Entrepreneurship has always boiled down to one thing for Aubrey Kruse: creativity.
While majoring in psychology at Colorado State University, Kruse completed her Entrepreneurship and Innovation Minor to gain the skills to pursue her passion for art, setting the foundations to chase her dreams writing and illustrating children’s books. Now, as the CSU College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship’s marketing and events coordinator, she harnesses her entrepreneurial toolkit to help others develop the tools to achieve their creative visions, whether that’s in chalk art or biotechnology.
“When we talk about having an entrepreneurial mindset, that’s literally taking any situation that you’re in and applying your own creativity and innovation to make something better,” Kruse said. “That’s something that’s unique to you and that you have to offer.”
As part of the Institute for Entrepreneurship, Kruse is among the staff who welcome students from all colleges at CSU as well as community members into the program’s robust venture development ecosystem. Whether she’s welcoming participants into North Rockwell’s Venture Lounge for a weekly community meeting, speaking to students in 100-level business courses about entrepreneurship’s benefits or helping plan major events like the Venture Rams Business Showcase, Kruse helps the Institute share its vision that entrepreneurial skills have relevance far beyond startups.
About once a week, she heads into the Venture Lounge armed with chalk and applies her artistic talents to making the lounge – already a home base for students engaged in the Institute’s ecosystem – even more welcoming. The weekly illustrations are more than a mere opportunity for her to flex her talent, though: They’re a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit that recognizes individuals’ skills and puts them to use.
“I’ve realized we all have different skill sets that we bring,” she explained. “I think good leadership is being able to identify those in your employees and saying, ‘How can we bring that out of you so that you can give back to our institution?’ Even just being able to turn part of the Venture Lounge into a chalkboard said, ‘Hey, we know you have creativity. Can you just decorate and make the lounge cool?’ That’s been a rewarding part of the process, even as simple as it might seem.”
Beneficiary of the entrepreneurial mindset
Like many students, Kruse began her entrepreneurial journey as a student, exploring opportunities over the summer. Drawn to Disney’s history of innovation and creativity, she interned at Walt Disney World in Florida. While originally hired to sell merchandise, she one day took a tub of chalk outside and began drawing beloved characters.
Her talents didn’t go unnoticed, and her position was quickly reworked, freeing her of solely being responsible for retail responsibilities in favor of maximizing the impact of her artistic abilities. She quickly began chalking the sidewalks at the Most Magical Place on Earth, interacting with guests to give lessons on how to draw Mickey Mouse and other favorite characters. It was ultimately a hands-on demonstration on how the entrepreneurial mindset can still be valuable and put into action even inside a corporation the size of Disney.
“We talk about this in the world of entrepreneurship,” Kruse said. “You pivot. You have this one idea, this one concept, but then you realize how you can apply your own little flavor to turn it into something that you enjoy doing and that other people benefit from.”
As enriching as her stint with Disney was, Kruse longed to return home to Colorado. While establishing a freelance illustration career and developing ideas for a book, she took the route of many entrepreneurs, punching the clock at other jobs while developing her own opportunities after hours.
The early career explorations had more value than just helping Kruse pay rent. Her love of helping others was reaffirmed by work experience, whether illustrating a book for children in the foster care system or serving as an academic advisor in Denver. The insight came just as the realization a career in the creative industries can sap the passion once associated with an artistic endeavor. Armed with that insight, Kruse did exactly what any entrepreneur would do. She pivoted.
Changing paths led her back to the College of Business and the Institute for Entrepreneurship, where the mindset and vision match her career goals. Now, charged with leveraging student engagement, creating promotional materials and planning events, Kruse feels back at home, working with fellow entrepreneurs.
“My favorite part of my job is being able to work with creative people who have high standards and enable me to do the same,” Kruse said. “It’s incredibly invigorating when you’re around people who cultivate that entrepreneurial mindset because we want to make the world a better place.”
A storybook career
Kruse has found a place in the Institute for Entrepreneurship, but she hasn’t pulled the plug on her artistic ambitions. She’s still actively developing her children’s storybook and has engaged with the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to network with other creators as well as agents and publishers and, as part of the startup-focused activities presented by Founded In FoCo, attended presentations from self-published writers.
Although she’s well positioned to independently publish a book, armed with the entrepreneurial mindset and support of colleagues in the Institute who are pushing her to get her stories to print, she’s holding out to join traditional publishing.
“My dream would be, especially since I’m pretty early in my career, to find somebody like an agent that I could work with and then they could get me into publishing companies. That would be a dream.”
Like any true entrepreneur, Kruse holds tight to those dreams.
About CSU’s College of Business
The College of Business at Colorado State University is focused on using business to create a better world.
As an AACSB-accredited business school, the College is among the top five percent of business colleges worldwide, providing programs and career support services to more than 2,500 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students. Faculty help students across our top-ranked on-campus and online programs develop the knowledge, skills and values to navigate a rapidly evolving business world and address global challenges with sustainable business solutions. Our students are known for their creativity, work ethic and resilience—resulting in an undergraduate job offer and placement rate of over 90% within 90 days of graduation.
The College’s highly ranked programs include its Online MBA, which has been ranked the No. 1 program in Colorado by U.S. News and World Report for six years running and achieved No. 16 for employability worldwide from QS Quacquarelli Symonds. The College’s Impact MBA is also ranked by Corporate Knights as a Top 20 “Better World MBA” worldwide.