Everyone admires the entrepreneurial spirit: determination, passion, dedication, creativity: all of these things are required by anyone willing to risk it all for a dream. But, it’s those who set out to do something that will better others that truly inspire us to get out there and do something great. Ashley LeMieux of The Shine Project is one of those people.
Ashley started The Shine Project blog as way to motivate herself and others to see their potential to change the world, inspiring them to get out of their comfort zones and seek the best life had to offer, creating an online community of forward thinkers. Since then, the project has expanded to include The Shine Project Scholarship, which supports at-risk teens by teaching them skills they will need to succeed in college and beyond; and Threads by The Shine Project, which employs inner city youth in the making of jewelry, keeping them off the streets and helping them raise money for their education.
The popularity of Ashley’s project has skyrocketed over the past couple of years, allowing her to positively affect the lives of dozens of teens in her home base of Arizona, many of whom are first generation college students who dream of becoming nurses, broadcasters, writers and engineers. Without the assistance they receive from The Shine Project, they may never have to chance to meet their full potential — and the hope they gain from their achievements here can be the catalyst they need to break the cycle.
We spoke to Ashley about the origins of work, what inspires her the most, and what’s coming next for The Shine Project.
When you first started your blog, what did you envision for it? Were you hoping to create a lifestyle blog or was the thought of something more always in the back of your head?
At the time, I had no idea how it would turn out. Once I came up with The Shine Project and raising money to give scholarships to those in my school, I knew I had to do more. That’s when I created Threads by The Shine Project to employ inner-city youth so they can pay their way through college once their scholarship money runs out.
How did the idea for what The Shine Project is now come about?
I worked at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix and I just wanted to come up with a project that inspires people to live happy lives and give back to their own community.
Why did you choose scholarships for underprivileged teens among the myriad of other causes to support? Is their plight something that is particularly close to your heart?
It is close to my heart because I worked with so many students in high school that I knew needed help from outside sources. Many of the students I work with have little to no support from their families and I wanted to change that. I wanted to help them realize they can making something out of themselves and break the cycle of not attending college.
How do you choose who to help/what new projects to take on for The Shine Project? How are donations distributed?
We love doing various service events around Phoenix to get the “shine” students out and helping others as well. We love working with Feed My Starving Children, St. Vincent de Paul and various others!
Have you ever been afraid (especially at the outset) that your project would fail? Have you come across any moments where you thought you couldn’t do this? How have you combated those feelings?
I have been afraid because if this project fails, I feel I will be letting down so many students who have become so close to my heart. Our jewelry line, Threads, has done so well and that keeps me feeling hopeful!
What is your favorite Shine Project success story?
I cannot pick just one story because they are all so inspiring! The students who win scholarships have such high hopes and big dreams for the future so I just can’t wait to watch them all achieve their goals. Most of them are the first in their family to attend college so that alone makes me so thrilled!
Do you have any advice for women who are hoping to start an organization or blog, small business or project of their own?
Never give up. There’s a plan for everyone and I know that things always work out the way they are supposed to!
What new things do you have in store for The Shine Project? Where do you see yourself/your business by this time next year?
Threads by The Shine Project is our main focus right now so we are just constantly finding ways to better the company so that we can employ more inner-city youth! The more bracelets we sell, the more students we can employ!
All Images c/o The Shine Project
Kerri Jarema is the creator and editor of Lydia Magazine. She was born and raised in New York City and still calls it home. When she isn’t busy writing and editing she can usually be found with her nose in a book, watching way too much TV, fangirling on Tumblr, singing very loud when no one is around, obsessing over everything British and exploring her favorite neighborhoods. Find her on Twitter@kerrajar.