You Are Complex: Meet Ashley Irene Dufresne of Ashley Irene Boutique
Here at Vibrant Health, we believe health is an inside job, unique to you. After all, you’re one-of-a-kind and your needs are complex – that’s why your supplements should be too.
To celebrate all of the beautiful complexities of our lives, each month we’ve been highlighting individuals in our community – taking a peek into the behind-the-scenes of their work life, wellness routines, and all the wonderful things that make them who they are.
In honor of Small Business Month in May, this month on the Vibrant Health blog we got to chat with small business owner Ashley Irene Dufresne of Massachusetts. She’s the proud owner of Ashley Irene Boutique, a size-inclusive women’s clothing store located in Mashpee, MA outside of Cape Cod.
In this inspiring interview, we got to chat with Ashley about building community, her dedication to showcasing all body sizes and the ins and outs of running a small business. We hope you enjoy our series…and remember, keep being you!
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Three words to describe myself would be: Happy, Resilient, Empathetic
Tell us the backstory of Ashley Irene Boutique and how your small business transpired?
Growing up as a curvy girl, I never saw anyone who looked like me represented in the media, magazines, or movies. As a result, I started to hide my body out of shame because I thought I was not beautiful. Flash forward to college and after a frustrating shopping experience, I walked into a store that completely changed the way I felt about myself, my body, and fashion. Instantly I fell in love with retail and worked in retail while going to college.
After college I made the decision to not take a job in my major but do what I love and that was retail. I worked my way up from Sales Associate, Operations Manager and Sales Manager. Then after years of dreaming of starting my own business, I took the leap of a lifetime and started Ashley Irene Boutique, online! I worked full time while I launched my boutique online out of the spare bedroom in my condo.
About half a year into my business journey, I joined an entrepreneur program called EforAll Cape Cod. From there my business grew, and in one year we moved into our first retail location. We were so busy that six months later we moved into a retail space three times bigger!
We love your dedication to inclusivity and self-love! Can you share a bit more about your customer values, and why this is meaningful to you?
I say that Ashley Irene Boutique is a store that I wish I had growing up. All of our models are real people, with all different body shapes and sizes. We carry sizes XS-3X and welcome everyone who walks into our store with a smile and a safe place to shop, exactly as you are.
Our mission is to make every person who walks through our store doors feel welcome, appreciated, beautiful and safe. We understand that shopping is not fun for everyone so we work extremely hard to create a safe and fun place to shop.
As mentioned, this store is everything I wish I had growing up. The walls have photos of real people modeling styles in all different shapes and sizes. The fitting room has positive words of affirmation around the mirror and when you walk through our doors, we genuinely are wholeheartedly happy to see you.
May is Small Business Month, celebrating their courage, community efforts and all the hard work that goes into running a small business! What are you most proud of as a Small Business Owner?
I am most proud of the community that Ashley Irene Boutique has created. When I started the business I hoped that this store would be more than just a clothing store but a support system for women. Very quickly my customers made that happen! I am so proud of the kindness, love, and support that our customers show everyday towards our team but also each other.
What were some of the challenges you faced in the early days of Ashley Irene Boutique, or some you may still encounter today?
One of the biggest challenges I faced when I started Ashley Irene Boutique was trusting myself. Starting a business is scary and when I first started there were so many days that I thought to myself “What am I doing?” or “I can’t do this…” Very often I would get in my own head and question myself.
I had to work through self-doubt that tried to take over and remind myself that I AM capable, I AM intelligent and I AM enough. With the help of my parents, friends, and community who constantly lifted me up, I was able to work through those fears of self doubt and persevere. I won’t lie, sometimes those feelings resurface even to this day but I learned ways to speak to myself in a kind way to help erase that self doubt.
What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur looking to start their own small business or brick and mortar?
DO IT! If you have a passion and dream, chase it.
I would also suggest you find resources like business mentors or an entrepreneur program that can help support you along the way. I challenge you to ask questions, learn, and immerse yourself in as much knowledge as you can. Learn about your market, customer segments, and competition. Knowledge is power and the more you know and understand your market, the more successful you will be.
What's your favorite healthy snack to fuel you during busy days?
Gallons of coffee? Just kidding…maybe. Trail mix! I always have a little station of trail mix packets. We all know those days where life happens and before you know it it’s 3:00 and you forgot to eat. I love to have trail mix to give me some protein and energy!
Do you have any go-to self-care rituals you want to share with our readers?
I am a huge advocate for positive affirmations cards! Of course, I keep a deck of Healthy Chicks Spark your Bliss Deck next to my bed and on my desk at work. Sometimes the world feels really heavy and it’s nice to remind myself of what I am grateful for, and take a moment to appreciate and be grateful for little things around me.
What does wellness look like for you?
Wellness for me looks like always, always taking care of my mental health. It’s listening to my body when I need a break and being kind to myself and emotions. Also, long walks with my husband by the ocean. I get to move my body, smell the fresh air and talk about everything that happened that day. It’s one of my favorite after work activities!