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Harness Magazine Founder Ashley Rector: “Why we need to champion the tiny media outlets”

I am a little biased, but I think we need to champion the tiny media outlets. Content comes so fast and is mainly free for people to read. I don’t think people realize there is a team editing, crafting and putting out this work. If you believe in an organization — you need to help it remain […]


I am a little biased, but I think we need to champion the tiny media outlets. Content comes so fast and is mainly free for people to read. I don’t think people realize there is a team editing, crafting and putting out this work. If you believe in an organization — you need to help it remain sustainable. Otherwise, the smaller news sources or platforms you know and love will cease to exist.


As part of my series about “companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Rector. Ashley is the founder of the mission drive female empowerment platform Harness Magazine, a full-time contracts attorney, and soon-to-be mother.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Ashley! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 2016, I saw a gap in traditional media. I didn’t resonate with any of the stories that were being published by the bigger magazines or platforms. So many of my friends were going through these real, raw, situations and I couldn’t believe it wasn’t being talked about on a bigger scale. I decided to do something about it and that’s how Harness was born. We now publish stories from women and those that identify as female from all over the world. From mental health to fertility, we accept a wide array of topics and passions from our community.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint just one story. We recently launched a crowdfunding campaign and I was lucky enough to get in touch with a professional at Kickstarter. Kickstarter was so impressed by our mission and campaign — they named us a project they love. I remember feeling surprised and thankful. Sometimes you are so laser focused on working, how you can be better, how you can grow, that you don’t take the time to relish in what you’ve done. It made me stop and think wow — our message seems impactful to such a large organization — that is truly amazing.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t have a background in publishing and learning the entire industry from paper weight to binding was all new to me. I remember calling companies in the beginning inquiring about pricing and how to print in bulk knowing none of the specs of the magazine. I think I even said a few times, “you know just the traditional specs for a standard magazine”. I am positive companies thought I was crazy and/or didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I definitely learned to do my research and lean on people in the industry who have published before. Sometimes you need to put your ego at rest and let others know you are new, but willing to learn.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

There is power in sharing your story and there is power in giving people an opportunity to speak on something they value. We are sometimes the only platform that will publish a specific piece — so some stories would never see the light of day if we didn’t agree to publish it. We are empowering individuals to stand up for what they believe in. We are showing individuals that they matter — that their voice matters.

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?

We’ve had women email us after seeing their story online or in print sharing that they cried after viewing their article published. I’ve had victims of sexual abuse share their story for the first time and it was the biggest cathartic release getting it out into the world.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I think our voice is getting lost in the drama of media. I also think with laws changing and adversely effecting women or minority groups — it makes us feel like we are not being heard. Politicians need to listen. The community needs to be easier on one another. We all need to strive to be a little more authentic in this social media crazed age.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is doing what is right, even if it’s hard. It’s setting an example, inspiring your team and knowing how to assess what is working and what is not. As a leader, you are steering the ship. The dynamic you create will radiate throughout the team.

A good example would be checking in on employee’s personal lives. Some leaders may think this is taboo, but there is a big beautiful world outside of work. If someone is struggling with mental health issues and I am delegating more work than normal to that individual it could lead to a disaster. I need to be in tune with what is going on with the employees in my organization. It doesn’t need to be a very detailed in-depth analysis of what is going on. You simply check in. How is it going this week? How is your workload? How was your weekend? Work life balance is important here, so feel free to let me know if anything ever comes up.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Starting a business isn’t easy. It’s okay to slowly build instead of pushing the chips all in right away.
  2. Dependability is a huge asset when it comes to vendors, events, interns, employees.
  3. You’re going to change and adapt many times over the first few years. Don’t be scared to lose something.
  4. Not everyone is going to understand what you are doing — try to not take it personal.
  5. No one has social media figured out. Consistency in brand voice, colors, and output seem to be the only tried and true method.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I am a little biased, but I think we need to champion the tiny media outlets. Content comes so fast and is mainly free for people to read. I don’t think people realize there is a team editing, crafting and putting out this work. If you believe in an organization — you need to help it remain sustainable. Otherwise, the smaller news sources or platforms you know and love will cease to exist.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Random acts of kindness are always returned three-fold.

I always try to help out others when I can or if I have capacity to help. You never know when someone is down on their luck or could really use the help. I once edited a contract for a freelancer who was just starting out on her own. I did this for free and without her having to ask so she would be a little more legally secure. A year later, she edited our entire magazine for free as a favor. It was totally unexpected, but something Harness needed at the time.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

The Dalai Lama, because all things we do at their very root is to lead to the ultimate goal of achieving happiness. I would love to get his take on happiness or life or really anything.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow us on instagram at @harnessmagazine

Twitter: @harnessmag

Website: www.harnessmagazine.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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