By Meredith Pruden
Sharon Silva finally found her calling when, after a 20-year career in the equipment leasing and finance industry, she felt it necessary to do something that made a difference. Following a stint as a membership sales account executive with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, she landed in her current position as the executive director of The Buckhead Business Association – an organization, which at its most basic function, mirrors the ideals Silva considers most important in life.
A native New Yorker, Silva moved to Atlanta in the early ‘70s to attend Emory University where she majored in romance language — Spanish — and unofficially minored in education. Silva says she initially came to Atlanta to experience something different from her home and almost immediately fell in love with the area’s charm.
“When I was doing my student teaching at Emory the bus drivers would wait if they knew you took the bus everyday and you weren’t there,” Silva said. “I remember at one point a driver stopped the bus to help an elderly lady take her groceries to the door, and I just thought that was so charming.”
Post graduation Silva accepted a teaching position at International School Manila in the Philippines but said she believes teachers are born and no one should perform the job simply for the sake of work. In the end, Silva returned to Atlanta and began her journey to the BBA making friends of many business colleagues and association members along the way.
It was during her time at the Chamber Silva first became involved with the BBA and made the connections that ultimately led her to become the organization’s executive director – a previously non-existent position created through a series of meetings with then BBA president and president elect Doug Eidson of the Eidson Group and Donna L. Kain of The Buckhead Community Bank, respectively.
“The Chamber is really a tremendous organization for the city,” Silva said. “It’s big, and I enjoyed it, but I was hoping to find something a little smaller where I could spend more time with the members.”
Silva found the perfect fit at the BBA and said her favorite aspect of the job is bringing the local business community together.
“We have members who have been members for 20 years and we’re constantly infusing that with new people, and I enjoy that,” Silva said. “I enjoy working with people and helping them connect. Having been downsized twice, myself, while in large corporations, I have learned the value of connecting. Whether you call it networking or merely placing yourself in situations where you meet new people, there is always unseen potential.”
To that end, Silva and the BBA board constantly plan events at which members can socialize and share information about the Buckhead community. Each year the organization holds quarterly luncheons, the first of which is the annual luncheon featuring the Buckhead Business Awards for the previous year. The BBA also hosts 48 weekly breakfasts during the year, but its biggest event is the Taste of Buckhead Business Expo now in its fifth year. The event has been held each spring for the last three years at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead and attracts nearly 1,000 attendees.
Event planning is only one aspect of Silva’s many duties, and she said she is grateful to have help from the BBA membership as well.
“It is ever-changing and always busy,” Silva said of her role at the BBA. “From administrative to engaging members to participate,” she said. “But I couldn’t run everything on my own. We have a tremendous board of directors and vice president group who really help in terms of creating the energy that is BBA. We also have an amazing group of volunteers.”
Silva said she believes so many of the BBA’s 350 members graciously give back to the organization because of its ability to keep the Buckhead businesses connected and also that it is personally fulfilling to facilitate strong connections between people.
“In that perfect world, work becomes something we truly enjoy,” Silva said. “Go even further and have the live, work, play option fulfilled as well. It [my work] is kind of an all-consuming thing. There’s so much going on in Buckhead that you start out to run an errand and you get sidetracked. A lot of my free time is still kind of involved with BBA but it makes it fun to have something to bring to the conversation when you’re out with people. A lot of people don’t talk about what they do, but the BBA is an organization you can share.”
This busy woman shares her time with more than just the BBA. She also has been a regular event planning volunteer for The Atlanta Humane Society since 1991 and is involved with Senior Citizen Services’ program Santa for Seniors, which delivers new gifts to the homebound elderly during the winter holiday season.
Through it all, Silva said she has been fortunate to have found a perfect life balance in the Buckhead community, where she shares a condo with her canine child Daphne in the same building where her parents reside, and also at the BBA where she finally feels at home.