At the ripe old age of 7, Sarah Davasher-Wisdom knew she wanted to advocate on behalf of the business community when she grew up. This past January, the Holland, KY native’s dreams came true in a big way. After working for Greater Louisville, Inc. for nearly six years, she replaced former president and CEO Kent Oyler to become the first female leader of the organization, which represents 1,700 local businesses across all industries. Meet our inspiring new FACE of Louisville, Sarah Davasher-Wisdom!
How does it feel to be the first female president and CEO of Greater Louisville, Inc. (GLI)?
I am incredibly proud and honored to be the first female president and CEO. With that being said, I look forward to the day that female leadership or diverse leadership is not an anomaly. I hope my leadership inspires other women and female youth to consider themselves in similar roles.
Can you tell us a bit about the journey to your current position?
From the age of 7, I knew I wanted to advocate on behalf of the business community, and every step I took after that was with that goal in mind. After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University, I held various government affairs positions for a former congressman, the Corps of Engineers, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. I worked to get my Master of Public Administration in the evenings, and I completed various certifications to further enhance my resume. In 2014, when I became aware of a VP of Government Affairs role at GLI, I knew it was the job for me. At that time, I did not imagine that six years later I would be leading the organization; however, I eventually realized I could advocate for the business community in ways that go beyond public policy. My work is fulfilling and meaningful every day.
What does a typical day in your shoes look like?
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that there is no such thing as a “typical day.” My most productive work time is in the early morning, so that is one part of my day that is pretty standard. If I am really lucky, I sleep until 5 a.m., and then I get right to work on the most urgent, strategic project on my task list. I stop after a few hours to exercise and clear my head, and then I am in meetings throughout the day. In the pre-pandemic world, there might even be an event that night. My role requires constant pivoting and shifting of priorities so we can ensure GLI is working on behalf of the business community in the most effective way possible.
What is the best part about being the new leader at the helm of the Louisville Metro Chamber of Commerce?
GLI works on big community projects and major business issues, so in this role, I feel like I am making a difference each and every day.
What is most challenging?
The role does come with problems to solve and challenges to overcome. The pandemic has required our organization to pivot in many ways because businesses have suffered greatly from both the required closures and consumer health concerns to patronize brick-and-mortar businesses. We have been on the front lines of sharing information on loan programs, helping healthcare providers obtain PPE early on, and then helping businesses acquire PPE for their returning workforce. As a result, we have been tightly connected with our federal delegation on pandemic relief legislation.
In addition, recent events have brought to light the need for the business community to help address racial inequities that have existed in our community and throughout the nation for hundreds of years without proper action. Our core mission is growing the regional economy, so we must do more to support members of our community who are disenfranchised or excluded from economic opportunities. Previously, GLI’s role in this might have been a bit narrower, but our executive committee and board made a deliberate decision to expressly say that racism has no place in our society, and we want to do our part as the business community to join the call for accountability and reform. Our work to form a minority business accelerator and undertake major equity initiatives under the “Inclusion” pillar of our NOW Louisville strategic plan is important, challenging, and a little scary at times because I hold myself and the organization to a high standard; failure is not an option on this issue.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I have received is to stand on the promises of God rather than the problems of life. Faith is a very important part of who I am, and I remind myself of this advice frequently. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with life, but there is a greater purpose to it all.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Well, if you remove those things, I’d have to say kitties, Nespresso, and wine!
All photography provided unless otherwise noted.
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