Our founder Ashley Kruse is featured as one of Voyage Denver‘s inspiring local stories. In her interview, Ashley shares some moments from her early career and what she’s most excited about next …
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’ve always loved to create – whether it be a drawing, a storybook, a song. My parents always encouraged my sisters and I to be as creative and imaginative as we wanted to be, and I will always be so grateful for that. We had the opportunity to explore so many different interests and passions when we were growing up, and we had our parents’ unconditional support along the way. At one point, I was convinced I was going to be the next Michelle Kwan and win the gold medal at the Winter Olympics. So I was the kid in the blazing hot Florida weather (we grew up near Orlando) taking ice skating classes every week for a year, with my parents cheering me on.
In high school, I lived for my art and photography classes. When I joined the school newspaper staff, I discovered my affinity and love for graphic design, this magical craft that combined all the different visual elements I loved working with. As I moved my way up from writer to editor to editor-in-chief, I got to make the calls about the layout designs, the images we featured, and the masthead design – I was hooked. I went off to college with my major and future career already decided.
I studied design and photography in college, and sought out internships and projects for friends whenever I could. After graduation, I applied to design jobs relentlessly until someone gave me my first break – I was an in-house designer for a wholesale nursery in Apopka, Florida. After that, I worked for architects, publishers, real estate agents, lawyers, animal trainers, non-profit organizations, international resorts, and financial institutions. I’ve worked with brands big and small, with budgets ranging from bottomless to non-existent. Over ten years later, one thing has always remained true for me – hard work and big ideas are what matter most.
Has it been a smooth road?
Every road should have bumps, otherwise, be suspicious … In my early career, I definitely wished I had a mentor in my field. I was assigned one once after winning a design scholarship, but he ghosted me and I was too timid to do anything about it. There have also been plenty of times when I know I wasn’t taken seriously, and I just kept plugging away and let my work speak for itself until there were no doubts left about me to address.
In terms of managing my own business, everything is a learning opportunity. And when you’re in creative mode, it’s hard sometimes to switch tracks from color theory to contract fine print. But thankfully, my experience freelancing, working in-house, with agencies, and watching my friends and family in action with their own companies has taught me so much about being both a businesswoman and staying true to my passion.
Compel Company is a creative agency dedicated to taking you further. Our services include graphic and web design, video, and photography, and I’m always game for any creative problem or idea that my clients bring to the table. I’m the founder and designer behind the brand, and I have a network of talented and trusted creatives who also step in and work their magic. One of my mottos is ‘attractive design is good – effective design is even better’. I’m not just about making something look slick or trendy, but also establishing a concept and a strategy behind it. The discovery and planning part of my process is the most thorough piece of every project because it’s crucial to know what you’re doing and what you’re working to achieve before you dive in. I’m also all about transparency and trust. Too often, I see companies or freelancers in the creative industry that rely on keeping their clients confused. Maybe for them, it’s the easiest way to keep them around and reliant on them. But to me, an educated client is an empowered client. My clients choose me not because they’re kept in the dark and I have the flashlight, but because I have the talent and experience that you can’t get from a tutorial.
When it comes to my business, I’m most proud of where we’re headed next … One thing I’m developing is a project that will allow fellow creatives to put their passion to work for our communities and good causes that they support. It’s always been important to me to use my skills to not only make a living but to make a difference, too. I’m really excited about giving my colleagues an outlet to design and create from the heart.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
As each day passes, I see the creative industry being both elevated and automated. I think businesses and professionals are realizing that in this oversaturated world, creativity and ingenuity is what sets you apart. People are recognizing the value of being able to bring strong ideas to the table and execute them well, and they are seeking out creatives who can do just that. But at the same time, automated and templated solutions are now making it possible to get design services and products faster – and cheaper – than they ever have been before. Those kinds of tools, apps, and companies, can misleadingly devalue what we do. Now every project and client is different, and by no means am I knocking those options – I have pointed some of my clients in that direction if that really was in their best interest. It’s just important to realize the differences, the value, and the results of each.