Since 2011, entrepreneur Ashley Michele has been developing her Detroit eyewear venture, Alley and Eye, selling glasses, frames and sunglasses in a variety of colors and styles. For years, she grew a collection of specs from area thrift shops, which she visited in between shifts at the odd jobs she worked after leaving school. She contemplated running a full-time business, but as a young mother she had doubts about entrepreneurship. “You don’t know for sure if it’s gonna be financially secure for you,” she says.
But while working at other small businesses, she saw firsthand what their owners dealt with each day, and grew confident she could handle running a venture herself. So this past August, she made the leap and formally incorporated Alley and Eye, starting the firm’s next chapter with strong support from both repeat customers and high-profile clientele like performers Alicia Keys, Wyclef Jean, Sevyn Streeter and D.R.A.M. Looking ahead, Michele plans to grow by offering new subscription boxes for frames, and aims to make monthly donations to area charities and nonprofits with the proceeds.
Growing a business while caring for two young children is hard work, but “being an entrepreneur helped me be a better mom,” Michele says. “You need that strength on both ends.” She also built a reliable support network made up of female family members and the women at her co-working space, and she has allowed herself to turn to them whenever she needs help. Indeed, as a mother and a businesswoman, she says entrepreneurship “helps me to grow and continue moving forward.”