Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Bruce.
Ashley, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I graduated from SDSU with my degree in Design for Theater and Film. After working for many years in that profession, I left to have kids. In 2012, our family moved to North Park as an answer to a huge prayer we had been praying for about nine months. Every part of our prayer was answered and one of those pieces was that I would have the opportunity to teach art to kids. I was thinking that would mean a little summer camp in the backyard or something like that. God had other plans, as He usually does.
When my oldest son was in kindergarten at McKinley Elementary School, his class was supposed to create an art piece for their Gala fundraiser project. I volunteered to do create a 30″x40″ Jackson Pollock inspired art piece with the kids. We had a huge area laid out and a ton of paint for them to throw at and drip on the canvas. It was so much fun to watch them get so into this painting and it turned out beautifully. When we auctioned off the art piece at the Gala, Matteo, the owner of Buona Forchetta in South Park, was the proud winner. This painting still hangs in his South Park location today.
During that following summer, Matteo called me up and asked me if I would be willing to create and start an art program for all 600+ kids at McKinley. He said he would be able to contribute whatever supplies would be needed to make it happen. Well, how was I going to say no to that? So we took the idea to the Principal and teachers and they were all on board. And that’s where the original Crave Art Program was born. That small idea of a backyard art camp quickly turned into art for 600+ students with amazing parent and grandparent volunteers and the support of a wonderful staff at McKinley Elementary. I was even able to teach the kindergarteners at Birney Elementary for a year. Each year we put on a huge community art show with over 2000 pieces of art on display from all of the McKinley students. It was an incredible experience.
Unfortunately, in 2018, we moved out of the San Diego Unified District and we were no longer able to have our boys attend McKinley because of their zoning policies. Per my kids’ request, we started homeschooling. We knew we wanted art and creativity to be a priority for the boys and we added a lot of creativity into our curriculum. But we found that were weren’t doing as much “art” as we thought we would be doing when we decided to homeschool. And we missed the art program from McKinley so much. We were constantly asked to come back and teach again, or teach private lessons, or open a studio. Well, a studio would be great but we could not afford a studio. So the idea came to mind that we should start an online art club much like the classes we were doing at McKinley. Where not only the kids could participate but the whole family would be able to participate. And not only would we reach the families in one part of town but we could reach people all over the world! And if we were able to bring more family art time into their homes, and our home, we could do even more to help the world on a bigger level than we had ever imagined. So this is when we decided to learn how to build an online business so that we could bring fun family art time to people everywhere and at a very affordable price. This is where the Crave Art Club was born.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been tough. I’m not going to lie! Balancing being a stay at home mom, homeschooling my two boys, and trying to start a business and grow an audience online is a challenge. I question myself all the time but then someone sends me a message and says how the Crave Art Club has changed their lives and came to them at just the right time, and I am reminded why I do this. I go on my free Facebook page @yourcreativeavenue and I do a daily doodle for the kids, and I get feedback from them that they can’t wait to draw with me that day. I get a message from a parent of doodles or art that their kids are doing. I get a photo of a family sitting around the table doing their first art lesson together as a family. These are the things that remind me that even when I might think no one is watching, and I’m doing a ton of work and not seeing as many results as I would like as quickly as I want, it’s right then that God seems to intervene and speak to someone and put it on their heart to send me a random message about the difference my family and I are making in their family’s life.
The life of an entrepreneur is like one crazy rollercoaster of emotions. And for many people, it’s too much, too difficult and they give up. And that’s ok. It just means that it’s not a lifestyle for them. But for those of us that decide to stick with this crazy ride, we need to have those people around us to remind us why we are doing what we are doing.
Accountability groups or partners are very helpful for this. I have a few groups of entrepreneur friends I speak with weekly and we help each other in these moments. I am part of an accountability POD group that meets weekly and has been a huge help in this journey. Most people don’t understand the mind or heart of an entrepreneur. And that’s ok. We are wired a bit differently. But we need to find our tribe, of like-minded entrepreneurs that are right where we are on our journey, as well as those that are one step behind us, and one step ahead of us. These are the people that will help us in these moments of self-doubt because these moments will happen!
Then we need to keep a list, or photos, or quotes, or something to remind us of who we are serving and our reason for serving them. It helps to keep our focus and helps to keep us encouraged to step outside of ourselves and into a mindset of service. So, I would say find your purpose for serving, find the need for those you want to serve, find your tribe of people behind you, beside you and ahead of you, and make those connections regularly to keep your mindset in a positive place to keep moving forward. And never be afraid to ask for help but be willing to help others even more. And if you are the praying type like me, I say pray and ask for guidance and wisdom to know the path you need to be on at that moment and to pray for those people that you are serving. This will keep you focused on the true reason for your talents and your passion that you have been gifted with to use for the greater good.
Please tell us about Your Creative Avenue and the Crave Art Club.
The Crave Art Club is special to me because I am able to help parents nurture a love for art in their children and I get to do it with my family. My boys are in a lot of our videos with me, and they are on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/yourcreativeavenue, with me all the time. My husband is ‘all things tech’ for the business and I love that it truly has become a family business. And when our mission is to share God’s love through family art time, it’s nice to be able to do it ‘with’ my family!
I didn’t know what to expect when creating the art program at McKinley. But what I learned was that so many parents didn’t feel comfortable doing art with their children because they didn’t know how to “do art” themselves. I also realized many teachers didn’t want to teach art because they didn’t feel confident in their abilities either. At first, this made me a little sad, because these kids just wanted to paint, and draw, and color a tree purple. But what I quickly realized was the teachers and parent volunteers who showed up to help started sitting down with the kids and learning right alongside them. And their confidence grew. They were able to let go of their fear of failure and self-doubt and just create for the pure joy of being creative. We weren’t trying to be the next Picasso or Van Gogh, we were simply trying to let go of our everyday chores and worries and just be creative, together. We were playing with colors, and lines, and shapes, and breaking rules and coloring trees purple because that made us happy. And the kids that really struggled in the classroom or on the playground, did awesome in art class. Some who had a hard time focusing in class for more than ten minutes would stay so focused on their art that the teachers would ask to stay in the art room for twice as long as their class was scheduled for. These kids were learning so much through their experience with art and they didn’t even realize they were learning life skills they will carry with them forever. That is a gift I am so grateful I get to provide to people online in the Crave Art Club now.
I saw the difference our art program made in the lives of my students at McKinley and Birney, and then I saw that same difference made in the lives of the teachers and parents. It was a blessing. And I did not want to give that up just because we moved. So when we created the Crave Art Club online, I knew it needed to be flexible for families with children of varying ages as well as welcoming for parents to do ‘with’ their children. All of our lessons come with varying levels of “difficulty” (for lack of a better word) so kids and parents or grandparents just beginning on their artistic journey can do the lessons, and those that are more advanced in their artistic skills can add in more layers and techniques to their artwork to take it to the next level that they might be ready for. All of our lessons come with PDFs for parents to print out, or look at, for the visual learners that like to see the steps laid out for them before starting the project. We provide supply lists and reuse supplies often so that we aren’t asking parents to buy things for onetime use. We actually get to practice with the materials and use them many times on different projects so we are more comfortable with what our materials are capable of.
This also builds our confidence with our own skills over time as well. We even provide templates to trace for some of the projects. I encourage the kids to not use the templates but we do provide them to help you get started quicker and easier and take the fear out of not being confident in your drawing abilities. So if that sounds like you, it’s ok to be in this stage. We have artists of varying abilities in the club and each stage of the process is important and unique to each of us so we celebrate that in the club. I just encourage the kids to not use them, because there is something extra magical about kids’ art. Every wiggle, every line, every shape that’s just a little too big or too small, is so special in a child’s piece of art. And most often, kids don’t want a tracer, they just want to go for it. They haven’t been jaded by the world’s opinions yet. The tracers are more often for us parents or the older kids that aren’t too sure about it all yet. And that’s ok like I said, we are all on our own journey here and that is a beautiful thing. In the Crave Art Club, we also have games and challenges as well as bonuses from other artists or professionals we think will be helpful for our members and occasionally we send out Fun Mail. And if I teach any online classes on my website or Facebook page outside of the club you have access to those for free as well as discounts on my in-person paint parties I teach. So there are a lot of perks to being a member of the Crave Art Club. It has been such a blessing to be able to take what I used to do in the classroom and bring it into people’s homes for them, on their schedule, and their time frame, for a fraction of the cost so that the whole family can enjoy it.
One more bonus I love is that with this online art program we are also able to provide clean drinking water to people in need around the world. A percentage of all of our income is donated to, Give Clean Water, which is a non-profit organization we like to support to do our part in making this world a better safer place to live in. So for everyone that joins, they know that not only are they getting to enjoy making art with their family but just by being in the club they are making a bigger positive impact in the lives of other people in this world. It’s a pretty special thing to be a part of.
So that’s what we do. We have a Facebook page like I said called, Your Creative Avenue. We have a lot of content there to help families get started and get to know us a little bit to see if we are a good fit for them. Then we have the membership in the Crave Art Club for families wanting a bit more of a community and more in-depth full-length art lessons they can do together or individually. And they have access to me to help with any questions or concerns they might have in their art projects. So I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to help and serve others, and as an entrepreneur, I am happy I said yes to this experience because it has brought me and my family great joy to be able to serve families in this way.
Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
I don’t ever listen to the media. I don’t like it to get in my head. I also don’t look at statistics of men or women facing greater or fewer challenges. We all know where this world view has come from and how it has developed, and changed, and grown. Is it perfect yet, no, but are we better than we were years ago? I’d like to think we are.
If you want to know my take as a woman in business, I believe women are needed everywhere. Women are nurturers. That’s how we were created. I think it’s fine for women to be in the workplace and I think it’s fine for us to be at home. I think we need to start looking at how we can nurture our families first and foremost and if being in business will not be beneficial for our family, it might not be the right choice for us at that moment. But if we can find a way to nurture our family and raise kind, loving, passionate, world changers at home and still run our businesses, then I think we can and should do just that. Men and women are wired differently. It’s science and that’s ok.
But no one is going to tell me I can’t do both well, and no one is going to tell me I need to be in business or at home and I have to pick one. I think it is different for all of us and our current situations. I feel like women tend to get a bad wrap for staying home and not having a “job” and I think that’s a shame. Women at home have a job just as much as anyone else at a job. They are raising humans! I think that’s the biggest job of all. And the most important. So for all you stay at home moms or dads out there, don’t let the world tell you you need to get a “job”. If your family is supported and you can be home, be happy with that because it goes by faster than you think it will. And if you want to work and you can provide for your family that way and that is better for your family, then be ok with that choice too.
At the same time, maybe you don’t have kids to raise and in that case, yes, I think women are absolutely needed in the workplace. Women are nurturers, and I think it’s important to show we are just as capable of all of the tasks in the workplace as anyone else. We are all creative, we all have value to add and our gender should not determine whether or not we are needed. Our ideas, our work ethic, and our ability to perform the tasks at hand should be what determines if we are needed for the job at hand. There is a place for all of us and we are all important, gender shouldn’t matter.
- If your family would like to join the Crave Art Club it’s just $25 a month for the whole family
- Website: www.craverartclub.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/yourcreativeavenue
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/yourcreativeavenue
- Other: www.craveartclub.com/gift
Ashley Bruce, Dylan Bruce and the one with the photo that is a wreath and says family in the center then has my picture on the right was a photo of me taken by my brother Travis Hoehne at Studio THP.