Ashley Elleby: Designing a More Inclusive World
At just under six feet tall, Ashley Elleby (IE 2008) has always had a problem finding clothes that fit. As a young basketball player, she wore a lot of sweats or men’s clothing. But when Elleby realized she wasn’t going to become a professional athlete, she knew she needed some work attire.
“I bought my very first suit from the men’s department,” Elleby said. “My mom tailored it so I could have something suitable to wear to an interview for an internship. That sparked something in me that I wanted to fill this void.”
So in 2011, Elleby began Alyssa Vermell Apparel (Alyssa Vermell is her middle name), a company that created well-fitting, fashionable, and affordable business casual clothing for taller women.
Running her own business wasn’t something Elleby thought she would grow up to do. Her father worked as a computer engineer, and the Elleby household always had the latest computer. At Georgia Tech, she earned a degree from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, with a focus on health systems. But after going on to work for Johnson & Johnson, she realized maybe the field wasn’t for her.
“As an engineer, I was working on the back end of things, and I didn’t have opportunities to make decisions,” Elleby explained. “I just followed instructions, and that didn’t match my passion for things like developing strategy or building teams.”
So Elleby switched gears, applying to the business school at Washington University in St. Louis, where she began her clothing company. She then enrolled in fashion school and ran the company on nights and weekends while working as a full-time marketing professional. She quit her job with Pepsi in 2016 and moved to New York, pitching her company to investors and applying for incubator programs. But after a few years, Elleby realized she couldn’t scale the company the way she wanted to without compromising product quality and ethical manufacturing, so she put the business on pause.
In the meantime, she’s found another job she loves. Today, Elleby is the head of growth marketing at Google, leading a global team that leverages data science and predictive algorithms to better understand consumer behavior. As a side project, she signed on to lead a diversity, equity, and inclusion group at Google.
“Google is this huge conglomerate that touches almost every person on this planet, so I want us to be more mindful about how we show up to the world,” Elleby noted. She supported the Google Ads team in developing the first searchable business attribute that allows store and business owners to self-identify as Black-owned so users can quickly identify Black-owned businesses they want to support.