotes, I can’t recommend her book enough)

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find Beyond The Beez by going to our Website (our relaunch is coming at the end of august) and our Instagram!

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.