– Grafton Wealth Solutions –
– By Terry Godbey –
Sarah Grafton took a few turns on her road to vice president and senior financial advisor at her family business, Grafton Wealth Management at Merrill in Winter Park, but the guideposts were always the same: She followed her heart and did what she loved.
She started college with plans to become a sports reporter but became enamored with American government and history and changed to a double major in public administration and political science.
Next, she told her father, Bill Grafton, she wanted to join the family business along with her brothers Dex and Will. “I have always looked up to my dad, was proud of how he had grown the business and wanted to continue his legacy.” He encouraged her not to change her major. “Study what fascinates you and develop your talents,” he advised, adding that he already had the perfect role in mind for her.
Grafton joined the company right out of college in 2007 and began to earn financial certifications, and sure enough, the area her father had envisioned for her — business development, where she is responsible for bringing in new clients — has not only turned out to be a great fit, it has blossomed into a satisfying dual role.
“I’m passionate about helping others, so I’m very lucky to get to work for the family business and provide our clients with a personal touch and also serve nonprofits in a community relations capacity,” she said. “My family and our company share my devotion to community service.”
Grafton serves on several nonprofit boards including Runway to Hope, which helps children and families affected by pediatric cancer. She will never forget the sick girl she accompanied on the runway during a fashion show fundraiser. “She was so happy and acted as if she carried nothing in the world on her shoulders,” she said. “She was such a light.”
Soon after, Grafton volunteered to play games with patients at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, which was even more emotionally wrenching. “I was paired with an 8-year-old boy who had learned the day before that he had Hodgkin lymphoma,” she said.
“His mother was on the phone with his school, saying he would be absent, and his father hadn’t arrived yet. The boy was scared, and I could see my 8-year-old son in him, and it touched my heart. So I played Legos and colored with him, and the whole time I was thinking, ‘What if this were my child?’
“I can’t walk away from a situation like that and not be invested,” she said, “so I ordered a stuffed Goofy, his favorite Disney character, and my 8-year-old and I took it to him at the hospital the next day. I think it’s really important to invest your time in helping others.”
Her soft spot for children and families led her to create the Very Merry Charity holiday toy drive, which has collected more than 4,000 toys since its start 12 years ago.
Grafton also has a passion for small businesses. In 2019 she created the Park Avenue District to enhance downtown Winter Park through historical preservation, support and marketing. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, she has worked to bolster struggling merchants through online shopping, curbside pickup, sidewalk sales and outdoor events. Still, 11 businesses along the avenue have closed this year, and that’s hard for her to take.
Her greatest inspiration is her husband, Jason Siegel, president and CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission, and their children. “I love being the mother of three boys because I’m a huge sports fan and I played basketball for 14 years,” she said. “I have a stepdaughter, too, but she is away at college, so there aren’t many pink and good-smelling things in my house. It’s all boys and cleats.”
She wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s important to set an example for my boys as a businesswoman working hard to achieve my goals.”
“I’ve always been motivated to help organizations and bring people together through community service. You have to have a heart for the work but also be very strong.”
— Sarah Grafton
Photography by Julie Fletcher
As seen in November/December 2020 i4 Business Magazine