We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley B. Johnson-Alford and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley B., how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I think my work-life balance has shifted with my age and the longer I’ve been a business owner. Initially, as a new entrepreneur, you go through the foundational growing pains necessary to build your business: late nights, strapped for money, learning to delegate, missing your kids’ recitals, etc. If I’m honest, it took me a few years to get the work-life balance under control. I used to miss so many moments trying to do mundane tasks like responding to customer emails within 5 minutes of receiving them or stopping everything I’m doing to check on package tracking. I’ve given much more grace to myself nowadays. I realize that the business will be okay if I put my phone down and enjoy my family. It took me a while to acknowledge that as long as nothing is “on fire”, it was okay to focus on what’s important to me which are the things that will still be there whether my business survives or not.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Currently, I am the owner/creator of FreeBLACKLaw Apparel and I am a provisional attorney practicing Criminal Defense here in Georgia. FreeBLACKLaw is an apparel line offering clothing and accessories promoting social activism and supporting people of color in the legal community. I’m always extremely proud of this company because I started it during my first year of law school, which is probably the worst time to start a one-man, single-handed business. I designed every aspect of the business from designing the apparel to building the website to running the social media accounts, all while finishing a law degree. Now that FreeBLACKLaw has been recognized locally and nationally, I can appreciate that the risk was worth the reward and SWEAT EQUITY IS REAL. Now that I am practicing, it gives FreeBLACKLaw more meaning and more purpose as I run into more causes to advocate for. If nothing else, I’ve learned that your purpose will make room for you.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I would definitely take them to my favorite spots on the Beltline: Playa Bowls for an açaí bowl and Just Add Honey for a cup of brewed tea as we walked and talked. We’d have to stop at Le Petit Marché for a French toast sandwich for breakfast. For lunch, I’d take them to grab pizza at Slim & Husky’s. I’d highly recommend My Fair Sweets for shakes and cakes (I love cake) and the Cascade Nature Preservation to check out the waterfall or take a relaxing walk. I’m all about staying low-key and Black-owned.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I definitely couldn’t have done this on my own. I struggle to pinpoint exactly where my drive and support came from, but I’d like to think it was a combination of how I was raised and what I’ve experienced. I definitely gained my business sense from being raised in a family of entrepreneurs who harped on always having more than one hustle and more than one skill. They have, and continue to, encourage building your own legacy on your own terms and that’s the exact message I convey to my kids as early as 9 years old. Ironically, I’d attribute a lot of my drive and purpose to my daughter. Becoming a mother gave me a different outlook on success and I’m forever grateful. As far as activism, I can definitely thank my grandfather for drilling it into my head to fight for what I believe in. Activism isn’t for the faint of heart and it takes a level of self-awareness to stand up for something you feel strongly about. He definitely gave me the foundation: courage, determination, persistence, etc. I’d definitely have to shoutout Howard University for honing those interests and teaching me enough about myself to lead my community. I needed every ounce of pressure Howard applied to come out with the fervor I have now. Lastly, I’d shoutout my family for the constant support, my partner for sharing my love for all things Black, and our kids for encouraging us to live loudly and proudly in faith instead on fear.
Facebook: Ashley B. Johnson-Alford
Tracy Johnson and Javetta Clemmons