We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Stiles and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and never thought I couldn’t do something. I knew how to hustle from a really young age. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so things like a bike or boombox I had to buy myself. I started a car washing business, would sell items I didn’t want to friends – really anything to make a buck!
My commercial real estate career started in the corporate world, and it was good to me for a long time. I learned a lot and met many incredible, smart people, but I eventually reached a point where I needed my voice to be heard. I wanted to have creative freedom and the ability to pursue new ideas. I wanted a space where I could leverage all my skills and experience and push projects forward in a different, more meaningful way.
I was born for the hustle. I was never meant to be in captivity. So, I decided to create the company I was searching for.
Tribe is a different kind of development company. One that embraces different perspectives, curates’ projects with community in mind, and ceaselessly drives to find the path to “yes.” I created a space where my experience as a Native American woman is seen as an asset and allows others to lean into their identities as well. The core values of Tribe are not typical for commercial real estate. Our why lies within Community, Honesty, Thoughtful Design, Drive and Backbone.
What should our readers know about your business?
My path into real estate development was not through the typical finance or legal pathways. I came from the design world. I spent the first part of my career as a landscape architect focused on international resort work. It was within this context that I learned from the best in creating strong brands that visitors aligned and identified with. It was experiential development, before we had a name for it. Understanding the connections between brand and design helps drive my process and approach in development. It’s more than being holistic. It about understanding the bigger picture and creating a true sense of place by being reflective, inspirational and aspirational.
Has it been easy? No, not in the least. But I wouldn’t change my path or experience. I would not be where I am today without all of the challenges and growing pains it took to get here. They served a greater purpose and prepared me for what I am doing now. If I could go back and change anything, it would be to tell my younger self to be prepared for hard it will be, both personally and professionally.
Challenges can arise from every direction when you grow your career, and that includes from within. I often tell the story that I’m like Jay-Z. He did an interview several years ago where he talked about his lack of emotional intelligence but how he had other heightened skills, and I completely identified with it. I didn’t grow up with someone looking out for me, so I was always evaluating whether I was safe. This eventually evolved to become a great gift in quickly assessing character and situations to find paths forward. However, early on, it stunted the growth of my emotional intelligence by not allowing people to feel that I was bringing them along with me. It became a real struggle as my career advanced to be a good leader. I had to do the difficult work to improve my emotional intelligence to be the leader I wanted to be, to be where I am now. Acknowledging you have an area to improve on is not weakness, to not acknowledge would be.
My ultimate goal with Tribe is to be recognized as an organization that enhances communities through our work. As an individual, I want to be known as a great leader, with no qualifier. Not as a great female leader, not as a great Native American leader, just as a great leader. Period.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We are lucky to have so many great places in Denver, but I have a few must-visit spots. You have to start with an oat milk latte from Huckleberry Roasters (this may need to happen every day). Hop over to Los Chingones for lunch and then enjoy a mural walk through RiNo. Shop at Nomad and then cocktails at Death & Co. A trip to Larimer Square is usually required. You can have an upscale meal at The Capital Grille and get the best hats from Goorin Brothers. All of our museums are incredible, but I am a modern art lover so I would make a stop at fooLPRoof Gallery. Right now, you can catch an evening performance from the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks (no trip to Colorado is complete without visit this iconic venue!). End the weekend with drag bingo at the Milk Market on Sunday and a walk to see Denver Union Station lit up at night.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Of course, I have to start with my husband John, and our incredible daughter Alana. They are my favorite people. Starting a new business at this point in our lives was not easy and it requires a lot of support to maintain. In addition to my loving family, there are so many incredible people that have been here from day one.
Jocelyn Hittle and Tiana Kennedy at the Colorado State University System were one of Tribe’s first clients, and it has been one of the best experiences of my career to work with them on the Spur Campus at the National Western Redevelopment. The level of respect and trust we have with one another allows an incredible amount of work to be completed on this project that will be transformational for Denver.
Carla Dore, CEO of Workplace Resources, is another incredible friend and ally. Her willingness to share resources, contacts and experiences has been invaluable. At the onset of the pandemic when we were all navigating something entirely new, Carla’s insight and thoughtfulness was a lifeline for my new business.
Hilary Hadden, Elena Lippincott, Matt Kenney and the entire team from AOR are the best strategic partners I could ask for. It takes a village to start a company, and I am forever grateful for each of them. There are, of course, many more people not named here. If I’ve learned anything, though, it’s that you can’t start something like this alone.
Hord Copland Macht Anderson Mason Dale AOR Danja Barber Photography