A Workday With Elyse Ash of Fruitful

by Alex Skjong

Elyse Ash spent more than a decade as a copywriter in the ad industry working on campaigns for TV, healthcare companies, sports teams, and more. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that she wanted to have a bit more creative control than advertising was affording her.

But Ash found the spark to create something new from a difficult — and familiar to many — experience. From that struggle, her new company was born (along with an adorable baby girl). This is A Workday With Elyse Ash, CEO and founder of Fruitful.

 

Tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I usually describe myself as an “accidental entrepreneur” because starting a company never really was an aspiration of mine. But solving real problems, helping people, and making cool stuff absolutely was. So, after college, I worked as a creative copywriter in the ad industry for about 12 years making websites, TV commercials, and all other types of campaigns for big retail brands, sports teams, healthcare companies, and everything in between. I self-identified as a creative, so I especially loved collaborating with art directors, designers, photographers, programmers, directors and illustrators. It was so inspiring!

But I also felt frustrated by the lack of control I had as one small cog in a very large team (which was primarily driven by external clients and budgets). I always craved more insight into the analytics around how our campaigns performed and wished we had more control over brand positioning and new product innovation. I was often frustrated and felt handcuffed to a lot of decisions made by other, more risk-averse people.

Meanwhile, my husband Brad and I started trying to have a baby around 2015. We’d been married three years and were ready (and excited!) to grow our family. Well, it turns out it was going to be a longgggg journey for us with lots of doctor’s appointments, medical bills and nervous breakdowns in the baby section at Target. As we struggled emotionally as a couple, we were floored by how hard it was for our support network to really empathize with what we were going through. They felt bad for us, but they just didn’t understand how heartbroken we were.

That was when I had the idea for Fruitful — a fertility mentorship service that would connect those going through infertility and miscarriage with a mentor who shared their diagnosis, values and lifestyle; someone who had been through it before but was now “on the other side.” I talked about it like Alcoholics Anonymous meets Bumble but for infertility. When I floated the idea by Brad, who works as a computer programmer and software engineer, he loved it and we got right to work. Our skillsets were the perfect combination to build Fruitful and we launched an MVP of the service in April 2017. Today, I work on Fruitful full-time and it’s been the perfect combination of solving a real problem, helping people and making something cool.

What time do you rise and shine?

My alarm is set for 7 a.m., but it usually takes me a couple snoozes to actually get up. But it’s not my fault; we have Brooklinen sheets which are criminally comfortable.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

When I have time, eggs. When I don’t have time, a banana and a Lara Bar. But I have a toddler, so I usually do NOT have time…

What’s the first work-related task you tackle each morning?

I review and update my SELF Journal which is a daily planner. It helps me stay hyper-focused by articulating my three goals for the day, laying out my calendar, and writing down three things I’m grateful for (they usually alternate between coffee, food, and my family).

What is your workspace setup?

Pretty much all I need to work is my MacBook and a whiteboard. One day, I want to paint a wall in my home with white-board paint (if that exists…ya know, like that chalkboard paint they make). I mostly work at a floating desk out of the WeWork in Uptown. I bring my OWN dry erase markers in my backpack since the markers there are always sad and dying…I need bright, working markers, people!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I work from home, either at the kitchen counter or in the studio we created behind our house. It’s like my own little artist oasis that I pictured writing novels in but now I just write emails to prospective investors. It has a great vibe though. It’s filled with art made by my friends, Fruitful merch, palo santo, wrapping paper, my favorite photos and good vibes.

Other favorite workspaces include the Spyhouse on Hennepin, the Coven, and the Glen Nelson Center in St. Paul.

What’s the most interesting/fun/meaningful thing on your desk?

I love our Fruitful stickers, which I usually give away at the end of meetings or send inside thank you notes. They are colorful, graphic, and adorable, and they remind me that I’m capable of taking ideas and turning them into living breathing products, services, and businesses. It inspires me to keep going when I hit speed bumps (of which, there are many).

What’s one piece of tech you can’t live without?

My phone. It’s my baby monitor, my map, and my connection to my friends and family. Also.. it’s the fastest way I can submit a Starbucks order.

What do you need to get done before lunch to feel like you had a productive morning?

I like getting my hardest to-do of the day done early. There’s always *one* hard thing I have to do each day. I mean, a lot of stuff is hard (and sometimes there’s more than one), but there’s usually ONE major task I dread (sometimes it’s asking for money, other times it’s giving bad news, other times it’s pitching in front of a lot of people), but I always try to schedule my Hard Thing as early in the day as possible. I do this so A) I don’t back out or avoid it and B) I feel less anxiety and pressure after the Hard Thing, so it makes the rest of my day lighter. I really *hate* scheduling big, scary meetings any time after noon…

What are you listening to these days?

I’m either listening to podcasts (favorites are “The Daily,” “How I Built This,” “Reply All” and “Death Sex and Money”) or the soundtrack to “The Jungle Book” (my two-year-old is obsessed and is ruining my algorithm on Spotify).

 

What is your current TV obsession?

I’m late to the party, but I’m living for Catherine O’Hara’s accent on Schitt’s Creek.

What’s the last movie you saw and what would you rate it (out of five stars)?

I saw “Knives Out” and really enjoyed it — 5/5. It had some nice self-deprecating humor and some A+ art direction and casting. Toni Collette is America’s sweetheart.

What book would we find on your nightstand?

I’m currently reading Liz Phair’s memoir “Horror Stories,” even though I’m *supposed* to be reading “Little Women” for book club. Next month’s book club pick is Gloria Steinem’s “The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off” which I’m super excited about.

Cats or dogs?

None right now :(

What are you currently rockin’ as your phone background?

A photo of my daughter as a newborn…even though she is almost two years old now. I love remembering how tiny (and quiet) she was.

The best part about living in Minnesota is…

Being perpetually smug about cold weather and judging the rest of the U.S. for being weak. Also, paddle boarding on the lakes. There’s nothing like it.

What do you use to stay organized during a hectic day?

I’m naturally pretty organized but my Google Calendar is my Bible. I have a saying that if something isn’t on the calendar, then it doesn’t exist. I try to be as detailed as possible in the calendar details so I remember who it is I’m meeting (Where do they work? What do they want? What will be discussing?) and if they’re calling me or I’m calling them and which Five Watt location we’re meeting at. I’m usually very on-top of those kinds of details. I think it’s because I have at least a low-level of anxiety “on” at all times and being organized is a way I’ve learned to channel that energy and help alleviate some of it. I’ll bring this up to my therapist next week and see what she thinks.

What’s a recent work-related challenge you had to conquer? Walk us through your process.

We’ve been working on launching our native Fruitful app in the Apple store and Google store. It’s something we’ve been working on for months, and now that we are in the final weeks, I’m feeling stressed. Even though we’ve been regimented and thoughtful, it’s tough to ship a new product knowing that it isn’t perfect…but also, it’s NEVER perfect. There are always weird bugs and fringe use cases that we either forgot or didn’t prioritize. Features left hanging by the wayside. I’m learning how to be ok with done being better than perfect, because I’ve always internalized that good is the enemy of great. It’s a gray area for founders because you have to be thoughtful and strategic, but you also can’t obsess forever. It’s eventually going to be “pencils down” which is where we are now. I’m excited to show it to the world and especially our community…but also nervous about the change.

What’s one thing everyone could do to be more productive?

Delete their social media accounts.

What’s the last work-related thing you do every day?

I review my SELF journal and begin filling in my goals for the next day. Also, sometimes I’ll scroll through Fruitful’s Instagram account at night when we’re watching “Below Deck” or something mindless, and I’ll reply to DMs, look for content collaborators, set up future posts or just comment/like/engage with the rest of the #TTC (Trying to Conceive) community on there.

How do you decompress at the end of a long workday?

I play with my daughter and read books with her. Being present with her is so important to me that it’s one of the only times I really don’t have access to my phone at all. She still goes to bed so early, and she’s at daycare all day, so we only have about two hours of time together. I try to be fully present and make every second count. There’s nothing like singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to the baby you never thought you’d have to put everything in perspective.

What time do you usually hit the hay?

Around 11 p.m.. I need sleep or I’m pretty impatient and worthless the next day, so I prioritize having a sane bedtime.

 

Photos: Lucy Hawthorne

 

If there’s a community thought leader or founder who you’d like to see featured in our “A Workday With…” series, contact us on Twitter @TECHdotMN or email [email protected] with the subject line “A Workday With… Submission.”

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