OXFORD, Miss. – Starting your own company requires resourcefulness, creativity, a competitive spirit and plenty of commitment. It’s much like caring for a baby, says Elizabeth Randall, president of Randall Commercial Group and the new executive-in-residence at Insight Park.
Three years ago, Randall started Randall Commercial Group LLC, a commercial real estate investment firm specializing in investment brokerage, tenant representation, commercial leasing, development consulting and site selection throughout the Southeast. Recently, the group moved into the Innovation Center at Insight Park, the university’s business and research incubator.
Insight Park was developed as an economic catalyst. Its goal is to raise the state’s per-capita income and quality of life by attracting knowledge-based businesses and high-paying jobs. By offering facilities for corporate and entrepreneurial partners, in conjunction with research expertise and service, clients will benefit from an intellectually stimulating climate.
“(Starting a business) is a huge commitment of time and attention,” Randall said. “For a while, it’s what I would wake up thinking about, go to bed thinking about. I had a hard time separating my work from my home life. Though it’s difficult to have work-home life balance, it is extremely important to me because early on, I realized that to be successful at both, one has to be a complement to the other and balance has to exist.”
As Insight Park’s executive-in-residence, Randall provides tenants with connections to resources and direction on finding solutions to questions relating to business structure, employees, intellectual property issues, taxation and business plans.
“I love learning about businesses; I always have,” Randall said. “I started my career working in private equity, where my job was to analyze and scrutinize very element of businesses. Hopefully, being on the stable side of a young company will help me assist others who are navigating through the early stages of business.”
Graduating from Ole Miss with a bachelor’s degree in both banking and finance and managerial finance, Randall began her career working on a mergers and acquisitions team at a New York private equity firm. After receiving an MBA and interning with a wealth management company in Memphis, she got a job as a stock analyst covering health care and consumer stable stocks, then became a global real estate specialist.
“I had a lifelong dream to be a mutual fund manager which was sparked through the mentoring by my paternal grandfather who taught me about stocks and investment when I was young,” she said.
But the closer Randall got to that dream, the more she realized it wasn’t her passion. After 10 years in the business, she realized that she really loved real estate, private equity and the entrepreneurial side of business, so that’s what she decided to do.
The Randall Commercial Group was started during the nadir of the economic crisis.
“It seems counterintuitive, but starting the company during a turbulent time was actually a good move,” Randall said. “We are new and different at a time when all the ‘rules’ are changing, when all the industry’s past mistakes are being exposed and when the historical practices of banking and real estate are no so ironclad. It has provided us a more inviting platform upon which to present a different approach to real estate investing.”
Randall said her success came from being open-minded and being able to adapt.
“In undergrad, I would have never said I would have lived in a small town in Mississippi,” she said. “I would have never said I would have started a company. I always saw myself in a big city working for a big company, and 10 years later, it was the total opposite.”
As for finding the perfect place to relocate her business, Randall said it was a “no-brainer” to choose Insight Park.
“The vision, leadership, and resources at Insight Park are unparalleled, and we immediately knew it was the perfect fit for us,” she said. “We needed a space were we could grow and work, where we could focus on business, no distractions.”
Randall spoke with William Nicholas, assistant director of Insight Park, about becoming a tenant, which led to some discussions about the idea of having an executive-in-residence.
“She is a dynamic entrepreneur and mentor who has successfully navigated many of the challenges our incubator clients will experience,” Nicholas said. ”Elizabeth is a tremendous resource for our start-up companies, and they will no doubt benefit immensely from her expertise.”
Randall will be an asset to the community in her role as executive-in-residence, said Rick Duke, executive director of Insight Park and UM director of economic development.
“The Randall Commercial Group is an excellent example of what a startup can achieve with diligence and business savvy,” Duke said. “Entrepreneurs like Elizabeth are key to driving economic development in Oxford and our region. I have enjoyed meeting Elizabeth, and I know she’ll be a terrific resource for Insight Park’s tenants as executive-in-residence.”
Randall is an adjunct professor in the School of Business Administration and president of the MBA advisory board, so she enjoys the connection to Ole Miss that having a business in Insight Park provides. Several students are interning with her company.
Randall is originally from the Mississippi Delta and a fourth-generation Ole Miss graduate, which also provides connectivity to the university.
The biggest contribution Randall wants to provide is to help clients create and preserve wealth through strategic real estate investments and to be a part of job creation in Mississippi.
“I am extremely motivated by the idea that one day my children may be part of this company,” she said. “I’m from a family of small businesses, and I believe this country was built by entrepreneurs. In the fallout of this financial crisis, the silver lining will be the resurgence of entrepreneurship, inherently defined by the desire to create and to directly affect outcome.”