Survive and Thrive: How Ashleigh Burskey Is Doing BothEvery Friday in Survive and Thrive, we talk to communicators who are not just surviving, but thriving. Between COVID-19, reopenings and then rolling back, kids home from school…maybe forever (?), working from home, and not touching another human being for months, most of us are surviving, at best.

But what about those who are surviving AND thriving?

Perhaps they added a new revenue source or followed a passion or are taking a sabbatical or discovered they actually love homeschooling or completely changed careers. Today we talk to Ashleigh Burskey, the founder of Pistil Brands, about how she’s making the best of the worst crisis in a century.

When we’re young, we feel the passing of time in minutes and days. As we age, we grow into month and year increments. As I’ve aged, I’ve longed for the minutes and days.

You know…when you’re little, and everything seems to take forever? When your next birthday is light years away? As we age, the passing of time accelerates, except for when you’re living in the (hopefully) middle of a pandemic. 

In many ways, I’m grateful for the last six months and how they’ve forced me to slow down. I no longer long for my years as a child, when everything took forever and minutes felt like days—birthdays, dessert time, school breaks, you name it—because that’s how I feel as a 30-something-old. Who woulda thought?

USPS Failed Us Long Before the Current Debacle

Not to brag, but the pandemic hasn’t been much of a transition for me.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m an introvert. When public gatherings were banned, it didn’t affect me, because I already avoided social gatherings in large groups.

I’ve worked from home at least half of the time for a very, very long time, so no adjustment there for me either. I’ve definitely laughed at, then felt sympathy for, those who’ve struggled with the work from home shift (especially those with kids). #sorrynotsorry #wishicouldrelateexceptidont

My personal and agency’s mailing address changed in May when my partner and I moved. Business mail didn’t show up for weeks.  I’m still getting checks postmarked on May 15, 2020. Apparently, USPS lost all of our forwarded mail or something—who knows—we never got an answer.

Although it was a logistical nightmare, I’m grateful to USPS for forcing us, and all of our clients, to make the shift to electronic payments. It’s been the biggest pain in the ass godsend of this pandemic for our business. We no longer accept paper checks. And if a client’s check gets lost in the mail, it’s not our fault, and we’re not paying for a stop check fee (yep – a client actually required we pay the fees – how insane is that? Don’t get me started!). Our contract terms have been updated.

IKEA Did, Too

The USPS error is laughable in comparison to our experience with IKEA’s customer service. We placed three large orders with them between May and June. Long story short, we never got any of the items we ordered, except for one table lamp. Their delivery company scheduled deliveries with us numerous times and never showed up (except for that one little cute delivery with the one little cute table lamp—definitely the most important item [insert angry face]). 

The number of times we were given the runaround from XPO Logistics and Ikea, the number of times we were promised delivery and never got anything, the hours spent waiting for someone on Ikea’s customer service line only to be promptly disconnected—they all add up to about a week’s worth of work between me and my partner. Ikea failed us. They offered nothing in exchange for the absolute worst customer service experience—not a coupon, not an apology—nothing!  It really sucked.

When the businesses you give money to fail to deliver on their promise, you begin to lose all sense of control you thought you had in your life. 

But Sanity Was Around the Corner

I had to do something to stay sane. So, I signed up for a 40-day Kundalini yoga challenge with my yoga studio here in Portland, Maine. I knew I had to do something to channel and control my anger towards Ikea (yeah, my anger had NOTHING to do with this pandemic). Albeit a Facebook live class, it got me out of bed at 5:30 am every morning (yes – weekends, too), and swiftly back into a more normal, regimented routine. 

Then the actual yoga studio reopened (at limited capacity), and my partner and I have been going three or more times a week. I’m very grateful for that. You don’t want to know me when I’m not regularly working out, so you’re welcome.

Basically everything in my life went back to normal and I live in Pleasantville, you should visit. Except don’t because I don’t want THE CORONA (courtesy of Gini’s little).

While I don’t continue to wake up at 5:30 am every morning (I’m not insane), I am getting up at a normal (still early) time, which has helped me forget I am living in the middle of a pandemic.

We Found an Awesome Local Business

Back to Ikea. 

After all that NONSENSE, I swore to never give them my money EVER EVER EVER again.

And then I did. But for good reason. 

I randomly found this awesome local delivery company in a desperate search for used Ikea furniture on Facebook Marketplace. The company drives to the closest Ikea store (2.5 hours away), shops for you like a personal shopper, and delivers your goods to your home. They do that for as long as it takes for the items on your list to be back in stock. We’ve had one delivery so far.

All in all, I’m not grateful for the terrible experience with Ikea, but I am grateful that we got the furniture we wanted while supporting a local, woman-owned business. I still have sour feelings for Ikea’s customer service. And, trust me, if I were my x-racer greyhound, Hank, I’d walk into a store and mark all of their furniture as if I had rabies.

And We’ve Focused on What’s Important In Life

On the business side of life, we lost our biggest (toxic/high-maintenance) client in March. It was a blow, but (yes I’m going to be cliche) a gift. I didn’t realize how toxic that account was until they were gone.

Our agency is adding additional revenue streams, repositioning as a whole, and undergoing a rebrand. It’s actually a very exciting time for us. As a whole, I’m getting braver by spending more time on the things I’ve either been avoiding or simply haven’t had time for because of toxic, high-maintenance clients.

I made a decision to focus on building an additional revenue stream and focus on repositioning our agency to get the clients and team we really want. Intentionally not focusing on new business development has afforded me this opportunity. 

I’m not willing to settle anymore—not when it comes to how I spend my time, who we hire and work with, or who pays us and who we give our resources to.

We also finally redid our website a few months back, though that will be revamped again soon because of the rebrand!

We’re building additional revenue streams, ensuring the clients we have are very happy (without over-servicing), repositioning the agency as a whole, and looking for exceptional team members.

I sold a painting (to Gini!) and grew a whole vegetable garden.

I’ve spent more time with my rescued greyhound, Hank (AKA Hanky) and have nested in the new house with my partner, Ben. 

All-in-all, this whole experience has forced me to focus—on what’s important, what I’d been putting off, and on things that make me happy.

Ashleigh Burskey

As principal of Pistil Brands, Ashleigh Burskey leads the team in pursuit of empowering businesses to grow incredible brands. She guides organizations to discover their “why” in order to grow authentic businesses that are purposeful and profitable. Her forthright candor, knowledge of marketing trends, and talent for art direction make her an invaluable asset to any business.

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