Born and raised in Duntroon, Ontario, Ashley Lougheed, CEO & Founder of Girl Time Inc., newly published author and writer of more than 200 women’s stories, is a woman of marathon-energy. She is a born leader and social butterfly with the gift of bringing those around her together. Whether it was on the playground while creating school-yard clubs, or organizing girls’ nights-out and special events in high school and university, she continues to do so today through her company, Girl Time Inc., a social club for women and women in business which Ashley launched in February 2020.
But how did it all begin?
Ashley married her high school sweetheart, Darryl (aka her biggest fan), and their journey took them to four years away at University to Ottawa. For these four years while Darryl was in medical school, Ashley was a Primary/Junior teacher. They then headed to London, ON. where Darryl did his Orthopedic residency for five years. During their years in London, Ashley retired her teachers hat and became a new mom to their two children, Lillian and Everett.
Ashley reflected, “Anybody who has ever been a new mom can understand that you need your village to support you during that crucial period.” She recognized that as an adult in a new city, it would be tough to make friends and connections. This realization plus her needs and wants for community, would lead her in the direction to find and establish her own ‘Kula.” A Sanskrit word meaning community – which would also become the founding language of Girl Time Inc., “The legendary, influential, widespread goddesses who come together to celebrate inclusivity and a sense of belonging.” But more on that later…
So why Collingwood?
Ashley and Darryl never considered moving back to the Collingwood area. Darryl had two fellowships lined up in Toronto and British Columbia following his exams and graduation. That is when fate stepped in, and the Collingwood Hospital posted a position for an Orthopedic Surgeon position. On a whim Darryl applied for it even though it was not really considered a possibility. They didn’t know that the area had grown exponentially since they had left, nor that it had become a haven for entrepreneurs and young, active families. Then lo and behold Darryl, now an orthopaedic surgeon, was offered the position, and their world flipped upside down in eight days. Ashley says, “it was 2015 and we were coming home!” She recalls a photo of them holding their babies and a bottle of champagne in celebration – “we looked like deer in headlights”. While they had not really been ready to make such a massive change, it was going to happen. They were on their way home. Their son, Everett, was just six months old and their daughter, Lillian was about to turn 4, when they moved home to Collingwood. At the time Ashley wasn’t working at a business or towards a career, she was at home with their children – and as she says she was being “paid with hugs, kisses and snuggles”, but during that early period Ashley craved social interaction. She had a few friends that they reconnected with, friends they knew from when they grew up, and friends that had recently moved back to the area. In all the cities that they moved to and lived in, Ashley had formed a small, close-knit group of friends and moving home meant that she would leave her Kula’s and have to start again, this time, in the town she grew up in and was removed from for almost fourteen years.
While away, Ashley saw the common thread and developed a “formula” that would help her find and create friendships. An aspect of the formula was knowing first-hand what it feels like to be the ‘new girl’ and to understand all the different levels of emotions that come up when walking into a new situation and being the new girl. What Ashley noticed when meeting other women was their mutual need and want for connection, community and collaboration. That women are looking to find their Kula or tribe. A welcoming, safe place where women are seen, heard, and valued for their similarities and differences. Where they can feel a sense of belonging. Her life experiences and the search and find of her own Kula’s along the way also confirmed that women all shared stories of sister-wounds, fears and even anxieties when it came to groups of women and making those connections. Women’s stories and sharing of these stories was the glue- the piece that made connection concrete and achievable.
Ashley’s formula- in Girl Time Inc. language: being a part of the Kula was built on the idea of getting involved in community events, socials, and activities. For example, her first-year home in Collingwood, Ashley joined a running group, book clubs, went on lunch and dinner dates with women she was meeting at organized events and mommy groups. Slow and steady, Ashley found that, by joining activities that interested her, it gave her the opportunity to meet other like-minded women. As Ashley says, the foundation of Girl Time Inc. came from who she has been her entire life.
Collingwood and surrounding areas have so much to offer. Ashley wanted her forming group of women to foster one another both in their social needs and in their entrepreneurial goals, which is why she started hosting what she affectionately calls ‘bubble parties’. They hiked and ran the trails, they supported numerous local restaurants on their ‘nights out’. They got out and involved in everything that lit them up and brought them together in a new form of sisterhood.
Ashley said, “I worked at really changing the dialogue the women had. I wanted women to be brought together on a playing field that made them collaborators versus competitors. To see each other as allies rather than threats; fully understanding that together we [can] do amazing things”. She acknowledges that she is a forerunner of many things but never works by herself. The women she was surrounded by all contributed in one way or another. “We highlighted each other’s strengths and passions”.
Take these experiences and fast-forward to February 2020 when Ashley created and was about to launch Girl Time Inc. Talk about tough timing as you can imagine but in hindsight, if Ashley could go back to before the world shifted, she would tell herself to “Just hold on. You’re going to be fine. What Girl Time Inc. is creating is needed in the world right now.” And Ashley didn’t look back, despite COVID.
June 1st, 2020 she opened the door to women and women in business of South Georgian Bay. She planned a Summer Social Calendar that would adhere to the ebbs and flows of COVID restrictions and with the focus being on connection. Events, socials and activities would take place outside, in small and sometimes, multiple groups and would consist of everything from Bike Rides & Sweet Treats, to Book Clubs, GTINC.’s first Run Series and Mountain Top Hikes and Yoga Practices. She collaborated with other leading ladies in other industries and businesses and tried her hardest to keep the flow of life going for the Kula and the local businesses. Girl Time Inc. was the acting link. Recognizing the amount of time, energy and effort that she was dedicated to- plus the duties of being a mom and schoolteacher while in lock down, Ashley knew that she needed a team. Other amazing women who were entrepreneurial – just like her, and who needed a team too. The Girl Time Inc. Ambassador’s took form and together, they created the Social Calendar and collaborated on all events, socials, and activities that Girl Time Inc. was creating.
As Ashley says “We supported each other’s businesses and together- we faced the most difficult times as strong business women who couldn’t be and wouldn’t be stopped. Every COVID challenge we faced, we solved together. I truly believe that there are no problems that cannot be solved. You just have to face the hurdle, and sometimes get creative to get over it. Our biggest purpose was to unite.”
Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Thornbury, Wasaga Beach- a playground for these women to explore, make connections, meet new people, and develop new friendships. The social calendar grew and so did the number of women who showed up to be a part of a Kula that was built just for them. Ashley wanted “to open doors and welcome women into a positive environment where they could step away from whatever load they were carrying, have the support of a collective group of friends, and give them whatever they needed to flourish”. And along the way it was comments like “I’m so glad you’re here”, “I just really needed this”, “Tell me more about that…” that continued to inspire her. What “started as a beautiful small snowball…just picked up momentum and rolled” she says. In the short span of two years- and during a global pandemic, Girl Time Inc. has created a shift within our community’s women. Girl Time Inc. has welcomed 1342 women (she/her, female identified) to participate in Events, Socials & Activities: In-Person and Virtually (Southern Georgian Bay, Ottawa, Toronto, Surrounding areas). Girl Time Inc. has collaborated & partnered with 132 local businesses with the focus of linking us all together; women and women in business.
GTINC. has hosted 102 Events, Socials & Activities within the three Pillars of Interest: Health & Fitness, Socials & Events and Inspire & Empower.
Ashley fully believes in building up our community and right from the beginning, she built into the Girl Time Inc. platform a Community-Give-Back initiative that has supported and sponsored local charities including My Friends House, the Collingwood Youth Centre & the Coldest Night of the Year. Girl Time Inc. was a Silver Sponsor to the CGM Hospital “In This Together” fundraiser and this year, a sponsor to the U18 Women’s Hockey Association.
As mentioned above, marathon energy, drive and ambition, Ashley’s passion for community, connection and collaboration has led her to saying yes to multiple media and public speaking events. She has been a guest on 7 podcasts, media news articles, a speaker at the Summit for Sensitive Children, The Youth Power Project and two years in a row, involved in International Women’s Day as a Panelist & Public Speaker 2021 and then, a Keynote Speaker for the Clearview Chamber of Commerce International Women’s Day 2022. In these speaking events, Ashley’s purpose and the purpose, mission and vision of Girl Time Inc. has been delivered. She fully believes that it is time to connect and see the rise of women as a collective vibration that is fueled with love and compassion, bravery and greatness, empowerment, and the readiness to thrive.
Looking to the future:
Girl Time Inc. will be celebrating its second birthday on Wednesday, June 1st and with that, hosting the second empowering photo experience by asking women of all ages from our surrounding areas to come together to create a human (women) formation of the letter “W”- and capturing this movement and moment in a photo. To find out more about Girl Time Inc., how you can become a part of the Business Community and see/register for the Summer and Fall Social Calendars – check out the website.