Putting Yourself Outside the Box with Ashley Kruse

In today’s episode, Ashley Kruse, Owner of Compel Company shares with us some insights on how to grow and expand yourself and your business by always trying new things. Ashley has explored multiple fields such as photography, video, and design and has combined her wonderful talents to create Compel which is a one-stop-shop for all your branding needs. She also discusses the importance of building networking circles with other business owners and learning through their gains and losses amongst other things.

Ashley’s website: https://compelcompany.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/compel.co

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/compel-co/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/compel.co/

Katie Brinkley 0:02

Hey there. This is Katie Brinkley and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Welcome back to the podcast. My guest today is Ashley Cruz. Ashley is the founder and designer behind compel company, an independent creative studio that offers design, web and photography services. With 10 years of experience with creative design and direction experience. She brings ideas to life with her nationwide client base of businesses and business professionals. Ashley, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Ashley Kruse 0:46

Thank you, Katie. Thank you for having me.

Katie Brinkley 0:47

So let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and what life was like growing up?

Ashley Kruse 0:51

Sure. So I moved to Colorado from Florida, my husband and I lived outside of Orlando, Florida for quite a bit. And while we loved it, we were definitely just ready for something new. And we had come up to Denver on a trip together a few years before we made the move, just fell in love with it and decided to go ahead and make the jump. So we did. And we’ve been living here with our two pups ever since and just enjoying the outdoors and enjoying all there is to do out here.

Katie Brinkley 1:19

Awesome. Can you tell us how you think your upbringing impacted your eventual career and professional journey?

Ashley Kruse 1:25

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. My sisters and I, our parents always encouraged us to be creative and to kind of explore different hobbies, different interests, we’ve all been super grateful for that. They were so supportive with anything we wanted to kind of check out and, you know, see what stuck. So that allowed me to really get a good feel for a lot of different things. I loved arts, I kind of knew that right away. I loved photography in high school, I was on the newspaper staff. And that’s when I kind of learned about graphic design and that you can actually make a career of of laying things out on a page. And I really enjoyed that. So I decided to pursue that. And I think that just the the confidence I had to kind of pursue a creative direction was really because when we grew up, our parents were always very supportive with anything we wanted to try. So

Katie Brinkley 2:19

tell us a little bit about what compel company offers to clients.

Ashley Kruse 2:23

Sure. So we offer a wide range of creative services. Throughout my career. I’ve dabbled in many different areas and worked for many different clients. So I’m very proud to say that we offer a nice selection, anything from graphic design, logo design, print pieces, web design, anything from E commerce sites, to landing pages to digital graphics, digital ads, we also offer photography, product photography, commercial photography, then we offer some video content clips that you can share on your social media pages on your website, all those cool creative products that you can use to really market and brand yourself.

Katie Brinkley 3:04

Well take us a little bit through your career journey. I know you just barely touched on it, but tell us where you started out and the different professional stops along the way that led to where you are today.

Ashley Kruse 3:13

Yeah, in high school, I started realizing how much I loved art and creation. And then I went to school at Florida State in Tallahassee, study graphic design there and picked up any kind of internships, any outside projects that I could, I designed some posters for the theater program there and also had a an internship with a volunteer branch of the governor’s office downtown in Tallahassee, I learned a ton from those experiences. And it was it was really great kind of embarking in the industry that way. So after I graduated, I moved back to Orlando and then search and search for a job and someone had given me a chance, you know, entry level designer just really fighting so much for a chance and I got that and I was so thankful for it. And ever since then I’ve kind of just been working as hard as I can from there. I worked in house for different clients and then most recently before I moved out here I was creative director for a credit union in Orlando, one of the largest locally owned financial institutions

Katie Brinkley 4:18

what entrepreneur why go out on your own and start up your own company

Ashley Kruse 4:22

Yeah, so I throughout my different positions in house I always did some freelance work on the side I think it’s good to do that to keep yourself fresh kind of keep your skills sharp and for clients in other industries that you might not be working in full time. So I kind of always did that. And then when we moved out here, I made the decision to pursue that full time I never had I never had the opportunity to and I never kind of had the the ambition to so those things all kind of came together right time right situation. So I decided to go for it. I started meeting fellow entrepreneurs, fellow business owners and was just so inspired by everything that they do. on everything that they were building as well, and I kind of took my cue from them.

Katie Brinkley 5:05

So if someone is listening right now, who is aspiring to be a new business owner or go the freelance route? What is the single biggest piece of advice that you’d want to give him or her? That is a great

Ashley Kruse 5:15

question. single biggest piece of advice, I would say, to not be afraid of mistakes, or failing, I think that even when you start down the road of the unknown, sometimes you don’t realize it, but you are holding yourself back, because you’re not totally giving your all to it, you still kind of have your airbags on and you’re just you’re playing it safe a little bit, I would say just go for it. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself. You don’t want to have acid, if I could say that, but um, you want to go all in? And that’s the only way that you really be able to tell is this right for me, and, and really kind of learn about yourself and learn if this is the right direction. And if it’s not, that’s totally great, but at least she gave it your all. And you tried

Katie Brinkley 5:58

now that you were had the opportunity to speak with other entrepreneurs, and they just were so inspiring to you. And I think that that is one thing that a lot of small business owners and entrepreneurs might struggle with is meeting other people to kind of help and guide them and share their expertise. What do you think that one of the biggest pieces of advice that you learned from one of those entrepreneurs that kind of was like, okay, yeah, I can do this? Yeah,

Ashley Kruse 6:22

I would say I learned a lot about just nurturing relationships that you have, whether it’s with fellow business owners, with your potential clients, with your existing clients, a lot of it relies on those relationships, you do business with people that you know, like and trust. And if you have that solid foundation, then the sky’s kind of the limit. So if you go into it from that perspective, and with those core values, I think that there’s nothing you can achieve.

Katie Brinkley 6:53

What do you think that the biggest mistakes business owners make when they’re trying to grow and sustain a successful business,

Ashley Kruse 7:00

I would say maybe one of the biggest mistakes would be to maybe cut themselves into a box, it’s very easy to get caught up in comparisons of yourself and your business with other businesses that are doing what you do. And it’s very easy to kind of fall back on to just imitating what they’re doing, or even maybe copying what they’re doing, because you see it working. But I think it’s really important to pay attention to what works for you, you know, what’s your message? Do you have something unique to offer, even though there’s other companies out there offering maybe the same kind of services, your perspective is yours and yours alone? And don’t be afraid of that? Don’t Don’t try to shut that down? Because that’s what’s going to make you stand out as a business among the rest of them.

Katie Brinkley 7:45

Great advice, what is your model look like for finding and engaging and selling to your ideal clients and customers right now,

Ashley Kruse 7:52

I’ve been very lucky that the connections I’ve made here, they bring me a lot of my clients, it’s largely word of mouth, personal referrals, which I love. Because if they know my clients already, then we’re probably very like minded and on kind of the same page and value the same things. So they get a lot of my clients that way, which is a huge blessing.

Katie Brinkley 8:13

Have you found a good networking or entrepreneur group to join for kind of this networking opportunity and client referral?

Ashley Kruse 8:22

Yeah, absolutely. When I was first putting my feelers out, I visited a few. And there were some really great ones, there were some ones that weren’t a super great fit. But I did find a networking group that I’ve stuck with for the past couple years. And they’re called co pros, Colorado, Professionals Network. And they are really focused on that relationship aspect, which is what I was drawn to right away, everyone was super comfortable with each other. It’s not about selling or pitching. It’s really about getting to know the other people in your group, both as business owners and as an as fellow people and building the relationships from there.

Katie Brinkley 8:59

And like you said, it’s great, because with a lot of these groups, you’re just building relationships and networking with them. And it’s not necessarily to get that next lead that next new client, but the stuff that you can learn about the different business aspect and tips that you can share with with one on another are extremely valuable. Absolutely.

Ashley Kruse 9:19

So the group is so great, because they are focused on that. And we also have a large focus on education. So learning about what other people do and having them share their skills with you and vice versa. It’s very collaborative as well. So And honestly, once you once you start in that place, then the referrals and the business kind of comes naturally, which is really great. And I’m

Katie Brinkley 9:41

glad that you pointed out too that you know, you tried a couple of these groups out and found some that weren’t the right fit and one that’s a great fit. You know, I think a lot of people when they’re trying to find a good group to join might not even think about like, oh, well, this doesn’t really feel right. You know, I’m just turned off by all of them. It’s really annoying. wanting to kind of find the right group and not just limit yourself to just one necessarily? Absolutely, absolutely.

Ashley Kruse 10:07

Each group has their own focus and kind of their own vibe, if you will. So yeah, it’s really important to find the one that works for you. Sometimes if you like the numbers, and you like the fast paced business networking, there’s definitely a lot of options for you. But if you prefer a little bit more low key, there’s definitely options for you as well. So yeah, I agree finding the one that fits your vibe, super important. One

Katie Brinkley 10:30

passion that so many business owners and entrepreneurs have is to build a business around their lifestyle, not the other way around. How has that played out in your story and approach to running your business?

Ashley Kruse 10:39

Yeah, I definitely. I love my lifestyle. Now being a business owner and being entrepreneur, it offers a lot more freedom, a lot more independence. And I think that’s super important to me in terms of, of having a balanced life. And I lived the exact opposite are very structured, very controlled, and a little limited. And that worked out great, then. But I think for now, this is really the ideal for me, it allows me to, you know, freedom with my schedule carries over into the creativity that I can give to my clients. If I’m not following traditional models in terms of scheduling, and always being in an office and those kind of elements, then I can take a more creative approach to everything. So that’s really, really helped.

Katie Brinkley 11:23

Now I know that you guys offer a lot of design opportunities and services for your company, can you talk to our listeners a little bit about having an overall look for your brand, and how important that is? Sure. So

Ashley Kruse 11:36

your brand, your esthetic, the visual aesthetic that you portray is super important to your digital marketing and your offline marketing. It’s how visually people can recognize you start learning to recognize you and start associating you your business and your values anytime they see something of yours. So it’s just it’s really important for those first impressions that you’re trying to make, Are they consistent? Do they look professional are the eye catching, that’s super important to make that first impression, because if that’s successful, then it’ll usually lead some more.

Katie Brinkley 12:09

And I think that a lot of people might not even realize the amount of time and effort and work that goes into a logo design or a branding kit. There’s a lot of companies out there online where you can get a logo with clipart work, you know, for $5 and you get what you pay for but in your you know kind of field, talk to us a little bit how having an actual designer go in and talk with, you know, the owners and get the feel of their brand’s message and mission statement really go into a lot of the thought and design behind each logo and brand.

Ashley Kruse 12:43

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I anytime I talk to a potential client, or someone who’s considering going down the branding journey for their company, we always kind of discuss what your budget and timeline can accommodate. And I definitely understand that not everyone has the time or the budget for something custom, which is is understandable, you know, but there are definitely options in that realm that are better than others. Because 100%, you get what you pay for. So I kind of equate having a designer, custom design, your brand, your logo, everything for you is kind of like if you buy a house, you could buy a cookie cutter house that everyone else has on the block, and it would work great. And that’s totally fine. Or you could have a really custom solution built for you built for what you value, you know, the kinds of rooms the kind of space that you want the kind of floor plan that you want, really customizing everything to truly speak to your message that is invaluable. And it’s crafting. It’s a crafting process, if you will. So it’s I think it’s a super important foundation for any business to have that strong custom

Katie Brinkley 13:53

piece. Now what is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received, and how has it impacted your business?

Ashley Kruse 13:59

I think in design in terms of creative and design, it can tend to be a very, it can be an emotional process. Designers, when they put their all into something for our clients, they tend to get attached to things and sometimes that can be a little bump down the road when you’re kind of critiquing and revising. And I learned early on as a both as a student and as a young professional that you can’t get caught up in that. So in terms of being specifically in the creative industry, as a professional, you have to check your ego at the door, you have to remove yourself a little bit from that when it comes to the business side. You can’t take things too personally you can’t overthink it because it’s not about you. And a lot of times it’s not about the client and their preferences, it’s about their customer, making sure you come in from the right perspective and making sure that you are really on the same team instead of working against each other that is crucial to any creative professional success.

Katie Brinkley 14:55

Well Ashley, this has been such a great conversation where can we find out more about you and your business online.

Ashley Kruse 15:02

Sure, you can check out our website compel company.com. We also have a Facebook and Instagram page, where we try to post updates and recent works. So definitely feel free to visit there.

Katie Brinkley 15:13

Awesome. Well, thank you again so much for coming on the show today. Thank you, Katie. And if you’re ready to take your social media to the next level for your small business, head over to my website and check out my free video training the three biggest mistakes small businesses make with social media and how to avoid them. Discover how to make your social media marketing stand out from the crowd online. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at www.nextstepsocialcommunications.com or connect with me on LinkedIn. Just look for Katie Brinkley. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.