PANDEMIC PURSUITS: How six entrepreneurs launched businesses during lockdown

Ashley Klein
Ashley Klein

Ashley Klein, Fashion Design ’10

For years, Ashley Klein sketched and saved and plotted and planned to launch the fashion line of her dreams. She researched fabrics, interviewed manufacturers, and honed her vision for a sustainable brand until finally—thrillingly—filing for a business license in late 2019.

A few months later, Klein flew to Los Angeles from her Seattle home to oversee final fittings before production began, but her exhilaration was short-lived. The next day, the president declared a national emergency. The manufacturer shut down. Klein’s vendors went dark.

Akala sweater
Akala sweater.

“I would be lying if I said there weren’t many a breakdown,” she says. “You didn’t know what was going to happen with life in general, and you didn’t know what was going to happen to this dream you’d tried to build.”

Uncertainty and new challenges—from navigating supply chain delays to twice switching manufacturers—consumed her days. Klein connected with other female entrepreneurs and journaled to cope with the stress.

Ultimately, conquering each roadblock sharpened her determination. Klein launched Akala in November with a capsule collection made from natural fibers to fit bodies of all sizes. This spring, her rose-colored jumpsuit was featured in a Today show segment. “Last year was a lot of pivots, but I have no regrets,” Klein says. “I learned to give myself a lot of grace.”