Before ever meeting her future husband, Anne McKinney met his parents — in a squished elevator on their 2004 freshman move-in day at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Anne was standing with her mother, who was making small talk with Steve Truppe's parents about moving their kids into college.
"I was mortified," Anne says.
When Steve's mother learned that Anne was studying architecture, she said her son was also in the program and that they should meet.
A little later, Steve recalls, "I'm in my room, unpacking stuff, and (my dad's) like, 'Hey, I just met this really cute girl.' "
The two did meet the next day, in the building's common space.
"We just struck up a conversation and hit it off right away," says Steve, now 28. "Our parents like to take credit for setting us up."
When Anne's mom checked in a few weeks later, she asked Anne if she had ever met the boy in the architecture program.
By then, Anne admits, "I already had kind of a huge crush on Steve."
Officially, they were friends. "We had developed a really strong friendship, and I think both of us realized that we wanted more from that pretty quickly," Steve says.
Fortunately for them, being in the architecture program helped them spend lots of time together, time they might not otherwise have shared because of the course work's demanding requirements.
"Architecture was a really tough program," says Anne, now 27. "We didn't really have a lot of time to see friends."
Huddling together on projects to meet deadlines helped them bond and see how the other person handled a challenge.
Adds Steve: "It was nice because we understood what (the) other was going through; we understood the rigors of the schedule."
Working side by side also helped them realize "that we worked really well together," Anne says.
"We got to see each other solve problems and (apply) critical thinking," Steve adds, "which doesn't normally come into a relationship until much later."
Still, though both harbored romantic feelings, they were young and in college. "It's hard to say if we knew right away we were going to be together forever," Anne says. "We had a really special connection from the beginning."
By 2008, though, building a future together was the plan. Each was accepted into an interior architecture design program in Chicago during the last semester of their senior year. They moved to the city (Anne had grown up in Antioch, Steve in Janesville, Wis.) and stayed after graduation: Anne in Roscoe Village, Steve in Lincoln Square.
Their young careers had rocky starts. Steve nabbed a job at an architecture firm but was laid off five months later. Anne, who had also been trying to get a position in the field, was paying bills by working at Edible Arrangements.
Nevertheless, Steve was saving up for a ring. "We still really wanted to get married," he says.
Anne had no idea he was planning the proposal, so when he was laid off, she thought she "was watching our dreams of getting married go down the drain," she says.
In May 2009, he took her hiking to Starved Rock State Park, a favorite spot they visited frequently.
"I had the ring in my back pocket the whole time," he said. But every time he was ready to pop the question, other hikers would appear. Finally, at the end of the day, they were alone.
"I was completely in shock," Anne remembers. "It was amazing."
Their decision to go ahead and get married is what led to a professional turning point for the pair.
It began with the search for a photographer for their 2010 wedding. Unable to find a business with the photojournalistic style they wanted, they wondered if they could fill that void themselves.
Both Steve and Anne were confident that their design background could extend to being behind a camera lens. What's more, years of seamlessly working together on all those projects in college convinced them that they could jell as business partners.
"We decided to just go for it," Steve says.
Steve, who had taken one photography class, taught Anne the basics. Then, they both took photography and business classes together.
Worried that family and friends might not applaud the decision to abandon their hard-earned degrees to launch a new business in a rocky economic climate — never mind that they were planning a wedding too — they kept mum for three months.
The wedding, and the business, have had a happy ending. The pair are owners of Tru Studio (tru-studio.com), which they run out of their Ravenswood apartment. They began by shooting weddings and portraits but now focus on commercial storytelling for brands and businesses.
Although both are creative, they've found that Anne tends to be more linear, tackling planning tasks, while Steve is more spontaneous.
This helps create "stronger, intentional work," Anne points out, helping them plan for an end goal with each shoot but also allowing space for inspiration in the moment.
"We like to play off of authentic interaction and emotion of the subject, so sometimes our plan changes to allow for those moments," she says. "Our weaknesses are the opposite of each others' strengths, which is why we work so well together."
They have transformed their dining room into a white-walled studio with light flowing in from large windows. Their eye for design shows in the antique furniture and even their to-do list, written on a chalkboard on a wall.
They're together most of the time, working side by side on projects and soaking up days together, taking breaks to go for walks or brainstorming.
"We put a lot of hours in, but it doesn't feel like it," Anne says, "because we're together."
Steve Truppe says that starting a marriage and a business with his wife, Anne, has "been really nice, to be able to grow together. That's really important in a marriage, to understand that you're marrying this person now, but you have to understand that things change … and you might change as people together. That's been a really strong point for us."
Blue Sky Innovation — the Chicago Tribune's new and fresh gathering place for news, analysis and events related to innovation and entrepreneurship — shared part of Anne and Steve Truppe's story in an October article about entrepreneur couples. For photos, videos and articles that tell more human success stories, visit blueskyinnovation.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun