Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Olson.
Ashley, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Owning my own business has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl. I have always loved finding the perfect gift and searching for the beauty in simplicity. I’m a daydreamer and a gift-giver, so having a shop that I can bring to life and curate is a dream come true.
Free Leaf stems from the inspiration of the outdoors & nature and has branched from the desire to be free and healthy. In my early 20’s, I fell in love with herbs and loose leaf tea and started to dive deep into the health benefits that they have to offer. Herbs and teas helped me become more connected to myself, and to the world around me. I felt good, it cleared my skin, & boosted my energy. I then started to research more of what it is to be eco-friendly, and healthy overall. At the time, I was working full time and wanted to turn my passion into a reality.
Free Leaf was officially created in 2015, and I started by participating in craft shows & farmer’s markets around Colorado, providing loose leaf teas, and other handmade goods. I then started to check out individual ingredients, not only in my food, but in body products, and cleaning products. Come to find out, it’s hard to find healthy ingredients. So, I searched for more local makers in our community that made healthy and simple goods. I met the most amazing, like-minded people, and started to grow a little community. I was surrounded by so many talented people, and some of those individuals became true friends.
I had been so inspired by the local artisans, and I wanted to share with people what I had been learning. So, I decided to take the business further and opened up our first brick n mortar. I wanted Free Leaf to be a reliable source for healthy, high-quality goods, and to be an outlet for our community and local artisans. Now, Free Leaf resides in a historic building right next to a University and an adorable coffee shop that serves our tea in downtown Greeley, Colorado. Free Leaf is a dream that has turned into a reality, thanks to the community and the wonderful support from my husband, & shop-pup, Ruben.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been full of ups and downs. There have been sacrifices, but also times of celebration, and by the end of the day, it’s all been worth it. Experience has been a huge part of getting to where I am today. Experience is everything. I’ve jumped from different job fields, worked in retail for many years, even worked in the medical field, and took time to travel to different places. I’ve made a lot of connections along the way that inspired me and taught me new things. I knew I wanted to have a career where I stood up for myself, executed my own ideas, and chose where I found my inspiration and spent my time.
After opening the first storefront, it wasn’t easy. The work was long and tough, and sometimes overwhelming, but our small community kept the business alive. With the business, I have learned the importance of community. Just remember that we all have a purpose, and we can all create something beautiful, together. A small community can do big things. I have learned that community is the heart of a business that keeps it beating. To keep it beating, we need to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of others.
My biggest advice is to stay inspired and to live healthy & simply. Everything comes naturally when we are in our true element, we just need to trust in what we learn along the way. This is something I’m still learning every day; balance is important! We need to take care and encourage each other, especially us women.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Free Leaf – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Free Leaf isn’t just a shop, it’s a lifestyle. We stand by our product, source responsibly, and support the local artisan community. We are known for our custom loose leaf tea blends, matcha, essential oils, skincare, stationery, outdoor-inspired pottery and prints, and simple, yet elegant gift wrapping. When curating, I make sure everything is made by hand, has a story, safe for the planet, and made with healthy & simple ingredients.
I love getting to know the faces behind the product, and what makes them unique. A lot of our customers come to us to find the perfect gift, or to just breathe in the atmosphere of essential oils, lavender, and plants. Free Leaf is a place where people can come to feel warm, comfortable, and inspired to better their lives.
The most rewarding growth from the business has been the community. It inspired me to create something that symbolized what true community looks like, and what can be done when we all come together. Because of the community and the support, I’m able to coordinate events and pop-ups, and put on our own shows, like Linen Sky Market (@linenskymarket). Linen Sky is a small artisan market featuring hand-made goods, which is organized and put on by Free Leaf. It’s so rewarding to see the culmination of all the relationships that had been built, all in one space, at the same time.
There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that a lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
Going to or participating in local craft shows or farmer’s markets has been a great place to meet the people that share the same vision. I’ve been surrounded by a lot of like-minded people, and making genuine connections is key. Once you find your people, keep them close, and support each other. Those synergies will be key in the long run.
- Address: 931 16th St Unit B, Greeley, Colorado 80631
- Website: www.shopfreeleaf.com
- Phone: 970.515.7823
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @shopfreeleaf
- Facebook: @shopfreeleaf
Iliana Kazi Photography – www.ilianakaziphotography.com/