Ashley Dodd grew up surrounded by her three brothers and parents Beth and Gary Dodd. She said growing up surrounded by boys, not just in her family, inspired her to work hard and be a better woman.
“I can actually say that I was one of the first people on the Hinesville Gators when they formed their all-girls soccer team,” Dodd said noting she’s played soccer for most of her life. “And before that I was the only girl on the soccer team.”
Dodd said she earned a lot of respect when she managed to score a goal or drive the ball through an opponent. She said the sport and her parents taught her several valuable life lessons that she continues to follow to this day as the Owner/ Operator of the McDonald’s restaurants in Hinesville and Midway. Her father, Gary Dodd, ran the businesses until his passing in 2013. Her Dad was a well-known community activist and Humanitarian and while Dodd said she learned a lot from her Dad, she learned just as much if not more from her Mom Beth.
“Yes, she was in the shadows of a successful man,” Dodd said. “A man that I am grateful to have had as my Dad. But it is always the person in the shadows or in the background that never gets the credit. My Mom deserves so much credit for my Dad’s success and mine. She sacrificed her dreams to stand by my Dad and had four children.”
Dodd said her Mom eventually found a way to go to college at Armstrong University and pursued her dream of becoming a Registered Nurse.
Despite her hectic schedule Dodd said her Mom would still get her and her brothers ready for school, made breakfast and tended to their home and family.
“She woke up extra early to make sure all of us were taken care of before she went to college,” Dodd said.
Dodd said her Mom was her superhero and planted the seed in her brain that she could do anything she wanted if she put her mind to it.
Dodd said her Dad taught her to always place people first.
“Taking care of people is something that’s always been near and dear to my heart,” she said.
She added she learned how important it was to remain humble and not take things or people for granted and she doesn’t.
Dodd is currently the only female McDonald’s Operator in the Hinesville / Savannah region. She said being a woman in the business sector is empowering.
“There is strength in that, and we forget that it is not a weakness but a strength,” she said. “If we continue to say, “’I’m a woman, I can’t do this,”’ we put up roadblocks on our own path. And by saying I’m a woman and I can do anything tears that all down.”
Dodd started her career at McDonald’s at a very young age by assisting Ms. Bailey in the lobby at the restaurant inside the Super Walmart in Hinesville. When she was 16, she said she asked to work with a woman she said was like a second mother to her whom she affectionally calls Ms. Wanda.
“She’s been around since I was three or four years old, and she is my right-hand person to this day,” Dodd said.
She said Ms. Wanda is another example of a woman who started her career as a McDonald’s crew member but now helps Dodd runs her operation.
“I think that is one of the greatest things…to see other women climb up the ranks and succeed,” Dodd said.
But Dodd said the ability to succeed is within everyone and she strives to help all attain their highest goals possible.
Her goal is to have the most diverse group of employees and create an environment that is welcoming to all. She said education and conversation are key to maintaining a diverse workforce and she will not tolerate bullying or discrimination.
“One of the best things I learned from my Dad was how to communicate and we learned it through McDonald’s,” she said. “It is one of the greatest tools. Proper communication can solve almost anything. It will dismantle any bomb before it goes off and can bring people closer together.”
She said McDonald’s has provided women with many opportunities.
“McDonald’s used to not have women which is a crazy thought,” she said. “But there are operators that were part of hiring the first women in McDonald’s and to think about that…but if you look around today, it’s mostly women running McDonald’s today. I’ve always said that McDonald’s is the American Dream. It’s proof of it and we continue to show instances in our business where we have conquered so many different milestones.”
Like her Dad, Dodd serves the community through a variety of charities. It is yet another lesson she hopes to pass down to her two daughters. She wants them to also learn to place people first, serve others, be humble and take nothing for granted.
“My girls are not allowed to say I can’t because we can,” she said.