As any working mother in New York city can relate, oftentimes children take up your workspace. Quite literally. When what was once your home office or small corner of sanity becomes overrun with toys, not all hope is lost. Ashley Wu has just the answer on the Upper East Side, the founder of Maison, a new kind of members club designed specifically for those who need a place to work, relax, learn, connect, even just a thoughtful place for to be their best self.
Who inspires you?
The list is long! I’m inspired by so many people! I’ll go broad first; people who use their platform, big or small, for good things, inspire me. And especially those people who have nothing to gain for advocating for someone else or their needs. Moms inspire me because we work our asses off and are usually managing various stages of chaos, guilt, and joy internally, while running businesses and households. My mom inspires me because she has spent her whole life taking care of others. I honestly don’t know how she does it. Michelle Obama inspires me. Have you read her book? It’s so good. She’s so smart, and articulate, and supportive, yet honest in her portrayal of how she struggled in the early years of her husband’s success. I admire people who are vulnerable and choose to find a way to relate to others.
What do you hope to inspire in other women?
I hope to inspire women to go easier on themselves. I know we have heard it all before but women are up against impossible standards and expectations, and mothers in particular. I want women to know it’s ok to look after themselves. To carve out a little time to focus on something meaningful to them. Or do nothing. And to know that each of these things is ok.
Is there an example you can share of how another woman has lifted you up?
There is a woman in my life, Laurie, who was part of my design team and I have known her since I was pregnant with my first child, six years ago. She’s an incredibly optimistic and cheery person, and at first I was like, how is this person so happy? But she just is! She’s overcome incredible adversity in her life, and her tenacity and capacity to love are amazing qualities I’ve seen in her as she parents her two daughters. Starting this business wasn’t easy. There were times when I thought the obstacle too great to overcome, and it was always Laurie lifting me up during those dark moments. As my business has grown I learned it costs nothing to lift up others and it can go so far.
How has confidence played a role in your life?
Aha, confidence! I feel like I’m finally starting to feel what true confidence feels like. The less I care about what others think of me, the more confident I feel. For me, my confidence started to build when I had kids. I just told a friend the other day, I didn’t start feeling like the person I am today until about 30 years old!
What's the best part of your job?
The best part of my job has been the relationship building I’ve done with the women I’ve met along the way. This started with my wonderful architect Lea Ciavarra to the other founders I’ve connected with as we build partnerships to form a meaningful community. Every day I get the opportunity to connect with the dynamic, and interesting members who have joined Maison and committed to being a part the whole.
What are you most proud of?
My marriage. My kids. Maison. And in that order.
What has been the most useful advice you've received?
My advice is quite simple. Be nice to each other and sincere in your intentions. And work hard! It’s shocking to me how often people want the title, or power, but don’t want to work for it. We are raising kids and existing in a time when our nation’s president does not adhere to the basic standards of humanity. I refuse to let my children grow up believing that bullying, intimidation, and manipulation are the ways to be successful.
What is your motto or mantra?
I’ve been thinking about this question and I wanted to answer honestly. My five- year old son had some big transitions this year and was understandably nervous going into new environments with new people. In a moment before a new beginning, I told him “be brave, be kind.” It’s so simple and straightforward but exactly how I want him to approach his life, with bravery and kindness. So that has sort of become our family mantra and obviously it’s applicable to my life as I take steps to grow Maison.
What are you most excited about next?
The future of Maison! Growth! Stronger community! Interesting programming that challenges us and inspires us!
[Photo by Yumi Matsuo]