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Ashley MK: Scaler in One Hand, Paintbrush in the Other

Articles, Entrepreneur Life

You know, the dental field wasn’t always on my radar. Teeth, gums, and saliva were the furthest things from my mind during my college years. Back then, my heart was set on writing. 

I started by crafting my own “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories in my free time, delving into journalism at my high school, and ultimately landing a column in my college newspaper—I was even pursuing an English major at that point in time. However, my family intervened, with my dad presenting me with an ultimatum to shift my major to health services and my sister, who happens to be a dentist, engaging me in a lengthy conversation about why a DMD was my calling.

I’m not bitter about it—meeting my wife in dental school was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Besides, my detour from the writing world didn’t mean the end of that dream. In fact, I circled back to it later in life—and with considerable success. I now proudly hold the title of a Wall Street Journal bestselling author for my book, “Industry Influencer,” and I’m also a USA Today bestselling author thanks to my Christian Romance Novel, “2612 Cherryhill Lane.” It turns out that I’ve been fortunate enough to have my cake and eat it, too.

You’re probably wondering: Glenn, why the heck is this relevant? Stop showing off! Well, it’s relevant because I’ve got this fantastic story to share about someone who, like many of us, didn’t start with dreams of being a dental professional. 

So, let me introduce you to Ashley MK, a dental hygienist with a knack for creativity and a story that’ll resonate with anyone who’s ever felt the tug between passion and profession.

From artist to hygienist.

Ashley originally had her sights set on attending art school for graphic design. However, this was when the internet was just burgeoning, and the graphic design landscape held less promise than in today’s digital era. Ashley’s parents—particularly her father, who had been entrenched in the pharmaceutical industry for years—considered healthcare a more secure path.

Specifically, Ashley’s dad thought nursing would be his daughter’s best route. However, Ashley wasn’t too keen on the idea of nursing (or health care, for that matter) until her mom’s friend—a hygienist—nudged her toward dental hygiene as an alternative to nursing. Thus, with zero background in dentistry, Ashley soon found herself diving headfirst into oral care by attending the Dental Hygiene program at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

Ashley’s art venture originated as a “pressure release,” but given her talent, it swiftly evolved into a thriving side hustle.

Fast forward to today, Ashley practices dental hygiene near Leesburg, DC, weaving her career seamlessly into her personal life. Funnily enough, the dentist she works with also attended VCU. 

Ashley has always opted to work part-time, a strategic move to juggle her professional and family duties—the woman wears many hats, including that of a mother. But in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Ashley couldn’t go into the dental office due to safety restrictions and shutdowns. 

Staying home with her son, Ashley occupied herself by channeling her artistic talents into a “pressure release.” At first, Ashley’s art was just a passion project; she mostly created designs at the request of her friends. However, her Etsy shop soon gained traction, and demand grew as Ashley broke into a niche market, focusing primarily on dental-themed designs—stickers and resin items, to be exact.

Work-life balance is so important.

As someone who runs a Facebook group dedicated to helping my fellow entrepreneurs create side gigs to escape their 9-5, I admire how gracefully Ashley balances her dental hygiene gig alongside her booming sticker business. Part-time hours allow her to nurture both sides of her life without getting too burned out or stifling her creative juices. For Ashley, inspiration usually strikes during dental appointments or while scrolling through TikTok, and she diligently captures ideas on her phone’s Notes app for future artistic endeavors.

But hey, let’s not sugarcoat it—entrepreneurship is no walk in the park. Oftentimes, you’ll fall flat on your face a few times before you start making steps in the right direction. While everyone wants to share their highlight reels in this day and age, I firmly believe the stories about struggles are the most inspiring and raw. 

And, like every great entrepreneur, Ashley faced her fair share of challenges—especially with initial attempts at print-on-demand services falling short on quality. Undeterred, she persisted, learned from her failures, and found success through sheer dedication and the uplifting support of her dental and crafting communities—particularly groups she was a member of on Facebook. On that note, let’s shift gears a bit.

Laughter is sometimes the best medicine.

Whether through her online posts or merchandise, Ashley has a witty side that stands out in the dental world. We dove into her social media strategy, and man, does she get it. Recognizing dental content’s often dry and clinical nature, Ashley infuses humor into her online presence, setting her apart in the field. Her involvement in “RDH Rant”—a hygienist group known for its humor and support—attests to her belief that laughter is a powerful coping mechanism in our fast-paced, hectic profession.

What’s fascinating is how Ashley turns her memes and funny content into a significant following. Her humor sometimes even outshines her artwork, earning her more likes. Now, you ask, what’s the connection between her humor-filled online presence and the success of her sticker business? Well, her followers who appreciate the laughs are also turning into customers.

What’s next for Ashley?

Collaborations are Ashley’s secret sauce, working with Andy RDH, Nicole from Lovely 32, and Hygiene Edge. Collaborators trust her creative process, giving her freedom in designing their merchandise. One creative colleague whom Ashley holds near and dear to her heart is Julie Varney from the Dental Gift Shop—a business mentor and guiding figure in Ashley’s artistic ventures.

Looking ahead, Ashley has plans for themed collections for events like St. Patrick’s Day and the summer. Despite occasional suggestions to expand, she’s content with the current scale of her venture, prioritizing a healthy work-life balance in lieu of cranking out sales. For Ashley, fulfilling her passion is much more important than raking in profits, and she doesn’t want to burn herself out or distract herself from what matters most—her family.


About the Author:

Ashley MK comes from a family of artists, and her fondest memories involve doodling at her aunt’s drawing table. She grew up in the southern US as an Army brat, bouncing between Southern Alabama, Richmond, Virginia, and South Carolina before pursuing dental hygiene at Virginia Commonwealth University. She loves typography, watercolor, pen, ink, and witty quotes. If you have a request or question, feel free to message her! And don’t forget to follow her on Instagram and/or Facebook for frequent updates.

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