Ashley Qualls has made
a destination for millions of teenage girls
"IT'S ALL ABOUT GIVING GIRLS
WHAT THEY WANT"
Ashley Qualls (born June 4, 1990) is an American entrepreneur from Lincoln Park, Michigan. Originally as a hobby, in 2004 at age 14, and now just 21, started a website called whateverlife.com. , designed to provide free steady supply of designs layouts and HTML tutorials for MySpace for people in her age.
In 2007 with seven million monthly visitors, Whateverlife.com has a larger audience than the circulation of Seventeen, TeenGirl, and CosmoGirl combined. In July, Quantcast ranked Whateverlife.com a staggering No. 349 out of more than 20 million sites. She's million sites -- ahead of cbsnews.com, brittanica.com, americanidol.com and even oprah.com.
Ashley's parents were divorced. She and her little sister, Shelby, were all crammed into her mother's one-bedroom apartment. But with her computer and savvy business sense she made a better life for all. In September 2006 she paid cash for a $250,000 home in a fenced-off subdivision in the community of Southgate.
Ashley is different from the recent crop of high-profile teen entrepreneurs. She may not have an MBA, a high-school diploma, or even a driver's license then, but Ashley Qualls already had an influential and lucrative Web site.
MySpace co-founder Brad Greenspan once approached Ashley with a bid valued at more than $1.5 million. She passed. Later, Greenspan came back with a second offer: $700,000, the car of her choice (up to $100,000), and her own Internet show with a marketing budget of $2 million. Again, no thanks. "I want to see how far I can take it," she says.
BUSINESS IDEA: ONLINE DESIGN
Whateverlife started as a hobby. Ashley figured out how to design MySpace layouts and posted them online for friends. She's a teenager, just like her audience. That gives Whateverlife an almost effortless authenticity. When word spread in the MySpace universe, the audience exploded. Whateverlife.com attracts more than 7 million visitors a month -- mostly teen girls, a valuable but typically elusive niche audience.
She has come along with the right idea at the right time. Eager to customize their MySpace profiles, girls cut and paste the HTML code for Whateverlife layouts featuring hearts, flowers, celebrities, and so "It's all about giving girls what they want," Ashley says.
Whateverlife began pulling in more teenage girls than a Justin Timberlake concert - about a million a day. To pay for the servers needed to handle her traffic, she signed up for Google AdSense. With big audience, the site attracted advertisers. Ashley's first check was for $2,700. The next was $5,000, the third for $10,000 reaching as much as $70,000 a month.
The checks kept coming and the business kept growing to the point Ashley also hired her mother, Linda LaBrecque, to help manage the company. In just two years it has generated more than $1 million in ad revenue and helped break new artists such as Lily Allen and the Jonas Brothers.
She made a choice to quit school. “I guess when presented with an opportunity, you have to take it, and something have to give”. A smart person always pay attention to education, so perhaps she will continue education as she goes along, perhaps not through formal education (school, university), but through classes at community colleges, and through reading. In 2006, she resumed her studies and is now with Henry Ford Community College for a degree majoring in Graphic Design.
Ashley has maintained a remarkably low profile in the offline world. Well, other than her site getting plugged on Carson Daily's radio show. Her scheduled appearance on the "Totally Wired Teen Superstar" panel at YPulse Mashup, a teen marketing conference, was her first public-speaking appearance -- and first business trip.
At the age of 18, she obtained legal emancipation, giving her the same legal status as an adult.