Dream Launch Awards - Bubble Aquatics and Exotics

By: Kirsten Aherron

The River District Association is excited to celebrate the 2022 Dream Launch Pitch Grant Awardees!  These businesses participated in a 6 week Dream Launch Bootcamp that covered topics from financial planning, business planning, access to capital, marketing and more.  Those that attended all 6 classes were able to pitch for funding if they chose to.  

Bubble Aquatics and Exotics, owned by Ashlyn Tickle, was awarded a $25,000 Dream Launch Grant. 

Bubble Aquatics and Exotics owner Ashlyn tickle was born and raised in Danville.  She has always been fascinated by reptiles and all kinds of animals.  When she was little she used to help her dad in the garden, and would befriend the resident garter snakes.  

Ashlyn moved to Florida in 2018 for college and fell in love with a store there that specializes in reptiles.  That is when she got her first pet Axolotl.  She loved her Axolotl but had to give her to a friend when she moved back to Virginia during Covid, because at the time Axolotls were not legal in Virginia.  As of last August (2021) they are now legal and they have been reunited. 

Since moving back to Danville, she has noticed there are very few resources in the region for people who love reptiles. She began to speak to other reptile owners who were having to travel long distances to get food and supplies for their pets.  Through these conversations, she realized there was a market and a need for reliable reptile supplies.  Thus, Bubble Aquatics and Exotics was born!

Bubble Aquatics and Exotics will provide the region with a reliable source of products for all manner of reptiles, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, bunnies and rabbits as well as traditional pets.  The store will also be a source of a wider variety of animal products such as pond stock (fish for stocking ponds), and live coral for saltwater fish tanks.  Bubble Aquatics and Exotics will also sell hunting and fishing licenses, and is working with the Department of Agriculture to be able to sell poultry and waterfowl in the spring and summer. These birds would come from a specialized breeder for healthier birds and hatching eggs. With the Department of Agriculture's permission (once obtained) Bubble Aquatics and Exotics  will also sell quail.  For those who like to knit, she also plans to stock ethically raised Angora rabbit fur, either already spun for knitting, or in its raw form for those who knit. 

Ashlyn has already been selling Axolotls that she breeds and is looking forward to having a store in the River District.  She is motivated by providing reptile (and all animal) lovers, the products they need to keep their animals healthy and happy.

What made you decide to take part in the Dream Launch Bootcamp/Pitch?

“When I began looking for buildings, I learned about the Dream Launch Bootcamp opportunity from a City employee”

How would you describe your experience in the Dream Launch Bootcamp?

“It was very informative and fun.  We learned all about the steps required to start and run a business.  I would recommend it to others to help build confidence.”

How will the Dream Launch Grant funds help your business? 

“With the grant I will be able to purchase inventory and make renovations to the building, as well as buy equipment, display case, furniture, and expand my marketing.”

Words of wisdom for new entrepreneurs?

"Do things one step at a time.  Have a mentor.  Participate in the Dream Launch classes, they allow you to network, find products, and meet people in the industry."