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In the Loop
Alumni News : Feb 22, 2018

Third time’s the charm for Gator100 company owner

Q&A with third-time Gator100 company owner Karen McKenzie

By Jordan Sison

Karen McKenzie (B.F.A. Graphic Design and Art History ’06) won the Gator100 honor, awarded to the fastest-growing Gator-led businesses in the world, for a third year in a row. Rhyme & Reason, McKenzie’s company that she co-owns with College of Journalism and Communications alumna Scarlett Rosier, placed 61 out of 100 this year during the convention. McKenzie said she couldn’t be more thrilled to have received this honor for a third time and thanked the University of Florida for both the award and the education the university provided during her undergraduate years.

How does it feel to be honored with the Gator100 award for the third time in a row?

Fantastic, obviously! It’s such an honor to be recognized once, not to mention three times. With an office full of Gators, currently half our office bleeds orange and blue, it means a lot to the whole team.

What do you think changed about your business that brought you to #61 from #91?

I think refocusing on our clients and making the experience special for them has really helped us grow in recent years. It’s easy to get busy and buried in ad deadlines and social posts and forget that our counterpart is a real live human who’s doing just as much to manage the brand as we are. By building strong relationships with our existing clients, we’ve been able to grow with them. 

How do you feel your time at UF helped prepare you for your field?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in graphic design, so everything I learned in school has had a direct impact on my ability to design and manage a creative team. There was a lot I had to learn on the job too (your education doesn’t end when you graduate!), but my experience at Florida certainly prepared me for life as a big kid.

Do you have any future plans for Rhyme & Reason to continue its growth and move up the Gator100 list?

While growth is important to us, we’ve been very intentional about healthy growth all along. We have families and lives, and there’s a level of balance we have to achieve for us to view the business as a success, not just the bottom line every year. We’ll keep doing what we do: treat our clients and team right, create amazing design work and hopefully that’ll land us back on the Gator100 list again and again.

What advice would you give to current students pursuing a business?

  1. Not to steal Nike’s line but just do it. There’s never going to be a perfect time, and once you’ve taken the plunge, you’ll see it’s less scary than you think.

  1. View your first year or two as continuing education. I was an art major. I didn’t have a business degree to fall back on, so I viewed the first couple years of Rhyme & Reason Design as my business school. We had our share of victories and failures, but at the end of the day we learned a ton and it made us a better company.

  1. Find some form of accountability. It can be a mentor or group of other entrepreneurs, but it’s so important to have some form of accountability, someone to hold you to what you say you’re going to do because it’s very hard for your employees or even a business partner to do that.

What is the most rewarding part of owning a business?

It’s been really amazing to see the transformation of Rhyme & Reason Design over the years. To see our team grow and mature and handle bigger projects and create better brands has been really rewarding.