Here’s what 15 Charlotte sports industry executives were doing at age 25

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Charlotte is home to a massive sports industry that flies largely under the radar.

Everyone knows about the teams like the Panthers and Hornets, but few know about the media organizations, marketing agencies, facilities and corporate sponsors that number in the hundreds in Charlotte.

Charlotte Sports+Business is a networking organization started by a group of people who are working hard to create a sense of community among those hundreds of companies who employ some pretty dynamic individuals, including the ones below.

Here is a quick sampling at some of the current and future leaders of the Charlotte sports industry, as well as what they were doing and where they were doing it when they were 25 years old.

Michaelina Antahades


via LinkedIn

Title: Group Sales Manager, NASCAR Hall of Fame

Location at age 25: Charlotte, NC – freshly back from grad school at East Carolina University

At age 25: “Armed with 2 fresh graduate degrees I was feverishly applying to any and all “big girl” career jobs possible. I knew I wanted to be in Charlotte and was casting a wide net for job descriptions I felt remotely qualified for. Come to find out I was over educated and underqualified for almost everything. In between interviews I worked four part-time jobs and baby/house/pet sat for income. I also volunteered on an industry committee and with my church. At the time I felt so behind the curve as all my other friends were settled in careers. I was exhausted from the roller-coaster of having great interviews then chasing down a “no” but my mantra was “it just takes one yes” which kept me going. My roommate at the time was in the same boat, which made for a great support system. When we look back on 25 now we realized we ended up making some of our best memories together paving the way to our careers.”

Tera Black


via LinkedIn

Title: COO, Charlotte Checkers

Location at age 25: San Diego, CA

At age 25: “I was working for North American Roller Hockey Championships and finishing up my degree. I worked full time for a RHI team in Sacramento prior to that while going to school. I had to travel a lot, so my degree took a little longer than the standard. NARCh was based in San Diego so I was able to do both. It was a fantastic job. I was in a different city, in a different state or province every other week, running hockey tournaments. I graduated from San Diego State University eventually and by 2001 I had been hired by the San Diego Gulls. I knew, even at 25 I was lucky to have landed in hockey. I have now been in this great game for 22 years and am amazed still, how much those early days truly paved the way to where I am today.”

Mike Boykin


via LinkedIn

Title: CEO, Bespoke Sports & Entertainment

Location at 25: Ohio University and St. Louis

At age 25: “I graduated from Ohio University’s Sports Administration program, married my wife Kim, and landed a job as event coordinator at the St. Louis Checkerdome. My first event was the U.S. vs Sweden Davis Cup and our 100 hour work weeks included promotion, PR and event planning. We sold tickets calling down the phone book while in a boiler room in the basement – I think I won a boom box and St. Louis Blues pennant. The actual event was legendary and featured a six-hour match between John McEnroe vs Mats Wilander. I remember McEnroe being very nice to all of our staff. I also remember taking the Swedish team to a large festival in St Louis where the BEachboys were playing…their entire team knew all of the Beachboy songs and they played guitar on their tennis rackets.  The rest of the year was full of all types of events and my boss Charlie Mancuso pushed me constantly…I was very lucky!”

Jaime Cardenas


via LinkedIn

Title: CEO, AC&M Group

Location at age 25: Winston-Salem, NC

At age 25: “At 25 a great deal of life-changing events happened for me. First and most important, I got married and my wife and I moved to the U.S. from Mexico right after the wedding. I went from being the Industrial Engineer at a 500-person apparel manufacturing plant in Mexico to Supply Chain Analyst in Hanesbrands’ headquarters in NC. Also, I started the evening MBA program at Wake Forest University. At that time, I had no idea my MBA would lead me to a career change in marketing, much less into sports marketing six years later when I did my first soccer activation project. The decisions I made at 25 had a lot to do with who I am and where I am today.”

Imani Clenance


via LinkedIn

Title: Sponsorships Account Manager, Carolina Panthers

Location at 25: Charlotte, NC

At age 25: “At 25 I was finishing up my MBA at UNC Charlotte by doing a full-time internship at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. This was during their grand opening process, so it was a really exciting time. I took a couple of post-graduation trips and focused on finding a job, which was a taller task than I anticipated. Life at 25 was filled with a lot of networking events, job applications, resume editing, and cover letter writing. I felt that I needed to create something for myself, so I started a (now-defunct) sports blog. It was a great outlet, and it opened a lot of doors to connect me with new people.”

Kyle Caddell


via LinkedIn

Title: VP/Corporate Partnerships, Charlotte Hornets

Location at age 25: Charlotte, NC

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “I was working for Ryerson Steel as an Inside Sales Rep. It was a great first job, but I also knew that it was not what I wanted to do long term. My wife and I were engaged and were getting married in April of that year. Through a family friend, I got an opportunity to go to work for the flagship station of the Tar Heel Sports Network, WCHL in Chapel Hill. My job was to sell local radio advertising and, as a bonus, I got to co-host the pregame football and basketball shows for all Carolina football and basketball games. For someone who bleeds Carolina blue that was as good as it got! It also gave me an opportunity to get some exceptional sales training from a company that was legendary for it- The Village Companies in Chapel Hill. It was a great time for both my wife and I living in Chapel Hill. It also gave me a chance to later go to work for the Tar Heel Sports Network and gain very valuable experience in the Sports Marketing field. I was blessed to meet some fantastic people and begin building a network of experiences and contacts in sports business.”

Nichelle Levy


via LinkedIn

Title: Senior Counsel, Digital & Privacy Data, Legal at NASCAR Digital Media, LLC

Location at 25: Chicago, IL

Job at 25: Research Analyst at Leo Burnett

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “I was pursuing my dream of working in a creative industry by starting out in advertising.  Professionally, I spent a lot of time traveling to research facilities around the country discussing our clients’ advertising with consumers and figuring out what it meant to them and what they liked about it. Personally I was devoted to helping to found a non-profit called “Imani for Somalia,” which raised funds for famine relief in Somalia by throwing a big New Year’s Eve party.  This was also a time when I began to adhere to the philosophy of saying “yes” to new opportunities as they were presented, which led to me moving to New York City to begin a new chapter in my life the very next year.”

Kym Hougham


via LinkedIn

Title: Executive Director, Wells Fargo Championship

Location at age 25: Davenport, IA

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “Showing my age here but it was 1978, I went to work for the family insurance agency out of college due to a severe health issue with my father making $18,000 per year.  I was pretty much in over my head, but what a great way to learn a business, a real baptism by fire!  I bought my first house for $49,500 and the interest rate was 11.8%, and that turned out to be a great rate for the next 5 years.  Oh my how things have changed.”

Jerrold Kinney


via LinkedIn

Title: Marketing Program Manager, Wells Fargo

Location at 25: Charlotte – east side!

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “I was still in my first job after college, working for an online brokerage firm and I still had a “college” mentality. The most important things to me was getting a paycheck and using said paycheck to buy beer, vodka, and entertaining the ladies. I didn’t give much thought about the future or what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was living for the moment.  Thinking back on it, I probably should have been more forward thinking, but what’s the fun in that?”

Wade Leaphart


via LinkedIn

Title: Chief Revenue Officer, Charlotte Independence

Location at age 25: Salt Lake City, UT

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: After working a few seasons at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, I got a “real job” at Sprung Instant Structures where I handled sales for a 6-state territory. It was a great opportunity to explore and learn. I tried to tie in a National Park visit or something similar when out and about. Personally, I spent the majority of my free time playing outside – skiing and hiking. Loved hanging out at Bar-X and Hog Wallow

Abe Madkour


via LinkedIn

Title: Executive Editor, SportsBusiness Journal/Daily/Global

Location at 25: Washington, DC

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “I was working three jobs while living on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, with two other roommates as we fought off roaches and rats in a grungy townhouse. The rent fit, about $200 a month, and it allowed me to take on low paying gigs for the Washington Bullets and Baltimore Orioles while also working for U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.  I learned about the long hours of working for a sports team, how to handle and get along with big personalities and the dangers of eating free food in the press room.  The more I learned about the sports business, the more I enjoyed it and realized I could make a difference. Eight weeks before my 26th birthday, I was among the initial hires at a start-up called Sports Business Daily, where I’ve been ever since.”

Corinne Milien


via LinkedIn

Title: Event Supervisor, ESPN Events

Location at age 25: Knoxville, TN, and Charlotte, NC

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “I was finishing up my masters in Sport Management at the University of Tennessee and wrapping up my final year as the graduate assistant for women’s basketball under the legendary Pat Summitt. Later that year I was beginning my new role with ESPN Events starting with the 2012 State Farm Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome. I was also moving into an apartment for the first time that was not provided and/or fully furnished since I went back to college as a veteran before starting with ESPN.  This was my introduction to working in a corporate setting which was a real transition for me.”

Jacqie McWilliams


via LinkedIn

Title: Commissioner, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA)

Location at age 25: Richmond, VA

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “I was the Compliance Coordinator, Head Women’s Volleyball Coach, Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach, and Senior Woman Administrator at Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA. It was my first entry into a full-time position in intercollegiate athletics.  VUU provided me exposure to all areas of athletics under the leadership of Athletic Director and CIAA Hall Famer, James Battle. Outside of recruiting and coaching women, many who I am still connected to, I coached with the men’s basketball team in my last year. I worked with some of the greatest basketball athletes in the CIAA such as Ben Wallace, former NBA player, and Jay Butler, current Panthers head coach. This coaching tenure was under the leadership of one of the most well renowned coaches in the country, Dave Robbins.”

Judy Rose


via Nancy Pierce

Title: Director of Athletics, Charlotte 49ers

Location at age 25: Charlotte, NC

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “I was the Head Women’s Basketball Coach; Head Women’s tennis Coach; Lecturer in Physical Education Department; Coordinator of Women’s Athletics…all at UNC Charlotte. My dream job was to be a college basketball coach.  I agreed to do all of the jobs listed so that I could also be able to fulfill my dream of coaching basketball. Thankfully Title IX provided the opportunity and I kind of viewed it (assuming all the other roles) as paying my dues. And it certainly paid off for me. Without all that early experience, I probably would not be in the role I have today.”

Mike Solarte


via LinkedIn

Title: Sports Director, Time Warner Cable News-North Carolina

Location at 25: Lubbock, TX

What I was doing professionally and personally at age 25: “I was in the 2nd year of my career, working as the weekend sports anchor for KAMC-TV in Lubbock, Texas.  I was trying to learn anything and everything about being a sportscaster from anyone who would teach me.  I had a tremendous mentor, Bill Seitzler, who was patient through my mistakes, and positive in my successes.  And while that was going on, I was a young father to my daughter. A lot on my plate at the time, but those responsibilities shaped me into who I am today.”

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