Community Leader Highlight: Meet Heather Tsavaris

Meet Heather Tsavaris, from Mansfield, OH. 

Hi! I am Heather, I design user experiences for Idea Works— a new co-working space in Mansfield, Ohio that supports entrepreneurs to reimagine what is possible. I think entrepreneurship is the key to unlocking personal and community empowerment. About me– I grew up in Mansfield and left after school for DC, London, The Hague, New York City, and Istanbul. I decided to bring my family — my husband and two girls– back home to use my business and creative problem solving skills in the community that provided me the launchpad necessary to experience the world.

Why I do what I do? 

My background is a bit untraditional– I spent a decade working for the U.S. Department of State on counterterrorism. I became an expert of sorts on why young people became interested in joining these groups. The passion of these young people always shocked me because they cared deeply about causes and yet saw violence as the only way to contribute. I became inspired by a group of entrepreneurs who I was working in the Netherlands at the time, who came from similar backgrounds as the teenagers, and who had passion and cared deeply for causes, but used their skills and abilities to solve problems for others and and make a living do so. These entrepreneurs prompted me to attend business school in New York to learn entrepreneurial and business principles with the hope of teaching others this empowerment tool. Many years later, I have had the pleasure of teaching hundreds of urban and rural young people the power and practicality of entrepreneurship in transforming their lives.

What’s new for Mansfield?

Mansfield is undergoing a renaissance. A quintessential Rust Belt town filled with creative, impassioned and determined folks who are truly reimagining who we can be. From the 15 amazing community leaders who just traveled to South by Southwest as part of a community foundation-sponsored project to cede new ways of doing things in Mansfield– to a online local news startup who is winning national attention for its solutions based journalism approach. In a place people once counted out, things are changing and people are beginning to believe more greatness is possible. Techstars Startup Weekend provides us an amazing opportunity to let our neighbors experience the energy and possibilities of building, reimagining and solving problems that matter through entrepreneurship– all while lifting ourselves, each other and our community up.

I love asking “What’s right about your town?” instead of “What’s wrong with it?” I deeply believe that amazing things can come from any place– quintessentially rust belt, large, small, rural, urban and everything in between. It is about having the mindset and willingness to do the work that enables a place and its people to embrace the possibilities.