Just three weeks after her college graduation, Grow Your Value finalist Ashton Sweitzer opened Glitz, a women's boutique in Lititz, PA. You can watch Ashton and her fellow finalists compete for a $10,000 bonus onstage this Friday, April 10 during the kickoff Know Your Value live event in Philadelphia. The contest is part of the nationwide Know Your Value effort to provide dialogue, training and resources for women to learn and communicate their value.
Why are you a believer in the Know Your Value movement?
Ashton: Because in today's world, it is hard to make a name for yourself in professional careers. It was hard for me to not only start my business young, but to be a woman. Women are vital contributors to the business world.
You and two other women were chosen as finalists in the Grow Your Value bonus competition. What made you decide to enter the contest?
Ashton: I originally saw the contest on Facebook and through our local newspaper and fully believe in everything that Know Your Value stands for. I started thinking about the growth that I've experienced over the past three years of owning my own business and the journey that I had to go on to discover my value.
You opened your boutique when you were fresh out of college. Tell us about the challenges of starting a business as a 22-year-old.
Ashton: The most difficult part of starting Glitz was the fact that I had not taken any business courses in college or high school. I really had to rely on my mentors to teach me the ins and outs of the business world. Also, it was hard to gain respect because of my age. I really had to put myself out there to prove my place as a young entrepreneur.
What guidance would you offer your 22-year-old self? And how about career advice for your fellow millennials—young women who are just starting their careers?
Ashton: I would say to not be so hard on yourself. I had so many expectations pertaining to how I thought things would go opening my own business, and when they didn't go that way, I would get really down on myself. I would say to embrace the learning curve and to enjoy the hard times because they made me stronger and more resilient. If it was easy, everyone would do it (thanks, dad, for that quote).
Seek out mentors who have your best interest in mind. At the beginning stages, when you're just starting to see the value in yourself, it helps to have other people who can see your worth. Don't give up. Keep going. You are so loved.
What’s most rewarding about being a small business owner and what do you hope to achieve?
Ashton: The highlights of my career are the compliments I receive from happy customers. It never gets old. When other people tell me that it's their favorite store, I can't help but think that this is what it's all about. I want to be able to continue to serve my customers in the best way possible. I also want to be able to grow my business in order to pursue my dream of speaking out about the dangers of teen dating violence.
You and the other finalists completed a physically and emotionally rigorous “Corporate Athlete” course at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida. What were the highs and lows of the training?
Ashton: The most challenging part was looking back on your past stories to see how they define your ultimate mission. I would have to say that that was also my favorite part because it challenged me to look deeper into who I am, where I came from, and where I am going.
What do you want to take away from your experience as a Grow Your Value finalist?
Ashton: I hope to gain more self-confidence, new friendships, and better public speaking skills. Overall, I am just so thankful for this opportunity.
The Know Your Value event is two days away. How do you feel about presenting yourself onstage in front of hundreds of people?
Ashton: I am actually very excited! I'm sure I will be nervous on the day of the event, but right now I am just thrilled to stand in front of my peers and to share on something that I am extremely passionate about.
You can also watch a video of our three finalists here.