Ashley Toney Larson ’11
Ashley, originally from Waterford, Vermont, graduated in 2015 from Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, with a B.A. in entrepreneurship, then immediately moved to London, England, for one year where she earned her Masters in international marketing and project management. Ashley felt that the Academy prepared her well for college: “The structure and academic discipline SJA offers certainly made the educational transition seamless for me. I was more prepared and well versed than other students in some of my basic college courses.”
Ashley’s interest in studying entrepreneurship, marketing, and project management began at SJA. She said, “My Senior Capstone project at SJA really kickstarted my interest in event planning. I started a scholarship at Dance Express, a place I spent MANY years dancing and teaching until I graduated from SJA. The scholarship was in honor of all that was given to me by Jacque-Lynn Nutbrown Mackay ‘86 over the years. I wanted to give back to other aspiring dancers. So, I started the scholarship for those students who were dedicated and passionate about dance but who struggled financially to afford tuition. In doing so, I organized a benefit performance bringing in dancers and studios from across the state.”
After graduating from her master’s program, Ashley entered the professional world. She said, “I come from a family of entrepreneurs and so I knew one day I would start my own company; I just didn’t anticipate it being an event planning company. Things changed throughout the four years in my undergraduate program, and I became more and more interested in the events industry.” Ashley’s great-grandfather, Eddie Toney, opened Eddie’s Bakery in St. Johnsbury in 1956. Ashley’s grandparents, Paul Eddie Toney Sr. ’65 and Gloria Gagne Toney ‘64, were second to run the business and in 2018, passed the reins to their son and daughter in law, Paul Eddie Toney Jr. ’84 and Heidi Moore Toney ‘92. The business has expanded steadily through the leadership of three Toney generations.
When she returned to the U.S., Ashley began working for a destination management company at a four-star resort, organizing corporate retreats for major corporations like 3M and Phillips. During that time, she started working towards opening her own event planning company. She said, “After moving to New York, I pulled the trigger and in 2018 founded Toney Consulting. Starting my own business at 25 was definitely scary, but having the support of my husband (boyfriend at the time) was the reason I decided to just go for it. He was a major part in the initial stages of setting up my company and the primary investor in getting it up and running. So, for that I am forever grateful.” She continued, “After 4 years in business, I’ve decided it’s time to focus more on what I actually do, which is to plan and design events. When I initially started Toney Consulting, the goal was to plan events and also provide marketing services to companies in the industry. The planning side of my business has been so fruitful and really takes up the majority of my time, so this year Toney Consulting underwent a major rebrand! Ashley Larson Events (the new name of the company) focuses solely on planning and designing events which is where my passion lies.”
As part of her business, Ashley has become involved with wedding planning, and she has been working on an industry changing innovation. She said, “One of the many challenges that I have experienced is that wedding planning is a luxury service. On the other hand, as an entrepreneur, through every challenge there comes an opportunity to serve others, which is why I launched the ‘Planner in a Box’. This product-based approach to planning is meant for couples who choose to plan their special day on their own and is an effective alternative to full-price planning services saving couples thousands of dollars from their overall wedding budget. It’s designed to give them a similar experience to working directly with me. There are over 30 planning worksheets and 10 educational videos walking them through every step of the planning process. Plus, it comes with some pretty awesome goodies too, like styling items for the day, a mini day-of emergency kit, and other fun essentials for couples to use as they embark on their wedding planning journey. Also included is a 15% discount off any of my services and a free one-hour consultation to get them set up. I’ve had an incredible response to the Planner in a Box since the launch in 2021.”
Ashley, her husband, Zachary and infant daughter, Evalyn; are now living in Tennessee. She said, “It’s just the perfect place to continue growing our family. Of course, being away from extended family is tough, but my husband and I are now used to that. He is a soldier in the U.S. Army and has been traveling for the past 12 years. I’ve been traveling for the past 11 years and our families love visiting new places with us.”
When asked what advice she would have for current SJA students, Ashley said: “Take chances and never be afraid to go out of your comfort zone. Moving to Boston, then London, and traveling to many places since has really opened my eyes to how much possibility and endless opportunity there are for me. Don’t limit yourself and focus on what you want to do. Don’t let anyone else’s opinion dictate your dreams and desires. If I had, I certainly wouldn’t own my own company or be where I am today. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to take chances.”