Allysen Kerr, principal and creative director of Prymel Elements in Tampa, Florida, and member of NAWBO Lakeland Metro, has never been one to back down from an opportunity to grow.
She graduated from college with a degree in journalism and dreams of one day publishing her own magazine, but went to work in corporate marketing to grow her experience and income. When that didn’t work out, she seized another opportunity and hasn’t looked back.
“If anyone asked me at the time if I was ready for entrepreneurship, I would have probably laughed,” says Allysen, who was 24 at the time. “I liked the idea of owning my own company, but didn’t think I’d be good at the business side of it.”
After a few weeks of praying, however, she felt led to start a business. She had asked God to send her two people, and later that week, two friends called asking if she was still doing graphic design on the side. One needed a logo and another a flyer.
Those first two customers led to hundreds more and nine years later, Allysen’s company has grown into a full-service branding consultancy agency. It provides holistic solutions mostly to women- and minority-owned small- and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. and Caribbean.
Allysen hasn’t done it alone. She brought on a business partner last year—Djeneé Dunn, a Virgin Islands native she met in 2017 during Tampa Bay Start-Up Week with whom she felt an immediate connection. “We were in line together and got into a conversation about food and Beyoncé and we have been besties ever since,” says Allysen, a New York native whose family is from Jamaica.
The two were embarking on their biggest growth period yet right before COVID hit. They had hired a team of 11 and moved into new office space, but had to quickly shift back into virtual mode. “That was good and bad—good because we were able to quickly adjust, but bad that we were missing out on having our team together,” she says.
They were also in the midst of rebranding their own company. They chose the name Prymel Elements because at the end of the day, when you think about dreams—the things you’d go after if no one told you, “No”—that’s primal instinct. And elements are what their team employs to take brands to the next level.
“It took us all of 2020 to come up with a brand that truly reflects us,” says Allysen. “We had to really figure out who we are at the core and what would resonate with everyone. What we came up with is really awesome and will take us through the next 10 to 20 years.”
Today, Allysen and the Prymel Elements team are excited to continue on this growth path by focusing on what they do best. “We are really intentional about going deep with customers because we want to make sure their brand is true to who they are,” she explains. “We’re like their branding therapist.”
And NAWBO will no doubt be there to support her in this journey. “What I love about NAWBO is not just the women, but their diversity, expertise and skill set,” Allysen says. “All the women I have met so far are gems and will help out by providing advice or resources. I think that’s amazing.”
Allysen is featured in the new book Change Makers, a collection of stories from female and male entrepreneurs who have thrived through the pandemic. Check it out here.
Meeting the Growth Challenge
When Allysen brought on her business partner, they were both a little afraid of growing the business beyond themselves and risking the quality reputations they had spent years building. “But we were growing so much that it warranted for us to scale,” she says, So, here’s what they did:
- They adopted a new mindset: They decided to think bigger and not be afraid of implementing more structure in their business to do what they needed to do.
- They added diverse team members: They hired talent to take them to the next level. These team members reflected their clients, aligned with their vision, fit their culture and could replicate their quality work.
- They formalized their processes: They began training and using communications tools like Slack and ClickUp for project management and BlueJeans for video collaboration. They also have regular team meetings to talk about challenges.
- They focus on compensation and motivation: They realize compensation is important, but not always the greatest motivator. They work to understand what truly motivates their team members—for example, many want to be part of the process and greater vision. Others value open communication and transparency.