Teen entrepreneur Ashley Vilaysane, an incoming ninth-grader at Deforest Area High School and second place winner in both CEOs of Tomorrow’s Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 These Teens Mean Busine$$ Incubator, created her first business, Ashley’s Arts & Crafts, where she focused on the social issues including racism, COVID-19, dyslexia, and dysgraphia.
She created masks and handmade candles to raise awareness of racism in the American health care system for her business that was started during the pandemic in the fall of 2020. This past spring, Ashley created kits containing a calligraphy book, markers, fountain pen, ink tubes and a notebook to help people with dyslexia and dysgraphia.
“I thought, ‘Well, what if I make a book that teaches people how to write in cursive and calligraphy?’” said Vilaysane. “Because a lot of people don’t know how to write in cursive or calligraphy. Then I kind of thought that I would be more knowledgeable on that topic.”
Ashley is a participant in CEOs of Tomorrow, a non-profit celebrating its 5th anniversary this year which has grown quite a bit since it launched in 2016 with a three-week summer course for teens. Aspiring teen entrepreneurs pitch, launch and test their business ideas created to promote positive change in their communities.
Ashley entered the CEOS of Tomorrow Incubator contest, which is strictly for high school teenagers, as a middle school student. She had to balance her virtual schoolwork while creating and formatting two business plans back-to-back.
“That was that was like my hardest problem,” Ashley said. “But it was a bit easier because school is online and, like, I would try to have my schoolwork done by a certain time of the day and then use the rest of the time to work on my business. So, I would kind of separate everything in two different time periods that I want to get like a certain amount done.”
The administration and staff at CEOs of Tomorrow are aware of Ashley’s talents and are in awe of her hard work over the last year. She created two businesses for the incubator contests and won awards for both.
“We opened the door to our Incubator program for Ashley because she had done so well for so many years and have the exposure in our camp that we knew she was primed and ready to go,” Roxie Hentz, the Founding Executive Director of CEOs of Tomorrow, tells Madison365. “And she didn’t hold back any punches.”
Hentz notes the pride and confidence Ashley holds as an entrepreneur in the program. She referred to the Teen Pitch Contest, where Ashley pitched ideas for her business, and despite the rough Internet connection, as she was coming in and out of her presentation, she handled the issues with poise and grace. Hentz says that Ashley is mastering entrepreneurial thinking and that she’s impressed and proud of her for all that she’s accomplished.
Ashley is a young and talented entrepreneur who used her businesses to address real issues that were going on in her community and across the world. She invested a lot of time into her plans and appreciated her experience as a contestant in the competition and enjoyed sharing ideas and learning about other businesses from her peers.
“I think it was really cool to do something like that because it’s cool to see all the other people have their own designs,” said Vilaysane. “Sometimes when you’re doing stuff, you only think about like your products and your own ideas, but it’s nice to have other people’s ideas around you.”