Erin Silk, 34
While Erin Silk was attending Towson University in Maryland for her business management degree, she launched her own nonprofit. What became the Needy Paws Rescue helped roughly 100 animals a year while Silk was in charge. She rescued the animals from kill shelters and made it work through the help of foster homes.
After handing off the nonprofit to a volunteer and graduating Towson, Silk found a job at pet products firm Caitec Inc. in Baltimore, where she learned a lot about international business. Even though she got to travel to cool places for the job (Las Vegas and Germany), something wasn’t right.
“It wasn’t fulfilling me,” she says. “I knew I needed a job that was community focused.”
She got that starting with Venice Main Street, where she was named CEO of the downtown organization, a post she held for over four years. In 2019 Silk joined the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County.
The drive she showed at Towson is apparent at the EDC, where she recently became one of only 20 people in Florida with a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) designation. A professional can only sit for the exam once they have four years of economic development related work experience. They also need to take six professional development courses on specific areas of economic development. After two years, Silk was ready to take the test. Despite it having a low pass rate, she passed on the first try.
Silk says it was an intense time of studying that involved a lot of personal pressure. But it was worth it. “My first reaction was relief and then excitement,” she says. “I want to be seen as an expert in my field.”
That’s an important factor for Silk’s work. “It’s really motivating when I get to help a company,” she says. Currently, she’s working with 75 companies in the EDC's project pipeline. Those companies, looking to move or expand in the area, represent 6,000 potential new jobs.
With that kind of pressure, Silk is grateful to have Lisa Krouse as her mentor, who she says will drop anything to help Silk. Following Krouse being named CEO in August 2021, Silk was promoted to vice president of business development services.
"She gets everybody on the team involved,” Silk says. “I feel empowered, confident and heard. That’s how I want to be as a leader.”
— Amanda Postma
City of Residence: Sarasota County
Birthplace: Columbia, Maryland
Years in the area: 7.5
Marital Status/Children: Long-term boyfriend (5 years)
Alma Mater/Degree: Towson University, Bachelors in Business Management
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Board of Directors Florida Workforce Development Association, Vice Chair Newtown CRA Advisory Board, Vice Chair Downtown Sarasota Alliance, Marketing Committee International Economic Development Council
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? Office
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Or the weirdest task you've ever been assigned? I worked at Pizza Hut in high school. I was asked to help make deliveries one day when we were short staffed. This was before GPS and iPhones. I was the WORST pizza delivery person ever, I made so many mistakes, so they never asked me to do it again.
What's your top tip for being productive? Taking time to stay organized is the best time investment you can make in your day. At the EDC we provide concierge service to relocating and expanding businesses in Sarasota County. In my role I am responsible for providing this service and managing the 75 companies we are assisting. These projects have extensive needs, sometimes spanning years. I also work alongside our many partners to help develop and promote programs that support a healthy business ecosystem. It's a lot to manage. Some days my work covers an unbelievable amount of topics. To stay on track, meet deadlines, and provide the best quality customer service to our clients I spend a lot of time keeping organized. Calendars, to-do lists and really thorough notes keep me on track.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Dog trainer
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Anything in the water. I love to swim and snorkel.
What's the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what's keeping you from completing it? Snorkeling all the world's best coral reefs - time
What's your favorite podcast? How I Built This with Guy Raz
At what percentage on your phone do you start to get Low Battery Anxiety? Less than 90% and I'm charging it!
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? Calendar, LinkedIn, Email
What's your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? When I need a pick me up, I tell Alexa to "play happy music." It doesn't matter what the genre is, I usually end up dancing.
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Jennifer Aniston
Where is your happy place? Nature - gardening, the beach, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking
Describe yourself in three words: Motivated, tenacious, adventurous
Who is your mentor for your career and why? Lisa Krouse
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? I've had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Lisa for a year and a half. She approaches every aspect of her work and life from the heart. She is a gift to everyone she encounters. When you approach problems through a lens of the heart, you are more patient, understanding, thoughtful and calm. The biggest lesson I have learned from Lisa is how to lead with your heart.