Ashley Miller On Being The First Female VP In The NBA D-League, Donating Bone Marrow, And More
Ashley Miller On Being The First Female VP In The NBA D-League, Donating Bone Marrow, And More
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Show Notes & Links:
- Texas Legends
- Ashley Miller on Instagram
- What’s for Lunch With Ashley Miller
- KVGI Radio
- Jeff Cheney for Frisco Mayor
- DKMS – Delete Blood Cancer
- DKMS on Facebook
- DKMS on Twitter
- DKMS on Instagram
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco on:
Scott Ellis: Welcome to the Frisco podcast. I’m your host Scott Ellis. This week we’re hanging out with Ashley Miller.
All right Ashley. Welcome to the Frisco podcast.
Ashley Miller: Thanks for having me.
Scott Ellis: It’s good have you here today.
Ashley Miller: Yeah.
Scott Ellis: You’re all over the place in Frisco. You’re doing a whole bunch of stuff here.
Ashley Miller: Yes.
Scott Ellis: First of all, how long have you been in Frisco?
Ashley Miller: I actually moved to Frisco in 2009. I graduated college on a Tuesday. Intended to move to Dallas on that Thursday, but ended up in Frisco. I haven’t left a day since.
Scott Ellis: Okay. Very good. I’m glad to have you here for sure. You are, I guess, to an extent the face to of the Legends as an announcer.
Ashley Miller: Yes.
Scott Ellis: You are campaign manager for Jeff Chaney who’s running for mayor. You are involved in some different philanthropic endeavors that we’re going to talk about. You do a radio show. You’ve got a whole bunch of stuff going on.
Ashley Miller: I do. I do.
Scott Ellis: How did you get into this whole media thing that you’re doing? Where did that begin for you?
Ashley Miller: Yeah, great question. In my hometown, I’m from a podunk town in Louisiana called West Monroe, Louisiana about 4 hours from here, I actually had the opportunity to do post game sports reporting for Channel 10. That was the NBC affiliate in my town and just kind of fell in love with the media perspective[inaudible 00:01:25]. Growing up in the world of sports in a very sport-centric family. I learned really quick that not too many of my girlfriends knew a lot about sports. Just had a natural knack for loving to talk. Shocker, right? When I realized you could get paid for really reporting and talking about my passion for sports it was a natural fit for me. Really wanted to expand upon it and bring it to a bigger market. Got to Dallas as quick as I could, specifically Frisco, was blessed to really get to know Donny very well. He’s told me a million times he’s never really met an individual that could do the media side and the sales side. It’s been a dream opportunity for me to take my education, I was a Mass Comm major, and make it a reality and a dream come true.
Scott Ellis: Very good. For everybody out there as a testament to those capabilities that Donny recognized in you, he seems to very good at the by the way. He’s got a lot of good people here at The Legends. If I understand correctly, you were the first female vice president in NBA D-League history, right?
Ashley Miller: Yes. Yes. Absolutely.
Scott Ellis: You got promoted this last year.
Ashley Miller: I did, yeah. The neat thing behind was it never was about first for me. It was never about, certainly not doing something that no one else had done before. It really was just about paving the way. Donny, I don’t know if you had the opportunity to attend the Frisco sports luncheons that have happened the last couple of years, we were blessed to welcome Charlotte Jones Anderson to this last one that we did for the city. She made a point to stop in the middle of that luncheon and thank Donny for what he’s been able to do. Not only for herself, but for women in sports in general. All began Season 1 with Nancy Lieberman, the first female coach in NBA history, much less D-League history. Donny’s just good at that. Donny doesn’t see gender. He just sees a person. He sees their abilities, their work ethic, and their integrity. It’s been great for me to align myself with him. Obviously it not only brought the promotion into fruition, but really was able to pave the way for a lot of women.
Scott Ellis: Good. Wow. Kudos to Donny as well. Another reason to love that guy. He’s doing great stuff here.
Ashley Miller: Absolutely.
Scott Ellis: First of all, what is your technical title as VP? VP of what?
Ashley Miller: Vice President of Business Development. The unique thing about the D-League is that we all kind of wear 20 hats, right? It’s just an elevated janitor title. Malcolm likes to say that. Our team president says that quite frequently. Essentially my role internally in the office, if you will, like a 9 to 5. More of a 7 to midnight job, Monday through Friday is the sales team. I’m responsible for the sales for the team. A common misconception is people think that since I’ve received this promotion I’m not responsible for sales. I still have all my own sales goals. Keep the leads coming. I’m directly responsible now for the sales team which is a huge opportunity for me. I’ve always really enjoyed the teaching and training aspect to it. Now that I’m able to build my own team and construct what I think is truly the backbone of our organization, it’s been really neat. I’ll do all the business development, the sales, the marketing, and the media as well.
Scott Ellis: Okay. You’re still doing the in game announcements.
Ashley Miller: Yeah. I do all the television for the team whether it’s local KTXD, or if it’s Fox Sports Southwest, even in some cases ESPN. You’ll have the opportunity to see me interview our sponsors and charities at halftime and in some cases during the games as well.
Scott Ellis: Very good. Very good. Congratulations. Keep trucking.
Ashley Miller: Thank you.
Scott Ellis: Did you take over for Drew?
Ashley Miller: I didn’t really take over for Drew. Drew was the Vice President of Corporate Sponsorships. While I certainly have a lot of that in my role, as we all do, his role required somebody that didn’t, not necessarily want the community presence, but really from a time allocation, they were someone that needed to be in the office on a full time basis. It was a better fit for me to have them create a role that still allowed for me to [inaudible 00:05:38] point and be the face of the organization, but handle the inner working as as well.
Scott Ellis: Okay, very good.
Ashley Miller: No one can replace Drew. We miss him very much.
Scott Ellis: We do miss him. He was a good guy.
Ashley Miller: Yes.
Scott Ellis: I think he had a good opportunity that he wanted to pursue.
Ashley Miller: Heck yeah. We’re proud.
Scott Ellis: We wish him well. We wish him well. For everybody out there listening, if you don’t have tickets to The Legends, especially if you’ve never been to a game, just come out. They’re a blast. It’s a very family friendly event. Lots of good things going on. Reach out to Ashley. Tell her you want tickets. If you want to do a sponsorship, if you’re a business here in town, they do phenomenal networking. There’s a, what is it? Every first?
Ashley Miller: First Tuesday happy hour. That rotates to the different partners. Second Wednesday lunch. That’s always here at the arena. We bring in a different speaker every month. Third Thursday breakfast. With the exception of 1 week in the month you’ll be blessed by our presence in one way or another. You’ve got happy hour, lunch, and breakfast.
Scott Ellis: It’s really one of the best networking things going on around town I think. I’ve met so many people through it. I’ve brought a few into the fold as well. Everybody I talk to when they ask about Lifestyle Frisco, one of the first things they often ask now is if we’re a part of The Legends family, if we go to The Legends events. The word is getting out for sure.
Ashley Miller: Awesome. It’s working.
Scott Ellis: Yeah it is.
Ashley Miller: Great, great.
Scott Ellis: Good stuff. Let’s move on and talk a little bit about the radio show since we’re in the media centric conversation here. You host, is it a weekly show?
Ashley Miller: It is weekly, with KVGI radio right here in Frisco, Texas. My show is on Thursdays from 12 to 1. It’s called “What’s for lunch, with Ashley Miller”. It’s a common misconception, again, that it is a food based show. Both because of the name of the show, but also the time in which it airs. The reality of it is we chose Thursdays at noon, Mark Warner who is the station director there, and founder and CEO of all things KVGI. When we were brainstorming this show, he said, “Look the hard part with you is going to a day and a time where you don’t have anything”. I said, “Look, it doesn’t exist, but I can promise you this. If it’s on my calendar it’ll happen”. We just kind of placed a time and a day out on the calendar. It worked where Thursday at noon was a good time.
We went through all these different iterations of a name for the show. What really made the most sense is that you never really knew what you were going to get. People always ask me, “When I tune in, what’s the standard format?”, or if I’m honored to have someone as a guest they say, “What should I expect?”. I always tell them, “Look, I think the best on my feet. It’s going to be kind of what you see is what you get. What you hear is what you get, right?”. “What’s for lunch” just kind of stuck. People would always say, “What’s happening today on the show? What’s going on on the show? Who’s on the show?”. I said, “I guess you’ll see at lunch”. It was pretty cool. “What’s for lunch, with Ashley Miller” kind of stuck.
Scott Ellis: Expect the unexpected?
Ashley Miller: Exactly.
Scott Ellis: Is that online as well? Can people listen to it online?
Ashley Miller: It is online. The cool thing about it is you can off the Sound Cloud, all the shows are on demand. It kind of becomes a podcast, if you will, which is the great thing about having the guest on the show. They can then in turn take those interviews, or that fun time that we have, and utilize it for social media or any type of marketing that they choose to.
Scott Ellis: Very good.
Ashley Miller: Yeah.
Scott Ellis: The radio show, how long have you been doing that now?
Ashley Miller: It’s been just shy of 2 years. It’s been quite some time.
Scott Ellis: Wow that long?
Ashley Miller: Yeah.
Scott Ellis: Just so people have some frame or reference, maybe queue up a couple of recent episodes you’ve done. Who was on there? What did you talk about? Just give people an idea.
Ashley Miller: Absolutely. It’s a very sports-centric show as you might imagine. The one thing that I require everyone to indulge in are my sports teams. Being from Louisiana, of course I’m an LSU fan, I’m a Saints fan. It’s a rough year to be a Louisiana sports fan. The unique thing about that is we didn’t have a professional baseball team. By the grace of God, you either kind of watched WGN or TBS. You were a Braves fan or a Cubs fan. Since they day I was born I’ve been a Cubs fan. It’s a fun year to be a Cubs fan. Everyone is forced to indulge in my favorite sports teams. I spend a lot of my time recapping what’s going on in those organizations. I do always give a Legends update. You know better than anyone with y’alls involvement with our family that there’s so much going on year round. The 2 cornerstones of The Legends are community and basketball. During the season I can talk players, talk coaches, talk games, how we fair. Then out of the season it’s what we’re doing in the community as well as during the season.
The first 15 or 20 minutes or so are usually very sports-centric. I’ll utilize the second half of the show to highlight somebody in The Legends family, somebody from the Frisco community. I’m really passionate about trying to bridge partnerships and help people grow their business or whatever it is that they’re trying to accomplish. I think the show does a great job of that.
Scott Ellis: I love that. I love that you’re able to tie that back into The Legends families and the partners there, and everybody that gets involved. I don’t want to sound like this is just a big add for getting involve with The Legends, but there’s so many benefits, direct and indirect to doing so that I would encourage all these businesses to definitely think about it.
Ashley Miller: I appreciate it. Put the add out there. Let’s do it. Brand it.
Scott Ellis: We’ll be talking plenty, believe me. We do. We do. Let’s move on. You also, in addition to the 2 jobs we’ve already talked about, you are the campaign manager for Jeff Cheney who is running for mayor.
Ashley Miller: I am. You know I like to say, “Jeff WILL be the next mayor of Frisco”. If we have anything to do with it he’ll certainly assume that title soon.
Scott Ellis: How did you fall into that role?
Ashley Miller: It’s kind of a funny story. Justin and I we have always been kind of in Frisco ISD. We really wanted to move closer to the heart of Frisco. Certainly in my world, I consider Dr. Pepper arena, the ball park, and kind of this side, the star, the heart of Frisco. Although Jeff may argue it’s Main Street. I’m okay with that. We were looking for a new house. Met Jeff because there are several realtors within The Legends family as you know. I really wanted to do my due diligence, and sat down with every individual person. The one thing that stuck out to me about Jeff is that he was the first person that orally made it about us.
He took out a sheet of paper. It was kind of like a football coach. He was drawing up plays. He said, “All right, where do you go to Starbucks? What Starbucks do you go to? Where do you get your groceries? Where do both of you drive to work? What do you like to do on a Tuesday night? What do you like to do on a Saturday night?”. He just drew this map of Frisco. He said, “Now where is it again that you guys said you wanted to live?”. I said, “You know, maybe uptown, maybe Addison. We love Frisco. We love Dallas”. He said, “No, no no. You need to live right here in Frisco”. I said, “Jeff I don’t think that’s a good spot for us”. He said, “Then maybe I’m not the right realtor for you”. I just gained so much respect for him. It wasn’t about just trying to get the sale. It wasn’t about just trying to get us the biggest bid on a house, or the most expensive house. It was about finding something that was the right fit for us. He told us, “No” more often than we wanted to hear. We would send him several homes we just knew we wanted. He talked us out of every one. I can truly say that we found our dream home. We love everything about it.
Scott Ellis: You stayed here in Frisco?
Ashley Miller: We did which was the most important thing. I’ll tell you, the funny thing is when we started that home search it was the beginning of my leadership Frisco tenure. As a graduate of leadership Frisco, a proud graduate of class 19, I can tell you there’s no where else in the world I would want to live now that I’ve learned the inner workings of the city, and realized just how fortunate we are to be here. Jeff was so adamant about not only before, during, and after that process, being a leader to us. He became a good friend as well.
We were at lunch one day, celebrating the close of the home with the entire Cheney group. He said, “You know, you really are such an important person to the city”. He said, “You guys have become such good friends of ours. Would you consider doing PR for the Cheney group?”. I said, “I would love to do that”. I said, “Look I don’t want you to pay me a dime. If all I can d for you is tell the story of how you helped us, and how effective and efficient the process was, whatever I can do. Sign me up”. It was a great thing to do with Donny as well. If I’m going to be out in the community, I can tell The Legends story. I can tell the Cheney story. It worked well.
A couple weeks into that role we were at lunch again. He said, “You know I’m going to do this mayor thing”. I said, “Well I’ve heard. It’s kind of cool to really have the inside track”. He said, “You know it makes a lot of sense for me to have not only someone that we consider family, but someone that does PR for our organization, that knows me, and knows my commitment to this community not only as a resident, but as a small business owner” he said, “To really step up and be this person. Would you be willing to do it?”. I said, “Jeff, I’ve never done anything like that before” I said, “but at the end of the day, you could pay me a million dollars or not pay me a dime”. It’s a common misconception, again, that this is a paid position. It’s not. It’s completely volunteer that I get to represent him, and that I get to be responsible for who will inevitably be the next mayor of Frisco. It’s a blessing.
Scott Ellis: The biggest question is where do you find the time?
Ashley Miller: The really unique thing about The Legends, I’ll start with that, is that I love sports and I love the community. I would be out doing these things anyways. I have to wake myself up. I feel like I’m pinching myself all the time that I get paid to do what I love. The same thing is true for Jeff. You know him better than anybody, right? He’s a very community centric guy. He’s out in the community all the time. He’s got his hands in everything. That’s why I love him so much. The cool thing about being able to represent Jeff. He would be out doing these things in the community anyways. Now’s it’s just making sure that he’s at the right place at the right time, and that a lot of people are aware of really his passion for this community, and just his passion as an individual. For me it’s not about finding the time, it’s really about being more strategic with my time. Now it seems more meaningful, probably more so than ever.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, that sounds good. We wish you guys well.
Ashley Miller: Thank you. Thank you.
Scott Ellis: I know it probably feels like a long way to May, but it’ll be here before you know it.
Ashley Miller: Oh yeah. It will. It’s amazing. It seemed like all this campaign stuff was just so far beyond our reach. It’s amazing. Like you said, you kind of blink and you wake up and it’s here.
Scott Ellis: I’m sure we’re going to come back and talk about that. We tend to do a lot of local election coverage. I’m a big, big advocate of getting people out to vote local. So important. Unfortunately the numbers are often far below what we would like them to in terms of the number of eligible voters getting out. We’re going to be pushing on that pretty hard. However, given the fatigue people have from the election we just came out of, we’re going to give it a little rest.
Ashley Miller: Yes. Let’s take a break.
Scott Ellis: Maybe after the first of the year we’ll start ramping it up.
Ashley Miller: Good, good, good.
Scott Ellis: Last but not least, before we started recording you and I were talking about a charity that you’re involved with.
Ashley Miller: Yes.
Scott Ellis: Something that you have done that I think not a lot of people would know, there’s no reason they should, but is kind of a big deal.
Ashley Miller: Absolutely.
Scott Ellis: Not kind of, it is a very big deal.
Ashley Miller: Yeah.
Scott Ellis: Why don’t you talk a little bit about what you did, who you’re involved with, and especially for those that are interested in getting involved themselves, how they can do so.
Ashley Miller: Yeah. Thank you so much for allowing me to do so. I really would love to be a bigger advocate than I am for this. This is probably a very good first step. In college, I actually had the opportunity, it was one of those things I’m sure you remember these, your fraternity or your sorority would volunteer in the community in some way. We were doing a drive at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. I was a proud Phi Mu. We were doing a bone marrow drive. For a lot of people that may not have the knowledge, I showed up thinking I’ve got to donate blood, or it’s going to be some extremely intrusive process to get on the bone marrow registry. There was a little boy in our hometown that really needed a bone marrow transplant. Much to my surprise, and much to the majority of the general public’s’ surprise, it’s a 15 second swab.
You essentially take a q-tip. You swab the inside of both cheeks, and you’re done. That’s it. You do it yourself. Nobody does it to you. You drop it in a Ziploc bag. You’re on your way. You are in that registry for years. It’s not something you have to do that frequently. I did it in college, kind of forgot about it. It was very unfortunate that nobody in our hometown was a match for this little boy. Moved to Dallas. In 2012, I’d been here a few years. I got a call from California. This was kind of another lesson to be learned. I got several missed calls from this number in California. I’m like, “This telemarketer will not leave me alone”. Finally one day I decided to pick it up. I was just going to say, “Look, unsubscribe. Whatever I need to do”.
It ended up being the National Bone Marrow Registry. They said, “Look there is a 1 in 4,000,000 chance that you’ll ever be as much as a 1% potential match. You are a 100% match for this individual. Legally you can’t know anything about the individual except for their age and their gender, and what it is that they’re suffering from”. All I was able to know was that there was a lady that did not live in the state of Texas that was 33 years old. She had leukemia. She had 3 months to live without a marrow transplant. She had been through chemo. She’d been through radiation. Would I be interested in doing some additional testing to see if I was indeed healthy enough to donate bone marrow.
It’s one of those things where my entire life, I was Homecoming Queen, I did a couple pageants growing up, but I never had a talent. I think I can dance. I’m not a very good dancer. I know I can’t sing. I’ve always searched for what is my mission, what is my meaning? It became very clear to me that if indeed I was going to be healthy enough to do this, that maybe this was my super power, this is what I was meant to do. I went in for the testing. It turned out, indeed, I was healthy enough, 100% match for her. There’s 2 ways to donate bone marrow. 1 is a new procedure where you can do kind of a transfusion, if you will. It’s almost like giving a blood transfusion. Very simple, quick, and easy. The doctors in the case of the patient who’s suffering will make a recommendation as to which method of bone marrow is a better transplant. It turned out for me, it was going to be easier for her to do the surgery.
Without getting too detailed, I apologize for having to do that, the surgery itself is actually they drill into your hip bone. They hammer into the center of that bone. That’s where they extract the marrow. I actually had the opportunity to donate at Cook Children’s which was such a great experience. Went in, had the surgery. They typically take it from one side or the other. In my particular case, my recipient was a little bit heavier than I was. They actually took from both sides of my body. It’s a very painful surgery.
Scott Ellis: That’s what I’ve heard.
Ashley Miller: I would love to tell you that it wasn’t. It was a very, very painful surgery. I can remember going under. I remember waking up. I remember meeting the pilot. A lot of the legal process, they really like for the donor to be at least aware to see their marrow go into the ice chest. You meet the pilot. I remember being in recovery. I have a vague memory of the pilot, but it was very important from a legal standpoint that I did meet him. Then you have 24 hours to get that marrow into the place and into the actual recipient. The other thing that a lot of people don’t realize is they put the recipient into what they call terminal radiation. They have like a 24 hour time period to get it in them or they don’t survive. They pull all of the marrow out of their body. Without your marrow in their body, they can’t take a breath. They can’t open their eyes. You have this very crucial time period from when that begins with that person.
Before you go into surgery, if I had broken a finger or gotten a paper cut even that got infected, and I wasn’t able to donate, they couldn’t have taken my marrow. She wouldn’t have survived. It’s a risk that they’re willing to take. It was the easiest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. Your bone marrow regenerates itself something like within 72 hours. You relearn a lot of things. I had to kind of remember how to walk. You get through the pain. All I was allowed to know was that the marrow made it. I can’t know did she survive, did she not survive, all that good stuff until a year after the actual surgery. A year to the day, she reached out to me on Facebook. Oddly enough her last name was Miller. I’m like, “Well we’re family now. Literally my marrow’s inside your body”. She survived. She went back to work. She was able to get married. It’s just remarkable the things that she’s been able to accomplish in her life because of my marrow.
Tomorrow, or this week, I actually have the opportunity to MC the DKMS Gala that they do every year. I’m so excited to have that opportunity. Again, I really feel like I could be a better and a bigger advocate for bone marrow donation. What you don’t find is when people are volunteering in the community such as that, more often than not they’ve never had the opportunity ti actually go through the process. They get more questions than anything about, “Is it painful? Does it hurt? What does it mean? What does it entail?”. To be able to be someone that’s lived through it and been able to save somebody’s life, I think it’s going to be a really cool opportunity to kind of be a face for that organization.
Scott Ellis: Your experience certainly makes it a much more compelling story when people hear it.
Ashley Miller: Yeah. Yeah.
Scott Ellis: Wow. For people that might want to get involved, how can they do so?
Ashley Miller: DKMS is all over social media. It’s the letters D, K, M, S. Go on social media. Follow their mission. It’s very simple to do it, especially on Facebook. They’re always checking in where they’re going to be. Posting where the drives are. You can just online. If you go to, I believe, it’s dkms.org, it can tell you how to donate. You can literally request it mailed to your house. You can mail it out if you don’t have the opportunity to do it onsite. Again, it’s just the cotton swabs and the Ziploc bag. It comes with the instructions. It’s one of those opportunities, I ask people all the time, “If you could save somebody’s life wouldn’t you want to do it?”. It’s remarkable that just in an hour surgery I was able to give somebody a lifetime.
Scott Ellis: That’s fantastic.
Ashley Miller: It’s a great cause. I’m super excited to be a part of it.
Scott Ellis: Well good. We’re going to find all of those social links, websites, the whole 9 yards. We’ll link it up in the show notes so people can easily find it.
Ashley Miller: Perfect.
Scott Ellis: If people want to find you, if they want to follow along with what Ashley’s doing where’s the best place for them to do that?
Ashley Miller: I’m pretty good on Instagram. I can say that just because I think that a picture speaks 1000 words, right? I try to do my best at blogging my journey, if you will, on Instagram. I do have a Twitter. I just kind of link it directly from Instagram. I would say Instagram’s the best way to do it. I think it’s ashley_miller32, is my name on there. I’m out on Facebook as well. Really just follow The Legends. We’re texlengends.org. It’s t,e,x … I’m sorry it’s texlegends.com. It’s t,e,x. Again, love to be a face of that organization. Wherever The Legends are going to be, you can bet your hard earned dollar I’ll be with them.
Scott Ellis: Wow. Ashley thank you so much for spending some time with us today. In so many ways I think you sum up the spirit of what I think of being Frisco. You’re so involved with the community. Very locally focused. Certainly have the caring and giving nature that I like to think about people in Frisco having. We’ve seen people here step up so many times for so many different occasions. I think you’re a good representative for all of us.
Ashley Miller: Well thank you. I certainly appreciate that. What an honor to be on the podcast today.
Scott Ellis: Oh well thank you.
Ashley Miller: Thank you so, so much for having me.
Scott Ellis: You bet. All right. Everybody else, as always you can find us at lifestylefrisco.com\podcast. Come out and be sure you’ve subscribed on iTunes. You can find links there. We’ll have links to everything we mentioned in the show notes. We’ll talk to you next week.