Ashley Whitesides worked diligently to succeed academically as a student at the BYU Marriott School of Business, so it came as a surprise to those around her when she paused her college career in order to seize an unexpected full-time work opportunity. As she now approaches graduation years after first starting her college career, Whitesides is ready to once again forge her own unique path.
Whitesides is originally from Murray, Utah, though she moved often and spent her teenage years near Memphis, Tennessee. As a senior in high school, Whitesides started a small nonprofit organization focused on promoting mental health awareness. That experience, among others, taught Whitesides that many individuals and small businesses are financially illiterate and that business can be leveraged to bless others’ lives. These two realizations continue to guide her.
“I love business, and I wanted to help people through business,” Whitesides says. “I have a lot of entrepreneurs in my family and extended family, and I’ve seen the good they’ve been able to do through their work.”
Equipped with a desire to help others through business, Whitesides chose to attend BYU Marriott while simultaneously pursuing her longtime love of languages. Before coming to Provo, Whitesides spent time in both China and France, learning the languages and experiencing the cultures of both countries.
After taking a break from school to serve a full-time mission in Tokyo, Japan, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Whitesides returned to BYU with a stronger passion than ever for understanding other languages and cultures. While studying at BYU, Whitesides also worked as a Japanese instructor at the Provo Missionary Training Center.
That love of languages and proclivity for business soon combined in an unexpected way. After a successful internship with Provo startup Hallo in early 2020, the language learning company offered Whitesides a full-time management position the same week she was slated to return to BYU campus for the fall semester.
“I love teaching and learning languages, but I’m also very passionate about my education at BYU. I’m so grateful for the kindness and goodwill of the people at BYU Marriott who have shown me support throughout my journey,” Whitesides says. “It was a really tough decision.”
Whitesides accepted the job offer, moving into full-time work and pausing her formal education. Focused on improving language learning through technology, Whitesides took inspiration from the professors who had patiently helped her in her own learning. “My instructors helped me excel in subjects that I had previously struggled in,” Whitesides says. “And they often used technology to do it. That motivated me to help others succeed as well.”
Whitesides enjoyed her time at Hallo but ultimately set her sights on completing her degree. Graduating in April 2023 with a degree in business management, Whitesides hopes to use her skills to help others improve their financial literacy by starting a personal finance training business.
Her business, Personal Financial Training LLC, consults families and individuals on wise money management. Whitesides especially wants to help people who often need financial advising the most but aren’t able to afford it—like young married couples.
“I have had incredible teachers who’ve been highly motivating and have inspired me to be a better teacher myself,” Whitesides says. “Being empowered by my teachers at BYU Marriott has inspired me to take what I’ve learned from their best practices to improve education in the personal finance industry, which I think is lacking in best practices.”
Starting a business directly after graduation is a challenge that Whitesides embraces with the same confidence that helped her pause and restart her formal education. “My experience has come with both great challenges and great blessings,” Whitesides says.
From school to work and from languages to finances, Whitesides seeks a path that’s all her own—one that fits her strengths and enables her to help others.
Writer: Alec Pope