One of the best ways to build with a community is to make sure that our community knows the people building OwnTrail. We’re shining the spotlight on the individuals that make up team OwnTrail, and while we might be biased, we think you’re going to think they’re as incredible as we do. Get to know our communications manager Ashley K. Stoyanov Ojeda in this authentic interview that digs into some of the meaningful milestones on her trail.
You recently added an accomplishment to your trail that many aspire to: write and publish a book! Why was this the book you needed to write at this moment in time? And now that the book is out in readers’ hands, how has the experience affected what’s next for you?
I’ve always known that I was going to write a book, but the need for Jefa in Training was validated when I started working with The Mujerista and we created our online community in 2020. The more and more I worked with Latinas to connect them with resources to help them grow their businesses, the more I realized that while these resources provided some value, we as a community needed not only a guide that provided actionable steps, but we needed for it to be written by someone who understood our culture too.
Now, here we are a couple of weeks post-launch and receiving incredible support nationwide from the Latine community. Latina-owned bookstores are putting Jefa in Training on their shelves, media publications are amplifying the launch with interviews and reviews, thought leaders are promoting the book on their social media and on podcasts – and I’m so grateful for all of it.
The same feeling I got while talking to members of the community about writing the first book, is the same feeling I’m having now about my next steps – another book (or two?), creating opportunities for us to connect, create and grow together through IRL and virtual experiences. There are so many things I’d like to do but I’m also taking a moment to feel excited about what’s happening right now and appreciate where I’m at in this very moment. After all, you only publish your first book once.
“There are so many things I’d like to do but I’m also taking a moment to feel excited about what’s happening right now and appreciate where I’m at in this very moment.”
You’ve faced numerous health challenges while working full time, running a successful nonprofit and coaching entrepreneurs on the side. Why does it feel important to include what you were physically and mentally experiencing, and not just the traditional markers of success?
Having a chronic illness has impacted my life in more ways than I like to admit – and while it’s been difficult, I think it’s important to share these experiences because there are so many of us that live like this and feel like we have to hide this part of ourselves. But the truth is I think we should be loud about it for a few reasons. One, to inspire other people with chronic illness to celebrate their authentic journeys – working through daily pain, taking time off because of surgeries or procedures – whatever it is, it’s what you need to do to live your best life. It’s all part of the journey and it’s all necessary. Two, to show other people how to treat us. There are so many people who don’t come out about their chronic illnesses because they’re afraid they won’t be taken seriously, or will be judged by employers, or people will just feel bad for them – WE ARE MORE THAN OUR ILLNESSES. And though I’m proud of being an #endowarrior, there is so much more to me than just that label. One of the reasons I love OwnTrail is because you can see that from looking at my trail.
During college, you came close to dropping out multiple times to pursue music. It sounds like you were feeling pulled between two different paths — what was this experience like, and what helped you navigate it?
Having a really great support system helped – and I’m very lucky to be able to say that my parents have always been there for me, but they were especially helpful during college when I was still figuring out what my strengths were. I think they always knew that I had great potential inside of me and whenever I had trouble finding my way, they reminded me of who I really was and therefore, shaped me into the person I am today.
Post-college, even when I thought I had found my calling, I felt stuck and unsure of what to do next. This fork in the road actually helped in the long run though because I took chances on experiences I wouldn’t have before and those experiences encouraged me to discover my personal “why”- my personal mission. Defining this mission is what has led me to everything I’m doing now. In short, I believe that if you’re feeling pulled between two different paths, that probably means you’re on the right path to something great.
“I believe that if you’re feeling pulled between two different paths, that probably means you’re on the right path to something great.”
So let’s talk creativity, Ashley Xtina! You have several creative aspirations in the works, including playing music daily and more writing. How do you fill your creative cup?
Surrounding myself with creative people while also making sure that I make enough space and time for myself. Finding the balance is something I’m still working on, but I have learned that without leaving room for creativity, you burn out quickly. Right now I’m just taking things day by day, and taking a few moments to breathe, give thanks, write and talk to someone who inspires me.
Your trail has so many milestones about supporting women in various ways — and that includes being a part of team OwnTrail as our communications manager! What are you excited to do through your role in the next year?
Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships! I am so excited to partner with more like-minded organizations and show them how they can use OwnTrail to amplify their own missions. I am a huge believer in collaboration and think that by learning each other’s strengths, we can find ways to grow together. So if you’re reading this and love OwnTrail, let’s find a way to work together!
Want to collab with us or talk music, entrepreneurship and so much more with Ashley? Connect with her trail!