Former nonprofit executive director launches social enterprise

Chattanooga nonprofit sector veteran Holly Ashley recently branched off and opened her own business. Photo: Contributed)

Authored By Chloé Morrison

Chattanooga nonprofit sector veteran Holly Ashley recently branched off and opened her own business. (Photo: Contributed)

The former Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute executive director, who spent more than a decade working in nonprofits, recently started her own social enterprise to support other businesswomen and address political issues she cares about.

She’d been interested in the idea of a social enterprise for a couple of years, and learning about B corporations continued to pique her interest, she said.

“I was getting frustrated with the limitations of nonprofit executives to speak out on matters of policy,” Holly Ashley, who recently launched Lady Humans, said. “I started to feel like I needed to take action in 2018 because it’s such an important year politically.”

Lady Humans is an LLC lifestyle startup with a focus on social responsibility.

At its helm, Ashley will combine skills such as project management and communication support, which she developed after 14 years working in the nonprofit sector, with her desire to affect change.

The consulting arm of Lady Humans will provide direct services to clients, from copywriting and creating press releases to project management and strategic planning,

“I’m not going to tell you what you should do and then leave you,” she said.

Her dream client would be a woman running for office, a woman-owned small business or a nonprofit focused on supporting women.

At least initially, Ashley is charging an hourly rate for smaller projects. For something more involved, she offers a project rate that’s determined after a consultation.

In addition to the consultation portion of the business, the Lady Humans “side hustle” involves an effort to build a community of people who want to be civically engaged and need a resource to guide them to opportunities. She’s keyed into an array of volunteer opportunities and will be including them in a regular email.

She’s currently working from home and keeping her overhead costs low.

“Because it’s a lifestyle business and I don’t plan to scale [in the next couple of years], I want to continue to keep that overhead as low as possible so I can keep pricing low as well,” she said.

Her company has a “not-so-hidden feminist agenda,” and she said that “feminist” doesn’t need to have any negative connotations.

“The norm is not that men don’t respect women,” she said. “I would love to work with male clients that get my mission and purpose.”

The name of the business is a tongue-and-cheek reminder that we are all humans.

“You hear people talking about feminism or gender equality, and a lot of times, what gets left out is how much worse women of color have it,” she said. “A lot of the work and talk isn’t intersectional at all. It’s critical to bring racial equality into the mix.”