I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashanti Altovese Griffin. Ashanti is a lifestyle entrepreneur with a passion for food, fashion and fitness. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and balances her technical background with creative talents that promote beauty and diversity. As founder of The Academy for the Aesthetic Arts, she offers meal preparation programs, original women’s fashion designs and fitness coaching for those looking to improve their way of life.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a child, I always imagined living life as a doll. I loved playing with different types of Barbie’s and enjoyed fixing their hair, clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories; like the pink convertible car and the split open house. Although I was never in pageants, I did feel a great connection to beauty as a source of inspiration and well-being. Throughout high school I was active in sports, mainly dance and track, but also participated in Scholastic Bowls, Mathletes and the Spanish Honor Society. My mother insisted I pursue academic achievement but I wanted to be a glamour girl. I took a semester of sewing class my freshman year and learned to make clothes of my own design. After taking four years of art class, I won a t-shirt design contest at my high school’s arts festival. This achievement sparked my decision to use my artistic nature and advanced education to create a business that would allow me to help people create a life of luxury based on various aspects of style, health and the aesthetic.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Transitioning from Corporate America to an Independent Creative Consulate has probably been the most interesting journey I have taken since becoming a Lifestyle entrepreneur. In my last job, I was employed as a Business Development Manager for a dairy ingredients company out of New Zealand. I was responsible for making high stakes sales to major food companies throughout the US. My schedule was set, my paycheck was steady and my weekends were free. Once I became a full-time entrepreneur, I needed to decide what to focus on, how to earn a living and scheduling my days according to the work I accepted. I loved to write, so I combined writing with my passion for dance and started submitting lifestyle articles on dance fitness in San Francisco through Examiner.com. Unfortunately, the company closed. Despite that, I made some good connections and ended up writing short promotional pieces for several “Dancing with the Stars” professionals such as Cheryl Burke, Edyta Sliwinska, and Karina Smirnoff. It was a fun start to my creative endeavors that would later include talk show television interviews, bikini bodybuilding, burlesque dancing and card fitness modeling for mixed martial arts events. It has been an amazing adventure, one of the best choices I have ever made.
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 made the mistake of overpricing my signature fragrance ‘Salsalicious’. Then, to make matters worse, I turned around and underpriced it. At first, I wanted it to be exclusive and high end, so I priced it at $500 for a 0.40oz lead crystal bottle. Then I decided it needed to be affordable, so I priced it at $35 for the same lead crystal bottle and this was considered “cheap”. I was all over the place! I eventually learned to focus on my customer needs and started selling mini-sprays for $20 and large sample vials for $3. I realized my customers needed the scents when they were dancing at nightclubs or at social events. I discovered that a full bottle of my fragrance was not practical for my target market.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Submitting a patent for one of my original designs, the Mermaid Convertible Dress, has been very exhilarating. I am also working on having the dress sold with a major retailer. It’s a two in one that goes from being formal to casual with a detachable fishtail on a halter style dress. The dress’s design is perfect for prom or a gala event and it will be stunning on the red carpet or as a bridesmaid’s outfit. It’s works well for a beach stroll or a breathtaking VIP showcase. Magenta in color and available in small, medium and large; women of all shapes and sizes can feel glamorous without needing two dresses for one event.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I have interacted with people from amazing backgrounds. I planned and performed a Great Gatsby themed 70th birthday party fundraiser for a prominent Oakland art gallery owner. It was a burlesque show that provided an exciting experience in the hiring of dancers, providing costumes, assisting with the décor, in addition to creating and performing the choreography. The gallery owner participated with us onstage, in front of all her patrons. I was so proud of her for being bold and doing what she wanted despite her age and what people may have thought. She is a role model to women and I was thrilled to help create memories with her and provide support in raising funds for under-privileged youth in the community.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
In order to thrive in the business of lifestyle development, it’s best to understand what you can offer and what the needs of your customers are. Burn out happens when you try to do too much with too little. Expand the business when you have a need to do so and not before. If things are going well on a small scale and customers are happy, and you are happy, then keep it that way. If things are big, and you have all the people, resources and time to give to your customers, then balance it with downtime for yourself. Hire the right people who share your vision and integrity. Trust your decisions and allow yourself to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Health is wealth!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :-)
I have been reading about about the #ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) movement which has garnered a significant amount of attention from Americans of African ancestry. Essentially, descendants of slaves in the United States are demanding reparations for the centuries of enslavement and servitude by the forced immigration of people from the African continent. This enslavement was sanctioned, as legal commerce, by the United States government. I feel that the years of bondage that my ancestors experienced drove me to become a High Net Worth Individual (HNWI). As an HNWI, I turned my talents into opportunities and my creativity into knowledge. Being a decedent of a people who were treated so inhumanly has motivated me to create a legacy for generational wealth. Just because life isn’t fair, with an even playing field, doesn’t mean you can’t obtain happiness and prosperity. The survival of my African slave ancestors, through their pain and suffering, allowed me to be here at this time in history to influence others and make a difference in ways that only I can do. Instead of looking to the government for restitution, let’s look within ourselves, at the things we have to offer as individuals to ourselves and our community. If we can shift that focus to us, then collectively, we can change our destiny as well as our self-perception. From #ADOS to #HNWI, that is the movement that I am passionate about!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
The 5 things I wish someone had told me before I stared my Lifestyle business would be:
- People won’t always get your angle. My ‘Danscents’ line was not always well received. Even though I was passionate about it, others would laugh at the idea of a scent based on a dance.
- Fake friends can be motivators for success. Sometimes people who you have known for years, people who appear to support you, don’t actually agree with what you are doing with your life. Live life on your own terms and not on any conditional friendships.
- The value of your product or service directly correlates to how you value yourself. Don’t price products or services low because you think people can afford it. Know what you offer has value and then price it accordingly.
- The past does not determine the future. Past mistakes don’t mean you won’t be successful in the future. Always build on your experiences, create a diary or journal of what happened, why and how you can grow from the loss (or gain). Make everything that happens a chance to learn and grow.
- The words we speak do have power. Make sure the words and ideas you convey to yourself each day have more power in your life than other people’s opinions of you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite “Life Lesson Quote” is “A New Day is A New Beginning”. I believe that when I wake up each day, I have an opportunity to start a new life, regardless of what happened yesterday. How I mentally feel about myself and my purpose determines how the day will unfold. As long as I feel that I’m doing something right, then things tend to work out in a positive way. Each day I wake up, I get a chance to accomplish my goals and live out my dreams. There were times when I felt that my efforts in business weren’t resulting in more sales or opportunities. At times like this, I would start to feel low and question my abilities and wonder if, perhaps, I should go back to ‘Corporate America’. Instead of succumbing to those feelings, I would do whatever I could to generate beauty through positive actions, like starting a blog to discuss women’s fitness or doing something to help nature, like picking up garbage during my daily walks. These actions allowed me to feel good about my life and those nourishing feelings attracted the people, ideas and favorable conditions I needed to advance in my ventures.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I thank all the people that I have had interaction with for assistance in my success. Regardless of whether the experience was positive or negative, somehow, those interactions furthered my progress. Friends and family, as well as adversaries and opposition, guided me to choose the path that I am on and propelled me to get to where I am. My first e-book, The Vampire Vixen: Tainted Blood, was inspired by a series of negative experiences with close acquaintances and my health issues. After publishing it, I was happy that something creative came to being from those times of stress. It didn’t matter to me who liked my work, it only mattered that I followed my own path to healing. An erotic poetic vampire and demon love story is how I manifested unconditional love from conditional circumstances.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would love to have a champagne brunch with Kylie Jenner to discuss her experience in being a member of a famous family and making her own way; despite growing up with the public’s perception that she is privileged. As the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, she needed to overcome many challenges to accomplish her goals. I would be very interested in hearing how she mentally prepared for her success.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow me on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @AshantiAltovese
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!