Kerri Elder is an accomplished entrepreneur and film producer who has significantly contributed to Arkansas’ economic development. With a background in investment banking and finance, Kerri moved to Fayetteville 30 years ago and founded the Elder Management Company, focusing on real estate and construction. In 2010, she expanded into the digital media industry alongside her son, Blake Elder. Their company, Rockhill Studios, produces award-winning films and continues to grow nationally. It is an established leader in the Arkansas film and TV industries.
The past year has been tough for small business, but also spurred creativity and innovation. What is it about a crisis that brings out the best in entrepreneurs?
A business owner has a responsibility for their employees and customers. In order to survive a crisis, you need to shift the course dramatically, based on your customers' needs, such as in marketing and communicating. Be willing to absorb the impact to your bottom line, while keeping your focus on the future.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The chance to work with my sons. Working with family has challenges but the joy of spending time together, toward a higher good, has been an invaluable gift. Also, many employees have been with me for years, and I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by outstanding professionals throughout my career. I gauge a person according to character and learnability over skill.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life and career?
My parents. They raised me to be positive and not to fear failure. My mother is joyous and positive. My father strove to do his best in all things. They taught me to work hard, be good to others, have integrity, and to trust my ability to analyze situations and make decisions. I’m very grateful for their guidance and insight.
What experiences most shaped your path as a leader?
As a young woman, I had the opportunity to travel to Africa and get a firsthand look at the struggles of the third world, in which they lack the advantages and opportunities we have in the U.S. It both humbled me and simultaneously ignited my desire to make a difference in the world through the choices I make and the actions I am able to take by paying blessings forward.
Tell us the most meaningful piece of career or life advice you have received.
I’ve been given many pearls through the years, but the one I live by on a daily basis as an entrepreneur is this: Do not be afraid to face a decision. Do the best you can at that moment, with the information at hand. If the result is not what you had hoped for, you follow up with another decision to reach the desired outcome.
How do you like to de-stress after a difficult day/week?
I love the outdoors and love to spend time on my ranch, fishing, kayaking and hiking. I find solitude and refreshment there. An entrepreneur can so easily wear themselves out, so it is crucial that you take personal, quiet time to shed the leadership role and move into a centered space where you can focus on replenishing your mind, body and spirit.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given yourself as you were starting out?
I would tell my younger self that it's all right to be concerned with issues and challenges, but don’t let yourself be consumed by them. Trust yourself. Try to be decisive with solutions, but don’t let that worry and stress diminish your ability to be successful. Enjoyment and fulfillment in your professional life will help you stay grounded and will be reflected, in a beneficial way, to you and those around you.