Entrepreneur’s sweet success keeps family legacy alive
Local entrepreneur Ashley Smaller, owner of mobile business Ashley’s Apples, is popping up all over the Twin Cities and her caramel candied apples are in high demand.
Smaller grew up in St. Paul by the “Selby-Dale area,” she said. She attended Central High for two years and transferred to Arlington High School.
Her business found its origins in her kitchen. “I started off baking, just taught myself, and came up with some new ideas and that’s how it happened,” Smaller said. She started out creating a delectable selection of baked goods.
Success didn’t transpire overnight, however. “I originally started five years ago, and it was something totally different,” Smaller recalled. She added, “My first business was the Sweetest Thing Baking Company and I just baked everything and anything.”
Business was a sweet success, but she decided to shift gears and focus on creating a line of her exquisite, candied apples.
Smaller successfully changed her business model. “Three years ago, it turned into Ashley’s Apples.” Smaller felt compelled to create her candied apple empire due to major success surrounding a local cookie entrepreneur.
She elaborated, “I was really intrigued by Sweet Martha’s [Cookies] and how she can just come and dominate for 12 days—I was like I gotta figure out something I can do to be like that,” Smaller said. She is focused on growing her brand on a larger scale.
She added, “That’s my goal, to get into the fair [MN State Fair], but I also want to get into stadiums.” Right now, Smaller pops up at local events and travels out of state to offer her delicious products. She encourages everyone to follow her social media for updates.
Ashley’s Apples are truly unique. Customers can expect a total of 21 different flavors to choose from. Smaller said, “A lot of people like Granny Smith, but I like using Gala Apples because Granny’s are a little too sour for my liking.” She chose to utilize Gala Apples because they are “sweet and sour.”
Entrepreneurship runs in her blood and Smaller has drawn inspiration and motivation from the matriarchs in her family. She said, “Both of my grandmas are entrepreneurs. My mom’s mom, she had a Beauty Shop on Dayton and Milton right on the corner—called Dorothy’s New Look.”
Smaller elaborated, “And my other grandma still has her business—Bouquets by Carolyn [BBC] is a flower shop on the corner of Selby and Milton.” BBC serves as the first African American floral shop nestled in the historically Black Rondo neighborhood. The “boss women” in her life influenced her entrepreneurial plight.
The process of making Ashley’s Apples is quite extensive. Smaller prepares her products in a commercial kitchen. She explained that it takes a day to clean and remove wax from the apples unless she retrieves them from an apple orchard.
After she completes the cleaning process, “I make my own caramel, it’s homemade—then I use really good chocolate and make the toppings myself,” Smaller said. Every apple is dipped and adorned with the most high-quality ingredients.
Customers can enjoy an array of tasty flavors: “Strawberry Crunch, Banana Pudding, Chocolate Cheesecake, Heath Bar, Caramel Apple Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Lemon Meringue, Peach Cobbler, Rice Krispy Treat, Fruity Pebbles [and] there’s Cotton Candy—that’s just some of them,” Smaller said. The most popular product is the Peach Cobbler Apple. The price range is $4 for a caramel apple to $7 for flavored apples.
Smaller has invested a lot of time in her business and received business assistance from a local organization. She said, “I went to NDC [Neighborhood Development Center] and did their entrepreneur course—I learned a lot of stuff there, did my business plan and that was really helpful.” As a result, she was able to bring her dream to fruition.
Operating a business can be rewarding and challenging. Smaller explained that she is motivated to live her dreams every day because she wants to set a good example. She is a hard-working mother that balances her business and raising her children.
“I think I try to teach my kids that if it’s something you want to do,” Smaller said. “You can do it, so I have to be an example for that. And knowing that I can be more if I keep going.” Smaller exemplifies resilience and perseverance.
Smaller also emphasized the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses. She said, “Before there were Black businesses, but now we’re just out here exploding with Black businesses, and we should get the same opportunities as everybody else.”
Her advice for future entrepreneurs: “Don’t give up! Research. Stay on top of your stuff. If it seems like it’s something that can wait until tomorrow, don’t procrastinate, don’t wait—there’s somebody else out there hungry and ready to do it.”
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.