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Charlotte is a boomtown, growing and changing daily.

In the middle of it all, young people are leaving their marks on the city like never before.

For the third 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, politicos, fitness moguls, builders and business people.

 
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Meet the Charlotte Agenda 30 Under 30 Class of 2018

The 2018 Class

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  • Natalia Diez-Singerman
  • Jennifer Ugland
  • Jarron Thomas
  • Tucker Harris
  • Jordan T. McGee
  • Jillian Frein
  • Aislinn Smith
  • Kate Colston
  • Roy Brown
  • Katie Schafer
  • Jessica Stalker
  • Daniel Cassidy
  • Duncan Littlefield
  • Matt Kearns
  • Courtney Ballard
  • Brett Patterson
  • Mallen Urso Bruggeman
  • Micheal L. Littlejohn Jr.
  • Katie Grissom
  • KJ VanDerwerken
  • Anup Y. Patel
  • Eileen Klaiklung
  • Lesa M. Tyson
  • Callie Wamsley
  • Khalia Braswell
  • Thomas Kraft
  • Joni Deutsch
  • Glo Merriweather
  • Andrew Blumenthal
  • Tim Griffin
Natalia Diez-Singerman

Natalia Diez-Singerman

Natalia has done more than any local politico under 30 to get women elected to political office. She’s worked for U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, led campaigns for Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt and Rep. Mary Belk, and helped produce the first Spanish language television campaign ad in the history of Charlotte.

Title: Principal, Into Office Political Consulting
Age: 27
Neighborhood: South Charlotte
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: CO (the pork belly buns are the best)
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power,” by Eric Garton and Michael C. Mankins
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Recognize the value of your work and never be afraid to stand up for it, even when people are trying to convince you otherwise. Make friends with people who are smarter than you. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something, it’s OK to not know. And for the love of God, learn to say no.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Johnelle Causwell at International House

Jennifer Ugland

Jennifer Ugland

Jennifer started by creating a home-based business making handbags that fit NFL stadium rules, and grew it into a powerful national e-commerce brand.

Title: Owner and designer of POLICY Handbags
Age: 30
Neighborhood: Chantilly/Plaza Midwood
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Dine in: Soul Gastrolounge. Take-out: Intermezzo. Bar bites: Providence Road Sundries
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties,” by Beth Kobliner
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Be proactive and don’t wait around for someone else to bring your ideas to life. Stick with your goals, success doesn’t happen overnight. No one is you, and that is your power.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Dr. David Ugland, my dad

Jarron Thomas

Jarron Thomas

While rising to VP at Charlotte’s big bank, Jarron has also become a volunteer leader in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and created a nonprofit to help kids get exposed to science, technology, engineering and math.

Title: VP of fraud strategy at Bank of America and founder of the Jump Institute
Age: 28
Neighborhood: FreeMoreWest
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Blue Taj
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Icarus Deception,” by Seth Godin
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Travel, travel, travel — far and wide, and don’t be afraid to go alone because that’s when you’ll learn the most about yourself. Take calculated risks and in doing so accept that perfection is unattainable so simply trust the process, YOUR process. The process is the best part, and there won’t be some finish line that you’re able to cross and take a deep sigh of relief. Your work will never be done, but as long as the work serves your purpose and shares your gift with the world it really isn’t work at all.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Lenny Springs

Tucker Harris

Tucker Harris

Tucker is helping to build some of the Carolinas’ most impressive new projects, including two Red Ventures buildings. Choate Construction was named the Engineering New-Record’s Southeast Contractor of the Year.

Title: Project superintendent at Choate Construction
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Soul Gastrolounge
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “How I Built This,” with Guy Raz on NPR (I know, I know, not a book)
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Actively listen to those who have been there before you. Be proactive, not reactive. Develop relationships, not power. Be a leader, not a boss.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Dave Priester, along with the other Choate employees with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work. 

Jordan T. McGee

Jordan T. McGee

Jordan is leaving his mark on Charlotte’s style and culture while modernizing the real estate broker business.

Title: Brand ambassador and Realtor at Allen Tate
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Myers Park
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: BrickTop’s
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Person and the Situation,” by Lee Ross and Richard Nesbitt
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? This decade will be filled with trials and tribulations, and will transform you. What seems ‘monumental’ in a moment will often wind up being inconsequential, so remember to keep a cool head, listen to your intuition, and never take your eyes off of the prize. Above all else, tenacity is going to be the key to achieving your goals. Don’t be afraid. Embrace the process. Trust in G-d. Make it happen. Stay grateful.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Chris Epstein, president of BECO South & Midwest.

Jillian Frein

Jillian Frein

Jillian has built a powerful activewear and fitness brand with a healthy dose of empowerment and 181,000+ followers on Instagram.

Title: CEO at LikeAGirlFitness
Age: 23
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Stagioni
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Girl Boss,” by Sophia Amoruso
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? I’m constantly inspired by others success. Especially self-propelled entrepreneurs as a whole and women in general. I know if they can do it, I can too. 

Aislinn Smith

Aislinn Smith

Aislinn has more than 3 million square feet of construction work to her credit and is deeply involved in community work.

Title: Project manager at Balfour Beatty Construction
Age: 30
Neighborhood: Madison Park
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Belle Acres
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? First and foremost, stay humble – it will serve you well! Take (calculated) risks and don’t limit your dreams. Never miss a chance to smile and say hi to a stranger, it may be the highlight of their day. Mean it when you ask someone how they are doing, and truly listen to their response. Take time to do the things that make you happy.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Of course, my father! In a close second, Bob Dooley (“BD”) is a leader whose example I’d love to follow. BD is the epitome of leading with humility and a passion for doing right by our people and our clients.

Kate Colston

Kate Colston

Kate has built a fitness movement from scratch in NoDa and Lake Norman.

Title: Owner, creator and head trainer at CORE•OLOGY 
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Villa Heights/NoDa
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Del Frisco’s Grille
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? I would remind myself to live in the moment, to remember your purpose/your WHY, to keep crossing off items on your bucket list, and learn from each and every person that comes into your life. Everything in life happens for a reason, and it is up to you to recognize the opportunities and lessons that each experience provides.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? I look up to leaders like Jenny Cunningham and Tony Santoro who impact and connect the Charlotte community. I also value role models like Chase Colston, Jamie Cooper, and Melissa Braun, who believe no task is too tall and exemplify that your dreams can become a reality.

Roy Brown

Roy Brown

Roy is dominating the airwaves at one of the city’s top radio shows and making an impact through community work.

Title: Morning show host, Kiss 95.1
Age: 26
Neighborhood: South End
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Ru Ru’s Taco & Tequila
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Listen more. Take time to learn as much as you can. The more you can do, the more of an asset you’ll be. Also start financially planning for your future. It’s easy to rack up debt in your 20s when in reality you should be focusing on becoming debt free.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Garry McFadden

Katie Schafer

Katie Schafer

Katie is responsible for tax compliance for 220+ businesses and assets valued at over $1 billion, and also serves on the board of the Dowd YMCA.

Title: Assistant Corporate Controller at Childress Klein
Age: 27
Neighborhood: South End
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Dilworth Tasting Room
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Happiness Advantage,” by Shawn Achor
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Your social relationships are the single greatest investment you can make. Take the time to surround yourself with a social support system that will push you, physically, mentally and emotionally, to be the best version of yourself. These individuals will be your biggest assets and advocates as you progress through every aspect of life.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Robin Turner

Jessica Stalker

Jessica Stalker

Jessica rose quickly from an intern to the board of directors at Enventys Partners, leading a team of 9.

Title: Director, Startup Marketing at Enventys Partners
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Madison Park
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Portofino’s
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? For you: “StrengthsFinder,” by Tom Rath. For your business: “Traction,” by Gino Wickman.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Don’t be afraid to take what you want, and definitely don’t wait around for someone to give it to you. If you work your ass off, it’ll pay off.

Daniel Cassidy

Daniel Cassidy

Daniel is building America’s next big-league sport — and a new entry into the 2020 Olympic games.

Title: Chief Executive Officer at Major League Triathlon
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Olde Providence
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: The Porter’s House
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Shoe Dog,” by Phil Knight
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Surround yourself with positive people. People are always going to question decisions, ideas, etc. Be confident in yourself and make sure your team believes in the concept as much as you do and has the knowledge and work ethic to elevate the company to the next level.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Johnny Harris

Duncan Littlefield

Duncan Littlefield

Duncan is leaving his mark as a creative and passionate videographer running digital content for powerful brands.

Title: CEO of The Littlefield Company and co-owner of bloc.
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Plaza Midwood
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Lang Van Vietnamese Restaurant
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? I really only read the first 50 pages and then execute on what I took away. But the first 50 pages of “Originals” by Adam Grant are great.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Remember the last scene in 8 Mile? Eminem used self-awareness as an avenue to speak up, disrupt the norm, and thus became a leader. So, fight the obvious. Disrupt the normal. Creativity is the ability to be able to believe in the way you see the world so much that you actually create an art form out of it, and then do a 180 on the industry. Be your DNA, the unique and the beautiful. Creativity is an infinite resource. So Dunc, don’t be flashy, be creative, be your DNA, love to fail, experience, adapt, and just go to work. That’s the game.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Garrett Tichy, Kent Youngstrom and Stuart Brauer

Matt Kearns

Matt Kearns

Matt is driving urban infill development in Charlotte, including 5+ townhome projects in the past two years in neighborhoods like NoDa, Plaza Midwood and Seversville.

Title: Land acquisition manager at Shea Homes
Age: 27
Neighborhood: South Charlotte
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Cabo Fish Taco
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Big Short,” by Michael Lewis
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Ask questions. It’s better to ask the question and maybe look stupid, than to not ask the question and stay stupid.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Mike, John, Gil and Ed Shea

Courtney Ballard

Courtney Ballard

Courtney is leading the city’s young attorneys in community service work, including a wills clinic for Habitat for Humanity.

Title: Associate attorney at Smith Horton Law P.L.L.C.
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Chantilly
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: 300 East
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Happiness Project,” by Gretchen Rubin
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Travel. Many of life’s greatest lessons I learned traveling abroad. Experiencing different cultures profoundly shaped and broadened my perspective of others and the world.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Heather Culp, past president of the Mecklenburg County Bar

Brett Patterson

Brett Patterson

Brett hasn’t let a debilitating stroke derail him, and he now advocates for young stroke victims across the country.

Title: Project manager, JLL
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Myers Park
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Ru San’s
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? Value family and friendships. You don’t know how important they are until you need them most. 
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Deedee Hagner, founder of Behailu

Mallen Urso Bruggeman

Mallen Urso Bruggeman

Mallen assists in managing the money of Charlotte’s leaders and bankers while working tirelessly on philanthropic endeavors.

Title: Director, Auctus Advisors
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Starmount
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Good Food on Montford
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Defining Decade — Why Your Twenties Matter,” by Meg Jay
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Find a mentor! Seek out people you aspire to become. You will be surprised how meaningful a simple conversation can be when you are faced with tough choices or have big changes on the horizon.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Greg Olsen. As a part of Auctus Advisor’s charitable arm, #AuctusGives, we support Greg Olsen’s foundation, The Heartest Yard. Greg does a remarkable job of balancing family, career, and charity and truly pouring love into our community. We’re lucky to have Greg in Charlotte!

Micheal L. Littlejohn Jr.

Micheal L. Littlejohn Jr.

Micheal is inspiring the next generation of young minority students to become lawyers. 

Title: Owner of Littlejohn Law, PLLC
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Seversville
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Seoul Food Meat Co. 
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights,” by Joseph Mosnier and Richard A. Rosen
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Adversity will come at every new stage of life. You will learn to welcome it with open arms and thrive at its every strike. Be happy when it arrives because I promise a blessing is right around the corner.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? James “Fergie” Ferguson II, Geraldine Sumter and Jake Sussman

Katie Grissom

Katie Grissom

As Charlotte booms, Katie is bringing in the hot new restaurants and retailers filling all the new developments. She’s the youngest director at her company and responsible for landing Jeni’s Ice Cream, Flower Child, and Superica.

Title: Director of Merchandising and Leasing at Asana Partners
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: YAFO Kitchen, Zen Fusion and The Stanley
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Principles,” by Ray Dalio
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? First, the harsh truth – Don’t give up on the hard things. Accept that only grit and humility will provide you the willingness and stamina to plow through the tough times, tough jobs, and tough relationships. You are strong. Second, some advice – Build relationships and create a network, don’t just focus on your paycheck or title. Always try to connect with someone new, someone older, someone wiser. This will pay off. And finally, a little inspiration – Life isn’t about perfection. Your 20’s are about the process; creating the building blocks to be successful for life. Find your strengths, your passions, your priorities – make an outline of your goals. It won’t be perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. You just have to start.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Laura Vinroot Poole of Capitol, Poole Shop and Tabor

KJ VanDerwerken

KJ VanDerwerken

KJ is a widely respected rising star at one of the Charlotte area’s brightest startup success stories. He’s now managing a $2.5 million book of business spanning more than 2,500 customers. 

Title: Account executive at Movement Insurance and owner of VanDerwerken Properties
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Ballantyne
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Stagioni
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Influence,” by Robert B. Cialdini
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Find out what makes you genuinely happy. Determine the life you want to live every day and go all in to get it. Effort is one variable we all have control over. Surround yourself with positive people. Prospective and gratitude are everything. Stay hungry and stay humble.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Casey Crawford, co-founder and CEO of Movement Mortgage and founder of the nonprofit Movement Foundation

Anup Y. Patel

Anup Y. Patel

Anup has developed two exceptional hotels in Ballantyne and has another in the works for SouthPark.

Title: Partner at Tara Investments 
Age: 29
Neighborhood: Ballantyne
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Pizzeria Omaggio
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Don’t take yourself too seriously and go with your gut.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Smoky Bissell

Eileen Klaiklung

Eileen Klaiklung

Eileen is building the tech and design community in Charlotte and making it more accessible through the monthly Charlotte UX meetup and the quarterly FusionConf low-cost tech conference at Camp North End.

Title: Senior UX architect at CapTech Consulting
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Eastway Park
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Seoul Food Meat Company (They have a mini dog park!)
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind,” by Jocelyn K. Glei
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Believe and invest in yourself. Learn new things, do the work and determine your own success story. Self-doubt is natural, but you shouldn’t let fear get in the way of becoming the person you want to be.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Berman Painter at EY and Katie Levans Loveluck at Charlotte Agenda

Lesa M. Tyson

Lesa M. Tyson

Lesa is driving dollars to minority-owned businesses and founded Charlotte’s Black Owned Bar Crawl.

Title: CEO of Craft House Agency 
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Elizabeth
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Angeline’s
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Suble Art Of Not Giving A F*ck,” by Mark Manson
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Do more for yourself.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Dr. Keith Cradle

Callie Wamsley

Callie Wamsley

Callie is a key player behind the openings of Charlotte’s hottest restaurants and stores, including Bulla Gastrobar, Undercurrent Coffee, and Life Time Athletic Charlotte.

Title: Account executive at M-Squared Public Relations
Age: 26
Neighborhood: FreeMoreWest
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Pacos Tacos & Tequila
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Everybody Always,” by Bob Goff
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Pursue people — pursue their knowledge, pursue their stories, pursue their experiences — but pursue them in love. Also, the best is yet to come, so take it one day at a time and find joy in the little things. 
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Kay Carter, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina

Khalia Braswell

Khalia Braswell

Khalia is a computer engineer and former user experience engineer at Apple who is now reaching hundreds of African-American girls with programs around learning to code.

Title: Executive director of INTech Foundation, Inc.
Age: 27
Neighborhood: Northlake
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Viva Chicken
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Don’t second-guess yourself; you have what it takes.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Sherrell Dorsey

Thomas Kraft

Thomas Kraft

Thomas has been a key figure in building a rapidly growing multimillion dollar startup.

Title: Co-Founder, VP of Engineering as Stratifyd
Age: 28
Neighborhood: First Ward
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Fin & Fino
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Don’t be afraid of failure, for failure leads to growth. How you cope with failure speaks much more to your character, than how you celebrate your successes. Have faith, keep trying, and learn from your past mistakes.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Bill Ribarsky and Derek Wang

Joni Deutsch

Joni Deutsch

Joni is becoming known as the “Sarah Koenig of Charlotte” for her multiple podcast series arriving to rave reviews. 

Title: Podcast producer/host for WFAE 90.7 FM (Charlotte’s NPR news source)
Age: 26
Neighborhood: Uptown
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Cowfish
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Keep an open mind about everything. Meet new people, listen to different types of music, learn about the world around you. The possibilities for growth and connection are endless.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Hope Nicholls, a Charlotte rock music leader.

Glo Merriweather

Glo Merriweather

Two years after the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott, Glo is leading the charge in holding Charlotte leaders accountable for the changes they’ve promised.

Title: Community organizer
Age: 26
Neighborhood: East Charlotte
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Mangos in NoDa
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? I would tell myself to worry less and to be more grounded in my power and spirit. Everything happens in time. This Earth continues to host and take care of those who take care of her and her children. Do that, and you will be fine.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? I look up to Cat Bao Le and Myka T. Johnson.

Andrew Blumenthal

Andrew Blumenthal

Andrew is connected in his day job and making a huge impact in the political arena as well. He’s helped local candidates fundraise and made a mark as an environmental activist.

Title: Commercial real estate broker and investment advisor
Age: 28
Neighborhood: Dilworth
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Fig Tree
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? Anything to clear your mind at the end of the day (I prefer a Dan Brown novel).
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Set and pursue achievable short and long-term goals and never stop learning.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Hugh McColl and Herman Blumenthal, my grandfather.

Tim Griffin

Tim Griffin

Tim is bringing Starbucks-level service to Charlotte businesses like Suffolk Punch and South End Grind through an app that lets people order by smartphone. Scores of shops across the U.S. are now on the platform.

Title: Founder, CEO at Cloosiv
Age: 28
Neighborhood: South End
Favorite Charlotte restaurant: Good Food on Montford
What book do you recommend to other young leaders? “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” by Robert Pirsig.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? Jump faster.
What local Charlotte leader do you look up to? Navid Ahdieh, managing director at North Highland

 

Obsessed with Charlotte talent?

Check out our 30 Under 30 Class of 2017 here and our inaugural 30 under 30 Class of 2016 here.

Get a head start on next year's 30 Under 30 awards and nominate a young, talented Charlottean here.

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