Meet the Charlotte Agenda 30 Under 30 class of 2017

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OrthoCarolina

OrthoCarolina would like to extend our sincere congratulations to the 30 Under 30 class of 2017. Cheers to the young innovators making things happen and pushing Charlotte forward!


As Charlotte booms, young people are leaving their marks on the city like never before.

For the second time, Charlotte Agenda set out to recognize 30 leaders age 30 or younger who are impacting the city they live in. It wasn’t hard to find them. Winnowing the list down to 30 — that was the hard part.

This year’s impressive class runs the gamut — encompassing startup founders, politicians, fitness moguls, artists, doctors and business people.

[Did you miss last year’s inaugural 30 Under 30 list? Check it out here.]

Now, here are the Charlotte Agenda 30 Under 30 for 2017.

Sarah Lapointe

Sarah has played a leading role in “Nutcracker,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Minus 16” and “Rubies,” and brought attention to Charlotte’s dance scene through her position on Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” list.

Title: Artist, Charlotte Ballet
Age: 20
Neighborhood: Uptown
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: 5Church
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? The Bible
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, but more importantly, be grateful – for family sacrifices, for teacher influences, for supportive friendships, and for all the opportunities that life has presented. Stay focused and surround yourself with like-minded people, people who share your passion and inspire you.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Hope Muir, artistic director of Charlotte Ballet.


Sterling Scott

Sterling is a rising star at one of Charlotte’s fastest-growing startups and in the nonprofit world as well. He’s caught the attention of the city’s most powerful people through his work with a group focused on upward mobility, MIT (Minorities in Tech).

Title: Product Marketing Manager at MapAnything
Age: 28
Neighborhood: University City
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Mert’s Heart & Soul and City Smoke
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Lean Startup,” by Eric Ries
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Work every day like you own the company. No matter what you do, keep an entrepreneurial mindset and a startup mentality of “whatever it takes.”
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Rod Garvin and Carrie Cook, vice presidents of talent development at the Charlotte Chamber


Dimple Ajmera

Dimple became the youngest person serving on the Charlotte City Council this year, and the first Asian-American to boot. Though new to the political scene, she hasn’t shied away from speaking her mind and making an impact.

Title: Charlotte City Council District 5
Age: 31 (She just had her birthday last week, so we won’t hold it against her)
Neighborhood: Boulder Creek in east Charlotte
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Woodlands Restaurant and Crispy Crepe
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Gandhi – His Life & Message For The World,” by Louis Fischer.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Seek your truth even when there is resistance.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Hugh McColl


Alex Smereczniak and Dan D’Aquisto

Alex and Dan quit their jobs in their early 20s to build their laundry startup 2ULaundry in Charlotte. With their latest fundraising round of $2.5 million, they’re ready to tackle the entire Southeast.

Alex Smereczniak, center and Dan D’Aquisto, right.

Alex

Title: CEO at 2ULaundry
Age: 25
Neighborhood: NoDa
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Haberdish
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” by Ben Horowitz.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? These are the most formative years of your life. Be selfish, be foolish, take risks and learn a ton. I would also tell myself to obsess over the 80/20 rule. 80% of your outcomes will come from 20% of your inputs. The other 80% means nothing. It is just noise. Ignore the noise.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Bill D’Alessandro of Elements Brands

Dan

Title: Co-founder/CRO at 2ULaundry
Age: 25
Neighborhood: NoDa
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Soul Gastrolounge
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” by Ben Horowitz.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Is this really what you want to do? Go out and build something for yourself and don’t look back.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Eric Baum


Melanie Fox

Melanie has created a community around two of the most popular concepts in Charlotte — breweries and fitness — while driving change at a century-old industrial company.

Title: Digital Engagement Leader at Ingersoll Rand // Co-Founder of Work For Your Beer, LLC
Age: 27
Neighborhood: University City
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Kindred
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The 10% Entrepreneur,” by Patrick J. McGinnis.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learn fiercely. Nurture relationships. Laugh at yourself. Continue working hard, but don’t be so hard on yourself. Cuddle as many dogs as possible. Eat more vegetables. Workout consistently. Travel as often as you can. Smile more. Don’t take anything for granted. Be frugal. Give back. Be passionate about everything you do. Surround yourself with brilliant people. Don’t be afraid of failure. Challenge yourself every day. Keep being yourself; you are constantly evolving. You’re allowed to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? My co-founder, Alicia Thomas.


Ash Williams

Ash has become one of the most prominent voices pushing for change and advocating for black lives in the city through “Charlotte Uprising.”

Title: Community Organizer
Age: 24
Neighborhood: North Charlotte
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Freshwater’s
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Sula,” by Toni Morrison.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Take lighting design. Leave him. Don’t wait to go to PhD school.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Gloria Merriweather


Kevin Poirier

Kevin has been instrumental in bringing laptops and wireless hot spots to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students, and a tireless public advocate for CMS as well.

Title: Technology Facilitator, West Charlotte High School
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Paw Creek
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: La Shish Kabob
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Quit being so afraid of failure and so afraid of not knowing something. As a 21-year old, I had a fixed mindset about my own skills and my abilities. When I started recognizing and believing in my own capacity to grow and develop through my failures and mistakes, I improved exponentially as an educator, as a leader, and as a person.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones, principal of West Charlotte High School


Luther “Lute” Nicholson

Lute is arguably Charlotte’s biggest hip-hop star, having been signed by J Cole to Dreamville.

Title: Rap artist
Age
: 28
Neighborhood: West Charlotte


Mario Jovan Shaw and Jason Terrell

Mario and Jason are supporting black male educators, keeping them in the classroom and impacting the lives of vulnerable students. Through their program, the social entrepreneurs are reaching more than 1,800 kids across Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Memphis.

Mario Jovan Shaw

Title: Chief Impact Officer at Profound Gentlemen
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Starmount
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Viva Chicken and Fahrenheit
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “You Are A Badass,” by Jen Sincero.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Be your most authentic self and take risk. I don’t want anything in my life that isn’t meant for me to have. So, I must align myself to the thing that are true of me. I wish I would have grasped that concept earlier.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? James Ford at the Public School Forum and Dr. Chance Lewis at UNC Charlotte.


Jason Terrell

Title: Executive Director at Profound Gentlemen
Age: 26
Neighborhood: East Charlotte
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Price’s Chicken Coop
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball,” by Kevin Carroll.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Keep your head in the clouds and keep your heart on the mission! Take your time, strategize, and have fun, and make a bunch of mistakes. Your mistakes will be the driver of your impact.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Willie Brooks


Keith Gabriel

Keith is a former pro basketball player now recruiting large industrial companies (and their thousands of jobs) to Charlotte while encouraging kids as a motivational speaker and volunteer with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Title: Economic Development Specialist at Duke Energy
Age: 28
Neighborhood: South Charlotte
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Mimosa Grill
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The 12 Week Year,” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? #TTS (Taking The Steps)… Build your way up to get to where you want to be, while never skipping steps. Learn to embrace the process, the shortcomings, the struggles, and overcome it all to reach your goals. Lastly, cling to your adverse experiences because your stories and influence will become a platform to express to the youth that life is not just about your successes. More importantly, it’s about how you triumph through adversity.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Richard “Stick” Williams


Justin Harlow

Justin has become a prominent leader in the fast-changing Biddleville-Smallwood community while running a small business and a political campaign.

Title: Owner/Dentist at Harlow Dental at Steele Creek. Candidate, Charlotte City Council District 2
Age: 29
Neighborhood: West End (Biddleville-Smallwood)
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Essex
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Making a Difference,” by Steve Gilliland.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Listen more often than talking. There is much to be learned from history and those that helped create it such that it is common for younger people to have to “wait their turn” to make a difference. However, recognize when it’s your time to jump in to facilitate purposeful change for others. If you’re honest and genuine and want to have a seat at the table, but don’t know how to get one – create your own table and invite others to join you. Lastly, remember that taking risks can bring positive impact. Not taking risks just leaves you with regret.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Dorothy Counts-Scoggins


Andrew Valenski

Andrew is breaking ground in government transparency by developing apps for the city of Charlotte. He’s also the youngest professor on staff at Queens University of Charlotte, capturing geology students’ attention by dismantling an iPhone at his desk.

Title: Geographic Information Systems Administrator at the City of Charlotte and Adjunct Professor at Queen’s University of Charlotte
Age: 23
Neighborhood: Villa Heights
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: FūD at Salud
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Fifth Discipline,” by Peter Senge.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? The most important advice to live by is to be yourself. Embrace your personality, your idiosyncrasies and the way you approach and tackle problems. You’ve always been unique (read: weird) and when you’re allowed to be yourself, both you and those around you are happier – the same holds true in your professional life. Be yourself and you’ll be happy, successful and on the right path.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Scott Griffin, assistant brewer at Legion Brewing; Whitney Schwalm, public health associate for the CDC; and Alicia Thomas, cofounder of Work For Your Beer.


Hilary Burns

Hilary is dominating two of the most important coverage areas in Charlotte — finance and the entrepreneurial scene.

Title: Staff reporter for the Charlotte Business Journal
Age: 24
Neighborhood: Elizabeth
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Sabor
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “On Writing,” by Stephen King.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Don’t stress so much about finding a job. Keep raising your hand for new opportunities. And start drinking coffee.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Erik Spanberg.


Laura Knight Beebe

Laura is the graphic designer behind some of the more memorable campaigns in Charlotte, including the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild push in Raleigh and Mellow Mushroom’s menus. 

Title: Art Director at BooneOakley
Age: 27
Neighborhood: NoDa
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Soul Gastrolounge and Earl’s Grocery
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Hey Whipple Squeeze This,” by Luke Sullivan.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Looking back, everything I went through served a purpose. The mountains and valleys made me who I am today. I am proud of how I carried myself and the level of drive that 21-year-old me had to get to where I am now and where I want to go. I think the advice I would give myself is to let it happen and enjoy the ride. Remember to choose to live in gratefulness for each moment, opportunity and win. Above all do not compare yourself to others who are on chapter 15 when you are only starting chapter 1.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? David Oakley


Joe Bruno

Joe consistently breaks news through social media and has quickly become a leading voice in the Charlotte media scene.

Title: Reporter, WSOC-TV
Age: 25
Neighborhood: Elizabeth
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: TIN Kitchen
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Make Your Bed,” by Admiral William H. McRaven.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Hang in there. Your work is being noticed by the right people.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Toussiant Romain, Mark Becker and Cam Newton


Mellissa Oliver

She’s the woman designing behind the scenes some of Charlotte’s newest urban developments, including 500 East Morehead and New Bern Station Development.

Title: Civil Engineering Designer at LandDesign
Age: 27
Neighborhood: North End
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Suárez Bakery
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” by Don Miguel Ruiz.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Time seems to move faster as you get older. Being angry is precious time wasted. Work hard now and you will thank yourself in the future. Do the best you can and you will never fail. You don’t know it yet but you are about to meet the man of your dreams. Treat him well.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Adrienne Bain, 2018 CREW Charlotte president.


Christina Morita

Christina has gotten her vegan and all natural pastries into some of the most successful coffee shops and studios in the city.

Title: Owner at Whisk + Wood Bakery
Age: 28
Neighborhood: South End
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Tamarind
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Make room for rest, creativity in other arenas, and general balance; finding time for these things doesn’t get easier as the business grows. Make them priorities at the outset!
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Katy and Joe Kindred.


Ashley Morgan

Ashley is making Charlotte a more creative place through her design work. She’s the organizer of Dine & Draw CLT and the creative genius behind things like the Villa Heights Marshmallows shirts.

Title: Sr. Designer at New Media Campaigns
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Villa Heights
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Haberdish
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Manage Your Day to Day,” edited by Jocelyn K. Glei.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Always make time for yourself and personal projects – it’s the only way you’ll grow and get where you want to be.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Garrett Tichy of Hygge coworking.


Meggie Williams

Meggie saw a hole in Charlotte’s booming pet market and built a tech-driven, scalable startup to fill it.

Title: Co-Founder, The Waggle Company
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Fourth Ward
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Miguel’s
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Smart People Should Build Things,” by Andrew Yang.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? I would tell her to learn as much as you can about everything you can. Very few things are permanent, and that’s okay. Make friends with the people you admire. Value experiences over things. Change your mind sometimes. Play a lot. Listen well, be confident, and keep hustling. At the end of the day, it’s your story – write it how you want to.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Chris Halligan of Payzer, Haley Bohon of SkillPop, Dan D’Aquisto & Alex Smereczniak of 2ULaundry, Scott Wooten of 704 Shop, Garrett Tichy of Hygge, Corri Smith of BW Social, and Lisa Ganderson of The Wed Clique.


Ashley Bookout

Ashley ditched the corporate life to build a business and has scored big contracts to serve South End apartments with her flower arrangements.

Title: Owner and Founder of Bookout Blooms
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Portofino’s
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Settle For More,” by Megyn Kelly
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Be open to the power of positive thinking.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Jacinda Jacobs


Aishwarya Reddy Bhagwandass

Aishwarya has been nationally recognized for her research, won teaching awards and played a major role in decreasing C-section rates in Charlotte.

Title: Physician at Novant Health Huntersville OB / GYN
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Chaupaati
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Namesake,” by Jhumpa Lahiri.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Be present and worry less. Most of the things that you worry about will never come to pass. Except for skiing – stay away from that. All that time spent at Kumon when you were little did not prepare you for high-speed sports.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Dr. Maureen Beurskens of Charlotte OB / GYN


Brian Seymour

Brian has become a go-to contractor for big-ticket renovations in the Carmel, Foxcroft and Myers Park neighborhoods.

Title: Owner/Project Manager at Seymour Construction
Age: 29
Neighborhood: SouthPark
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Lebowski’s Neighborhood Grill
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Last Lecture,” by Randy Pausch
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Real-world, hands on experience is key. The knowledge you learn working in the field, through experiences, and by developing a strong relationship with a well-seasoned mentor, was just as important, if not better than your education.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? David Odom


Clifford Blanquicet Jr.

Clifford has built a name for himself in the booming Charlotte commercial real estate market. He’s been “One to Watch” from the Charlotte Region Commerical Board of Realtors.

Title: President of Blanq Real Estate & Property Management/BlanqCanvass CoWork
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Province Greene
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Savor Cafe
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” by Robert Kiyosaki.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Buy real estate as soon as possible and find multiple ways to make residual income. Also, be confident and the hardest worker in the room, that is the key to success at a young age and to being a leader.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Johnny Harris


Brian Mister

Brian is a catalyst for the Charlotte fitness community. He founded the NoDa Running Club, an ultra-popular group that set of a torrent of new athletic endeavors at Charlotte’s beverage hotspots. 

Title: Marketing Director of Run For Your Life and the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Madison Park
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: NoDa Bodega
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Support Local. Good things will come to you and the community you love and will be living in for years to come.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Blair Primis, VP of marketing at OrthoCarolina.


Josh Norris

Josh left the financial world to start a juice company from scratch. He’s since expanded it to two locations (and soon to be a third). 

Title: Chief Juice Guru at Green Brothers Juice Co.
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Madison Park
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Luna’s, Haberdish and Cabo Fish Taco.
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Tools of Titans,” by Tim Ferris.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? If you aren’t excited to get out of bed in the morning, you’re doing life wrong. Oh, and “you’re surprisingly fertile.” #ilovemy2kids
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? My dad.


Pressly Williams

Pressly is the workhorse behind one of the Charlotte area’s most historic establishments — and is one of the best resources for beginning gardeners in the city.

Title: Farm Manager, Renfrow Farms & Renfrow Hardware
Age: 26
Neighborhood: Downtown Matthews
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: New Zealand Cafe
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “If: What do I Know of Calvary Love?” by Amy Carmichael
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Though the world wants to tell you otherwise, no self-centered accomplishment in life is going to satisfy you, even if it is a good, well-deserved accomplishment. Jesus, the greatest leader this world has received and will ever know, came to serve, and not to be served. Read your Bible often, as its words will never fail to direct you to Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Pay no heed to the world’s pressures, standards, or expectations, but instead seek to love and serve others as you are called by God to do.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? David Blackley, my father, mentor, boss and friend.


Ghada Ternanni

Ghada is a member of a highly selective line of business and a primary connector of two of Charlotte’s most important institutions: UNC Charlotte and Bank of America.

Title: Finance Management Analyst at Bank of America
Age: 23
Neighborhood: Ballantyne
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Kabab – Je Rotisserie & Grille
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Young Leaders 3.0: Stories, Insights, and Tips for Next-Generation Achievers,” by Jason L. Ma.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Stop obsessing over what exam is coming up next. It’s taking a physical toll on you – just relax and do something for you. Your 20s will be covered in eraser mark and revisions. Don’t forget you’re under construction…really…your brain isn’t fully developed until you’re at least 25, so turn those mistakes into lessons. Also, please take care of yourself – start actually putting yourself to bed and give yourself 7 hours of sleep. You’re not invincible.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Cathy Bessant, chief technology and operations officer at Bank of America.


Nakai Richardson

Nakai is one of Charlotte’s biggest boosters and widely recognized as a person to watch in the city’s real estate industry.

Title: The Queen City Realtor
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Uptown
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Sports One
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Find out what it is that you have to offer that no one else does and zero in on that. If we all believed that we had a skill or asset that was unique to us as an individual we would work twice as hard to bring it to light. I’m thankful that I found my passion in real estate, and I know that nobody can do it like me.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? CMPD Detective Garry McFadden.

Header photo courtesy of Tempt the Arrow via Instagram

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