Fitness model. Hybrid athlete. Entrepreneur. Mother.
Ashley Horner, 36, wears many different hats, and with them all one thing is consistent: her passion.
And add one other hat, philanthropist, for the woman who ran for 40 hours straight one weekend this month to raise money for an orphanage in Haiti.
Horner grew up on a ranch in Oklahoma and relocated to Virginia Beach five years ago.
“I always had an athletic background with gymnastics and playing soccer when I was younger,” Horner said. To satisfy her competitive nature, Horner got into fitness competitions, including ultra-events, which led to her modeling career.
“I just kept wanting to find something else that would challenge me,” she said.
But, through each professional experience — fitness celebrity, magazine covers, endorsement deals, and dealing with her finances — Horner said she was eager to dig deeper.
Horner is the mother of three sons, Tripp, 13, Cash, 11, and Otto, 5, runs three businesses and has a nonprofit organization.
She opened American Brew on Shore Drive in Virginia Beach in 2016, and relocated the coffee/whiskey bar and restaurant a year later to its current location on East Stratford Road, which is off Shore Drive near the Lynnhaven Inlet.
“I didn’t know anything about the restaurant industry. I’ve had to learn as I continued on,” Horner said. “It’s been a lot of fun and I’m actually looking to open up my second location early in 2021.”
Although times have been tough during the pandemic, Horner said that when it hit she quickly reevaluated the business’s operation system and kept the doors open.
“I knew that my staff depended on me for their income,” she said. “Within a matter of four days we flip-flopped operations. I did whatever I had to do to keep American Brew open.”
The restaurant’s team of 10 rallied and continues to thrive in the community-focused business.
“You talk about overcoming adversity — which is what I’m all about — they really did that and they did an outstanding job,” Horner said.
She also owns and operates Valkyrie Surf and Snow, a small online clothing company she opened in 2016 dedicated to the active female.
With two employees handling the sales, Horner said she might eventually move it to a brick-and-mortar business.
“My overall mission is to empower women. I think it’s really important for women to find beauty and strength within themselves,” she said.
Horner opened American Screen Printing in 2018 purely because she decided she wanted to eliminate the “middleman” and print her apparel herself.
Originally focused on printing for her companies, projects and events, the business has seen rapid growth and now prints for others in town.
She is getting ready to move the business to the Railroad District in Norfolk and will be hiring several more employees.
Eager to help others, Horner started the Unbroken Foundation in 2013. The organization helps battered women and children through its donation-based program.
In July, she started recording her own podcast, “Reborn.” The weekly recordings focus on living a healthier and more fulfilling life.
As if all of her endeavors aren’t enough to satisfy her desires, Horner also uses her own stamina and resilience to raise awareness and help others.
“I learned that whenever I use my athletic abilities in the platform I have to give back to others in need —that is what defines success for me,” Horner said.
She once rode her bicycle from Virginia Beach to Oklahoma City, pedaling 1,300 miles in 13 days, to raise $6,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
In 2017, she raised $90,000 for the Maison Fortune Orphanage by running the border of Haiti — a trek of about 230 miles.
When the pandemic forced the cancellation of a run planned for Haiti, Horner moved it to Virginia Beach. She ran 40 hours straight the weekend of Nov. 6 to raise money for the orphanage.
Half the run was on the track at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and the other half took her down Shore Drive to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and the Cape Henry trail.
She said she covered just three miles shy of 100 miles, drinking more than eight gallons of water and burning 13,000 calories.
To date, she has raised approximately $13,000 from her latest undertaking. Donations can still be made via ashleyhorner.co.
Fueled by passion, Horner said the “grind days” don’t seem difficult to her especially because she feels driven to hit milestones and learn new things.
“It keeps it fun,” she said.
But, as a mother and business owner, Horner stressed the importance of time management.
“I always wake up before the family wakes up so I can get work done,” she said. “It’s also just as important to learn to turn it off and be present with my family.”
Horner said it’s not uncommon for her sons to accompany her to American Brew to have them break down boxes, pick up trash and other basic things while they learn the responsibilities associated with business ownership.
“But, also we get to be together,” she said.
And through it all, Horner always makes time to get a workout in — whether she’s training for a specific endeavor, which kicks it into a higher gear — or maintaining her regular routine.
“My training is my therapy time. Even if work is really busy, training for 30 minutes a day helps relieve stress,” she said.
With all that she has accomplished and all of her successes, Horner said she is still at the beginning and feels there is so much more yet to be done.
“If I can leave the legacy to my boys about giving back to others,” she said, “then that is success.”
Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, [email protected]
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