Ahlilah Longmire: Founder, Ascot Manor

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My Native Admission Statement: I am the Founder/President of The Tesla Group PR & Events in Midtown Manhattan. II am originally from California and have spent the last 21 years in NY on quite the journey that ultimately lead to becoming an Entrepreneur/Business owner for the last 11 years. I am now working on my next new venture which is a passion project helping at-risk youth who aspire to play tennis competitively. - https://www.ascotmanor.com/

How did you get into the industry?

I guess it started with my dad who played for the Kansas City Chiefs back in the '60s. Being an athlete is in my blood. I played multiple sports growing up. But ultimately a knee injury is what ended my dad's career, and though he went to Purdue, he left the NFL without a degree. My positioning with the athletes I have worked with has always been to ensure athletes understand the power of having a brand or business early on, not waiting until you get injured, and setting yourself up for life after sport so that you nor your family have to struggle when the “coins” start to run out.

The funny story, however, is that I am the only girl with four brothers but grew up with my younger brother. My mother said she tried to put me in tennis early on but I wasn't hearing it. I had to play everything my brother played cause I always had to one-up him. I didn't pick up a racquet until I was in my early 30's maybe. But boy when I did, it was like a golden moment for me. Like, yes, finally, now this is MY SPORT, and my brothers can't touch it. Lol, I've been playing now for almost ten years. I got good fast, faster than normal and was playing at one point 3x a week, won a couple of recreational tournaments and finally, the coach at that time said you need to move on from here and get yourself a competitive coach. Thats when I met Esu Maa't. He is the National Manager of diversity and inclusion for the USTA and a high-performance coach. Needless to say, I got my first lesson in how NOT good I was and almost had to start from scratch with him. Different story now, though.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

There is a prevalent tennis ground in Harlem that “We players” call it the jungles (Frederick Johnson Tennis Park). In fact, it's so popular that in 2016 NY Post wrote an article saying that if you are looking for the next Serena Williams, you might want to head over to the jungles. But the park is near very diverse housing situations, and I started noticing different kids, in different programs given the season that were highly skilled in tennis and playing competitively that were dropping off the radar. So I started asking questions. I think there were three major things that became a game-changer for me. 1- Being the cost to play on a competitive level can get up to 80k a year. Can someone tell me how a single mom, only making maybe 40k a year is supposed to afford that? My competitive racquet cost $260. And you can't sacrifice on the quality, or you'll be buying racquets more than 3x a month. 2 - Youth competitive players train like the pros. Over half are homeschooled and have full-day training schedules not to mention the number of hours and tournaments required to play monthly on a national/international basis. 3 - The prize money a junior can make is only worth a family splurge at a fancy McDonald's. It does not sustain the cost to play. I can go on and on but ultimately over $250 million dollars is spent annually on tennis, and not nearly enough is going toward youth tennis, and educational programming and hardly any brands will take a chance on directly sponsoring a junior past gear and clothing because its too high risk on receiving a ROI.

Okay, so I might not be able to fix all of that but I can start with bringing awareness to this issue, and I can as an individual make a difference to some youth in my own way and that is how Ascot Manor was formed. But we are definitely trying to go beyond that. For me, life just isn't as fun without tennis, and there is a lot of people that feel the same, so my goal is to change the narrative of how people view tennis apparel but to have a tribe of people rallying together to show that the sport of tennis is a lifestyle.

What makes me the best version of myself? 

Honestly, heartache, pain, life's many surprises whether good or bad. I genuinely believe you've got to go through some things to be able to shape the best version of yourself. And I've been through a lot. I can't say I'm my best version of myself, though. I am always a work in progress, striving to be the best version of myself. Knowing who you are, being self-aware, and wanting to be better helps “the work in progress.”

What are my aspirations?

Personal aspirations... well, darling, I am a woman of a certain age that has accomplished quite a bit. But losing such a close loved one changes everything. I am most certainly trying to put more effort in my dating life as I still really want a family. But I do feel like I am at my best when I am helping others. You stay grounded and connected the with needs of the people, especially youth. Continuing on that journey personally and from a business perspective but ultimately being able to teach my children those qualities is something I 100% aspire to do. I'm working on that happy balance.

My Most Challenging Moment?

My most challenging moment was having my mom pass away from lung cancer just six months ago. We were very, very close. My younger brother and I have had to make some hard decisions as a family. Selling our childhood home was harder than any business decision I've ever had to make.

My Favorite People/Role Models? 

Favorite person: 

Was and will always be my mom. She just had an heir about her. Super sweet, always helping someone out but also extremely smart. My mother had a background in accounting and finance and was very much a part of my business.

My 2nd favorite person would have to be my friend Kelly Cefai. I've never seen her upset over ANYTHING. She embodies positivity. It's almost sickening that someone can be that nice. She probably is one of my biggest supporters and is equally talented.

I don't really have celebrity role models, but I am often inspired by Serena Williams and Oprah.

My Favorite Places/Destinations? 

London, London, and more London. I love Ireland too. Nicest people I've ever met. I can see why it rains so much there. Everything is so richly green. The Irish definitely know how to crack a joke or two and have a good time. Though I haven't been to Mexico in quite some time, the food alone is enough to keep you coming back.

My Current Passions? 

Of course, tennis being my #1 and all the things to come with Ascot Manor but I am actually really great at interior decorating. I'm kind of obsessed with it. I've been fortunate enough to do paid projects, both commercial and residential properties.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

Surprisingly, my go-to is Pinterest. I get all the inspiration, tips, and tricks I need, without the “look at me, look at me, and my fabulous life” content. And why and how is literally everyone an influencer these days?!

Where do you enjoy getting lost? 

Always in London. Though I am starting to find it hard to get lost, I've been there so many times. I've gotten good about navigating my way back to my hotel or Airbnb without taking the tube.

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