The oh–sole–inspiring founder of Sole Girls Ashley Wiles makes confidence a core practice
By Juliana Bergstrom
In a culture where independence and entrepreneurship are celebrated, Ashley Wiles found a unique whitespace in which to execute her vision: to nurture healthy, active, confident young women and make them leaders.
Sole Girls is a fitness-centric business that provides running programs to help bolster self-esteem and leadership skills for girls aged eight to 12.
Founder Wiles is a certified life-coach, focused on health and wellness. She chose to incorporate physical activity into her program after discovering many adults had an aversion to what she considered an amazing way to restore balance to mood, body and mind.
After working with women and learning about the common hesitance towards physical activity, she said became inspired to work with young girls.
“I found with adults, there’s this barrier between why we love physical activity and doing it. Women will say things like ‘oh, running isn’t for me’ or ‘I’m not the right body type for that,'” said Wiles.
Wiles wanted to work with young women at the age they decide they “don’t like” being active, or they’re “not good” at it. She started researching girls and putting together a curriculum for the Sole Girls program, which would balance physical activity and empowerment.
“I wanted to touch on things that we deal with as adults, like anxiety and figuring out who you are but start with girls when they’re younger,” she explained.
In 2012, Wiles saw the tragic video posted by 15-year-old Amanda Todd on YouTube, right before the she took her own life.
Todd’s cyber-bullying story troubled Wiles and at that moment she knew Sole Girls was a necessity. The video stirred up her own memories of being a self-conscious teen and feeling like she didn’t belong.
“Her video spoke to me on a personal level. I remembered what it was like to have people be mean to me and thinking, ‘What is my reason, my purpose for living through these things?’ It wasn’t just her and it wasn’t just me going through that and everybody deserves support,” she said.
With conviction, Wiles completed her nine-week Sole Girls curriculum with subjects exploring healthy eating and bullying, as well as a physical training program that prepares the girls for a 5K race.
Since founding Sole Girls four years ago, Wiles has given a talk at the TEDxKids BC conference, enrolled seven coaches, dozens of “sole-teers” (peer volunteers) and watched hundreds of girls transform into confident, self-assured young women who can complete a 5K race with huge smiles on their faces. All while training and competing in triathlons.
What has been the most rewarding experience since starting Sole Girls?
Kate was a ten year old girl who came into the program who suffered from severe anxiety. After one session,Wiles took her aside and gave her a mantra to repeat back to her.
Wiles said “I am strong, I am powerful, I am Kate.” Kate whispered it back as she rolled her eyes.
At the end of the semester, Kate completed the 5K race. She looked Wiles right in the eye and with a smile from ear to ear exclaimed, “I am STRONG! I am POWERFUL! I am KATE!”
Since then, Kate has become a “sole-teer” and inspires other girls to feel strong and powerful in their uniqueness.
“Knowing that I have been of service is the biggest reward,” Wiles said.
Wiles gushes about her talented team, her inspiring mentors and attributes her success to the community that surrounds her.
Up next, Wiles and her team at Sole Girls are working towards reaching and empowering five million girls.
Juliana loves most Vancouver clichés — such as yoga, hiking and drinking tea with elaborate names — but what you wouldn’t guess about her is that she danced her way through 32 countries, is a die-hard No Doubt fan and cries when she is really excited and/or happy. Oh, and she loves a dry sauvignon blanc.