Share Your Stories: Karla Ballard, A Trailblazer with a Revolutionary Mindset for Change

PHILADELPHIA250
5 min readAug 29, 2023

As part of our summer series featuring revolutionary women, we are proud to recognize Karla Ballard, PHL250 Board member and longtime social activist and entrepreneur. Karla is the founder and CEO of YING, an innovative platform fostering skill-sharing directly among peers. This platform brings together consumers and brands using a complementary currency, fostering community bonds and individual benefits.

Born and raised in Germantown, Karla can trace her history back to the founding fathers of the United States. America’s third Vice President, Aaron Burr (most famous now for his rivalry with Alexander Hamilton), is her fifth-generation great-grandfather on her father’s side. In the twentieth century, Karla’s family had a beauty supply store in West Philadelphia, and her great-grandfather was the first African-American Chief Inspector of the Philadelphia Police Department. Karla says, “It was a real beautiful moment to come back to Philadelphia after four years, and really contextualize the place that my family came from. I identify as an Afro Indigenous European woman, because I also have indigenous roots in Virginia and in the Carolinas. For me, it is important for us to recognize, especially in the city of Philadelphia, that there are still descendants of founders here. And a lot of these families were multiracial.”

Karla’s path took her from Germantown Academy to the University of Virginia, where her studies in banking resonated deeply due to her family ties — Aaron Burr was instrumental in founding the Manhattan Bank. In another overlap with Burr’s story, in 2020 Karla ran for Vice President of the United States, partnering with Brock Pierce, chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation. Their campaign centered around themes of love, unity, and innovation, which deeply resonated with Karla.

Karla’s professional journey draws upon her passion to find market-driven strategies for positive social change. She is driven by the belief that we live in a society in the United States that is driven by business. One of her earliest ventures was as a young person, when she started a youth program called YIELD, the Youth Institute for Economic Leadership Development. She believed so strongly in the potential for business to build up community that she spoke before Congress in 1999, when she was only in her early 20s. She says of that experience now, “We wanted to really take the position of supporting our communities [as entrepreneurs]. We’re not just trying to capitalize off of it; we also wanted to be responsible corporate citizens. So that was a beautiful pivot moment for me. And then it led me to speak before Congress.” Karla strives to be the voice for the sectors to collaborate together to address important issues.

After moving on from banking to technology, Karla worked with numerous corporations to address the digital divide, especially for underserved communities. She helped create the Digital Connectors program, which was about educating people about digital literacy. Karla recalls, “That meant so much to me because of the young people I got to meet and empower. It gave them an opportunity to start a business in this space, in places that were Latino, Asian, African American, and European rural communities. For me, it was about next-generation healing, no matter what the color of the skin was. We’ve got to empower ourselves in our generation to get out of that poverty mindset.”

With so many accomplishments to her name — there is not the space to mention all of them here, including her many years in media and advertising leading social impact campaigns and programs — Karla is also the recipient of the Keeper’s of the Dream award from the National Action Network in New York City and was honored with the FINTECH award by the Multicultural Media Telecom and Internet Council.

Karla is a revolutionary woman and to her, being a revolutionary woman is a mindset and that mindset is helping advance the evolution of society. “If you’re working on the edge of helping to evolve humans, no matter what that may be, that’s in of itself, a revolution about to get started,” Karla says. “We are not being served necessarily by old practices, old ideologies, and old mindsets. So it always starts with the mind.”

She is excited for the 250th anniversary of this nation as she is ready for everyone to recognize the richness of America. “I see this celebration as celebrating our story, and ensuring our stories are really open and honest about what happened on the land…. We literally created something magical and mystical, and we should declare that as the truth. And so, Philadelphia citizens, I see us playing a very key role, helping to shape the narrative of what that experience will be for the people who come to visit.”

This blog is part of PHILADELPHIA250’s Share Your Stories program, which celebrates all Philadelphians, past and present who are a part of our history — making sure no one is left out of the story. If you have a story about a special person or place you’d like to share with us, please contact us through this form.

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PHILADELPHIA250

Coordinating the United States’ 250th anniversary in Philadelphia. Creating a commemoration that is truly by the people, for the people.