Innovator Highlight: Sara Williamson, Venture For America

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Name: Sara Williamson

Organization: Venture for America

Hometown: Forest Home, AL

Sara, an Alabama native, returned last August to Birmingham from Durham, North Carolina, where she was working with Teach for America. Sara joined Venture for America as one of their first regional hires to develop and grow the Southeast Regional programming for the organization.

A Little About Venture for America

Venture for America is a two-year fellowship program for recent college graduates who want to work at a startup and create jobs in American cities. Fellows learn important startup skills at VFA’s five-week Training Camp at Brown University, apply for jobs within their vetted company network, and work for two years as full-time, salaried employees in one of 18 cities. When Fellows are ready to start a company—be it two years after college or ten—VFA has the resources to help make that dream a reality. In the last six years, VFA has produced 33 Fellow-Founded companies who have raised $29M and have created over 145 new jobs.

Since launching in Birmingham in 2015, Venture for America has welcomed 29 Fellows to the Magic City and, this year, graduated its first Birmingham alumni. The 2017 cohort represents 9.9 percent of the full 2017 Class of VFA Fellows, making Birmingham’s incoming class the second largest placement of all VFA markets. Sara looks forward to VFA Fellows and Alumni continuing to be a value-add to the city’s ecosystem, and soon realize similar job growth through Fellow-Founded companies as VFA cities have experienced nationally.

Q & A

Why did you choose Birmingham?

I chose Birmingham because of opportunity. The Magic City offers me a community that is unwavering in its strive towards progress, a role in positively impacting the entrepreneurial ecosystem and ability to help grow our next generation of industry leaders. And best of all, I get to do it all in my home state.

Describe your perfect day in the Birmingham?

My perfect day would include a run at Railroad Park, a sauna break at the Downtown YMCA, grabbing beers with friends at Good People Brewery and finishing the day by sitting on the patio of Carrigan’s eating a kale salad with a side of fries.

What do you think makes the Magic City, “magic”?

This is an easy one, the people. What our city is consistently able to showcase is a collective group working together to move Birmingham forward. The support and energy our community exudes is unmatched in other markets and I have grown to appreciate it even more in my current role.

What projects are you currently working on at Venture for America?

My biggest priority right now is welcoming our 18 new 2017 Fellows to the Magic City. The Fellows that chose Birmingham came here to be builders and because of our community’s unwavering support we now have an opportunity for the Fellows to leave a lasting impact on the Magic City. My role is to ensure each one has the tools and resources needed to learn and grow, become the leaders they are destined to be and continuously add value to Birmingham’s ecosystem.

What advice would you give prospective VFA Fellows?

Be willing to take risks in pursuit of excellence.