Why She’s Top 40: She’s taken an unconventional path to entrepreneurship, and uses her experience to help others succeed
When Ashley Janssen went on her honeymoon in 2009, the world was her oyster. At the time, Janssen worked for the government while her husband, Dana Janssen, ran his own software consulting business, AgileStyle. She was preparing to settle in for a career in civil service, happily supporting Dana’s entrepreneurial spirit from behind the scenes.
But plans changed.
“Suddenly, we found that what was supposed to roll into a full-time job for me wasn’t going to, and we had to figure out what to do next,” she says. Sitting poolside at a resort in Mazatlan, the pair discussed a new option: Dana’s business was growing rapidly and he would soon need additional staff. So when they returned to Edmonton, they began working side-by-side – Ashley managed client relationships while Dana completed the technical work.
Over the next few years, the pair endured a number of ups and downs with AgileStyle, including a house flood, an unexpected relocation and a devastating cancer diagnosis for Dana. While he underwent treatment, Ashley stepped into many new roles, taking on business development and staffing, while continuing with technical project management. It wasn’t the path she had intended to go down, but it was an opportunity for growth.
“We’ve had a lot of big challenges, but every time we’ve had something really hard happen, what has happened next has been really good,” she says. “Dana getting sick was the worst thing that’s ever happened to us – it was terrifying and there’s a million hard things about it – but the end result was that we both came out stronger.”
Through these periods of adversity, change and growth, the nature of AgileStyle’s business also shifted. Earlier this year, they rebranded to Code and Effect, a change that symbolized the shift in their business focus. “After 10 years of AgileStyle, it felt like the right time to rebrand,” Ashley says. “We’re still in the same line of business, but we’re also working on our own app development concurrently, so we decided to change our name to reflect that.”
Now, Ashley turns the lessons she’s learned through adversity to help others navigate their own challenges. She blogs regularly at ashleyjanssen.com, and shares her insights through work with organizations like Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and as Vice Chair of the Board for Youth Empowerment and Support Services.
“It’s important to both give and seek mentorship as much as you can,” Ashley says. “I have been very fortunate to have many mentors that have had a large impact on me. And I’m at a point now where I feel like I can give back and share what I’ve learned.”