The BIZ hosts “Startup Stories” a monthly lunch networking event where you hear real life stories from the trenches. Meet entrepreneurs who are happy to share their war stories, lessons learned and best advice. The meetings are held the third Wednesday of each month (no meeting in December). For more information, please contact


Williams to Speak of Volunteer Local, The Triangle and Her Love of Des Moines

marketing_kaylee“I would love to come back and talk to people about how important Des Moines has been, the power and the strength of the start-up community there transcends state borders,” declared Kaylee Williams, Director of Business Development for Volunteer Local. With personal and professional motivations, Williams relocated to “The Triangle” last fall, now residing in Raleigh North Carolina and managing the largely on-line start-up from there. She will be returning to Iowa to join Mike Colwell, Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives at the Greater Des Moines Partnership for the May iteration of Start-Up stories.

Drawing on her passion for non-profit volunteering and a life-long entrepreneurial spirit Williams landed in Des Moines in 2012, after her graduation from the University of Iowa, in search of a role in the emerging start-up community. Tapped by founder Brian Hemesath, first as an intern, then Community Builder and ultimately Director of Business Development, Williams has grown with the company and now manages all aspects of its operation while remaining focused on continuing its growth. And the growth has been forthcoming, “January was a huge month for us,” Williams recalled recently noting that a sales strategy focused more on large partnerships and less on single events is paying dividends. Pursuing both for and not-for-profit organizations on the national level, Williams can then leverage those relationships out into the field with the national organizations advocating to their local entities the use of the on-line software to recruit and manage volunteers.

Providing a tiered solution to the challenge of volunteer management, Volunteer Local, which Hemesath created to serve the Des Moines Arts Festival, now boasts clients across the nation among them, American Lung Association, Drake Relays, JDRF, AAU Junior Olympics, and the National Parkinson Foundation.

Williams divides her time between customer relations management and overseeing the part-time commissioned sales people operating out of Des Moines and Omaha. Her previous experience in volunteer management allows her to assist clients not only with the intricacies of the software, but with the very basics of volunteer management. “Particularly with the non-profits we see a lot of turnover in the volunteer manger position and we can provide added value to our clients by coaching their personnel,” she explains.

Sitting down and answering questions from both Colwell and the audience, Williams expects to share insights in several arenas. Arguing that the growth of entrepreneurial ecosystems is probably not linear, she does acknowledge that the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region is both larger and more competitive than Des Moines and hopes to share some observations about both regions with her newly gained perspective as an expatriate.

“I can’t wait to talk about what’s ahead for Volunteer Local,” says Williams with excitement at the growth the company is experiencing, but also with trepidation about her next big challenge; making the first full-time hire for the company. “I’m definitely nervous about our first key hire,” she admits, relating the importance of the position to both the growth and culture of the company and admitting she has listened to extensive advice from mentors on the subject.

“I also want people to know that it is always full of surprises,” she shares of the path to start-up success. Reaffirming the old adage that it is the journey and not the destination this twenty-something entrepreneur wants people to know that no matter how far she travels she takes the Des Moines Start-Up community with her as a friend and a resource. “Being away has made me love Des Moines even more.” We’re sure it’s mutual.

$15 admission fee (includes lunch) or free (if you don’t want lunch).

11: 30 a.m.
May 20th, 2015

Ruan II, 601 Locust
Conference Room 101

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Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact the BIZ for details.

The BIZ’s mission is to connect entrepreneurial needs with qualified community and state resources and to provide guided professional and business direction. The BIZ helps entrepreneurs maximize their successes by helping them navigate resources, strengthen knowledge, improve skills, form strategic alliances and secure proper capitalization.