The Road Accidentally Wandered with Caroline Harding
Caroline Harding ’17
Initially, Caroline Harding’s VFA experience seemed to be going down an obvious path. “I was dead set on moving to Nashville,” she says. “I had a really closed-off mind.” Caroline had family in Nashville and thought the city had exactly the kind of vibrant, communal atmosphere she was hoping to thrive in after graduating from college.
Heading to Birmingham
But during the VFA company match process, Caroline met Katie Jernigan – also a UNC grad – who told her about the work she was doing at Knight Eady, a sports marketing and events operation company in Birmingham, Alabama. Caroline found herself intrigued; she’d graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism and a minor in entrepreneurship. Knight Eady seemed to have a welcoming company culture, as well as plenty of opportunities to use the skills she had learned in school. In the spring, Caroline attended the Birmingham Job Fair at the Innovation Depot, where Nashville and Birmingham company partners interviewed incoming VFA Fellows, alongside others. Caroline fell in love with the city during her short trip – in fact, she verbally committed to Knight Eady and became one of the first Fellows to sign to a Birmingham company that weekend!
“Birmingham was such a surprise!” Caroline says. “It was a new city to explore, close to all the cities I loved in the south. Birmingham has a small-town feel, yet you’re never bored and there is always a new restaurant, bar, or apartment building popping up around you. One of my favorite parts of the experience has been both living and working downtown, where buildings are being renovated left and right.” Sara Williamson, VFA’s VP of Programs and former Community Manager of Birmingham, wasn’t surprised to hear about Caroline’s experience. As she put it to a local Birmingham paper, “If you look at our Fellows this year, they come from such different backgrounds, and they really looked for the [VFA] opportunity and ended up in Birmingham…so a lot of Nashville and Atlanta is ‘I want to be in Nashville, so I’m going to find a job in Nashville.’ With Birmingham we can sell the city once you get here.”
I had no clue I'd be doing press releases, going on TV, or doing media interviews, but I love it.– Caroline Harding '17
An unforeseen side project
At Knight Eady, Caroline works as a Strategic Communications Associate, and manages the marketing, fundraising, and PR aspects for a variety of clients and events. She has also had the opportunity to work on some new business ventures for the company. Early on in her experience, one of Knight Eady’s co-founders approached her and another VFA Fellow, Kelsey Murphy, and asked them to help develop an internal entrepreneurial initiative. Now a year later, this company is called Clutch!. They have even hired another Fellow and are operating separately from Knight Eady; although Knight Eady still serves as their marketing and public relations agency. Caroline loves the ownership and autonomy she’s gained at Knight Eady, and amazing people she works with have really made Birmingham feel like home.
Meeting other fellows
Since becoming a VFA Fellow, Caroline’s also had the chance to visit other Fellows in Nashville, as well as in Philadelphia for Philly Phormal. Plenty of Fellows have traveled to Birmingham as well; just last year the Birmingham Fellows hosted Bamasgiving, a Thanksgiving celebration hosted in a Birmingham Fellow’s backyard. Outside of work, Caroline enjoys attending her local church, working out at Nexus Fitness (one of her clients!) and hanging out with the other Fellows. Overall, she’s grateful to VFA for bringing her to Birmingham.