An outstanding example of success: Academy of Business grad, Katie Gregory
It is not a stretch to say the Academy of Business (AOB) program helped prepare Stratford High School graduate Katie Gregory for her current role as Director of Investments at Golden Section, a capital venture firm.
She cannot say enough about the encouragement she received from the program’s teacher at Stratford, Kristy Schaper, as well as the foundational business classes she took as part of the three-year Career and Technical Education (CTE) program in Spring Branch ISD (SBISD).
“The Academy of Business classes are tools in the toolbox every high school student should have,” said Gregory. “They helped prepare me for college and beyond.”
High school students who apply and are accepted into the AOB program complete coursework in Accounting and Financial Services, Business Management and Entrepreneurship, and receive help landing an internship with an area company to get a taste of business practices.
During the summer between her junior and senior year, Gregory had two internships that straddled the business and nonprofit worlds: with a commercial real estate firm and with a social enterprise that employed refugee women to design and create beautiful clothing.
Exposure to entrepreneurship started at a young age for Gregory. Her parents taught her that if there is a challenge, you can make your own solution. And if something you want does not exist, start it!
Her mom left a corporate job with a Fortune 500 company to be more present with her family and started her own photography business. To expand Gregory’s lacrosse playing possibilities, her dad started and coached a lacrosse club at Stratford in 2009 where there had not been one before. The team is still thriving and is now competing at the state level.
“My parents showed me, through their actions, you have the freedom and ability to start things,” said Gregory. “It won’t ever be easy. But the return on their investments is seen in my life and in so many others.”
Teachers saw something in her
While at Stratford, Gregory was also involved in student council, National Honor Society and Young Life, as well as being captain of the lacrosse team. Student council advisor, Mary Jackson, along with AOB teacher Schaper, noticed Gregory’s excellent people skills and entrepreneurial spirit, and encouraged her to enter the Business Professionals of America competition in the Interview Skills category. Jackson and Schaper helped her to develop a resume and prepare for the competition. Under their guidance, Gregory came in first in regionals and at the state level and came in second at the national contest in Chicago.
“My teachers saw something in me and encouraged me to work for something they believed I could succeed in,” said Gregory. “Every pivotal moment in my life originated with someone encouraging me and revealing strengths that I didn’t see.”
Business skill-building continued at University of Texas
Following high school graduation in 2013, Gregory attended the University of Texas, and majored in Fine Arts with a minor in Business. While a student there, she continued honing her relationship-building and fundraising skills while interning with the College of Fine Arts Development Department.
“My job was to help track donations to the college, attend events and be a walking, talking, breathing testimony of donor’s investment dollars and encourage them to continue giving,” said Gregory. “Little did I know that this was the start of my career in the world of raising and deploying capital.”
Gregory had three job offers upon graduating from University of Texas. She began her professional career with a software technology company that specialized in developing reservation systems for small hotels. There she worked hard and rose to the position of Director of Business Development for eight southern states. Then COVID hit, which hit the hospitality industry hard, resulting in a major downsizing of the technology company’s staff, including Gregory.
Remember the lesson of making your own solution?
Within a week of being laid off, Gregory had contacted the CEO of Golden Section, lined up an interview and was hired. The company specializes in helping people with great ideas, called founders, to get their businesses established with Golden Section software applications and a community of experts to maximize operational efficiencies. Gregory is now the Director of Investments, with the launch of the company’s first fund in 2019.
“To oversimplify, part of my day is much like Shark Tank,” said Gregory. “Our team talks to thousands of founders each year and make one to two investments each month, with check sizes ranging from $250K to $4M.”
Golden Section is one of the top three most-active venture capital companies in Texas, and in the top 10% of funds worldwide.
Gregory recognizes that the skills she uses day-to-day in her job were cultivated during her time in the Academy of Business program and her extracurricular involvement at Stratford High School.
“My teachers created an atmosphere of trust and confidence,” said Gregory. “I learned to have a goal and go after it!”
Advice shared at induction ceremony
Gregory was recently the keynote speaker for the Academy of Business induction ceremony. More than 200 students, their teachers and families attended the event. She shared her passion for the AOB, Stratford High School and SBISD, and encouraged the students to take full advantage of the incredible, real-world opportunities available through this unique and powerful CTE program.
“Business is not just about accounting,” Gregory noted. She likened business skills to a lens on top of other subjects that are needed to make ideas and goals possible and successful.
Thank you, Katie Gregory, for being a stellar example of the power of Career and Technology Education programming in SBISD. We are proud of you!