Over the past four years the name Allyson Sutton became synonymous with HQ Raleigh as its spokesperson and very active advocate. She recently left HQ, embarking on a writing career, saying “Words are my passion.”

In an exclusive Q&A, Allyson talks at length about her days at HQ, some of her favorite memories as well as regrets and what she wants to do in the future. 

  • What are your immediate plans post-HQ Raleigh?

I am focusing on freelance writing and marketing work, primarily with startups in North and South Carolina. I’m also working on launching a civic-minded interview project here in Charleston as a way for folks to better know, understand, and empathize with their neighbors. It should be up-and-running in the next couple of weeks!

There may be a retail concept in the works, as well – I’m using this transition as a chance to bring some longstanding creative ideas to fruition.

  • What do you wish to do long term?

Words are my passion — I love writing, storytelling, and helping cool people and brands to communicate what they do.

Long-term, I’d like to create content for a larger array of brands and publications that reflect the things I care about…topics like health, women’s rights, technology, music, and community. I’ve also always dreamt about writing a book; my family is full of incredible characters, stories, recipes, and oddities that would make a pretty great read.

  • Why did you decide to step away?

It’s been an incredible journey being part of the HQ team since HQ started four years ago. I’ve seen the organization and community grow beyond what we initially imagined possible. I learned a ton — overseeing a rebranding campaign, maintaining the brand across three locations, working with local and national media to get coverage for both HQ and its members — and I’m very grateful for all of that. It was a tough decision to leave such a great team and community, but the timing was right for me to focus more creative energy on personal ventures.

I’ve officially been a Charleston,SC resident for a year now, so I also wanted to get more immersed in the local community.

What did you like most about the HQ Raleigh community experience?

  • Do I have to chose just one thing?

! Beyond working with a smart, talented, supportive team and having so many interesting learning experiences…the community was by far the most amazing thing to witness and be part of. HQ started with less than 50 companies and is now at close to 300 – all of which are run by inspiring, funny, quirky, passionate, and interesting people.

It was so special to be involved in a truly collaborative community and to see how much good can come out of a space like HQ.

  • Any regrets about your time there?

If you don’t have regrets, then you’re either insanely talented, crazy, or don’t come from self-deprecating British stock like me. I regret not getting to know everyone at HQ. As the community grew (not just in Raleigh, but in Charlotte and Greensboro), there were so many people I didn’t meet or get a chance to speak to or spend time with.

I also regret not leveraging the HQ resources for myself as much as I could have. Those office hours are such a killer offering and a great opportunity to pick the brains of super smart people. I probably should have carved my name into one of the bricks in there, too.

  • As HQ Raleigh grew into a community, what do you feel were the key factors in driving its growth/success/expansion?

The team behind HQ is genuinely community-focused. Everyone in co-working says that, but that team walks the walk. Each HQ space has this great welcoming, accommodating energy and I think members feel the difference.

HQ also works really hard to get immersed in each city before it expands…connecting with community leaders, being part of the neighborhood. That’s really important for growth that feels natural and meaningful.

(Note: Follow Allyson on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/allysonsutton )