Ashley Fromm

By definition an internship is any period of time during which a beginner acquires experience in an occupation, profession or pursuit. Ashley Fromm took full advantage of her internship at Dominican. Upon her graduation in 2007, Fromm went from company intern to a company co-owner in about one year. She is now one of the four founding partners of Root Pouch, an innovative, award-winning; eco-friendly business in Portland, Ore. that is the only manufacturer of degradable fabric planting containers sold through giant retail stores such as the Home Depot.

In short, Fromm, as a college intern, went from beginner to winner.

“I would have never imagined doing anything in the horticulture industry or starting my own company,” Fromm says. “My first time writing a Business Plan was in Business Policy with Professor Christopher Leeds at Dominican. At that time I had no idea how much that one project would really help me in my professional career after graduation.”

Fromm came from Idaho to Dominican where she instantly fell in love with the campus and blazed a trail armed with academic and athletic scholarships. She joined the Penguins’ conference-winning women’s basketball team and initially intended to pursue pre-med or pre-law classes, then thought about becoming a double major.

 “She is the perfect example of the student-athlete,” says Dr. Leeds, professor in Dominican’s School of Business and Leadership who taught Fromm in organizational behavior class and business policy. “Ashley did things the way we want every student to – academics, athletics, extra-curricular activities, internships. She always had the best attitude.”

 Ultimately at Dominican, Fromm was inspired toward a degree in international management with a concentration in global marketing.

 “I’ve always been interested in marketing, traveling and business, so it seemed ideal for me,” she says. “I definitely connected with my professors; both Liz Capener and Dr. Leeds had a huge positive impact on my entire Dominican experience.”

This led Fromm to an internship while in college with LOOM, a Mill Valley start-up company that produced smart and colorful gear for growing families including diaper bags, tote bags, and storage for the home.  The internship lasted the normal six-month period, yet, at the end, the owner of LOOM hired her full time and it turned into a two-year job.

“Ashley had to fill orders, manage inventory and basically run the show,” says Capener, assistant professor in Accounting at Dominican. “I suspect this experience helped her in the successful start of Root Pouch and also may have whetted her appetite for entrepreneurship.”

Fromm credits the availability and accessibility of internships at Dominican and the real world experience it offers for helping prepare her for future success.

“The location is huge, not only for the beauty of the area, but for internships in particular,” she says “With all the businesses in the Bay Area, it’s a thriving environment, and the location of Dominican is ideal for students looking for top-quality internships and/or networking opportunities.”

Fromm’s big break came on graduation day at Dominican. Jim and Colleen Averna, close family friends, attended commencement ceremonies. Afterward, Fromm peppered them with questions about their business. Impressed by her inquisitiveness, Jim Averna offered her an internship.

 “Whenever I see this much raw talent and education in an individual, it is quite impressive and should be shared,” Jim Averna says. “When I asked her to become a partner, in a new company, it was based solely on her as an individual with a lot of drive and strong bases of knowledge in marketing.”

Thankfully Fromm’s education and internships at Dominican prepared her well for the transition. Her experience with LOOM, she says, “gave me a taste of what it would be like to start my own company … That is what I was emerged in. I was able to see the building of that company (LOOM) from the ground up. When I had the opportunity to go to Portland for an internship, then eventually start Root Pouch from the beginning, it felt natural to be a part of another start-up.”

Once Averna tinkered with the pioneering degradable pot idea, Root Pouch was born and Fromm, the fearless intern, became a partner, specializing in international sales and marketing while managing the company’s website. She was most responsible for pushing the Root Pouch brand into garden centers and the nursery industry. Fromm also helped open up markets for Root Pouch all over the world including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Chile.

The brand was boosted by a Colorado State University research study of traditional black plastic pots versus emerging fabric pots that rated Root Pouch higher than all of its competitors.

Now that Root Pouch has taken roots as a thriving business, Fromm thinks back to her days at Dominican and how it laid the foundation for her success.

“There definitely have been several moments where I thought `I did this at Dominican and it was helpful,’ ” Fromm says. “If I could go back, I would do more internships.”