Editor’s Note — This is the first in an occasional series focusing on area women in business.
WILLIAMSBURG — The owner of New World VR, Donna Facer, has transitioned from her physics background to the operation of her own virtual reality arcade.
Facer’s journey to entrepreneurship began after she graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Colorado. At the time, there were only four women in her physics program, and only three that went through her five-year program that included programming.
“I saw guys drop out of that program, and you just kept on going with it,” she recalled of her experience in a STEM program. “The guys were really nice, we did our homework together, we did everything just like the guys did. So it wasn’t hard, no one bullied me for being a girl.”
Facer also recalled her father launching a business with a partner right out of college for an engineering company. Having seen her father go through the process of starting a business, she knew the expectation for the level of work that would need to be put in.
New World VR is Facer’s third startup. Prior to that, she had started a web development company in the early 2000s and worked for an education company before it was purchased by a different group. That was what sparked her interest in online product development for education.
She and her two kids, a 16- and an 18-year-old with eyes on attending Old Dominion University, moved to Williamsburg five years ago after she decided she needed a change in career.
Facer began New World VR in 2019. The business has been growing slowly ever since, even with the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business was even invited to expand to a second location, in Norfolk at the Premium Outlets, which opened in 2022.
“I wanted to get into virtual reality, being the leading edge in technology, which I like. But I intended on really doing this with education, with education of virtual reality,” Facer explained. “Which I have done, I’ve perused that to some degree. But not nearly as we could do.”
To women and girls who wish to pursue a career in STEM, Facer encourages them to go for it.
“It is exciting to be in STEM right now, there’s a lot to do and it’s not just men doing it, it’s women,” Facer said. “They are astronauts and they are scientists. They are doing leading-edge research and it’s wonderful. So go for it is what I say.”
“And don’t let the education — like ‘oh I can’t do math’ — I’ve heard so many girls [say that],” Facer added. “It really is something guys say too just not as often or as loud. Engineering, math, that seems to stand in the way of a lot of kids going into STEM. You’re going to grin and bear it through those courses if you don’t enjoy them, but it’s worth it.”