We had the good fortune of connecting with Asha Dickens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Asha, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I never set out to start a business. It all came to be serendipitously. In 2016 I experienced a series of personal challenges involving my health, family member’s health, my career, my relationship and more. It was the kind of year that can lead to deep depression or an awakening of sorts. For me it was a little bit of both.
I was diagnosed with a reproductive condition called endometriosis. For months I followed my doctor’s treatment plan, some of it was helpful and other aspects not so much. A friend suggested I try this healing modality called, “Reiki”. I had no clue what it was, but I tried it. Over the course of three months of receiving Reiki treatments, I felt different, better, in less pain. I found the experience so valuable that I became a certified Reiki practitioner. Simultaneously, I also began learning about holistic healing methodologies. I learned that women with various reproductive conditions were finding healing in herbs. I (naively) decided that because it’s natural, it couldn’t hurt. Well, it turned out that after doing what is called a sitz bath and drinking homemade teas, my chronic pain began to improve. I then felt that I could benefit from taking herbology courses to learn more about the science of herbs to really support my body’s healing. Ultimately, I learned to create herbal formulas that combat issues like inflammation, hormonal imbalance, pain relief and poor immune function.
Over time, friends and family would ask if I could create a recipe for their issue. After doing this for a couple of years, people in my life kept suggesting I start a business. In 2017 I’d quit my job in advertising, thinking I’d just take a six month break to regroup after being completely burnt out. As it turns out I would continue to work in advertising, but as a freelancer, and in 2018 I would start my company, October Lotus. I honestly had no intention for this company to be a real thriving business. I still believed I was an advertiser first and this company would just be something fun I could do to help people on the side. I wanted to encourage and empower women to take control their reproductive health and offer both support and an alternative solution to their regimen.
By 2019 I realized October Lotus was the primary business. It brought me so much joy and excitement, while advertising made me stressed and anxious. I began treating my business like a business, creating a business plan, developing growth strategies, networking, selling at markets, and I watched it blossom. Now, October Lotus is a holistic healing company that offers Reiki services and education, herbal formulas for reproductive wellness and birth doula support. Each of the three segments of October Lotus can work disparately or altogether to support clients, depending on their needs.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started October Lotus in 2018 as a hobby, with no expectation of success. My only objective was to support people using the tools I’d used to heal my own body. Prior to starting October Lotus, I’d worked in advertising for 12 years and by 2017 I was completely burnt out. While I continued to work in advertising as a freelancer, even starting an agency with friends, I still didn’t have the love for the industry as I’d once had. I was afraid to walk away completely because it’s the only career I’d known, and sadly, I saw advertising as part of my identity.
I didn’t see how I could sustain myself in the same way that I’d been able to with my career, so I kept one foot in the industry. Something happened over the next two years, I became so passionate about October Lotus that it was the only thing I wanted to work on. I learned a valuable lesson that seems so obvious now but led me to my aha moment. October Lotus would never become a “real” business or be able to sustain itself if I continued to treat it like a hobby. I wasn’t bringing in a lot of money, just enough to maintain, but not profit. So I began to use a lot of the skills I’d gained in advertising, being strategic and creating a business plan and quarterly plans that include goals/objectives and strategies. I am purposeful about partnerships, networking, my brand character and marketing.
I am constantly thinking about my customers and clients. Everything that I do is for them and their healing. I innovate with my clients in mind. I create new products, packages and offers with them in mind. Women with reproductive concerns are fighting a lot of battles, our own discomfort in our bodies, doctors who aren’t exactly clear on how to support us and managing our mental health through these challenges. In this specific area of my business (making herbal formulas to support reproductive wellness), I want to provide an alternative solution and provide my clients/customers with support and encouragement. I also want my doula clients to feel empowered, respected and supported during their labor experience. I want my Reiki students and clients to feel grounded and aligned. That is success for me.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in Chicago, born and raised and we take a lot of pride in our city. We’ve gotten a bad rep as of late and I genuinely try to show my guests the best time and why I love the city. I would first suggest coming in the summer because it is the best time of year, not just because of the weather, but because there are so many activities around the city. I have to caveat this with these are things I would do if COVID-19 was not a thing.
Day 1: Start the week exploring the city by doing one of the architectural tours on the river. Visit the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) that it sits in the Streeterville neighborhood a great downtown neighborhood for shopping, walking, people watching and neighborhood sightseeing. Then have dinner at an amazing vegan restaurant, ALTHEA.
Day 2: Take a bike tour of the historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Continue the biking momentum by taking a ride along Lake Michigan and stopping at one of the beach-side restaurants, Pier 31 or Reggie’s on The Beach. In the summer there is a fun block party in the Hyde Park neighborhood that includes vendors, music and food, we can stop there for a bit and end an extremely full day with dinner in Hyde Park at one of my favorite restaurants, Virtue.
Day 3: Start the day with a quick breakfast to go from one of my favorite coffee shops, Teapot Brew Bakery in the South Loop neighborhood. Then head to the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the oldest and largest art museums in the world. At lunchtime we would head down the street to the restaurant and rooftop bar Cindy’s to take in the view, cool off and have good food. Remaining downtown we could do “Summer Dance” in Grant Park where various dance styles are taught and then practiced from early evening through the night. If we want dinner we can go to BLVD in the West Loop/Fulton Market District.
Day 4: I’d start the day with brunch at Crīo a Latin American restaurant with good food, great drinks and a vibe. We’d probably go to a neighborhood street festival or market after that, like Renegade craft fair to briefly shop for some of the best items by makers from across the country. We would then end the day bringing a small grill light bites and chairs to a beautiful park called Promontory Point that sits lakeside and enjoy the sunset.
We jam pack our days because we are on borrowed time when summer hits Chicago!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are many people who have supported me throughout this journey. I did not get here alone. I have to shout out my Reiki Master Teacher, who convinced me that I could in fact do this type of work and supported my efforts. I must also shout out my friend Michael Morrow who has pretty much been a lifelong entrepreneur and always allows me to pick his brain. Lastly, shout out my mentor Paul Agombar, who helps to push me beyond my comfort zone.
Photographer: Joshua Taylor