The 816 New York Story

It all began with a former strip club and a dream to become a writer.

And then the dream grew up.

I wanted to write the Great American Novel.

SARAH M. WILLIAMS
Founder & Director

At age 19, I begged my way into a job as a gopher for a book publisher, set up in a former strip club along a frontage road in Charleston, South Carolina.

While juggling a full course load in pursuit of a philosophy degree, I spent my afternoons packing and lugging 60-pound boxes to the post office and poring over forgotten manuscripts.

By my mid-20s, I had risen to executive level as managing editor and head writer for an educational publisher, leading a team of copywriters, production artists, and editors.

Beginning in college, when I should’ve been studying or sleeping, I taught myself to code and freelanced as a graphic & web designer. I fell in love with the flexibility and freedom of digital media.

Small-town girl

Upon returning to northwest Connecticut, I discovered that the towns I had known as a child were dilapidated and struggling.

Mega-corporations had turned charming Main Streets into desolate, empty-plate-glass wastelands. And regulations and taxes had driven job-producing businesses out of the state.

My mother owned and operated a preschool with a 50+ year reputation for excellence. Like most early childhood educators, she personally earned little. Yet state programs offering subpar, free options depleted annual enrollment until she was forced to close her doors and end a 35-year career—not without a little shame and anger.

Outraged and saddened, I felt compelled to pivot my career toward a purposeful goal.

I wanted to restore pride to individuals and small businesses in communities like these.

Big risk, big reward

This drive led to my first of several housing authority clients. I was introduced to the challenges facing community organizations: budgets, time restrictions, internal conflict—and discovered the lively spirit of their tireless staffs.

I thrived on the challenge of helping them to solve problems despite built-in limitations.

After freelancing steadily for years, in 2010—with a collection of loyal clients but neither a safety net nor a sure-fire plan—I quit the 9-to-5 for good. And in 2014, I relocated to Astoria, Queens, relaunching my little venture as 816 New York, a full-service strategic firm with purpose.

I am prouder of this business than anything else I’ve built in my life—well, excluding my book collection, which is more-than-slightly out of hand.

Today, we serve dozens of clients, many from our earliest days. Because while our capabilities and our team have grown, our principles haven’t changed one bit.

How We Can Help

Invite Sarah to speak

Sarah offers encouraging yet candid advice on many topics relevant to small businesses, community organizations, and individuals, including:

  • Risk-taking, non-conformity, and creativity
  • Confidence and limitless, expansive thinking
  • Problem-solving and solutions-driven strategy
  • Building a consistent business / brand around your true voice

Fill out this form to inquire about hiring Sarah for your upcoming speaking engagement or as a one-on-one consultant for your team.