“Two years ago, I bought a cat and a car, in that order, and I came to Des Moines and started working as a community builder” recalls Kaylee Williams, now Director of Business Development at Volunteer Local, as she told the story of how she came to be in her current position. With understandings acquired as the day to day manager of one of Des Moines’ most successful tech start-ups, Williams shared insights that belied her mere 23 years under the questioning of Mike Colwell, Executive Director of the BIZ, as well as a large and diverse audience heavily seeded with supporters of this young energetic and well liked local entrepreneur.
Developed originally by local tech guy Brian Hemesath as an aid for the former Des Moines Arts Festival organizer the late Mo Dana, Volunteer Local is a volunteer registration software platform that assists event and non-profit volunteer coordinators to manage the scheduling of, and communication with, volunteers on-line. With one free and two subscription-based models, the software is used by a wide range of groups from small non-profits to large-scale events across the United States and in 30 countries around the world.
Kaylee began as an intern working remotely from Iowa City before her move to Des Moines and then quickly transitioning from the role of Community Builder. The job which started out as primarily working with existing clients, grew to one of Director of Business Development, which expanded her responsibilities to also growing the client base.
Understanding the client base was her first order of business for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the users of the free service were an outstanding list of leads for conversion to paid subscriptions. She further discovered that the faith based community represented an unexpectedly large portion of that lead list, causing her to re-evaluate the model in light of a price point that would not exceed the resources of that potential constituency. Understanding the client base would soon evolved into relationship building.
Download a summary of the conversation (pdf file)