Bring back the value in what Once Was Lost

Visiting Ashdon Downey, owner of Once Was Lost, is like standing at the edge of a tornado.  You’re not so close as to be swept away, but the energy pulls you steadily into her vortex.  Her passion to bring back the value is contagious.

I bring her story to you to illustrate how Dreams work.

Step #1: Start small.

When her marriage fell apart, she had been a stay-at-home mom for 13 years.  The last two of those years as they scrambled to pay off massive debt, she started refinishing furniture for friends and had photography as a side gig.

After they divorced in 2018, the side hustle continued.  OWL Photography remains viable; it’s fun!  The reclamation gig, Once Was Lost Company, now has a workshop and a crew focused on reclaiming furniture and cabinets.  

She contracts with moving companies to repair items broken in transit.  You know that shelf the movers handled carelessly?  She makes it like new, then leaves it super clean.

But her calling is much deeper than making things pretty.  Her calling is to keep humans from trashing the world.  As she says, “I don’t want anything going to a landfill.  We have zero waste, except for the dust we sweep up.”

Bring back the value in antiquated dining room chairs.

Step #2: Align with your values.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is discarded.

They use zero paper products by recycling old t-shirts into work rags.  Everything in her company is used creatively and is designed to reduce waste.  Even broken screws or tile shards can be used to make jewelry.

She also restores furniture. Outdated or broken items can be refinished or repurposed.  If you think it’s too far gone and headed to the landfill, think again.  “Let me work on it,” she says.  “I will bring back the value.” 

Step #3:  Trust 

When she was suddenly single, with an elementary-aged daughter to provide for, she was never in doubt that what she needed would be there.  “I have total trust,” she explains.  “I’m in the flow – I know it’s going to work out.”

But what about money? What about economic downturns?  What about the bad stuff?

“All I worry about is emotional health.  I can always get more money.” That unyielding trust and comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty is Ashdon’s super-power.   

She’s confident that what she needs will be there when she needs it.  It allows her to be flexible and stress-free, and it’s a mighty attraction for others with the same vision. 

Step #4: Stay open to serendipity

These days, as demand grows, help arrives.  “When I need help, they show up,” she says.

Like Ashdon, they are single or stay-at-home moms who want to be there for the kids when they get home from school.  And they are learning skills that typically men do.  Work hours are from 8 till 2 or 3. 

Because they are independent contractors, they set their own schedules and take the time they need to be with their kids.  Or piggyback this gig with other interests. One person is a hairdresser 3 days a week, then a furniture refinisher 2 days a week. 

Step #5:  Keep Dreaming

With 5 team members, Once Was Lost Company is still growing.  She would like to have two teams and double the jobs they can do. 

She is also exploring the creation of a new line of work clothes, Women of Trade. Here, she up-cycles discarded jeans and clothes into funky cute construction worker outfits that actually fit women. These are clothes with rugged stamina, like patchwork overalls, or suspenders made from baseball belts.

And other ventures keep surfacing, like women’s tools that fit smaller hands or work boots for smaller feet.  She would love to host a summer camp for girls to teach them how to use power tools and offer girls different career options.

The thing about Ashdon is that she’s willing to keep Dreaming.  And trusting.  And living her values.  As she brings back the value, the value she contributes reaches farther and farther.

This is what it’s like when our Dreams arise, and we listen, and we get into action. 

We can change the world.


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