Faces of Entrepreneurship: Ashley Wu, Founder of Maison

What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?

AW: To me entrepreneurship means you’re in charge. I have wonderfully supportive friends and family, my husband has been a dream, and my staff is incredible. But at the end of the day, it’s on me to make my business successful.

How did Maison come to be? 

AW: I started working on this project after I had my second child and realized working from home was no longer the solution. I remember where I was standing in my apartment, talking to my husband about how I could no longer write with a newborn and a 3-year-old in the house at the same time. Co-working spaces and social clubs are not new concepts, but on the Upper East Side, a place designed with women in mind, and specifically mothers, did not exist. I knew many women who were in a similar position: juggling non-traditional professional lives and motherhood, and our need was the same, we needed a place to go. Maison is this place.

What’s the biggest experience or lesson gained on your journey so far?

AW: There are so many! I feel like everyone probably says this, but trust your gut. If you can’t get comfortable with a decision, it’s probably not the right one.

I would also say build the right team who works to bring your ideas to life! My architect and designers did this for me. Every time we came up against a roadblock in the design process they found a way to make it happen. For example, I had a very specific idea for the journey I wanted a member to take within the space based on a feeling I want members to have, and my design team went through multiple rounds of plans, floor samples, light fixtures, paint swatches – they understood it was all related to delivering the best product for this feeling I wanted my members to have.

How is Maison changing the landscape?

AW: We’re  is changing the landscape as a members’ club focused on mothers, their interests, their schedules and their needs. Our programming, partnerships and membership perks with brands like Brooklyn Crafting Co., Daily Dose, Kid & Coe, Thrive, and Sundays also reflect this demographic.

We’re the only members club located on the Upper East Side where members can work, relax, learn, and engage in the same location. While we are designed for women, anyone can apply, and the club itself is multi-functional in the sense that members who need it for work, or enrichment, or relaxing can do each of these things at Maison. I anticpate our members needing it for all of these activities depending on the day. 

What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?

AW: I’ve been working hard on this for a year and a half but we only just opened our doors. Right now we’re listening to our members and responding to their requests. I am deeply connected to Maison’s mission as it grew out of such a personal need of my own, therefore I feel like I understand what this member needs. However, I am listening, observing, and collecting as much information as I possibly can in order to provide the most special and unique experience for our members.

What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business?

AW: Be a good person. Standing by this principle will always be important to me. Long before I opened Maison I have always operated in this manner. It’s something my friends know about me, and if they don’t already, something I hope my employees and anyone else who works with me will soon know. I think it also makes me a more predictable business owner. I will make decisions with integrity.

What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?

AW: My husband and I started Maison together. And while it’s largely been my project to execute I could not have done it without his guidance and support. And he believes in me and my vision for Maison, he understands the need, so that has made this process easier. We have had challenges as we have built the business to his point and it’s been helpful navigating solutions with someone I trust completely. I know a lot of couples who probably couldn’t work together, but as a couple and parents, we have a respectful and collaborative relationship, and it’s translated well to working together.

Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?

AW: I turn to people with more experience than I have! I’ve done a lot of things throughout my career but I’ve never run my own company. But I know people who have. My close friend, and founding member, Lindsey Peers has owned and operated The Craft Studio on the Upper East Side for over ten years. She has been a wealth of information as we both exist on the Upper East Side and have a similar target demographic. Tricia Williams is another smart, successful business owner of Food Matters and Daily Dose who I often will turn to with questions. She is also one of our partners as we stock Daily Dose at the club for our members. She understands my member profile and running a business focused on growth.

What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?

AW: I feel like success will feel differently each day. Once I feel I’ve fulfilled a goal, I’ll set another one. We have benchmarks set for growth for the rest of the year and meeting each one will feel like a success. But I don’t think success is something that is finite.

What lesson did 2018 have for you? What do you look forward to in 2019?

AW: The last year was dedicated to hard work and seeing through a project that was very important to me. Maison is newly opened and I look forward to opportunities throughout 2019 that will challenge and expand the brand in exciting ways.

Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day?

AW: I have a 4 ½ year old and a 20 month old so my mornings are perfectly hectic! I feel like our routine right now is that things are crazy, and it’s a phase of life that is wonderfully tiring, but also quite short in the long life we hope to lead. Seeing my kids is what grounds me. This is why I have designed a very flexible work life. Even before Maison, I worked from home, so I would have the flexbility to drop them off at school and attend their activities in between work obligations. Right now, after the kids wake my husband and I up, which is very early in our house, like 6am, we have breakfast, make their lunch, get the kids dressed, tag team getting ourselves ready, and I will usually drop my son at school. Some days my daughter has a gym or music class and I will try and take her before heading to the club. Every day is different in its specifics, but each day is the same in that I’m constantly back and forth between work and being around for my babes.

What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as?

AW: I want to be known as an entrepreneur who identified something missing in the market for women, and mothers specifically, and filled that void with Maison. I feel like I have the opportunity to help women give permission to look after themselves, find some room to breathe, experience the habit of freedom, and an opportunity to connect. This idea is bigger than Maison. But prioritizing mothers in our society could make a huge impact beyond what I’m doing with the club.

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