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“I saw every day what it takes to be successful: passion, commitment, hard work and the idea that the work you produce is a representation of yourself.”

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Ashley T. Caldwell is a veteran social media marketing consultant who can turn anyone into a Twitter addict and get a Facebook business page blazing with active fans in a matter of weeks. From her home base in Charleston, SC, she empowers clients—from solopreneurs and startups to established businesses and nonprofits—with the technology and skills they need to succeed online.

The Modern Connection is a social media firm that provides strategic and innovative solutions to businesses who want to reach their audiences online. They take a very hands-­‐on and interactive approach with their clients, making sure their involvement is paramount throughout the entire process.

Ashley T. Caldwell, The Modern Connection - Owner & Founder

MO: How did you manage to develop a successful company when launching at the age of 23 with zero loans or investors?

Ashley: I’ve always been the type of person to seize every opportunity presented to me. I don’t shy away from hard work, and I certainly don’t shy away from possibilities. From internships and volunteer work to trade opportunities and offering services for next to nothing, I understood the absolute importance of working quickly to build a portfolio of client success stories.

Of course, nothing could have been made possible without the support of family and close loved ones. Their time and understanding was truly paramount in the building of my business.

MO: Where did your entrepreneurial spirit come from? Did you have any early influences that inspired you?

Ashley: Entrepreneurialism is my blood. My father runs a family‐owned masonry business that was passed down from his father. I saw every day what it takes to be successful: passion, commitment, hard work and the idea that the work you produce is a representation of yourself. I’ve always applied the principles he passed down to everything I do … with The Modern Connection being no exception.

Starting something from scratch has always been a passion of mine. There’s something truly magical about watching a flower bloom from the tiniest glimpse of a seed. Knowing that I can singlehandedly affect the outcome gives me more drive and determination than anything. Entrepreneurialism truly is what you make of it, and it’s liberating.

MO: What sets you apart from other social media firms?

Ashley: From day one I’ve wanted our focus to be on practicing good business. I’ve never wanted to sacrifice profit for the sake of ethics, and I’m proud to maintain high standards in the clients we work with as well. We only work with one type of client in a competing industry and market, which allows us to really invest in the work we do. We are a part of our clients’ business, and it’s something we take very seriously.

While we work across all industries, we are truly experts in social media. It’s our sole focus, which allowsus to present tailored and specific tactics to our clients. In an industry that literally changes daily, we pride ourselves on staying current and relevant.

MO: What are some suggestions for ways that businesses can harness social media to attract, engage and retain customers?

Ashley: We believe that social media, at the root of it all, is about people and relationships. It’s humans talking to humans, so the trick is in finding the best ways and methods of reaching them.

We approach every client with a set strategy, or road map, of where we want to go and how we’re going to get there. Setting simple objectives is a commonly overlooked step in the process, but often the most important.

When building a community, it’s important to take a look at what your target is truly most interested in and target a content strategy based on that. You always want to be a source of relevant information to make sure your customers opt-­‐in and continue to return. Producing quality and original content is a great way to do this.

Do your research to determine where your target audience is spending their time online and meet them there. Before you jump in with a sales pitch, listen in to how they’re communicating and approaching your topic of conversation. Remember that your presence as a business is mixed in with friends and family. You have to create a relatable presence that allows a user to get to know the people behind the brand.

MO: Have you had any mentors along the way?

Ashley: I’m fortunate to have a lot of very positive people in my life. While not officially mentors, I strive to surround myself with high-­‐minded individuals who focus on growth and success in their own right.

MO: You’re going through a period of progress and expansion. How are you ensuring that you have a steady, controlled approach to growth?

Ashley: While the idea of growth and expansion is exciting, I’m really careful to not get ahead of myself. I work with a business strategist who guides me along the way, but I really rely on my intuition. I take calculated risks and really strive for that work/life balance to keep everything in order.

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