Meet the Willow Girls | Ashlee Lessner
Hi. I’m Ashlee Lessner, and here is a little bit about my life.
The most important thing to me in life is my family. I try to live selflessly and to be kind. When I was growing up, it wasn’t exactly a perfect childhood… Although my parents tried their hardest to give me the best possible life, life sometimes has a way of making it’s own rules.
My parents had always struggled financially but when I was 11 years old, my dad’s “big break” came in the form of a supervisor role at a company on the eastern shore. So just like that everything I knew was about to change. We uprooted our home from the only place I’d ever known in Maryland and made the move to Delaware.
It can be hard to start fresh at any age, but I managed. For the most part, everything seemed perfect – I settled into school, made new friends, and could see that my parents were finally getting ahead in life.
But again things were about to change in the blink of an eye…. it was only two years later, but the economy was in a bad place. My dad ended up being laid off, and life really took a turn. My father struggled to find a job, but always remained positive. During this rough patch, I learned that everyone handles stress differently… my mother turned to alcohol to cope and my parents marriage was severely on the rocks. What had started off as a dream come true financial opportunity for my family had turned into our worst nightmare… as a 13 year old girl, the situation made me feel like I had to grow up over night… things happened that were very hard for me to understand… our electric was shut off, cars repossessed and we almost lost our home to foreclosure.
Despite all of this, my dad became my best friend, and the person I learned everything from. Throughout all of the crazy, rough times, I took note that my dad wouldn’t quit. His perseverance was like none other – life would knock him down but he always got back up. During the recession, my dad was giving up his life for me to survive, and I was willing to do the same.
I gave up my teenage fun and started working a full time job. I walked every dog in our development and babysat every kid on the block just so I could help my dad with whatever bills I could. After a few years of what felt like torture, things finally began to resolve for our family. My parents worked out their marriage and my dad landed a solid job. I graduated high school and started college.
Going into college, I always knew I wanted to work with kids so I majored in elementary education. Little did I know that I was about to be educated really quickly on children. I was 18 years old and expecting my first child – Leila Brielle. As a single mother, I decided to take a break from school so I could focus on my biggest priority, my new baby girl.
During this time, I met the love of my life who might also be the biggest pain in my ass – Travor. They aren’t lying when they say that life flashes before your eyes and before I knew it, I was a mom of a two year old, newly engaged, and back in school working on my degree in nursing this time.
Then… motherhood came knocking at my door again. Travor and I were expecting our second little blessing – Kinsley Willow. It was extremely exciting for us because we are both only children. We knew we would love to be able to see the bond between siblings… it is really a beautiful thing.
At this point in my life, I was really discovering who I was, but some days I would compare my life to others and beat myself up… I would question my decisions – was I making the right choices? But over time, I began to realize that all of my pain and struggle had ultimately lead to triumph. Because my father had taught me to count my blessings, work hard, and be loyal, and I have always tried to stand by those things. These things that I learned through the hardships are what have brought me to where I am today.
Compared to others, I may not have had it all, but I know I didn’t have it bad. I may have had less of material things but I had so much love in my heart and the journey taught me so much. I learned with joy comes pain, with pain comes motivation and with motivation you can fulfill your dreams.
Over the last few years my family and I have loved and we’ve lost. We’ve struggled and we’ve gained. In the mist of all of that, there was a time when I lost sight of my true self and the things that are important in life and will ultimately make me happy. So, I’ve decided to push forward and reach for my dreams.
My fiancé Travor’s cousin Brynn is a girl boss business owner. After talking with her about my goals, she helped pull together four women with the same level of passion to create Willow Marie & Co.
The “Willow” portion of our boutique name came from Travor & Brynn’s grandfather – William. Marie was Michelle’s grandmother who raised her from the age of four. Some of the most influential people in our lives may no longer be with us physically, but we know they are here spiritually wishing us luck, and reminding us not give up.
I am thrilled to be working with three other women to channel our collective hardships into opening a business that offers a one of a kind experience for all our customers. At Willow Marie, we believe in women empowering each other, and I cannot wait to see how our morals and individual passions bring each of our dreams to life…