Ashley King JD/MBA '11 Dishes on her Latest Venture
The entrepreneurial journey of Ashley King JD/MBA ’11 first began in Los Angeles in the summer of 2005. Her internship with fashion startup Ed Hardy ended with a full-time job offer as a marketing and public relations manager. There was just one problem. Ashley was enrolled as an undergraduate student at Arizona State University. In what would become one of the biggest decisions of her life, she accepted the position with Ed Hardy, moved to Los Angeles and transferred to USC where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Marshall School of Business.
In the years that followed, Ashley continued to enhance her business and product development acumen with positions at The Honest Company, ShoeDazzle.com, and the Brent Shapiro Foundation. Working alongside famed attorney Robert Shapiro LLS ’68 and serial entrepreneur Brian Lee inspired her to get her JD/MBA. Today, Ashley – with support from Brian, whom she considers her role model and friend – is founder and CEO of a new mobile app for foodies called Dysh. Let’s take a bite…
First off, why did you decide to go back to school and get your JD/MBA?
My original plan was to just attend Loyola Law School and become a practicing attorney in a major law firm. But after completing a legal internship, I decided that the business and entrepreneurial aspects of the professional world were the things that really excited me. During that first year of law school, I chose to incorporate the MBA into my education so that I could continue to explore both paths. The MBA program at LMU turned out to be an amazing addition.
What did you enjoy most about your MBA experience?
The students came from different backgrounds and industries and brought their own unique perspectives to the issues presented in class. I was able to do both the CMS and Bonn programs and found them to be incredible learning opportunities that provided valuable international business experience. By the end of my time with Loyola & LMU, I walked away with both an active bar license in the State of California and the business acumen from an MBA that would ultimately help me start my own company.
How has having a JD/MBA helped your career?
My legal background has been really helpful for providing an objective way of thinking and analysis when approaching an unknown situation or problem. Of course, it has also helped with things like contract drafting & negotiation, employment agreements and the protection of intellectual property rights. The MBA has helped me look at things from a bigger perspective and understand how the many different aspects of a business are all interrelated. It has also helped reinforce the importance of continuing to work on self-improvement and on setting an example as a leader and manager for your team.
Tell me about your new venture Dysh?
Dysh allows restaurants hoppers and foodies to discover the best items on any menu. The free mobile app, launched by Toast Labs, Inc., was created to change the way people experience food. Users post photos of their meals and rate dishes on a 100-point scale, thereby helping others decide what to order. The app is available for iOS and Android. Download here.
What prompted you to switch gears and start your own company?
After helping build The Honest Company for three years, I had the urge to start my own business. All of my previous work experience had been in the start-up environment and I found myself missing that scrappy drive to build something new from the ground up. (Honest was already really successful and topping 300 employees at that point.) I had served in marketing, legal, HR, product development, and business development roles in my four previous companies and felt confident that I could straddle all of these roles again for my own start-up. The timing was perfect because my partner, Brian Lee, had a great idea for a new food app that he had been mulling over for a few months. I’m a foodie so I immediately fell in love with the business idea and took the reins.
Have you always had this entrepreneurial drive inside you?
It has always been there. When I was little, I wanted to be Susan B. Anthony. I wanted to be the Attorney General of the United States. I’ve always had this desire to be a leader, to do something that matters and to try to change things for the better. And yet, it wasn’t until I completed my MBA program with LMU and my law degree with Loyola Law that I saw more clearly how to make this happen. Knowledge of the law could help me navigate the current landscape while I used the power of business to disrupt the norm and maybe, if I did things correctly, start to change the world.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m really excited about Dysh and where we can take the company. I honestly believe it has the potential to do huge things in the world of social media and food.
What’s the most valuable business lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Find an amazing team and learn from them as much as you can. Spend more of your time listening than talking. I used to think I had to do everything myself, but I quickly realized you won’t get very far that way.