How alum became top young entrepreneur

Alexandra "Alex" Gudmundsson (center) has learned a lot from Little Taller founder Kyle Burnett (left) and managing partner Brandon Clarke (right), but Burnett says he has learned a lot from her, too.

Alexandra “Alex” Gudmundsson didn’t think college was for her.

Then she transferred to Grand Canyon University and discovered that college doesn’t have to be just about learning. At GCU, it’s also about opportunity.

For her, an opportunity in the student-led ad agency led her to the Canyon Ventures business-incubation center and one of its startups, Little Taller.

Now she’s on AZ Inno’s list of 11 top young entrepreneurs in Arizona. And one of her mentors – Little Taller founder Kyle Burnett – says this:

“Alex is everything to this business. This business is nothing without Alex.”

Before graduating in 2019 with a degree in graphic design and advertising, Gudmundsson found her footing in Canyon Creative, formerly known as Design United. There, students can gain valuable experience collaborating on advertising projects.

The Little Taller staff.

That connected her to College of Arts and Media (CAM) assistant professor Chris Murphy, who was running the club.

“It’s so fun to get to work with your professor but at the same time, me not being in that class environment with him, I saw him in a different light,” she said.

As creative director, she found that she loved navigating client conversations and working with her team on projects, such as posters and flyers.

She even helped design a race car, which was “really fun,” she said. “Like, who designs a race car? I was really exposed in that sense to more of navigating the creative industry rather than being the actual creative content, and that really was exciting to me. That flipped a switch.”

It wasn’t long before Gudmundsson was introduced to Burnett, who describes himself on his LinkedIn profile as “founder and instigator” of Little Taller, “a scrappy and hungry band of system-savvy designers, developers and marketers whose relentless focus is on helping business, our team and ourselves grow a little taller.”

In the beginning stages, “it was just a handful of us,” Gudmundsson said.  

She met with Burnett between classes to bounce around ideas, and within a few months she was helping him run the company – a full-time job to go with full-time school. 

“It was really overwhelming,” she said. “My senior year, I was looking at portfolio classes and thinking, ‘How do I maintain my grades to maintain my scholarship to graduate on time and make sure all these things are happening?’

“But, also, you’re in a position where you’re learning about the work you will be doing.”

Sheila Schumacher, an assistant professor in CAM, played a key role in building Gudmundsson’s confidence simply by discussing business analytics.

“I cannot tell you how many times I interrupted class or sat with her after class just about what was going on with advertising in specific companies or this particular campaign,” Gudmundsson said. “Those were so impactful and so helpful in navigating. In a way, I was practicing those conversations so that when I was having them in the real world, I didn’t realize it was practice until right now.”

Most people are surprised to hear that a young entrepreneur is a co-founder of a multimillion-dollar company. She’s surprised, too.

“I’m just a 25-year-old kid. I look at myself, and I am just this young adult,” Gudmundsson said.

But Burnett says her age can be used to her advantage.

You meet different people in your life to be mentors and you need them to be all these different roles, and it is fairly interesting that I have a 25-year-old mentee who is also my mentor.

Little Taller founder Kyle Burnett

“You meet different people in your life to be mentors to you and you need them to be all these different roles, and it is fairly interesting that I have a 25-year-old mentee who is also my mentor,” he said. “She’s got a perspective on the world that I don’t have, and it fills a lot of blind spots for me.”

The future for Gudmundsson is alluring because Canyon Ventures creates a bond between entrepreneurial students and startup companies.

And there’s an added benefit on the academic side.

“The professors at GCU are so involved, which is truly unique to that campus,” she said

Burnett knows. He has taught at GCU and has grown his business there.

“We’re big and growing, and I could add twice as many team members and get to my goal by next week,” he said. “But the potential is so massive, and the potential that has been provided by the talent, the facilities and the opportunities at GCU is real.

“It’s bigger than the marketing message, and we’re really fortunate and blessed to recognize that every day.”

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