Through all the highs and all the lows in Ashley Lougheed’s life there has always been one constant: Her girlfriends.
Lougheed believes with her whole heart that if you get a group of powerful women together, nothing is impossible. So she built her business to reflect that.
“I wanted to build this community that has always been right in front of us,” she said.
Lougheed is the Founder and CEO of Girl Time Inc., a community she created for women in the area to be “seen, heard and valued.” It’s a social hub designed not only to cultivate lifelong friendships, but inspire and empower women through five pillars: fitness and well-being, socials and events, inspire and empower, beauty bar, and our friends.
“There has to be something for everybody,” said Lougheed. “And something for every part of everybody. We are not cookie cutter. You can’t speak to one female, you have to speak to them all.”
The Girl Time platform officially launched on June 1, 2020, but Lougheed has been building the foundation for the business her whole life.
“In every phase, the biggest pillar of support I have had is my girlfriends. We need them,” said Lougheed. “So to build a business that is all about that is what I am supposed to do. It’s who I am supposed to be.”
Over the course of her life, Lougheed has lived in four main cities. With each new move, she had to reconnect with herself and her values in order to find her “Kula” — a word she trademarked to describe her community of friends.
However, it didn’t always come so easily.
Born and raised in Duntroon, Lougheed moved to North Bay after high school to attend Nipissing University for Concurrent Education.
After receiving her degree she moved to Ottawa. She had just locked in her dream job when her high school sweetheart — now-husband — secured his residency in London, so they moved again.
“Ottawa to me was the glory days, it was magic,” said Lougheed. “I refer to London as the dark days.”
Jobless and in yet another new city, Lougheed took on a new role: motherhood. Despite being far from family and with no friends for support, she never gave up.
“I didn’t really realize how much I would grow in those dark days. Hindsight is important,” she continued. “The dark days teach you the most.”
What they taught Lougheed was perseverance and the importance of creating a “Kula.” Along with loneliness, Lougheed faced mean girls and rejection, and from that moment on she decided she would only surround herself and her newborn daughter with women who lift her up.
So, by the time she moved back to Collingwood five years ago, Lougheed had developed a foolproof formula. However, Collingwood was not the home she left 15 years ago, and she was not the same girl.
“You are supposed to change, and if you don’t, I would suggest you try to,” she said.
But Lougheed was strategic. She pulled out her calendar and started signing up for just about anything, determined to meet like-minded ladies and create her Kula here in Collingwood.
She branched out, joining everything from running clinics to book clubs and cookie exchanges — and she hated baking — and Lougheed started to find where she was connecting. Slowly but surely, she surrounded herself with a strong group of women who not only built her up, but challenged her as well.
“We thrived on each other,” she said.
Ever since she was little, Lougheed loved bringing women together for socials and events. She went back to school, studying interior design and event planning, and with her new crew she hosted her first “Bubbles Party.” Lougheed cleared out her home and invited dozens of women for a magical night — and a whole lot of champagne.
She felt unstoppable. Every time she hosted another Bubbles Party, she upped it. Bringing in beauty vendors, fitness and well-being experts, live music performers and guest speakers. Little did she know, she was laying the groundwork for Girl Time.
At her final Bubbles Party in November 2018, Lougheed gave a speech: “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how they made you feel.”
“And I loved it,” she said. “I realized that this is what I want… I want people to walk away from these experiences feeling fueled, feeling loved and feeling supported and inspired.”
Three days after her last Bubbles Party, one of Lougheed’s closest friends told her that her cancer was back, and she was unlikely to make it.
Lougheed shifted once again, this time taking on the role of friend and caregiver.
In losing her friend, and providing strength for her friend’s three daughters, Lougheed was reminded just how important a solid support system is.
So she dove. She started meeting all the people she was supposed to in order to finally launch Girl Time. And then COVID hit, but she didn’t stop, it just surged her even more. Lougheed realized she needed a team, so she reached out to her Kula and the Girl Time ambassadors formed organically — each of her friends representing a pillar in the business’s foundation.
“I focused a lot of my energy into establishing the ambassadors, because they would help me roll the calendar out for the other members. The main focus will always be on this beautiful group of women and building them up,” she said.
“I put my heart and energy into everything to make [this group] feel like home. You are welcomed, you are seen and you are heard,” Lougheed said.
To reaffirm this, Lougheed introduced the Feature Lady. Once a week leading up to the launch, Lougheed would shine a spotlight on an inspiring woman in the community and share her story on her Instagram platform.
“One of my little special powers is finding how people sparkle,” she said. “Our town is full of the most amazing women. We all have our spark and our talents and our brilliance, these zones of geniuses. If I can even highlight one of them for the Feature Lady to see, the intention is that they will see themselves with the same light.”
Her focus was on affordability and on having something for everyone. A standard membership runs at $37/month, and the Girl Time calendar is filled with everything from yoga and CrossFit, to make up artists’ tips and tricks, chakra workshops and virtual events.
“I want to give this community of women something they all need,” said Lougheed. “I know exactly what this group needs because it’s what I needed in all those cities before. And what I need now.”
While she has many ideas for how to build and grow the business moving forward, right now, she said it is exactly where it needs to be.
“Ultimately, I want my son to know and see women in the most respectful and admirable light,” said Lougheed. “And it’s for my daughter, so she will learn from me how to be confident, how to never give up, how to keep climbing that mountain when you are exhausted. She will learn this through me, because I will live it.”