We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I initially started the Little Bite Kitchen in the fall of 2017 as a food photography page where I shared places that I visited and my home recipes. While I greatly enjoyed this, that summer I began to think about some sort of business model based on the things I frequently got questions on- “Ashley, how do you grocery shop for one?” I didn’t realize that so many people struggled with grocery shopping efficiently and meal planning for their week, leading to ridiculous takeout and delivery fees. That thought process of “well what do people ask me about a lot?” has been the driving piece to how I manage LBK business initiatives. Any idea that I have/sale-driven initiative is based on how I answer that question. This year in March, I re-branded LBK to include recipe downloads (both free and for sale) based on the recipes I most often get asked how to make. Beyond that, all of my services relate back to how I can most help people feel the kitchen is accessible; rather that be through recipe walkthroughs, virtual tutorials or making dinner for a family for the work week.
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.
Professionally, I’m fortunate to have a career that is woven throughout my life and not just Monday-Friday, 9-5. I am a full-time educator, currently working in higher education with a focus on student leadership development. Along with that, I work as a outside consultant and facilitator focused on the topics of educational equity, cultural competency and social justice. What most excites me about this portion of my career trajectory is that it along with LBK, I’ve been able to create my own education consulting business where I’ve been fortunate enough to work across the spectrum of educational spaces with both students and colleagues committed to the betterment of the educational landscape. In the same vein, I don’t view my work with LBK as separate from who I am as a full-time educator; my goal through my website and business is to educate folks on why the kitchen isn’t a scary place and how they can rely on themselves to create amazing, comforting food. Along the way, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t have to segment my identities; I don’t have to be “Ashley the Educator” or “Ashley the Foodie” depending on the hour of the day. I am allowed to be a multifaceted person and I don’t have to separate who I am depending on the space that I occupy. Coming to that realization has been one of the largest challenges I’ve faced- having confidence in myself that only I can define my path and “who” I am. Overall, I want the world to know that my brand is me; it is about being authentically yourself; it is about warmth and accessibility; it is about knowing that you are going in the right direction because you dictate the route.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in arguably the best place on Earth- Brooklyn, N.Y.- so hosting my best friends is my speciality because there is so much to do and see here. I’m big on supporting local businesses so my food experiences and places I take my friends to center around that. Some of my favorites in BK are Cafe on Ralph, Peaches Shrimp & Crab, Chez Oskar, Papa Samaurai (the best ramen I’ve had in years). Brooklyn has no shortage of bars but the one I take everyone to is Bar Lunatico- it’s a small spot with a beautiful backyard that has live music (often jazz) during the evenings. One of the best things about living in such a huge place like New York is the variety of people and culture; you can spend an entire day in Washington Square Park with a book and playlist and pass an entire day by. Given that, my favorite places to visit and hang out are open spaces where you can see the variety of life the city has to offer – Fort Greene Park for a picnic, Prospect Park for the only lake in BK, DUMBO to visit the waterfront. I think being able to hang out (now a bit different with COVID) and see the life that this city has is one of the most amazing things this area has to offer. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or go super far from your home to see the heart of this community and all my “mini-tours” try to show that.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Two of my best friends, Gabrielle and Mikeisha, deserve all the credit for pushing me to stop being so afraid of investing in myself! I’ve always been so hesitant to monetize something that I love; cooking gives me so much joy and I often use it as a form of self-care/stress relief. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself and it become a burden by creating a business model from my joy factor. Gab and Mikeisha, two phenomenal creatives, offered not just validation that I am in control of what my business and outputs look like, but actually helped me build the branding I needed. My first logo was created by Mikeisha back in 2018 and Gab created graphics to advertise my first paid service (meal prep bundles). Over the years, I’ve been able to rely heavily on Gab for brand development support and understanding how content creation looks across social media platforms. While they aren’t in the kitchen with me on a day-to-day basis, their mentorship and encouragement gave me the boost of confidence I needed to know I was on the right track.