A true passion play - how sports helped Sara Wegmann build the next generation of women leaders.


Passion Play

For some, “passion” can sometimes feel elusive, especially on our busy days. However, others seem to easily brim with passion, be it cupcakes or climate change. What happens when a spark from your youth reignites in you, leading you to focus your career and your energy in an entirely different direction? And what does it feel like to do that within a new, entrepreneurial world, where the stakes are higher than ever?

We asked Sara Wegmann, former HR Manager at Target, and currently President of "Her Next Play", a non-profit that helps female athletes launch successful careers, to share her journey of making significant change happen for herself, and for others. 

What part have sports played in your journey so far? 
Growing up, I was somewhat nerdy and shy! When you find a passion, it feeds your soul - it gives you energy and courage. Sports gave me the skills to develop as a leader, and, those skills helped me as my career developed. 

When I was working on Target’s M&A team, I had the opportunity to partner with start-up companies as we acquired small e-commerce companies to build Target's multichannel capabilities. I realized that I loved working in startup environments and I saw an opportunity to take a risk. So, with my business partner Audra Emerson, I started CareerPrep - a career coaching and training company that helped students launch successful careers. 

After more than four years of building CareerPrep, I knew I wanted to continue similar career development work, but saw a growing need for building the next generation of women leaders by focusing on helping female athletes. Her Next Play was launched in March of this year. 

Her Next Play combines three of my passions - equity for girls and women, the transformational power of sports, and the career potential of young people. 

Starting your own business can be exciting and daunting. Who has been your biggest champion? 
My mom! There’s never been a moment where her support wavered and she’s always believed in me. When I was growing up playing sports, she came to all my games and cheered me on. When I launched CareerPrep, she helped me find our first clients and helped me fill the room at our first workshop. She backed Her Next Play from the beginning and funded our start-up costs with a personal donation. My husband travels a lot, so she’s also a big part of my girls’ lives and helps out a lot with them when I need to travel or have work commitments in the evenings. I could not do what I do without her.

Pictures above show (l-r, click right to show both photos) Sara Wegmann and Her Next Play being awarded the L’Étoile Du Nord (Star of the North) honor by Minnesota United Football Club CEO Chris Wright. The L’Étoile Du Nord recognizes community members who embody the core values of the club; at a TrackGirlz empowerment event where the Her Next Play team facilitated a session on body language and confidence.

How are you navigating the non-profit world? What are the biggest challenges you and your team are faced with?
The community response has been amazing - we’ve had so much support for the Her Next Play mission and programs. Our biggest challenge is fundraising - our team has limited fundraising experience, so it’s a skillset we are looking to add to our board and our broader team. We’re working on a development strategy to create sustainable funding so that we can keep up with the demand for our programs and reach all the female athletes who need support. We are always looking for partners and sponsors who can help us and support developing the next generation of female leaders through sports.

Our other big challenge is prioritization. There are so many opportunities to impact the leadership and career development of female athletes so we are constantly trying to keep our focus on our mission and invest in high impact programming.

It’s tough to continue to see women and women of color underrepresented in so many leadership situations. I want more for my daughters, their friends, and all the girls and young women out there. We can do better. We are going to do better!

How has your definition of success shifted over the years? 
I’m very achievement-oriented, and I love to make and set goals. I always felt successful when I was accomplishing goals, finishing projects, and tackling new challenges. I wanted to excel so success was about working at the best companies, working on high profile projects, and taking on larger leadership positions. I learned so much through my early career experiences so I don’t have any regrets. I’m grateful for the experiences I had throughout my career as they have all helped me in different ways as I lead Her Next Play.

At this point in my career, I’m focused on making an impact. Success to me is having a platform to make a difference. I’m so inspired by young leadership, and I want to do everything I can to support girls and young women so they can soar. And, yes, I also mentor many amazing young men. But it’s tough to continue to see women and women of color underrepresented in so many leadership situations. I want more for my daughters, their friends, and all the girls and young women out there. We can do better. We are going to do better!

What advice do you have for women who want to start or change something in their lives, but they're not sure where to begin?

There are so many young women starting their careers who have so much potential and just need a little help on their journey. Reach out, offer to have coffee, make a connection and be a mentor. If you are in a position of power or privilege, use that power and privilege to help someone. 

For more information on Her Next Play’s mission and programs, visit  www.hernextplay.com