A Story of Hope From One of Your Local, Small Business Owners

A Small Business Successfully Shifting

Ashley Ward in Grand Rapids, local business owner

By Ashley Ward

Here I am. A small business owner navigating the uncertain waters of a global pandemic. I began my business three years ago with one client. I have built a business that has served over 60 clients and counting. But what happens when the majority of my client base, who are mid-size employers in West Michigan and “non-essential” businesses (as we now say in pandemic terms), need to put our services on pause for the foreseeable future?

We pivot!

We offer a broad range of services aside from executive search, which has historically been our bread and butter. They include employee behavior analytics using the world’s best assessment tools (this is my own opinion), trainings that teach managers how to lead, employee engagement surveys, and consulting on workforce strategy. Right now could not be a more critical time to engage employees.

Although it is probable that my bottom line will be impacted during the pandemic, this crisis allows for so much opportunity. I find myself having the downtime to work on my brand, upscaling our marketing efforts, streamlining processes, improving operations, learning new skills, and broadening our client base with essential businesses.

I have been conversing with contacts I haven’t touched base with in many years. My network is reaching out to check in and see if my business is okay. My “tribe” as I call them. These are business owners, executives, entrepreneurs, simply professionals I sought out for coffee meetings over the years and turned life-long friends. Never turn down a coffee meeting, because you never know the outcome.

The conversations with my “tribe” have given me focus, clarity, and grace. We are currently forced to rely on relationships, our network, to exchange advice, resources, best practices. And honestly, in a strange way, it’s been the breath of fresh air that I think we needed. “How are you holding up?” “Well, I’m struggling with revenue loss. How are you holding up?” “Well, I’m struggling with employees not showing up for work and want to be paid for sick leave.” The exchange of perspectives, and frankly being heard during this situation has a calming nature.

Amidst adversity, my first thought has always been the same: “What do I have control over?” My company has come a long way over this three-year track, but as any business owner knows, there is always room for improvement. I could not think of a better time for change and growth. I am confident in my business, but there is an opportunity here.

What happens at the cross-section of opportunity and adversity? Reinvention.

Ashley Ward in downtown Grand RapidsThis I am a personal master of. I’ve always been public about the “Hope” part of “Hire For Hope.” It stems from my relationship with the non-profit domestic violence agency Safe Haven Ministries. Safe Haven is one of the only domestic violence agencies in Kent County and serves our community with resources and shelter for abused relationship partners. I was an abused partner. Now it has come full circle, as I give ten percent of my companies’ profit directly to their cause and serve on their Board of Directors.

My theory: Take control of what you have control over. You will burn calories trying to control anything else, and not the calories you want to burn. This is the sentiment of an entrepreneur. This is how I know my business will continue onward. I will pivot, transition, shift, try new things, fail at things, but ultimately never give up. Anyone who knows me knows that I will do whatever it takes to turn ashes into beauty. And this is exactly what I intend to do.

We are on this journey together.

See you on the other side, my friends.

Two Things I’ve Learned in Two Years of Running a Startup

Today marks Hire For Hope’s Two Year Anniversary!

One employee, two years, three awards, and countless glasses of wine later (you can do the math), I’ve climbed and clawed my way to the top as one of the leading executive search and recruiting consultancies in West Michigan.  The idea transpired when I couldn’t contain my entrepreneurial itch any longer, and the thought of running my own business, providing a better service, and making a profound name for myself in Grand Rapids presented itself as the only acceptable option.

Another intrinsic motivating factor in the desire to quit my day job and fly solo, was the idea to partner my recruiting firm with a nonprofit agency to make an impact in the community. Don’t get me wrong, my company is very much for-profit, but I knew it needed a sustainable, mission-driven purpose behind its work.

It seemed like a natural fit to partner with a nonprofit domestic violence agency in Grand Rapids called Safe Haven Ministries, which provides services to women experiencing relationship abuse. The passion on my heart to give back to this gracious cause stemmed from the fact that I’d utilized Safe Haven’s services many years prior. I have since been very vocal about my experience and knew I wanted to use my business as a platform to generate awareness and donate funds to support Safe Haven.

We are proud of our continued success, not only by doubling revenue year after year but the impact we are making in the community. We’ve received recognition as the American Business Award’s Startup of the Year and Local First’s Good for Grand Rapids Award in 2018.

Cue one of those: “If I can do it, you can do it” pep talks. Are you thinking about starting a business? Let me share two of my  B I G G E S T  entrepreneurial takeaways in celebration of Hire For Hope’s two year anniversary.

Top Takeaway #1 – Scale Wisely

“Scale, but how?” That was the burning question keeping me up at night after meditating on whether or not I should scale my business or remain a one-woman-show. I have not raised funds, consulted a venture capitalist, or entertained partnerships to give Hire For Hope legs. This company has been developed with organic growth.

I would compare growing a company organically to growing an organic plant; it takes a lot of nurturing, watering, and most importantly: PATIENCE. There are pros and cons to an investment play, but I will tell you there are no GMOs in organic growth.

Patience is the key, but also the catch. The revenue may not flow as steadily in the beginning, making it difficult to track if/ when you can begin to grow your team. However, in the interim, there are plenty of creative resources to help you grow your business, such as your local Chamber of Commerce (shout out to the Grand Rapids Chamber!), the SCORE mentorship program, commission-only sales representatives, interns, or freelancers.

The most important piece to scaling is having the right objectives and processes in place that allow for growth. This may take a lot of trial and error, but the most fool-proof and well-loved system for running a business can be found in the book Traction. This book’s processes are wrapped into an easy to follow guide called the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). Grand Rapids has its own EOS Implementor named Ken Bogard who consults businesses on streamlining their processes, and he has been a great resource for me personally.

Basically, when it comes to scaling, a plan equates to action equates to growth.

Top Takeaway #2 – Pay Attention to the Naysayers

Critics can be your friends. Not realistically, but objectively. I have made some momentous pivots in my business based on solid, old-fashioned criticism. And other “advice” from critics that I thought was laughable, I still paid attention to. Why is it important to pay attention to the Naysayers? They are mirroring your brand back to you whether you like it or not. Whether you want to take their critiques into consideration, they are ultimately individuals sharing their opinions about your brand. And every opinion counts. Nothing has meaning without human perception, whether you agree with that perception or not.

I had a friend who watched me transition from quitting my day job to starting my business and he would constantly play devil’s advocate. “Don’t become greater than great,” he’d say to me, meaning I should reconsider leaving the well-paid career that I enjoyed for the risky road of entrepreneurship. I politely disagreed with him, but that motto always stuck. I enjoy the challenge of criticism – maybe it’s proving people wrong, appreciating another perspective, or simply adding fuel to your fire, but make sure you pay attention and do something with it! It can be turned into a positive experience.

I look forward to continuing the entrepreneurial evolution and can’t wait to see where we bring the company in the next two years.

This year we will be adding more team members and new offerings to our consultancy suite, one of which will be one-on-one Career Coaching for our candidates.

Thanks for following Hire For Hope’s journey and cheers to Two Years!

eightWest – Feature

WoodTV 8 & eightWest

The mission behind Safe Haven Ministries

For decades, Safe Haven Ministries has been a shelter for abused women and children. Now, opening on December 11th, Safe Haven will double their capacity and open a brand new facility to serve more women and children throughout the West Michigan community. Helping to provide them with the support and resources to heal, Hire For Hope assists their financial endeavors through quarterly giving – the mission of our business!

Watch the full interview here!

2018 EPIC Award Finalist

Entrepreneurial. Progressive. Innovative. Collaborative.

The 2018 EPIC Awards hosted by the Grand Rapids Chamber with take place on October 30th at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Recipients and finalists alike are honored for their support of the community, their growth and innovation in business, and for their work with others as mentors and collaborators.

Hire For Hope has been nominated for Women-Owned Enterprise of the Year! Alongside 30 other local entrepreneurs and organizations, Hire For Hope will celebrate the outstanding success stories and contributions made by these individuals to West Michigan’s thriving economy.

Want to attend the EPIC Awards with us? Register Here!

Fall Luncheon – Safe Haven Ministries

This September, Safe Haven Ministries held its annual Fall Luncheon at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Guests enjoyed a wonderful lunch while gaining a greater awareness for Safe Haven’s programs, the impact of domestic violence in our community, as well as hearing a Testimony of Hope from a former client.
At this event, Safe Haven experienced record-breaking attendance and revenue. Ashley Ward shared how her yearly giving greatly impacts so many women and children, just as it did for herself many years ago. With 370+ guests in attendance and $143,856 in total gifts and pledges, the event recognized the seriousness of domestic violence in our community but also celebrated the positive change to come!

Please save the date of Wednesday, December 5, 2018, as Safe Haven Ministries will host a Ribbon Cutting Celebration and Open House at their brand new facility.
1 in 4 women & 1 in 7 men have experienced some sort of domestic abuse in their lifetime. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can find immediate assistance at Safe Haven Ministries

Grand Rapids Business Journal – Feature

“Hire For Hope pours 10 percent of revenue into anti-domestic abuse nonprofit while empowering women in leadership”

This August 2018, Hire For Hope was featured on the front cover of the Grand Rapids Business Journal and recognized for empowering women in leadership throughout the West Michigan community. As a socially conscious business, Ashley Ward started her own company because of her passion for recruiting combined with her entrepreneurial spirit. Now, the dynamic duo of Ashley & Ashlee are creating new business growth and opportunities for both men and women alike. 

There has been an outpouring of support from the Grand Rapids community to help take Hire For Hope to the next level while keeping their mission at the center of it all.


Find the full article here!

Taking Home an American Business Award

Ashlee Moran Joins The Team!

Hire For Hope has a new Recruiter: meet Ashlee Moran. Ashlee joins us as a graduate from Hillsdale College with a Bachelor’s in Marketing Management and Organizational Communication. She has the natural personality of a Recruiter; she’s driven, personable, and loves learning peoples’ stories. She is excited to inspire and motivate individuals on their professional journey.

As a born and raised Grand Rapidian, Ashlee knows the area well and is already plugged into our growing city. In her spare time, you can find her on a run or in a yoga pose. She adds a fun element to our culture, and we are excited to have her join the Hire For Hope Team!


Connect with Ashlee on potential career opportunities and client services through LinkedIn, Email, or Phone!

Good Company Podcast – Life’s A Peach!

From Single Mother & High School Dropout to Founder of a Successful Recruiting Agency

The Grand Rapid’s Chamber has a Podcast: Good Company! 

Twice a month, Sarah Cavanaugh sits down with some of Grand Rapid’s greatest professionals, creatives, people looking to make a difference, social influencers, and even the newbies in town with a cool backstory. Tune in as she explores Ashley Ward’s inspiring background while drinking Michigan-made craft beer!

Ashley Ward has led a challenging and unconventional life. She dropped out of High School at age 17 to work full-time, became a mom, and eventually found herself in an abusive relationship. Fast forward to today – where she’s a college graduate of Cornerstone University, happily married, and founder of Hire For Hope. How did Ashley find the strength and courage to turn it all around?

Listen to the full podcast!

Sound Cloud Link!

West Michigan Christian News – Feature

Ashley Ward has so many reasons to smile. In early 2017, the 28-year-old launched Hire for Hope LLC, a successful socially conscious recruiting firm that helps fill mid-to senior-level positions for West Michigan companies. The name, Hire For Hope, is inspired by Founder, Ashley Ward’s story of survival from domestic violence making the name a hand-in-glove fit.

These days, Ward’s life is happy, healthy and productively challenging. However, it was not always that way. Her drumbeat of distress started because of a toxic relationship she was in with a man who was physically and emotionally abusive to her and had forced her to cut ties with the outside world. Thankfully, Safe Haven Ministries was the catalyst that changed Ward’s life in 2013, which helped her build the confidence to believe in herself, escape her abusive relationship, and find a job which is how she ended up in the recruiting industry.

Now, Ashley’s connection with Safe Haven continues, but this time in a different vein. She serves on its event planning committee, speaks at their annual fundraising events, and continues to donate 10 percent of Hire For Hope’s revenue stream each quarter. She hopes to someday join the board of directors and continue in the healing process both for herself and other women.

“We’re just giving back hope to women who can be so much more than they currently are,” said Ward. 

Read the full article here!