Sara Stephens was selected the Spectacular Magazine 2017 Women of the Year in the Business & Economic Development category. Sara is currently the Director of Individual Giving for the United Way of the Greater Triangle. Previously she served CEO of the Hillsborough (NC) Chamber of Commerce. She holds a BA in Communications from Peace College and MLS from North Carolina Central University.
The criteria for the Business & Economic Development category requires that the woman selected must have made significant contributions to the African-American community in the area of economic development; have the African-American community as a target population for his services or specific project; man of any race, color or creed who serves the African-American community is eligible.
Sara tells us about her business leadership philosophy that, in addition to contributing greatly to the communities she serves, has taken her to new heights.
Spectacular Magazine (SM): Describe what makes you a successful leader in the area for which you were honored?
Sara Stephens (SS): Being able to bring multiple and diverse organizations together for increased opportunities for collaboration and success is a hallmark of my leadership. Economic Development is so dependent on relationships and relationship building. Nothing can compete with or take the place of strong, positive relationships.
SM: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? This could be someone who has been a mentor to you. Why and how did this person impact your life?
Though it sounds obvious, my mother has had the greatest influence on me as leader. She is resolute and strong. And, she is positive. I try to model those features that she has long embodied in her professional life and as a mom.
SM: What problem or condition in your respective field do you want to solve or improve?
Collectively, we should seek to improve access to economic literacy and, consequently, economic opportunity. This could mean many things. We need to bring more folks into the fold of our economy; increase participation in small businesses ownership, encourage minority groups to engage more in and with the financial sector, support local businesses, and implement policies in the public sector that allow for more economic development in communities with lower-income families.
SM: What legacy will you like to leave behind?
My personal legacy is not on my radar. I am more focused on what the legacy of the families in communities where I have lived and work will be. How their opportunities have increased and how they have acted upon those opportunities for success is what’s really important to me. Success can be a legacy if you continue to build upon it.
SM: What is at the top of your bucket list for 2017?
I want to focus on calligraphy. I want to focus on it not just for the art of it but for the mindfulness that it yields. Being a more mindful person- in my thoughts and actions- is something that I will always seek.
Nominations for the Spectacular Magazine 2017 Man of the Year will open February 5, 2017.
Highlights of Spectacular Magazine 2017 Women of the Year Awards Gala (Photos: Mel Brown):