Back in September, we introduced you to Sara Lum as she joined our team as an operations intern. We’re thrilled to announce that we recently hired her to stay on full-time as our program and marketing manager.

Sara Lum

“Resumes like Sara’s don’t come past your desk often, but when they do, you seize the opportunity,” said Brienne Maner, Zeal’s executive director.

“She has a raw passion for our startup community and an analytical skill set that will round out our already stellar team to carry our strategy forward.”

We asked Sara to tell us about herself, what she’s learned at Zeal so far, and what she’s looking forward to in her new role. Keep reading to hear what she had to say!

Tell us about yourself.

My education and background is as an architect, and I have enjoyed learning through a variety of roles related to this field. Two years ago, I decided to pursue a lifelong interest in community and economic development more seriously by starting an online MBA program and gaining experience in the field.

I’m also married—my husband, Mike, is a superintendent with Journey Construction and the hardest-working person I know. We love to make things and do projects around our house; our next big project is converting our basement into a larger shop and makerspace. I also enjoy exercising, reading, going to local coffee shops, and spending time with friends and family.

Sara and her husband, Mike

The last time we did a Q&A, you had been hired as Zeal's operations intern. Now you're about to start full-time as the program and marketing manager! What was the internship experience like, and how did it prepare you for the role you'll be taking on?

I knew the internship was going to be a great experience, but it far exceeded my expectations. During the internship, I was able to assist with big-picture marketing strategies and implementation. The internship has also provided me with the opportunity to get to know the organization, team, and internal processes more intimately than I normally would going into a position. I still have so much to learn, but the internship experience will help me hit the ground running when I get started full-time!

What was something unexpected you learned during your internship?

I am not always personally comfortable putting myself out there on social media, so it has been fun to challenge myself in this way from an organizational perspective. I have learned that even if it is not perfect, you have to put yourself (the organization) out there and be consistent. It is pretty easy to do this when you believe in the work of the organization! The content, strategy, and voice can be improved over time, but the important thing is to start.

What will your new role entail?

I will be responsible for implementing programs and events, marketing activities, and also some project and data management. When I think back to previous positions I have held, this aligns with the type of work that has been the most rewarding for me personally. In the immediate future, the success of the CO.STARTERS accelerator program will be my primary responsibility.

What unique perspective and skills do you think you bring to the Zeal team?

As an architect, I believe my natural way of thinking is to break down big ideas into actionable steps. I am also a generalist; instead of being the best at a couple of things, I am pretty good at quite a few things. This can be helpful at an organization like Zeal where we are trying to make a lot happen and wearing a lot of hats as individuals and a team. That said, I have tried enough things to know my limitations and where my skills won't transfer.

What's the first thing you're excited to take on in this new role? 

I am a product of team sports, so first and foremost, I want to be the best team member I can be. My first goal specific to the role is to make sure I understand the practical parts of each of my responsibilities at Zeal. Eventually, I would like to implement systems and processes within this role so that we can do as much as possible with our resources. I might sound like a broken record, but in the immediate future, the success of the CO.STARTERS accelerator program is going to be my primary focus.

What do you love about the startup community in Sioux Falls?

I love that so many entrepreneurs in our community want to see and help others succeed. I also love to watch what our creative community is doing in the startup space. The work creatives are doing is part of what makes Sioux Falls a unique place to live and personally why my husband and I have chosen to build our life here.

What's a past, current or upcoming Zeal or Zeal-related program that you're particularly excited or passionate about? 

Non-profit Pitch Night was a blast; the organizations that presented are doing incredible work. 

My focus in the immediate future is going to be the success of the CO.STARTERS accelerator program. I think this program is going to be a critical part of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, so I am excited to be part of it!