(Editor’s note: The March issue of The Lane Report features our semi-annual list of the Top Women in Business. At lanereport.com, we’re shining the spotlight on one of the honorees each day. Day 3: Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, the first woman to lead Greater Louisville, Inc.
Our occasional feature, Top Women in Business, highlights some of the women in and around Kentucky who are making an impact in business, the professions, politics and economic development. The intent is to recognize not the household names, but those in key roles whose work ethic and body of work are making important contributions to commerce—and life—in the area.
The 12 women featured in this issue are among the many such women The Lane Report editorial board has identified. From automotive manufacturing plant president to hospital executive, and economic development director to law firm leader, these women are forging their own paths, proving that hard work, perseverance and creativity pay off. And for the first time in this series, we’re shining a spotlight on some of Kentucky’s top female television personalities, offering a glimpse behind the camera.
Last year, Sarah Davasher-Wisdom became the first female president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI), the region’s chamber of commerce and business attraction agency.
Title/company: I am the president and CEO at Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce and regional economic development organization for the 15-county Greater Louisville area. We advocate on behalf of the business community and support local talent and workforce initiatives, while working to new attract companies to our area. I have been in my current role since January 2020 but have been with GLI since 2014.
Previous jobs/positions: My background is primarily in advocacy and government relations, including roles for former Congressman Ron Lewis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority. I first came to GLI as vice president of government relations.
Education/training: I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Kentucky University. I have also earned a certification from Georgetown University in government relations and multiple certifications within the chamber industry, including the Certified Chamber Executive (CCE), the highest certification level for a chamber executive.
My top accomplishment: Going to college. This might sound like a simple accomplishment for some, but I led a very sheltered childhood with little money. I spent my entire childhood planning how to make a life for myself that would break the cycle of poverty and allow me to flourish professionally. I was terrified to leave my hometown, but I knew it was the only way to achieve my dreams. While it was challenging, overcoming that fear early in life has made subsequent challenges seem far less intimidating.
The person who most influenced and mentored me: The person who most influenced me in my early life is my grandmother. She taught me the value of hard work and saving money.
My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: 2020 was a challenging year for the business community and 2021 will continue to pose unexpected obstacles. Six weeks after I began in my role, the pandemic made its way to Kentucky and has threatened the livelihood of businesses more than anything else in our lifetimes. GLI pivoted in many ways to meet the changing needs of businesses. Simultaneously, recent events have brought to light the need for the business community to help address racial inequities that have existed … for hundreds of years without proper action. Our executive committee and board made a decision to expressly say that racism has no place in our society, and commit to doing our part 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 daunting at times. Failure is not an option.
My advice to younger women in business: Get strong mentors who will candidly and proactively tell you what to improve. Avidly read books on leadership and practice what you learn. Believe in yourself. Take massive action.
Something I love doing: My husband and I love dancing, specifically ballroom, tango and salsa. This is probably one of the things we miss most during the pandemic because we cannot be as festive without our dance friends, but we are continuing to practice in the basement. We will be ready to get back to the dance parties soon.
One important skill everyone should I have: The ability to communicate effectively is the most important skill in both professional and personal life. Strong communication skills can not only inform and persuade, but, combined with authenticity, it can disarm the most volatile of situations and lead to mutually beneficial outcomes.
In the next 10 years in my job, I hope to accomplish: In the next five to 10 years, I would like to see us diversify our membership, enhance benefits to small business, amplify our lobbying footprint, and grow our economy by attracting top companies and talent.