035: Pirouetting Her Way to Tech Founder with Mentorly’s Ashley Werhun
Ashley Werhun is the co-founder of Mentorly. Her first career was as a professional dancer. Today, we discuss how she learned how important mentorship was through her performing career and how she used those lessons to build Mentorly. We also discuss some of the most important traits a mentor should have and more!
Key Points + Topics
- [2:21] Ashley Werhun grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. She spent the last couple of years of high school in a professional ballet school and graduated around age 16. That career starts at a very young age. Right after graduating, she moved to San Francisco and started working for a large touring dance company. While working, she had access to a free undergrad online program. She virtually attended Boise State and majored in psychology, making time on long flights and travel days to study and take her courses. Before graduating high school, she spent a couple of summers living by herself in New York City, attending Julliard’s summer dance programs.
- Her performing career exposed her to so many different countries, people, cultures, and markets, and that helped bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in her. Even when she was working on a touring show, they would always go beyond the traditional touring company activities. They went to cultural training before attending new places. In each city they performed, they would also do a cultural exchange with local groups and organizations.
- [7:52] According to Ashley, a mentor is someone who is guiding someone on a peer-to-peer basis that’s a bit beyond them in experience and using their lived experience to guide them. It goes beyond traditional “lessons” and passes down what they’ve learned to help the mentee avoid mistakes and also let the mentee know they’re seen in their experiences. Just because someone is an expert, they’re not necessarily a good mentor. They must first and foremost be committed to mentoring and willing to set aside time for this relationship. Good mentors tend to have high levels of empathy and understanding without passing judgment. When you’re mentoring, you must be fundamentally optimistic. This optimism in mentors can help people over the mastery “peak” when they’re just beginning to be bored with their job and often looking for new opportunities.
- [14:45] Ashley had a good career as an artist. She worked very hard for her success but knew there were other people objectively more talented than her who were less successful. She was very determined, though, and would often take people whom she looked up to out for coffee to learn from them. Other 17-year-olds were simply not doing it. One of her most influential mentors was and continues to be, Alonzo King, a dance instructor in San Francisco. He helped her see the focus of her dance career should be on the process, not the end goal. He had big ideas about the world in general and would weave them into his dance lessons. He would ask, “What work do you have to do before you get into the studio to be confident enough to show up to work untethered?” He’s also questioned if you’re not able to be authentically yourself, what sort of ripple effect might that have? These are lessons she’s brought throughout her career. Mentorly has about 11 angel investors; they’re all at the top of their career fields. Some help discover what’s the top focus for business. Some will walk you through a deal for two weeks. Some are there for those “emergency” calls at 11 o’clock at night. All while they’re running their own businesses with no time to spare.
- [26:55] Ashley knows she was lucky to have the mentors she’s had who have listened to her and answered her questions. As she was finishing her dance career, she began pondering what her next chapter would look like and if it might be something that wouldn’t require her literal blood and sweat. She wondered what the world might look like if everyone had mentors like her.
- [30:32] Startups shouldn’t exist; they’re impossible. They start with nothing and turn it into a business that serves people. Early funding was very difficult for Ashley and Mentorly. There is certainly a learning curve to finding what matters and where you should spend your money. Now, they’re much more careful about spending.
- [39:52] Mentorly is woman-owned and founded. Their mentor team has a variety of races, genders, and backgrounds. They generally have a very diverse team because they’re Canadian. They focus on different groups and customers. They work with the Black Business and Professionals Association (BBPA), which focuses on mentorship opportunities for black business owners. It’s important to know if a similar race and demographic is important to you as a mentee when looking for a mentor. A similar experience can be helpful, but mixing it up also works really well sometimes.
Guest + Episode Links
Welcome to the Digital Marketing Mentor. I’m your host, Danny Gavin, and together with industry leaders and marketing experts, we’ll explore the meeting point of mentorship and marketing. We’ll discover how these connections have affected careers, marketing strategies and lives. Get ready to get human. This episode is brought to you by Odeo Academy. Whether you’re a recent high school graduate, a busy mom, a working woman seeking to enhance her skills, or a female entrepreneur looking for a better understanding of digital marketing, we’ve got you covered. Dive into the digital marketing world without drowning in student loan debt or compromising your values. Visit OdeoAcademycom forward slash podcast and claim $150 off Odeo’s Women’s Only Co-Ort of our Digital Marketing Fundamentals Career Course by entering the code MENTOR at checkout. Odeoacademycom forward slash podcast. Empower your career and save $150 with code MENTOR today.