How Ashley Granata Went from Wannabe Fashion Designer to Tech Co-Founder
How does a girl go from being an aspiring designer studying art at FIT to ruling Silicon Valley as the co-founder of not one but two mega-popular apps? We didn't have an answer to that question until we met the ultra-inspiring Ashley Granata, who's spent her career seamlessly navigating the fashion world and the tech industry. Here's what we learned.
What were you like as a teen, and what do you wish you could tell your teenage self?
Oh, I was definitely the creative one among my friends and classmates—artsy, wearing vintage clothes and collecting every color of Converse I could get my hands on. I was an honors student too, but skipped school a bit (a lot actually) to go to New York and go to museums or volunteer at Fashion Week. If I could tell my teenage self anything, it would be to not get stressed about guys and spend time on you. I used to have a little studio in my attic where I spent hours and hours painting old furniture, sewing hats, and doing crafty projects. Very different from how a lot of classmates spent their time; it made me an outlier of sorts from a young age. Not afraid to be an outlier is a very common trait I've noticed in really successful people who inspire me.
How exactly did you get to where you are now, professionally?
I went to school for textile design thinking I would be a textile artist for a big company like Donna Karan. While I was interning, I realized I really wanted to learn the business side of the industry. My first job, as an assistant buyer at Bloomingdale’s, ended up being mostly spreadsheets and math.
While I was working at style.com, an acquaintance of mine (now a friend) had built a really cute website called fashism.com, where people could post outfits and get instant crowdsourced fashion advice. I ended up joining her to help fundraise, build the iPhone app and show fashion companies how technology can be a great thing for them. We raised money from investors, did some national retail partnerships, and built a very strong community that wanted to help everyone look and feel their best.
Now I'm working on Amigo, which is trying to banish reply alls and never-ending group texts without sacrificing your social life. I love technology obviously, but we've gotten to this place where we have replaced our friendships with hearts and likes on screens instead of smiles and hugs. We're removing barriers and simplifying communication to make those in-person hangouts more serendipitous and easier to plan.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now about having a career?
Everything changes! We live in an amazing time when our world is almost infinitely connected, and everything is changing so quickly. It's important not to be bound to what you think you may be doing in your career or your current job. Learn how to keep learning and surround yourself with people who are obsessed with making things better.
What advice about work do you have for teens or for people just starting out?
Meet as many people as you can and impress as many people as you can. That means asking thoughtful questions, taking on extra projects, and volunteering to do things outside the normal scope of your internship. You'll have unique experiences if you can step outside the lines everyone else follows (though I don't recommend breaking rules at this stage in your career). You'll also be known as someone who is up for anything and deserves that special opportunity when it arises.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The most important thing you can do for your career is set yourself up so you can bring your best into the world every day. Eat healthy, exercise, see your friends and family, and very importantly do things that aren't so "productive' but make you feel good. For me that was always walking in nature, driving in my car and singing at the top of my lungs, dancing with friends. I still do these things!