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Ashley Alderson wouldn’t be the first “youngest child” to want to make her own mark, but she couldn’t have anticipated the direction her life would take when she did. Growing up on horseback in a North Dakota rodeoing family was wonderful. Once she reached high school, however, she realized that just about every event in rodeo had been pursued, and mastered, by at least one of her five older siblings. She was a typical teen, she says, eager to be independent. “I wanted to do something different.”
In 2001, she ran for North Dakota High School Rodeo Queen—and won. The college scholarships, the speaking and travel opportunities, were just some of the benefits of the title: Ashley loved the interaction with the public and quickly saw the long-term career benefits of the position. She continued competing, winning Miss Rodeo North Dakota 2006. It was during her heady reign representing her state that she received the devastating cancer diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She did not let it define her or slow her down. After six months undergoing chemotherapy treatments while attending University of Mary in Bismarck and juggling the time-intensive commitments of her title, she somehow found the energy to run for, and win, Miss Rodeo America.
Cancer in remission, Ashley returned to North Dakota after an exhilarating year as Miss Rodeo America and was named Executive Director of the Bowman County Development Corporation. Seven years later, marriage, motherhood, and a move to her husband’s home state of Wisconsin meant she had to give up the job she loved. But it also created an opportunity. While traveling as Miss Rodeo America, Ashley loved exploring small boutiques throughout the country, not only discovering fashions unavailable in North Dakota, but meeting sole proprietors in every setting imaginable. Meanwhile, through her work at the BCDC, she says, “I learned my greatest passion is helping small business owners.”
She decided to act on an inspiration she’d had while traveling. She saw a way to combine her love of fashion and regional finds with her interest in helping small business owners. In 2013, she launched The Boutique Hub. “We not only help consumers find boutiques on our platform,” she explains. “We also help boutique owners, wholesale brands and designers find every business tool they need to connect, learn, and grow all on one platform”
The business clearly serves a need. The Boutique Hub has 5,000 boutique members throughout the world; the online platform’s growth has doubled every year. Ashley produces regular podcasts and is in high demand as a speaker. She travels once a month to events like the National Finals Rodeo and to markets in Dallas, Atlanta, and Las Vegas. At Denver’s Western Market, the Boutique Hub hosts the Western Summit, a one-day conference that attracts 300 participants. Their Boutique Summit is a three-day event held during the June Dallas Market.
Grit and resilience are popular catchwords today, seen to determine success as much as native intelligence, hard work, and luck. Ashley’s response to a life-changing diagnosis was to forge ahead, pursuing her passions with hard work, grace, optimism, and an unforced interest in everyone she meets—clearly a winning combination.
The Boutique Hub now employs 13 people on several continents, (including, most recently, Ashley’s husband, Eric Alderson). Given that they also have three young children, hers is a busy schedule. But she feels driven to do the work, she explains. “One of the reasons I’m so passionate is that the majority of our members are female business owners; we really are trying to serve the family. The life of a business owner has a ripple effect on those around them. If we can improve their lives, their families, their communities, that’s a win for us.”
Learn more about Ashley and TBH at theboutiquehub.com.