After 40 years of playing, an almost lifelong career may leave little room for surprises. Yet for Sally Williams, each sunrise brings new opportunities, which largely revolve around Kansas City’s potential to push the boundaries of innovation, she said.
“I have clients who have products in the International Space Station and I have clients who are [building] applications and games, ”said Williams with a laugh, referring to his decades of experience in the business world, as well as the opportunities that have led him to his current role as a technical development and marketing consultant at Missouri Small Business. and Technology Development Center (Missouri SBDC) at the University of Missouri. -Kansas City (UMKC.)
“I have customers who have products that save lives and customers with products that teach you how to talk to someone else in a bar. It’s a wide variety of products and it brings a wide variety of challenges – and I love it. It’s so much fun. “
Click on here to learn more about Makefully Studios, one of the Williams companies has helped win over $ 1 million in government grants through the Missouri SBDC.
Early exposure to innovative ideas has been a part of Williams’ career since she first set foot in an office in Pittsburgh, Pa., Alcoa in the 1980s, she recalled, retailer. the first incarnation of a revolutionary product on which one of its first clients was working.
“The new product turned out to be an optical cable,” Williams said, expressing his amusement. Seeing what would become the lifeblood of the internet taking shape is a very good crash course to help guide emerging tech companies, she added.
“I am more of an entrepreneur than an entrepreneur. My departure has really come [as a result of] innovation and I’m more of an innovation expert than an entrepreneurial expert, ”she said, drawing on the experience of what she called“ the five giants ”of American manufacturing: PepsiCo, Ralston Purina, Kimberly Clark and Bayer Healthcare, in addition to Alcoa, and a long list of other big companies like Frito Lay.
“I believe many innovation tenants work anywhere,” Williams said.
“When I went to Frito Lay as part of the PepsiCo system, [one of my customers] started working on a new product there: microwave food. Microwaves were getting really popular and that was a great thing and I loved it.
Such momentum carried Williams through the first 30 years of his career. Then she got bored, she thought.
” I got tired of it. It is difficult to innovate in large companies, but I have really succeeded. I have [helped build] literally billions of dollars in new businesses, ”she said, noting that a colleague called her“ one of the most prolific new product developers in consumer products ”.
“I have a fundamental belief that we are all equal and that people around the world, when given the opportunity, have a chance to excel. Going to networking events six years ago, you haven’t seen a lot of people of other ethnicities, you haven’t seen a lot of women, ”said Sally Williams of her vision for the community. Kansas City’s entrepreneurial and innovation skills and how it began to evolve.
“Now I see a lot more people of non-white ethnicity and quite a few – not enough – women. We are opening up as a community.
“The way I approached [inclusion in my work] it’s, “Let me cast as wide a net as possible” – bring people in, expose them to new opportunities, expose them to learning and ways to get things done. It has worked really well because we have some really great people here from all walks of life, no matter what their ethnicity, whatever their gender, we have some really great people.
By tapping into such a label, Williams shifted gears and created a new brand for herself as a thought leader, mentor and global entrepreneurial visionary through her work with the Missouri SBDC.
“I got into this project, helping other people start businesses. … [But I thought] “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I don’t really care about starting other businesses. I’ve done enough, ”she admitted.
“But I really think I have a lot of things that could help people who are starting out – because I’ve really learned a lot over the years. Not just how to build a product, but how to build a business from scratch.
Williams started her own consulting firm in addition to her position at Missouri SBDC, where she worked for six years alongside local entrepreneurs like Juaquan Herron, founder of 2923 Comics and co-founder of the vendor search app, Venboo. .
Click on here to learn more about Juaquan Herron’s company, Venboo.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned in my career is that you have to be in the real world,” Williams said.
“When [Herron] was talking to our tech business class, he told them, “Now Sally is going to tell you things that you don’t like – because she believes in reality,” she recalls.
“He said, ‘I remember when I first started talking to her. Sometimes I thought no, no, no. I don’t want it to be like this or I don’t like it.
Herron’s words are a testament to Williams’ work, reinforcing his belief that entrepreneurship often means hearing things that don’t reaffirm themselves, but aim to redirect good ideas into great ideas.
Such a mantra helped Williams win one of the highest honors in the U.S. SBDC earlier this year, named the Missouri State Star in honor of his relentless passion for local innovation and the work that has helped diversify the pool of talented innovation-driven programs such as Digital Sandbox KC.
“I was so surprised. I just didn’t think anyone would consider me for that and I’m very touched because I was nominated by my peers, by my colleagues,” he said. she declared.
“My job is to help people. My job is not to earn someone above me millions of dollars in stock options. It is not a question of reaching a number on an annual basis. My job is to help these entrepreneurs, whatever their definition. … This is my favorite job I have ever had.
This story is possible thanks to the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, non-partisan foundation that works with the education and entrepreneurship communities to create unusual solutions and empower people to shape their futures and succeed.