meet the people behind
When you spend 40+ hours a week surrounded by the same group of people, they start to become like family. We’ve struck the perfect balance of celebrating successes while hitting client deadlines and working to exceed client expectations in an environment centered around trust, accountability, collaboration, respect and an unrelenting spirit. We believe the input from others leads to greater success, diversity of thought, and more impactful results for our clients.
melea mcraefounder, ceo
When you’ve been in your client’s shoes, knowing what makes them tick and what it takes to move the needle comes naturally. Along with her unique perspective, clients have counted on the straightforward, “tell it like it is” approach. With more than 20 years of marketing experience ranging from leading internal marketing teams to building brands, her knowledge of marketing communications is anything but one-dimensional.
Melea has extensive experience leading client-facing marketing departments where she earned the reputation of an insightful brand strategist. Whether she’s strengthening an existing brand or building a brand from the ground up, her ability to get to the heart of a client’s business and establish a smart, strategic, fully integrated plan and push it forward is truly an asset. (read more…)
Prior to founding Crux, Melea was the senior vice president of growth for Trozzolo. She also served as the chief marketing and membership officer at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. She led the sales and marketing efforts, representing more than 2,500 business in the Greater Kansas City region. Under her leadership, the team also spearheaded the Chamber’s rebrand and helped create an image for the region’s business community that’s admired and respected in Missouri, Kansas and beyond.
In 2010, Melea was named a KC Business Influential Woman. She currently serves on the boards of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Junior Achievement of Greater KC, the board of trustees for the National MS Society Mid-America Chapter, the marketing committee for United Way of Greater Kansas City and the patrons committee for the Women’s Foundation of Greater KC.
Melea holds a bachelor’s degree in business management with a minor in marketing from Webster University in Kansas City, Mo., and has recently embarked on the Rockhurst Helzberg Executive MBA program, class of 2020.
matt smithmiervp, content
It all comes down to storytelling, after all. Matt has spent his entire career doing just that, as a reporter and magazine writer, a public relations executive and a marketing professional. Because when the story is told the right way, the message can be extremely powerful and incredibly effective.
With a background in journalism, he’s spent a number of years leading internal p.r. and marketing teams, working with outside vendors to build brands. He’s also worn the agency hat and helped guide clients down the path to better communication. (read more…)
Prior to joining Crux, Matt led a digital editorial team at Creelio, assisting executives with building their personal brand – and, by extension, their company brand – in the online space. Before that, he served as managing editor for a publishing company, leading writers, editors and designers in the creation of nationally distributed magazine titles and online content.
He also has more than 13 years of experience guiding internal marketing teams in the health care and financial industries at various organizations. Media relations, marketing strategies, brand management—all tools he’s used to tell powerful stories that make a difference.
Matt earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri.
ryan hembreevp, creative
Ryan is passionate about building brands and helping clients solve their creative and business challenges. With more than 20 years of professional experience, he leverages his strategic, creative and design thinking skills to provide unique solutions for clients’ business needs—whether in brand, marketing, or product and service development.
Prior to joining the Crux team, Ryan built, operated and sold a successful brand and marketing firm of 16 years, working with more than a hundred clients throughout the Kansas City region and beyond. (read more…)
His work has been recognized by the Advertising Club of Kansas City, the American Graphic Design Awards, the Austin Advertising Federation and has also appeared in several design annuals and publications, including: Print Magazine, Logo Lounge: 2,000 International Identities by Leading Designers, Logo Lounge 2, and American Corporate Identity. Additionally, his firm’s work had been recognized by the AIGA of Kansas City, How Magazine, and Typography 26 by the Type Director’s Club.
In 2006, Ryan wrote and published The Complete Graphic Designer, distributed by Rockport Publishers, in over a dozen languages. He is an educator and speaker on the topic of design and branding, having taught at the Kansas City Art Institute and the University of Missouri–Kansas City, and is a frequent guest speaker at Johnson County Community College. Ryan has also served on the Board of Directors for the Advertising Club of Kansas City (the Ad2 and the Art+Copy Clubs), and has judged several design competitions, including the Northwest Missouri Regional Scholastic Art Competition, the Topeka Ad Federation Addies and the Mid-Missouri Ad Federation Addies.
Ryan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Design, with an emphasis in Graphic Design, as well as a Master of Arts in Design Management degree from the University of Kansas.
stacy stephensdirector of operations
As an aficionado of the English language, Stacy boasts a voracious reading habit and counts it one of her greatest accomplishments to have instilled the love of reading into her own children. This passion and her intuition of reading an audience drives her commitment to excellence in using language to influence audiences with carefully crafted messages.
Prior to her return to the professional world, she home schooled her children, taught the core elements of English to both native and non-native speakers, and served in her community as a Children’s Ministry Director during an extensive church revitalization campaign. She has visited every U.S. state and sponsored trips to Costa Rica and Trinidad expanding her cultural awareness. (read more…)
Stacy’s approach to writing is complemented by her collection of diverse life experiences. She has spent the last 25 years gaining perspective on different working practices, building her cultural intelligence and enhancing her ability to read and react to people. With a focus on communicating the spoken and written word, she brings significant value to the bigger businesses of creativity, innovation and cross-functional thinking.
Stacy holds a bachelor’s in both advertising and English from Kansas State University, as well as a master’s in rhetoric and composition from the University of Kansas.
becky schieberaccount director & senior writer
A card-carrying grammar nerd, Becky has spent much of her life as a crusader for accurate and awesome communication. A natural dot-connector with bottomless curiosity, she is relentlessly resourceful in connecting ideas, people and words in unexpected ways to build lasting relationships and achieve strategic outcomes for her clients. Becky is a practiced listener and distiller of complex information into conversational messaging.
Becky started her more than 20-year career as a television news producer in some of the country’s biggest markets before putting down roots in Kansas City, where her 10 p.m. newscast consistently earned top ratings—after spending decades in second place. Following a cancer diagnosis close to home, she pursued a career in donor development.(read more…)
Working with many of KC’s influential business leaders, she raised millions of dollars to support leading-edge cancer research and advocacy efforts. As a development director, she created an award-winning integrated advancement campaign that helped The University of Kansas Cancer Center earn National Cancer Institute designation. She ran the corporate charitable foundation for a global engineering firm, overhauling its strategic focus and crafting the associated communications strategies.
Before finding her tribe at Crux, she honed her experience as a freelance writer, editor and campaign strategist in the engineering, nonprofit, health care and biomedical research industries. She presents to nonprofit professionals on CSR best practices and volunteers her fundraising strategy and communication expertise to fledgling nonprofits.
Becky is a 2013 graduate of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Centurions Leadership Program and former member of the Friendship Inn board of directors. She served on the Corporate Leadership Council for Engineers Without Borders USA, the March of Dimes Greater Kansas Chapter communications committee and as a coach and mentor for FIRST LEGO League. Aside from her family, her favorite things in this world are Springsteen, giant LEGO sets and the stack of soon-to-be-read books on her nightstand.
Becky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in communication studies at Northwestern University with a concentration in Slavic Studies.
kiernan walshireaccount director & writer
Kiernan Walshire has an uncanny knack for getting to the “why” of every message. Your “why” lies at the heart of everything you are, and when that message is told the right way through the right content, it can transform lives.
Kiernan’s eye for detail, can-do attitude and ability to ask the right questions serve her well as an account director, where she manages the day-to-day minutiae of our clients’ needs and ensures that their “why” is brought to life with every piece of content she creates.(read more…)
With a degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas and a decade’s worth of professional writing experience, Kiernan’s content expertise includes blogging (1,200 articles and counting!), WordPress development, creative short-form copy and good ‘ol fashioned print advertising. Kiernan’s harnessed her creative powers for B2C and B2B companies in almost every industry imaginable, from fashion, food and entertainment to healthcare, insurance and technology.
A Kansas City native, Kiernan moonlights as an Irish dance instructor, amateur vinyl record collector and aspiring novelist, whose first work of historical fiction will be finished one day. Maybe.
kara brooksdirector of pr, social and digital marketing
Kara has always relished the written word. Prior to joining Crux, she worked as a freelance copywriter, serving clients in the nonprofit, legal and human resources fields. As a self-proclaimed recovering journalist, Kara’s experience in the news business comprises everything from breaking news and crime to development and education. She has been published in USA Today, The Washington Post, The Sentinel newspapers and The Gazette.
As marketing manager, Kara specializes in crafting compelling content for blogs, press releases and social media. She’s committed to telling the stories that matter, executing effective marketing plans and implementing best practices that lead to results for her clients. (read more…)
Though the form of her writing has changed shape throughout the last decade, Kara has an unwavering dedication to her craft and capturing the unique voices of her clients.
Hailing from the great state of Maryland, Kara is passionate about both crab cakes and football. When she isn’t crafting content or assessing analytics for her clients, Kara can be found coffee crawling through Kansas City or at the park with her dog, Roscoe.
Kara earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park with a certificate in LGBT studies.
rachel wurzersales & marketing coordinator
A summer intern-turned-full-time-employee, Rachel re-joined the Crux team as a Sales & Marketing Coordinator following her graduation from Miami University in May 2019. After earning three (!) Bachelor’s of Science degrees in biology, psychology and Spanish, Rachel chose a more creative route and utilizes her unique background, perspective, and skillsets to help Crux operate more efficiently and achieve our clients’ wide range of Sales and Marketing goals. She even serves as our own in-house PowerPoint whisperer, which is just one of her many valuable superpowers. (read more…)
Born and raised in Kansas City, Rachel loves all things KC – especially Royals baseball.
kathryn antonopoulosgraphic designer
Kathryn is a Kansas City native with a passion for creating brand systems to help ensure a cohesive and connected brand experience. Prior to joining Crux, she worked in-house for an architecture firm designing working with client to translate their brand into the built environment. (read more…)
Outside of designing, Kathryn spends her time coaching gymnastics and playing with her puppy, Biscuit.
Kathryn is a graduate from The University of Kansas my with Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual communications with a minor in Art History.
lucy beschgraphic designer
A lover of all things design, Lucy especially enjoys creating patterns, illustrations and logos. Prior to starting at Crux, Lucy was a recent grad from Iowa State University (Go Cyclones!). She was one of ten from her class honored with the Janice Peterson Anderson Excellence Award nomination in 2019. While at Iowa State, she was a crucial member of her sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma as a designer. While in school, she worked as a print lab monitor, a painting class teacher and also completed two internships, one of those being at Meredith Corporation as a designer for Allrecipes magazine.(read more…)
Moving from a town of 1,600 in Iowa was a big leap but she found her home away from home in KC. Working with clients to better their websites, emails, social media and anything else creative has been extremely exciting and a new learning opportunity for Lucy. Outside of work, her passion for design has led her to many freelance opportunities and even her own side gig as a dog portrait artist. Her love of animals also extends to volunteering her time to rescues as a freelance graphic designer. She recently designed and created illustrations for the ARL of Iowa 2020 Calendar.
Lucy hopes to make an impact as a designer at Crux and also in Kansas City. She is excited to start working with the local animal shelters and to also learn about her new city with her pug, Jorja.