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Meet Ashley Hudson-Hines of ELM Learning in Little Italy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Hudson-Hines.

Ashley, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started at ELM Learning as a Designer, not quite on day 1 of the company, but still very much in the beginnings of the messy start-up phase and have grown with the company since. I was, and am, enamored. A company that values positivity, humanity, storytelling and whose mission is to ‘inspire a culture of continuous learning’? AND there are dogs in the office? Yes, please.

In that first year, we had a handful of projects that we mostly didn’t make money on – to get our name out there and show what we were capable of. We’ve been extremely successful and have grown from a closet-sized office with 5 local employees (+ a few virtual) to a team of about 50 spread over 3 locations – NYC, Detroit, and Little Italy.

Along the way, that’s meant wearing many hats and inhabiting many roles as we grew and changed. I’ve been: Designer, Art Director, Creative Director and now VP of Solutions Design. The beauty of ELM as I’ve known it is that it creates space for people to forge their own paths and play to their greatest strengths while respecting people’s humanity. I have been challenged in a million unexpected ways and have grown at each turn thanks to the support of my ELM family and a healthy dose of grit.

Truth be told, I never imagined myself where I am today. I hadn’t dared to dream so big because like a lot of women, I struggled with low self-worth and beliefs about who could be a leader that limited me. Fortunately, if you’re looking for opportunities to learn and are willing to get back up when you fall down, growth comes whether you expect it or not. Working with people who support you fiercely and challenge you constantly helps too. : )

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think the saying “Nothing worth doing comes easy” sums it up well. The road to ELM in its current form has been bumpy, there were turns we didn’t expect, and sometimes our car broke down just when we thought we were cruising. Growing an agency is more than just putting some ads on Craigslist and hiring a couple more designers (though we’ve certainly done our fair share of that!).

Some of the challenges we’ve faced have been:
– Developing true creative confidence as a company
– Learning to set boundaries with clients, for their sake and ours
– The importance of quality assurance!
– Realizing that some people just won’t work out. It’s tough but true. The best and brightest at one company might sink at another.

The road has been bumpy but, oh so rewarding. It’s been filled with intensely passionate and creative people, the kind of challenges that keep you up at night (in a good way), lessons both collective and deeply personal, and relationships that I can’t imagine my life without.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with ELM Learning – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
ELM is a learning agency that designs the best adult learning experiences you can find. ELM partners with (primarily) Fortune 500 clients to build training from the ground up – from ideation to final quality assurance pass.

We specialize in all things learning with a focus on solutions like animated videos, mobile learning, custom digital learning and facilitated learning experiences. We also provide consulting services for learning experience design, change management strategy, leadership development, and process design. ELM’s signature methodology called ‘Neurolearning’ paired with our learner-focused design approach to create experiences that change people and companies for the better.

In the past, the name of the game was managing employees but now we’re seeing a real shift towards companies wanting to empower their employees rather than control them. ELM is proud to be part of that shift. Our training programs build employees up and help them feel prepared and capable in fast-paced environments. Every day we work to inspire a culture of continuous learning in the companies that we partner with.

There are many things that set ELM apart from others doing similar work but, most importantly, our unique mix of people-first mindset (from clients to employees to other vendors), passion, creativity and positive attitude means we are able to compassionately tackle challenges that seem insurmountable and create results that our clients didn’t know were possible.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’m most looking forward for our next big level-up which comes in the form of R&D! As a smaller company, we focused on building the bones and foundation of the work that we do – from processes and roles to documenting our values and redesigning our website. As our business has become stable and sustainable, we have space to focus on the next big thing.

For ELM, R&D comes in the form of a grassroots innovation initiative that is open to all of our employees (and, eventually, our clients!). Rather than asking our teams to develop ideas from our leaders, we are exploring ideas from ALL of our bright minds and creating the space for our teams to do the work of brainstorming, researching, testing, developing and testing some more. I’m SO excited to see what’s next!

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