Small Business Friday: Kelly Kruse Creative

I absolutely love having the chance to ask other creatives and small business owners questions + hear more about their process and work. And I also love introducing them to you!

Today, is a little Q&A with Kelly from Kelly Kruse Creative. Goodness--her work is so amazing and stunning. Plus, at the end, you'll have a chance to enter to win a piece of her gorgeous artwork--don't miss that!

So, let's get started:

Q:  What prompted you to open a shop?
A. I wish there was a short answer to how I ended up here! I have always been a creative – it is the way God made me. I didn’t go to college for art or even take art classes in high school. But I did paint obsessively when I was young, and my parents encouraged and nurtured my creative spirit. I painted my first commissions and won my first competitions in high school. I was deeply involved in the performing arts when I was in high school as well, so I ended up getting my undergraduate and graduate degrees in voice performance (opera). Midway through my masters degree, living in Indiana, I realized that a career as an opera singer just wasn’t what I was created to do, so I opened a photography business. I learned so much for the next five years, shooting weddings, families, headshots, high school seniors, and commercial work. After a move to Kansas City and lots of soul-searching, I realized that something just wasn’t working in my business. I honed in my business to just headshots but feared that there was no way to be a successful full-time photographer on headshots alone. I began painting again around this time. God really came after me through my friend Shareese, and she introduced me to one of her beautiful friends, the wonderful artist Marjorie Guyon. Marjorie spoke into my life on a beautiful winter evening in her studio, telling me that I needed no one’s permission to be an artist and that I had a bottomless well, an endless source, within me. I decided to participate in an open studio show shortly after and began painting again in earnest. I opened my Etsy shop as a way to reach a wide range of people looking for beautiful, handmade items to enhance their lives.

Q: Did you feel prepared when you opened your shop? 
A: Yes, I did, but mostly because I already had been a small business owner for five years prior to that. I also feel like I got lucky in having just the right set of skills to get myself started well. I was able to design my own website, print materials, etc, and I have been able to photograph all of my own work. I am lucky to have had that figured out before I started.

Q:  What is your favorite product item that you sell? 
A: I think it is really hard to choose just one product.  I really do love my acrylic ink and gold leaf paintings. They are affordable pieces of original art and each one is different. I feel like I am more of an observer at times when I create them, spending time watching how the pigment moves and reacts to water and other elements and making  small adjustments, instead of when I paint an acrylic painting, when I am 100% in control of where everything moves.

Q: How has (or has) running a handmade shop changed your family rhythms and routines?
A: It has actually helped me to add more structure to my week, in some ways, necessitating that I fit all of my painting in on certain days and do all of my at-home responsibilities on others, instead of doing it on different days every week. My husband Ayron and I don’t have children yet, so I am sure this answer would be more interesting if we did!

Q:  What motivates you to keep plugging forward and continue running your business?A: Many things. One is the knowledge that we were designed by God to work, for work. And feeling particularly called to paint, I feel like it is my responsibility and my privilege to answer that calling. Even on the hard days, all I have to do is pick up the Psalms and find the inspiration that initially led me to start painting again after an almost 10-year hiatus. 

Q: What would you tell a new shop owner about running a handmade business? What's your go-to business advice?
A: It is important to create structure for yourself, whether you’ve been used to working for someone else in the past or not, or it is easy to find that months have gone by and you don’t even know where you’re going. Get a good planner. Set goals, and periodically review them or change them. Don’t be afraid to dream huge, but remember that your small victories and choices compound to get you to the big victory. Recognize that five years from now, your business might look completely different than you expect. It’s okay if success looks different to you now than it did in the beginning. Find a way to outsource what you hate doing or what you do badly, so that you have the space to do the things that you do well and that energize you, or the extra effort it takes to do the things you hate will drain you and hold you back from doing what you’re made to do. Don’t try to be someone else. There is always someone who can do any given skill better than you, or who has more connections than you, or who is farther down the road than you. The key is not always to be better and faster, but to know yourself and what unique perspective you have to offer that others don’t. Don’t try to figure everything out on your own. Ask for help, look for mentors, read personal development books, and never, ever stop learning.

Q: What surprised you the most about running a small business after you opened your shop?
A: Early on, when I started my photography business, I was surprised at how hard it was to leave my work at the end of the day. I could work forever – it seemed like I could never finish everything. I would go to bed thinking about it and wake up thinking about it. It exhausted me and wore me out. I still struggle sometimes to create structures where I work during set hours and enjoy my family and friends and time with God during others. It is hard finding balance. 

Q: What is a practical thing you do to keep your business organized and running smoothly?
A: I utilize a good planner to keep things running as smoothly as possible. I live the life of a freelancer, though, so I can’t predict or nail things down 100%. But in using a great planner and keeping track of goals keeps me moving forward not just by accomplishing small daily tasks but by looking at the big picture. This year I’m using a Passion Planner, but next year I think I’m going to use the Get to Work Book. I really like the ability to check in and see how my goals are going. If I don’t set goals, I just wander from day to day and feel like I don’t know where I’m going!

Q: If you could run your business from anywhere in the world, where would you live?
A: I feel like I am right where God wants me. I am lucky to create in a studio space in an old furniture factory in the industrial district of Kansas City called the West Bottoms. Every day I come upstairs in the hand-operated freight elevator and I’m thankful for this quiet, worn space in the midst of this beautiful city. Right now my husband and I live in the suburbs, but we go back and forth between wanting to live in the heart of the city and our dream of owning an acreage just outside of KC. I have a deep love of gardening and the earth (coming from my childhood upbringing on the farm) and I always long to return to that kind of quiet. If I had to leave the country, I’d probably say Florence (Italy) or Vienna. I lived in Florence in college and visited Vienna and fell in love.

Thank you so much for sharing, Kelly!

You can see more of Kelly's work on her website or Etsy shop as well as visit her blog to learn more about her.

Kelly is so graciously giving away an 11x15 unmatted, acrylic ink painting in the style of her painting "Sunset Bars"--the winner can customize their painting by choosing their own two colors (how fun!)

The giveaway is open to US residents only and will close on Tuesday, July 14th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. I ADORE The Far Off Place! Her use of color and gradation is calming and contemplative!

  2. Seriously Adore her work! Thanks for sharing her talent with us Nicole!

  3. I love all of Kelly's work. She did a wonderful job on photos and I am so glad she is able to share her talent in other avenues for everyone to see! Can't wait to have a piece of her art in my new house someday soon.

  4. I love all of Kelly's work. She did a wonderful job on photos and I am so glad she is able to share her talent in other avenues for everyone to see! Can't wait to have a piece of her art in my new house someday soon.

  5. I have been eyeballing the very flame for awhile now. Went to college with Kelly and am so proud of her for following her heart, dreams, and passion. We are in the process of building a home and as soon as it's ready, Kelly's work will decorate many of our walls. We cannot wait! Xo


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