Share your idea with others. In the beginning I was so worried that people were going to “steal” my idea, but it’s really all about the team and execution. It is so important to get feedback from family and friends and it also prepares you for future questions from partners, investors, social channels and even the media.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Saye Co-Founder of Presence from Daily Rays Inc.
Ashley Saye is an entrepreneur from Southern California with a unique idea designed to radically change how we get and stay inspired everyday. A graduate of USC with a degree in economics, Ashley’s professional journey began in the cutthroat world of commercial real estate across the US which inspired her “Big Idea” that lead to her co-founder and brand ambassador position of one of the most anxiously anticipated digital devices of the year, “Presence,” a digital, motivational quote board designed to stream positivity into your home from the world’s most inspiring voices and passionate artists.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was beginning a career in commercial real estate, and unlike residential, commercial retail investment sales is an entirely male dominant industry with a very small percentage being female. At my first firm, not only was I competing with all men, but they were also two or three times my age. I will never forget during my interview process, I was told “you have to be a shark to be successful in this space”, “most people don’t make money for years”, and “it’s hard to have a family with this career.” It felt personal and as if they were trying to talk me out of my chosen career path. I didn’t fit the mold and went headfirst down a spiral of self doubt, which can sometimes happen to the best of us. In a desperate effort to stop the repetitive self deprecating thoughts that ran in my head I knew I needed to transform my environment with positive and inspiring stimuli. I decided to purchase a blank pack of chalkboards from Amazon and then write famous quotations, like “Everything you want is on the other side of fear,” and positive affirmations, like “This is your year!” Throughout the day, when the negative self talk started to creep up in my mind I would glance over to the chalkboards that I had decorated around my house. Over time, these words helped me feel more motivated, focused, and feeling positive. However, I started to crave new quotations and affirmations and a simpler process for creating the boards. Solving that problem led to the birth of Presence.
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I started making cold calls on practically day one at my first real estate firm. It was very intimidating because I was in the center of a cubicle arrangement that allowed all my colleagues to easily listen in on every call. Naturally, I felt the pressure of potentially screwing up in front of everyone and the prospects on the other end of the telephone would probably know I was brand new. The first few calls were very uncomfortable and I could swear the whole office around me grew quiet to hear me struggle through. The industry jargon didn’t flow naturally and I couldn’t yet run the cap rate calculations quickly in my head. I thought “Who would trust a young girl in her early 20’s to sell their most expensive asset, a retail building?” Words of affirmation and diligent study of the industry helped my confidence level tremendously and my calls began to improve. Within the first few months of calling I got my first client, and he also happened to be a Nobel Prize winner! I realized I had to experience a lot of discomfort upfront to gain the confidence needed to be successful.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
I believe you are the sum of those around you. I have experienced first hand that toxic people can drain your enthusiasm and negatively impact your energy level, happiness, and even success. Studies have shown that surrounding yourself with toxic people can cause serious stress and long lasting negative effects on the brain. I realized the importance of avoiding them in all facets of life.
Another principle that guides me in both my personal and professional life is to have a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. I now see challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth. I never let fear stop me on my path to success. Ultimately our belief in ourselves determines our level of success.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
My guiding principles morphed into a product designed to help people feel inspired. Presence is a digital quote board designed to stream positivity into your home from the world’s most inspiring voices and passionate artists. With the press of a button, you can discover and connect with content that transforms your mood and your day.
How do you think this will change the world?
Our society is moving at a faster and more stressful pace. Presence creates a much needed moment of reflection. It is designed to help people erase and reprogram negative internal dialogue. With the power of words and art, Presence can lift you up after a breakup, energize you to pursue your dreams, motivate you to start that workout, help you practice better self care, and remind you to simply be more present.
As a society, we are becoming completely dependent on screens for entertainment, schedules, and communication. Unlike any other device or screen, we pride ourselves in improving peoples’ self image, and their ability to live a happier and a more successful life. Most other devices promote an agenda, a lifestyle, or specific objective. Presence is the only device that comes to mind with the sole objective of creating a happier, more secure state of mind. It’s hard to believe how this could lead to any negative unintended consequences.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
In commercial real estate, I was required to make 75 to 100 cold calls per day. In order to get to a single positive conversation, you experience tremendous amounts of rejection and negativity. As a result, I had a bad habit of allowing negative thoughts to consume me. I was determined to stop doubting myself and began searching for ways to feel inspired and motivated. A change wouldn’t happen overnight, but if I could infuse positive stimuli in my daily life, over time it would seep in and transform my self image. It became a tedious chore to find daily inspiring quotes and nothing existed in the market that could simplify this process for me. The idea of Presence came as a result of this dilemma.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
We have a top notch team of designers, artists, software engineers, marketing gurus, and the factory is ready to go. A significant investment in marketing and sales will be needed to help people understand and feel the transformation that this product will bring to their lives. Partnerships with additional influential voices and artists will further expand the market for this product.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Share your idea with others. In the beginning I was so worried that people were going to “steal” my idea, but it’s really all about the team and execution. It is so important to get feedback from family and friends and it also prepares you for future questions from partners, investors, social channels and even the media.
- Failure is a detour that takes you closer to success. I think back on my first few years in commercial real estate when I had to make 100 cold calls every single day. I’ll admit I came close to tears a few times in the beginning. Eventually I grew thicker skin, and was able to reframe my mindset; the more rejection I received, the closer I got to the wins.
- Optimize through outsourcing and automation wherever you can. There is no fast track to success, but there are so many tools and resources out there to help you organize certain tasks.
- Success takes time. Early in my career, I was told the average business takes 3–5 years to turn a profit. It doesn’t happen overnight!
- You don’t need to be an expert at everything. When the idea for Presence was born, I didn’t have any experience building consumer products. I had to lean on my network and brought in a CEO to help me build a kick ass team.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
- The first quote I wrote on a chalkboard is “Everything you want is on the other side of fear” by Jack Canfield. This is something I always refer to when challenges present themselves. Nothing is gained by staying in your comfort zone. You won’t grow or experience the spice of life.
- “Old ways won’t open new doors”. When reaching an insurmountable roadblock, try a new path.
- “None of us is as smart as all of us” by Ken Blanchard. You can go much farther if you build a great team to lean on.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
We are on a mission to make people feel happier and more inspired. We’re doing this by delivering personalized inspirational content from the world’s most inspiring voices right into people’s homes. Presence is the first digital quotation board which will retail for $200 along with a $6 monthly subscription to personalize the experience. We’re going after the “wellness” market and in particular women/men in their 30’s, which we believe to be a multi billion dollar market opportunity. Our team is led by a product designer who helped develop Siri, a New York Times illustrator who runs a column for Modern Love, a Red Dot award winner Industrial Designer, and a marketer that generated the highest revenue generating pre-order worldwide.
How can our readers follow you on social media?https://www.pinterest.com/discoverPresence/
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.