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VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: From Corporate Disillusionment to Entrepreneurial Empowerment: Doug Shierling’s Journey to Spark Thomasville

Spark entrepreneur Tequesta Diggs with her completion certificate from board member Willie Allen
(Left) DeShay Williams and Doug Shierling at a Spark Thomasville Event.

One of the greatest benefits of living and doing mission in Thomasville is who you get to do it with. One of these folks is Doug Shierling. Hard-working and generous only begin to describe him. His story speaks to the impact that caring individuals can have on our community. I hope you will read it and share it.

When Doug Shierling learned about Spark Thomasville through a mutual friend of Harry T. Jones, he was immediately captivated by the organization’s mission to help underserved entrepreneurs become confident business owners and turn their dreams into reality. With 33 years of business experience under his belt, Doug felt an instant connection to Spark’s vision and decided to volunteer as a coach in 2019.

“I loved it! The Spark mission is in my DNA. I love seeing people of all colors, bents, and backgrounds come together to help others help themselves. It’s not just a handout, but a hand-up. The vision is solid, and I jumped in.”

After his first cohort, an opportunity arose for Doug to take on a greater leadership role as a head coach. Humbled by the chance to serve, he eagerly accepted. “What I had a lot of experience with in my career — coaching & developing coaches — became a gift I gave away.”

Doug’s passion for empowering entrepreneurs is deeply rooted in his own childhood experiences growing up in Thomasville. He watched his honest, gifted, and hardworking father struggle without the necessary business skills to thrive. “He would have benefited from Spark’s mission.”

Witnessing his father’s greatness and challenges ignited a fire within Doug to pursue a business education that would empower him to approach entrepreneurship at a new level. He landed a job in corporate America, working for a company known for its quality products and loyal employees. “It was one big happy family,” Doug fondly recalls.

However, when a new CEO took the helm, the company’s values underwent a drastic shift. The incoming leader declared, “Loyalty is completely overrated. All we expect from an employee is an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and all that employees should expect from the company is an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

For Doug, this cold, transactional approach to business broke his heart. But it also served as a pivotal moment in his personal and professional growth. “It caused me to rethink who I was and how I approached business. In a moment, I went from being an employee of a major corporation to becoming an entrepreneur. I no longer looked at myself as an employee of the corporation; I looked at myself as working for Doug Shierling, and the corporation just happened to be my largest client.”

This mindset shift was transformative. “It was one of the greatest transitions I could have ever made. It pushed me to go back to school, and get my MBA. I found a passion for self-development, not only for myself but for my employees. My mindset changed, and I stopped working for a living; I instead managed my career from that day forward.”

Armed with entrepreneurial perspective and experience, Doug channels his energy into giving back to Thomasville and supporting the next generation of business owners through Spark Thomasville.

As a kind and helpful coach and mentor, Doug brings a wealth of knowledge and a generous spirit to every interaction with Spark participants. He understands firsthand the challenges of starting and growing a business, and he’s committed to providing the guidance and support that his own father needed.

“Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey,” Doug notes. “But at Spark, these driven individuals find a community of support, resources, and expertise to help them navigate the ups and downs. It’s an honor to be a part of that journey.”

For Doug, the impact of Spark extends far beyond the individual entrepreneurs served. He sees the organization as a catalyst for economic growth, job creation, and community vitality in Thomasville and beyond.

“The impact of empowering underestimated entrepreneurs extends far beyond the individual. It’s like dropping a pebble in a pond – the ripples of success spread outward, touching families, neighborhoods, and the entire economic ecosystem of our community. Spark is about creating those ripples, one entrepreneur at a time.”

It’s a vision that Doug is proud to be a part of, and one that he hopes will inspire others to get involved. “Whether you have business experience to share, resources to contribute, or simply a desire to make a difference, there’s a place for you at Spark,” he encourages, his friendly demeanor shining through. “Together, we can unlock the potential of our community, one entrepreneur at a time.”


DeShay Williams

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