The foreshadowing of a superstar came during middle school for Ashley Thompson. At only thirteen, Ashley started her first business with DIY flair. Handmade headbands were her weekend hustle at her family’s garage sales. Later in the halls of high school, Ashley sold tubes of Avon mascara to all of her friends right out of her patch-covered backpack. Since she was only in high school Ashley’s mother had to sign her waiver to become an Avon sales rep. Unable to sit still and with a desire to earn extra money, Ashley kept working. Even though 3 a.m. is way too early for most teenagers, before school started in the morning, Ashley trekked over to her neighbor’s farm and milked cows. Did you know she is from Wisconsin?
Making the Leap
Over the years, vanilla vodka and a cake-shaped tutu have been some of Ashley’s more creative marketing materials. Her creative endeavors were always through other people's businesses, and she never had the opportunity or resources to jump into something of her own—that is until a love story landed Ashley here in Fayetteville. The newlywed and newly transplanted Ashley and Jon were separated mere weeks after moving to Fort Bragg as Jon deployed. “I said goodbye to my husband. I will never forget because it was the day before my birthday.” Being at rock bottom gave Ashley the boldness to make the leap and start her own business in 2011, Pressed Branding.
Pressed Branding works on projects for local businesses (you may have seen Fayetteville Pie Company’s logo) all the way up to national brands (like Inc. Magazine) to create strong visual brands and creative marketing. In less than five years, Ashley’s business grew beyond her wildest imaginings. When her one-dog family grew to two, Ashley was forced to move. During her tour of new rentals, 120 Hay Street stood out as both a living and a work space. “In one day I had signed a lease and had a space for my dream retail store!” In 2015, Pressed: A Creative Space was born. “The scariest thing I did was step away from a growing business to start all over again,” Ashley said. Planning and capital were the next steps for Pressed’s expansion into Pressed: A Creative Space. “CEED really helped me. I knew I needed to be prepared when I talked to Lexi so I brought my business plan and samples for my dream storefront. Presenting it to her pushed me to really get it ready.” Lexi Hasapis is the Director of the Women’s Business Center at CEED (Center for Economic Empowerment and Development) and Scott Keen, the Capital Loan officer, helped Ashley secure a loan.
Made in North Carolina
Scents of lemon pound cake and rain water permeate the super chic vibe inside Pressed’s storefront. Sandhills Candle Company, a mission-centric brand that donates five meals to the Food Bank of North Carolina for every candle sold, a handpicked brand by Ashley, is on display. Sage Harvest Gourmet Jerky from Southern Pines tempts customers during checkout. Sage Harvest has a heart for the global community. They use 10% of the jerky proceeds to improve the lives of orphaned children in China. It is hard to spot a yogi or fashionista in Fayetteville without a Pura Vida bracelet, or ten, stacked on their wrist. Ashley chose to stock this vibrant line of handwoven bracelets whose mission of sustainable craftsmanship has helped employ over 100 artisans in Costa Rica. With the colorful accessories throughout the store and the witty cards—some of which have been pressed by the 100-year-old letterpress in the back!—lining the walls, you can’t help but smile.
Ashley uses her love of branding to highlight brands with a story. “I handpick other military spouse businesses to put in our store and give them a place where their brands can take off and grow.” R. Riveter pop-ups at Pressed have been both popular and powerful for military spouses, since each bag is handmade by a military spouse who can keep their job no matter where they move. Like R. Riveter, Pressed has made employing military spouses the rule rather than the exception.
Passionate about traveling, Ashley grabs every local bite she can to experience the new. She sells the locally brewed and small-batch kombucha, Tribucha, which hails from right up the road in Raleigh. On a trip to Las Vegas, Ashley discovered the unique and tasty treat of paletas, or as Americans call them popsicles. Paletas are creamier and a more flavorful version of the summer treat. Like a true localísta Ashley wanted to bring her new favorite dessert back to Fayetteville but in a local way. Locopops in Durham fit the bill, being locally made and with artisan flavors like Mexican Hot Chocolate, Cherry Lime, Strawberry Lemonade and Cookies and Cream. Children, parents and those who like to wander and stroll through downtown flock to Pressed for the delicious snack.
Ashley teaches all of us how to take pride in Fayetteville and to love local. With her love of creating, she pressed vinyl Fayetteville, North Carolina, onto buttery-soft tees and Drink Local sweatshirts with beer cozies built in. Her most favorite thing about Fayetteville? The strong sense of community. In a city full of people from all over the world, “everyone is more open, quick to embrace each other.”
Helping the community is a part of Ashley’s DNA. Her joy for the upcoming Arts & Entertainment district Downtown can be seen in her volunteer hours on the Promotions Committee. “I am excited about Downtown having a unique culture, a whole experience in itself.” This April, Ashley and fellow milspo-entrepreneurs Brittany Campbell and Candita Choffy are competing as a 90’s girl squad in Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars competition. The fundraiser hosted by CEED funds rapid-rehousing and homeless prevention programs.
Pressed: A Creative Space offers brand new experiences each time a customer visits. The store is ever-changing and shifting as Ashley says, “It’s my creative outlet, my way of doing art.” When Pressed: A Creative Space opened its doors in 2015, Ashley met her tribe of creatives. Then the DIY workshops began with calligraphy by Rika King and macramé plant hangers by MossHound Designs. Brush Lettering 101 and Instagram for Business are two new opportunities in 2017. “A lot of people have become friends meeting in our workshops,” Ashley said. “It is a store but also our own little community.” To learn more about upcoming workshops or more ways to get involved, check out Pressed’s website at www.pressednc.com or follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Inspiration + Workshops