Kelly Trace, founder of Reach, thought her degree might prevent her from returning to her hometown of Kissimmee because all the jobs would be in large metro areas, but through creativity and tenacity, she built a career and marketing strategy firm where her heart is, Kissimmee.
"My degree is in graphic design, and I thought I would be doing design work at an agency in some big city somewhere after graduation. My program in college was competitive for jobs looking for those types of graduates, and so you don't think about working in a smaller community. I graduated in 2008 at the height of the recession and I got my start at a creative agency by offering to work for free."
That led to a succession of positions where Trace picked up skill after skill and grew her local network. Leading the Kissimmee Main Street Program and becoming a Director of Marketing & Communications the Orlando Economic Partnership, she developed a passion for economic development.
"Every part of my professional journey led me to be qualified to start this business even though I might not have realized it at the time." she explained. "When I realized I was passionate about economic development and my hometown, I knew what I had to do. I left my job in Orlando and set out to help other businesses with their marketing, make a decent living, and create jobs of my own. That's been the most rewarding aspect for me because I'm a super economic development nerd and now I have my own job story to tell."
Reach is a marketing strategy firm that seeks to create brands that people love by working with clients on how they attract and engage customers while fostering a positive company culture.
"My grandfather and great grandfather were entrepreneurs in Kissimmee, and now I'm here doing it. He used to always tell us, 'It's important to pay your community rent because somebody did it for you.' and I've tried to really live that out in my company's mission. My attitude is always be helping instead of always be closing," Trace said. "When you're as helpful as possible to others, they will remember you for that. I think it has helped people realize what kind of company we are. It doesn't mean we do a ton of work pro bono, but we try to be generous in everything we do. We give to charities and host free seminars. We show up to community events, volunteer and support other business owners as best we can because the reality is that it helps our community grow and that helps us grow."
Trace's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to continue learning and get involved in the community.
"Don't stop investing in yourself," she said. "Keep your skills sharp and attend continuing education opportunities that come your way. Also, join your chamber. It has been the best return on my investment to date because of the strong network and the friendships I've made, and that is really important in growing your business."