Sara Gifford

Prompt: ​As an aspiring college graduate, what positive impact do you see yourself making in the field of expertise you have chosen?

As a small business enthusiast, it has always been my dream to guide people’s passions into income-generating projects that can provide them with the freedom and opportunities that some workplaces cannot. Through financial planning, marketing expertise, and workforce development, I want to teach success strategies to those who have fewer opportunities than most of us at achieving gainful employment, no matter their disabilities or circumstances.

During my 2019 year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Better Block Foundation, I learned that a person’s economic status is often tied to the health of their environment. Having built parks on abandoned lots with community members at my side, I know the internal impact of these improvements. People take pride in the things that they create for themselves.

Button-making with my Better Block team in Dallas’s Vickery Meadow, December 2019. The girls pictured are the sweetest, aspiring artists you’ll ever meet!

Button-making with my Better Block team in Dallas’s Vickery Meadow, December 2019. The girls pictured are the sweetest, aspiring artists you’ll ever meet!

Through the painting of public art murals by neighborhood volunteers, the addition of cheerful outdoor furniture, and the introduction of small, local businesses to fill previously abandoned buildings, a determined team can restore the vitality of an entire community.

Helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch their new business endeavors wasn’t always the easiest part of our community projects, but it was always the most rewarding for me. Seeing someone take their idea and act on it in real life as a low-investment pop-up shop was incredibly inspiring. Whether watching someone refuse to give up on their dream or someone responding proactively to a disenfranchisement or disability by pursuing entrepreneurship, these pop-up shops always came with a meaningful story to share.

A Dallas workforce nonprofit I had the honor to work with Jan 2020: Break Bread, Break Borders

In the future, I aspire to found organizations, businesses/nonprofits, and scholarship funds that benefit my Texas community in the areas of economic opportunity, the exploration of arts, and workforce development. ​I want to use my business education to do things like teach immigrant moms how to open a pop-up restaurant, show young struggling artists how to create a website to display their artwork, and help everyone else who has a dream, but doesn’t know where to start. ​Overall, my career goal isn’t to make one major impact within Dallas’s business world. Instead, I hope to nurture as many tiny little opportunities as possible for the people who need it most, spreading little waves of positive impacts as I take one individual projects.

As I work, I also want to write. I want to publish books like Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup or Norman Vincent Peale’s ​The Power of Enthusiasm to encourage others outside of my circle to live meaningful lives and enjoy their careers instead of settling for employment at a business whose values don’t align with their own. I believe most of us have more options than we realize.

At 20 years old, I am still in the experimental stage of my journey. I’ve launched a pop-up plant shop, Oxygen and Color LLC, and a Dallas-based Book Club called Young & Hungry, but there is still so much to learn before I can be of real value in my chosen field. I want to be an expert of small business, able to help people succeed no matter the challenges they may face.

Prototypes of Oxygen & Color LLC products (plant-care instructions inside envelope), and display

Throughout the past few years, I’ve been given the opportunity to edit and create websites that draw more business and attention to entities including the Better Block Foundation, two small businesses, and several school-related sites. Through my AmeriCorps VISTA position, I’ve strategized with small business owners, organized vendor-based events, and taken up new skills including grant writing and social media marketing. I certainly don’t have the full formula or experience to teach people how to achieve great entrepreneurial success yet, but I believe that finishing my education is one of the most important steps in creating a lasting impact in Dallas’s small business community.

 

My friends and I (Jasslyn, me, Tosha) at Dallas’s Small Business Expo, February 2020!

Thank you so much for considering me for a ESUME scholarship. I am so grateful to Charles L Williams and his whole ESUME team for coming together to make an incredible scholarship opportunity like this possible for students in the DFW metroplex. I am honored to be a 2020 Entrepreneur’s Scholarship Unlocking Young Minds through Education applicant for the first time. I know that there also are many other deserving students that may greatly benefit from an ESUME scholarship. I believe that every cent that goes towards paying for a student’s tuition is never wasted because scholarships aren’t just about investing in a student’s college experience, they’re about investing in that person’s future. I hope to invest in my community like this one day too!

— Sarah Gifford

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