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Published March 10, 2014, 11:56 AM

GF woman launches mentorship program for female entrepreneurs

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- By the end of 2012, Ashley Rae Johnson had been operating her own Web development and marketing business, Brand Logic, for 10 years, but she began to feel “like something was missing,” she said.

By: Pamela Knudson, Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- By the end of 2012, Ashley Rae Johnson had been operating her own Web development and marketing business, Brand Logic, for 10 years, but she began to feel “like something was missing,” she said.

That “something” turned out to be a “purpose” she felt especially drawn to: female business development.

“I have a passion for helping women to see their potential and reach that potential.”

Johnson, who uses the name Ashley Rae with her business, had a desire “to reach women at a deeper level … to give them education and guidance to get them up and going” in business, she said.

She wanted to work “with self-sustaining entrepreneurs or independent consultants … who work with businesses.”

Last August, she officially launched Her Brand Development Group, a mentorship program which offers services for emerging businesswomen as well as those who’ve been in business for a while and want to increase their skills.

Rae shaped the program based on what she needed when she started her company, she said, in an effort to help others avoid the “frustrations” she experienced.

“I didn’t want any man — or woman, for that matter — to hold me back from creating my own future by what they think I can do.”

Untapped potential

“So many women out there have potential but not the means to get started,” she said.

“There’s a lot going against women in the business world. Some men are intimidated by strong women who want to start their own businesses.”

The process can be overwhelming to novices, but it doesn’t have to be, Rae said.

“It’s about giving (women) confidence to know they can do this. We have every opportunity out there. It’s just knowing how to do it.”

For a fee, members of Her Brand Development Group receive a package of services, including online training through webinars that cover topics such as marketing, accounting and business systems, Rae said.

Recorded webinars may be accessed by logging on at any time, day or night, she said.

Members receive weekly email updates with tools, tips and resources they can use to grow their businesses.

During “mini-mentorship sessions,” offered online three times a day, three days a week, members interact with Rae or a member of her team, each of whom has different business-related expertise and backgrounds.

Because the program is Web-based, “it’s so much more convenient,” she said. “You can be sitting at your desk. There’s no driving to a class.”

Mentorship “isn’t something that happens overnight,” Rae said. It’s a “long-term relationship — you have dialogue back and forth.”

‘Support is key’

Beth Johnston, Grand Forks, is building her business around a “passion” she has had since childhood for a type of therapy called Healing Touch.

The therapy “helps to balance energy flow in the body” which has been disrupted by stress, pain or illness, said Johnston, a certified practitioner. It’s used in hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospices and spas to alleviate pain, enhance recovery from surgery and to treat depression and anxiety, she said.

“You see it (practiced) much more in the Twin Cities — though not so much in this area yet.”

Johnston is growing her business, taking “baby steps,” she said, with the support of Rae and her team of consultants.

She represents “exactly” the women whom Her Brand was designed to reach, Rae said.

She has a full-time job, but it’s Healing Touch that excites her, Johnston said, although “I was a little tenuous about putting it out there.”

Johnston, who started providing the therapy in her home several years ago, learned about Her Brand Development Group at a time when she was ready “to shift (her business) into higher gear.”

“I wanted a professional presence,” she said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Rae encouraged her to “grab that empowerment and go for it.”

“She knew that by creating a more professional brand, it would open up doors for more clients to come in,” Johnston said.

Rae designed business cards, a brochure, website and a Facebook page for Healing Touch.

“What she gives through her business is priceless, but her energy lifts you,” Johnston said. “She’s your advocate, your 150 percent advocate. That support is so key.”

“Everyone has doubts sometimes. You think, ‘this is a lot,’” Johnston said. “But if it’s something you really love, you’re willing to go the extra mile.”

She has moved her business into the Center for Self Growth and Renewal on South Washington Street in Grand Forks.

“I’m going to see where this leads,” she said. “I’m just going to enjoy each moment as it happens.”

Defining success

Her Brand Development Group has drawn a “wide variety of people,” Rae said.

It’s attracted 54 members, she said, many of whom are in the service industry — photographers, massage therapists, make-up artists — as well as retail boutique owners and consultants.

Most live in North Dakota and Minnesota, others in California, Florida, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Arizona, she said. Some members have “no logo and no business plan.”

“I have one member who’s been in business 10 years and has never registered a (business) name” with the state, she said.

Her Brand is aimed at helping women “take the proper steps to make sure the business is legal and functioning properly,” she said, “but we do not offer legal advice.” For that, as well as accounting services, members are referred.

While there are other business-oriented networking groups out there, Her Brand differs from them by focusing on “guidance, support, training, knowledge and education,” Rae said. “We’re not getting together to give business to one another.”

Businesswomen all have the same frustrations, she said. “There are days when we’re lacking our drive. We need that empowerment.

“To get that from another woman, I think, is very valuable.”

Rae said, “My biggest joy is watching women blossom, gain that confidence and spark again, and realize that they can do this.”

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Phone: (701) 738-4897.