With three daughters under age 6 and several blossoming businesses, Ashley Edmonds is the definition of a super mom. Her first business, Lilywrap, was born following a guilt-filled Christmas where after presents were unwrapped, her family was left with a ton of trash. Through research, she discovered the average American spends 3 hours wrapping holiday presents, and we create 4 million tons of paper gift wrap waste each year. Armed with the idea for a flexible, stretchy fabric wrapping, Ashley invented Lilywrap, but of course, she didn’t stop there. Next, she and her husband invented Beer Greetings, a 6-pack greeting card for the beer lover. With products sold far and wide, Ashley’s genius ideas are only the beginning. Now, Ashley is the founder, creator and CEO behind Smartsy, a series of innovative product solutions for everyday problems. Whether she’s answering to inventor, mom or entrepreneur, to us, she’s the complete package tied with a Lilywrap bow. Meet today’s FACE of Atlanta, Ashley Edmonds.
How did you get into inventing and entrepreneurship?
I’ve earned three degrees from the University of Georgia. Go Dawgs! As an undergraduate, I completed an ABJ in Public Relations and a BA in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies focusing on Fashion Merchandising and Marketing. I then pursued a Masters in Business Administration in the evenings while working. I took an entrepreneurship class during the course of my MBA where we had to pitch business ideas and compete in a business plan competition. Though I had the idea for Lilywrap on paper long before the class, the confidence to move forward with the idea came from winning that class competition. After completing my MBA, I continued to work full-time for a little over a year while further developing Lilywrap at night and on the weekends. I launched Lilywrap on the market in July 2012 and left my traditional job to pursue my own business full-time about 6 months later.
Lilywrap was born out of a guilt-filled Christmas that left tons of trash. How do you recommend people have an eco-conscious holiday season?
Being eco-conscious during the holidays doesn’t have to be hard; just making small changes can make a big difference! Think about how much shopping you do — whether it’s small shops, Target or the grocery store. Bringing those reusable shopping bags that are tucked away in your closet to tote your purchases home saves so much truly unnecessary waste, and it’s easy! Order most of your gifts online? Try to order multiple items at a time to reduce packaging waste and carbon emissions during transport. Of course wrapping in a reusable gift wrap like Lilywrap cuts down on wrapping paper waste, too. In fact, if every American family wrapped just three gifts a year in reused materials it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. None of these measures are hard or a drastic change in lifestyle, they just take forethought. However, every little change makes a big impact.
What is your hope for Lilywrap? What is the product’s future?
I hope to continue to grow Lilywrap so we can simplify the gift wrapping process for busy consumers while also saving more and more gift wrap and bags from the landfill. We plan to offer more design and size options in the very near future and hope to expand the custom packaging solution side of the business for online retailers looking for premium, eco-friendly gift wrap options and corporations looking for new branding opportunities.
As if one product wasn’t a lot to run and manage, you now have several other products under your company, Smartsy, including Beer Greetings. Where did the idea for Beer Greetings, the 6-pack greeting card, come from? How has it evolved from being just a beer carrier/gift?
My brother Brian is co-founder of Gate City Brewing in Roswell, Georgia. Back when he first started brewing his own beer, I would gift it to friends to help get the word out. The problem was I could never find anything other than used 6-pack cartons to put the gift in. The presentation was terrible! There were so many gift packaging options for wine, but I could never find anything specifically created for beer. Given the rise in the craft beer market, I was surprised and instantly motivated to create something myself.
Beer Greetings started with our patented 6-pack carrier box with a built-in greeting card, and then we extended the line to include Big Bottle Gift Tags designed for gifting growlers and larger 22-oz bottles of specialty beers. While the original intention was for these products to be used when gifting beer, our customers are so creative and use them to gift a curated selection of all sorts of items — from small-batch BBQ sauces and salsas, to soaps and lotions, to rolled up tea towels and food goodies. Some customers have even used them as centerpieces with flowers at brewery-based events. It’s so fun to see how our product is being used!
Have you had a pinch-me moment? What was it, and why was it such an unbelievable career highlight?
As cheesy as it may sound, every day feels like a pinch-me moment! While I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I never imagined the path to get there would be via an invention. My biggest pinch-me moment though probably occurred when, as a winner of the Spanx Leg Up contest, I was asked to have lunch with Sara Blakely and two other local winners. I’ve followed her business (and used her products!) ever since Spanx was named as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things, and I truly admired her as businesswoman. She was so down to earth, asked such thought-provoking questions and gave such great advice tailored specifically to me and my challenges that I couldn’t help but just be in awe. I still can’t believe that happened!
In addition to being a creative entrepreneur, you are also the mom to three girls. What do you hope your girls learn from your role as the co-founder of not one but several companies?
My hope for them is that they truly believe they can pursue any dream they have for their future, whether it’s based on career, family, travel or more.
If you could organize a lunch of powerhouse peers or people you admire, who would you invite?
Tough question! I would love to have lunch with Sheryl Sandberg, Kristen Bell, Oprah and Andy Stanley. Sheryl for her professional advice. Kristen for laughs and because she just seems so darn nice. Oprah because I’ve always admired her (and to tell her why my products should be on her Favorite Things list!), Andy Stanley, the pastor of my church, because he makes me think and is such a gifted communicator.
If you could give your pre-Smartsy self advice, what would you say?
Pay more attention in that Operations Management class! Just kidding. I would probably tell myself not to be so nervous to launch a new business for fear that it may fail. You’ll never know where it will go unless you try!
On the flipside, what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
Be present. It’s so easy to get distracted worrying about the future, perusing a constant stream of information on our cell phones or taking yet another photo. I find I am happier when I can set all that aside and simply live in the moment.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
You took out the easy answers! Athleisure wear, travel and a good book.
Thank you, Ashley, for sharing the story behind your brands with us. Special thank you, too, to Catrina Maxwell of CatMax Photography for these great photos of Ashley!
Read about even more inspiring Atlanta women in our FACES archives. Click here.