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Columbia Business Monthly

Columbia Business Monthly Best & Brightest 35 and Under

2020 Columbia Business Monthly's Best and Brightest 35 and Under Celebration!

Now in its fifth year, our annual Best & Brightest 35 and Under issue celebrates the women and men who are rising stars in the business community.

Even though they have many more years in the workplace, these Best & Brightest have made an impact at their businesses and in our community.

We applaud their business successes and their achievements as active members of the community.  

The 2020 Best & Brightest 35 and Under is sponsored by Synovus, Columbia Skin Clinic, Colonial Life, Construction Dynamics, Lizard’s Thicket, Mead & Hunt, Nexsen Pruet and Webster University.

Please join us in saluting these future leaders.


Kinli Abee

Assistant Attorney General-Special Victims Prosecutor

South Carolina Attorney General’s Office

Age: 34

 

Bio: Three years ago, I walked into a middle school classroom and asked the students what they thought my job as a prosecutor was. The main response? “To put people in jail.” I’ve taken every opportunity afforded to me as a prosecutor to change that narrative. It’s my job to do the right thing in every case. That means treating people with respect: victims, witnesses and even defendants - listening to all sides of a case, and speaking for people who can’t find their own voice. 

Working with special victims isn’t an easy job. Everyone can agree that these types of crimes - human trafficking, sexual assault, child abuse - are horrible. But giving back to my community means doing something about it. That doesn’t mean winning. It means helping people who have experienced the unimaginable navigate the justice system and not cause additional damage, regardless of the outcome. Securing the first human trafficking conviction under state law in 2015 was just a launching pad to making connections with communities all over the state.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My most influential mentor is a combination of several people: Rep. Tommy Pope, who taught me to always talk to people like they’re people; my high school chorus teacher Jay Forrest, who taught me how to command a room; my mock trial coach Rob Corbett, who gave me confidence in my abilities; Abel Grey, my legal mentor, who taught me that I can learn how to make myself better from every situation; and my high school cheerleading coach, Christy Cobb, who taught me anything is achievable if you put in the work. 





Heather Allison

Director, Client Management

Colonial Life

Age: 33

 

Bio: I am a proud Clemson University graduate and have been in Columbia since 2010. I began my career at Colonial Life in 2014, and I am currently director of client management. I feel proud to work for a company that is integrated into the community and affords their employees many opportunities to give back.

Over the course of my career I have been fortunate to build relationships with many great mentors. Mentorship has become very important to me and is a way I like to give back to others wanting to develop professionally.

I am a member of the Leadership Columbia Class of 2020, a program that has given me a fresh lens into our city and a new appreciation for our community. I also serve on Shandon Presbyterian’s outreach committee, where I primarily work with Senior Resources and the Meals on Wheels program.

Outside of work and community involvement, you will find me hanging out with my husband, Greg, and our dog, Murphy, doing pretty much anything outdoors. We love to travel and experience new places and people.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Professionally, my dad. I still today call my dad with questions on how to handle certain situations at work.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Don’t sell yourself short. You are capable of more than you know.





Nick Annan

Senior Manager

Elliott Davis

Age: 34

 

Bio: Born and raised in Northern Virginia, I moved south to attend the University of South Carolina. I was an active member of the Carolina Band where I played trumpet, served as a drum major and was initiated as a Brother of Kappa Kappa Psi.

Professionally, I am a CPA and serve as a senior manager and market leader for Elliott Davis Accelerate. My goal is to become a trusted advisor and outsourced CFO for closely held businesses, professional service firms and nonprofit organizations in the Midlands and across the country.

Accounting is my profession, but the arts and mentorship are my passion. With the purpose of developing the next generation of audience and philanthropists, I was a founding member of the SC Philharmonic’s young professional organization. I am a 2020 graduate of Leadership Columbia and a member of the Darla Moore School of Business Young Alumni Board, where I am able to invest in the next generation of business leaders. In my free time, I enjoy playing trumpet around town in bands, orchestras, and even the occasional wedding as well as spending time with my wife, Katie, and 7-month-old son, Noah, who is clearly the best thing to happen in 2020.


What is your favorite quote?:

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.”  - Walt Whitman


This quote encompasses how I try to live my life. Honesty and integrity are the foundation of strong personal and professional relationships, and telling the truth will never lead you down the wrong road. Also, I believe that happiness is decided by one’s disposition, not circumstances.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My high school band director, J.R. Snow.





Suzanne Apgar

Assistant General Counsel

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina

Age: 31

Bio: Prior to moving to South Carolina, I worked for Pepper Hamilton, a large national law firm, in Princeton, N.J., following my graduation from Villanova University School of Law. I’m proud to work for BCBSSC, one of the largest employers in South Carolina and a company that gives back to the community. As a team captain for BCBSSC’s annual United Way campaign, I was awestruck by the generosity and enthusiasm of our employees, who have given more than $30 million to the United Way of the Midlands over the years.

Recently, I graduated from Leadership Columbia, a Columbia Chamber program designed to identify community leaders and motivate them to action. The Leadership Columbia Class of 2020 completed an interior and exterior renovation for Palmetto Place, which provides housing and hope for youth across South Carolina.

On weekends, I can be found water skiing on Lake Murray with my husband, Philip, or winning blue ribbons at nosework competitions with my toy poodle, Gracie. I look forward to strengthening my roots and continuing to make a positive impact in Columbia.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My father, Stephen Noyes, who taught me to focus on the solution, not the problem.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Finish strong!





Meredith G. Atkinson 

mga marketing

Age: 35


Bio: I was born and raised in Columbia and am proud to call it home. We have so many things to do and see in our little community and it continues to grow every day. My career has been blessed with some really cool positions. I was lucky enough to get a job with Sisters of Charity right out of Clemson. I later worked at Shandon United Methodist Church as their director of youth and college ministries. After three years as the executive director of the Vista Guild, I decided to go out on my own and help small businesses with their marketing. I realized what a need this was for locally owned businesses. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the impact I have helping a business grow and increase their clientele.

If I am not helping my clients promote their businesses, you can find me spending time with my family. This has been the most challenging year, but I am grateful, because this year I welcomed my second daughter on the Fourth of July.

I can’t wait to get back to all the great things our city has to offer. I miss volunteering with the Junior League of Columbia, attending Trenholm United Methodist, serving on local boards and committees and spending time with my friends. I hope the very near future includes a deliciously crafted cocktail surrounded by dear friends and live music. Cheers, Columbia!


Who was your most influential mentor? 

My first job right out of Clemson was with Providence Hospitals, and my coworker and direct report, Tina Gills, immediately took me under her wing and taught me so much. We worked together less than a year, but we became friends and when she left, I was promoted to take her position. I had no idea what I was doing at 22 years old, and she never lost patience with me and was always so supportive and kind. We continue to keep up with each other and I will forever be grateful for her help and guidance.

I also think about my freshman English 102 teacher at Clemson, Allen Swords. He was so different from any other teacher or professor. We studied the Vietnam War in his English class, and somehow it worked. I think that one class taught me how to write, which I had never done much of prior to that semester in college. He would tell you he is a unique individual, but that’s what made his class so great...and there was nothing easy about it!





Sarah Bennett

REALTOR®

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Medley

Age: 32

Bio: As a REALTOR® representing buyers and sellers in the Midlands of South Carolina, I fully appreciate the fact that my clients are trusting me with what is likely their largest financial investment. I don’t take that responsibility lightly. Thanks to my amazing clients, I am the No. 1 producing agent at my brokerage and am fortunate enough to have been voted Best Real Estate Agent in Columbia.

Raised in the Midlands, I attended Winthrop University and completed my real estate license coursework at the Real Estate School of South Carolina. This city has done so much for me over the years and so I feel it is only fitting that I prioritize time in my life to give back. I’m most involved at First Baptist Columbia, our downtown church that feels like a second home and where I’m grateful to be able to serve in multiple ways, including serving as director of a 100-member Sunday school class, choir member, preschool choir instructor and welcome committee member. In between working for my clients, I can be found spending time with my husband (Josh Bennett), two daughters (Emma and Molly) and our mini Aussiedoodle (Bella).


What is your favorite quote?

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  - 1 Corinthians 10:31 

This verse has always been on my business card as a daily reminder of my motivation.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My grandmother, Barbara Baird, has always had a huge influence on my life. She led her life with simple morals: love the Lord, love your family and love your neighbor. She carried herself with grace and compassion for others and was my greatest confidant. Sadly, we lost her last year, but my memories of her and the lessons she taught me will always stay with me.






Joseph Bias

General Counsel

Midlands Technical College

Age: 35

Bio: When I was in eighth grade, I was the kid who talked too much in class. Instead of giving me detention, I had a teacher who encouraged me to participate in mock trial. It was in that program that I realized I wanted to be an attorney, and I was fortunate enough to have educators at Richland Northeast High School, Wofford College and the University of South Carolina School of Law who encouraged me, pushed me and nurtured my love of advocacy and education.

As a lifelong resident of Columbia, I know it was the investment of my community that led to any modicum of success I’ve had, and I’ve enjoyed being able to help educate and encourage the best and brightest of the next generation through my work as general counsel of Midlands Technical College, as a co-host of my legal podcast “Direct Examination” and as a mock trial coach for Richland Northeast High.

I still talk too much, but I’m lucky to have a fiance and a dog that don’t complain too loudly.


What is your favorite quote?

“Act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given to you. Put it another way, fake it ‘til you make it.”  - Leo Bartlett, “The West Wing”


Who was your most influential mentor?

Judge Alison R. Lee


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Don’t be afraid to dream big … you’re more capable than you think.





Jennifer Bowen

Practice Administrator

Columbia Skin Clinic

Age: 34

 

Bio: After graduating from the College of Charleston with a music theory degree and The Citadel with an MBA, I returned home to the Midlands to pursue a career in healthcare administration. I completed an extensive fellowship at Lexington Medical Center, where I discovered how much administrative leadership directly affects clinicians’ abilities to care for their patients. I see my role as a healthcare administrator as a conduit for patient care by providing an optimal environment for clinicians to deliver the best to their patients.

Three years ago, I took a leap of faith into private practice and joined the Columbia Skin Clinic team. Together with the physician partners, we have navigated much change and cemented a strong organization that delivers comprehensive dermatology care across the Midlands.

I am actively involved in the South Carolina Medical Group Managers Association and serve on the executive board for the state. I was honored with Medical Practice Executive of the Year in 2019, have earned the Certified Medical Practice Executive credential and am an alum of Leadership Columbia’s Class of 2020. I am so proud of the work we did as a class for Palmetto Place Children and Youth Services and I look forward to continuing to give back. Outside of work, you can find me cooking, practicing yoga and spending time with my husband and two dogs.


What is your favorite quote?

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”   - Sheryl Sandberg


This is the most beautiful and simple definition of leadership. My work as a leader is making sure that everyone around me can be the best they can be even after I’m gone.


Who was your most influential mentor?

I have had so many mentors and advisors over the years that helped me get to where I am. Picking the most influential is challenging, but my current most influential mentor is AnnMargaret McCraw, CEO at Midlands Orthopedics. Not only does she possess a lot of knowledge about the healthcare industry, but she also exudes a desire to help others learn. She always has time for me and is always willing to share advice, experiences and resources. I hope that I can serve in the same role to someone else in the future.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

There are so many versions of success. Be open minded about what you think your strengths and weaknesses are and don’t be afraid to do the work.





John Bruton

Lawyer

Nexsen Pruet, LLC

Age: 34

 

Bio: Born and raised in Columbia, I am grateful to still call the Midlands home. With all of its nice and talented people, Columbia is a great place to live. It is inspiring to be surrounded by colleagues and friends who are involved in the promotion and success of our community. For the past seven years, I have worked at the Nexsen Pruet law firm with a wonderful team of mentors, colleagues and staff members. Though just a small cog in a large machine, I have been fortunate to work on some major business, corporate and real estate transactions.

Giving back to the community is an important goal. I recently participated in the Leadership Columbia program, which was a great experience that I am proud to have been involved with. Our leadership class had the privilege of assisting Palmetto Place, which provides housing and support to youth who are at-risk for and experiencing homelessness in the Midlands.

My wife and I attend Trinity Episcopal Cathedral located in downtown Columbia. Among other activities, I enjoy playing golf and watching UofSC athletics - go Gamecocks!


What is your favorite quote?

“My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.”   - Winston Churchill


This is my favorite quote because I find it directly relatable.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Dr. Ted DeLaney, history professor at Washington & Lee University


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

As it’s happening, don’t take for granted the UofSC football team’s 11-win seasons during 2011-2013.





Peyton Bryant

Senior Broker & Principal

NAI Columbia

Age: 32

Bio: As a child, I loved riding in the car with my dad. We would occasionally pass buildings that were abandoned or in disrepair. I remember asking why this was the case. Sadly, there was then and remains now no good answer. As an adult, I have tried to find opportunities to solve these problems.

Over the last decade, I have worked to strengthen our community. As a commercial banker, I helped businesses with financing. Now, as a commercial real estate broker, I help identify office and investment properties for companies and individuals. My work has been fulfilling. However, I have also felt a calling to dedicate my time, talents and treasures to nonprofit organizations.

I view my volunteer service with Heathwood Hall, Wake Forest, United Way, Babcock Center, Columbia Chamber and Central SC Alliance as an extension of my efforts to empower others. By working with business leaders and community partners, I hope I am making a difference and glorifying God. “Let us not become weary in doing good[.]” Galatians 6:9.


What is your favorite quote?

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”   

  - Rick Warren, “A Purpose Driven Life”


Humility isn’t just an absence of pride, but rather a mindset for putting others first. My involvement in the community stems from this calling, and I was fortunate that my parents made service to others a priority throughout my childhood. I am a firm believer that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and it is imperative that we give back to a community that has given us so much.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Can I have two? My mom and my wife. You will not meet two more impressive people who show their greatness in how they live, not what they say about themselves.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Slow down and take a deep breath. You are not in control, and everything happens for a reason.





Tony Carimi

Vice President - Private Wealth Advisor

Synovus Bank

Age: 33

 

Bio: In 2009, I graduated from the University of South Carolina. During my time at the university, I developed a strong appreciation for the Midlands, gained important skills to be successful, and made personal and business connections to aid in my development. Since graduation I’ve spent most of my career in banking and financial advising. Working in the financial sector has provided me the knowledge and experience to see firsthand how organizations grow, raise capital and contribute to their local communities.

I am fortunate to work for Synovus Bank, a company whose values align with my goals in contributing to the local community. I serve on the local advisory board for the Midlands Junior Golf Foundation, an organization benefiting First Tee of Columbia, where children are taught values and life skills through the game of golf. I also work to benefit the community by volunteering with Palmetto Place Children’s Home, Harvest Hope Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity.

Outside of work I enjoy traveling and spending time outdoors with my wife, Michelle, and our German Shepherd, Lina. I am honored to be recognized alongside a great group of professionals as part of Columbia Business Monthly’s Best and Brightest 35 and Under.


What is your favorite quote?

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies.”  - Bobby Jones


I can relate to this quote both professionally and personally. Not everything will go as planned, but the challenges that we face will only make us stronger.


Who was your most influential mentor?

It is hard for me to settle on one mentor as I have had several over the years, including coaches, coworkers and peers. I think it is incredibly important to see the perspective of others from all aspects. Using these perspectives has helped me to grow both personally and professionally.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Be patient, stay focused and enjoy the moment.





Kelsey Carter

Cofounder and Executive Director

The Camp Cole Foundation, Inc.

Age: 28 

 

Bio: For me, Columbia’s been home for quite some time. After graduating with honors from the University of South Carolina, having obtained a degree in elementary education, I moved to Dallas. In Texas, I was a third and fourth grade teacher in an extremely low-income community and earned a leadership role as a Content Teacher Leader (CTL) for the district. At the end of my second year teaching, my life drastically changed when my mother passed away from a neurological stroke, which rerouted me back home.

After returning to Columbia, I taught at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School while working to create Camp Cole, a camp for individuals with illnesses and disabilities that is named after my brother, Cole Sawyer, who lost his battle with cancer at age 11 in 2004. In June of 2018, I was able to focus on Camp Cole full-time as the executive director. I have always believed in having a servant’s heart and currently serve as a volunteer for Camp Kemo Programs, Junior Achievement and St. Baldrick’s Foundation.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My most influential mentors are the women who hold leadership positions in my community. I admire the strength of Amanda Harter at Hood Construction, the poise of Sharon Bryant as the executive vice president of First Citizens Bank, the creativity of Christy Davis as the interior designer of Camp Cole and the heart of Deans Fawcett, whose compassion for the Midlands is contagious.





Anika Cobb

Director of Marketing and Communications

Allen University

Age: 29

Bio: I grew up a “military brat,” but all roads led back to Columbia. As a former Miss South Carolina Teen America and proud graduate of Richland County School District 2, I am honored to be on this list.

I am a community cultivator. I believe in the power of community and connectivity. Whether using digital or traditional media, leveraging connectivity to help the organizations I represent put their best face forward is my privilege.

Holding a bachelor’s from Johnson C. Smith University, where I was a United Negro College Fund recipient, and a master’s degree from Purdue University, I hope students look at me and understand they can achieve “All That Can Be Imagined” starting at Allen University. It’s my life’s mission to ensure that young black students control the narrative of their value and understand the value of an HBCU experience.

In my personal life, I’m an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and am dedicated to serving others. I’m intentional about time with my family and friends. “My guys,” fiance Tahjah and son Aiden, ensure life never has a dull moment.


What is your favorite quote?

“Well behaved women rarely make history.”  - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


Who was your most influential mentor?

My most influential mentor would be Dr. Laurie Porter of Charlotte, N.C. Professionally, her dedication to seeing students become successful and her willingness to help create opportunity has never left me, and I implement it with my students by leading by example and being a person of the people to ensure I am approachable enough to be a resource to others. Personally, her authenticity and life lessons ring applicable to my life even to this day.





Caroline Crowder

Program Director

USC Columbia Technology Incubator

Age: 25


Bio: I imagined my service to the University of South Carolina would conclude with serving on the Homecoming Commission, representing and competing in the UofSC Triathlon Club and recolonizing Pi Beta Phi on campus while an undergraduate student. Little did I know, my post-collegiate adventures would further broaden my relationship with UofSC by way of the USC Columbia Technology Incubator and the UofSC Office of Innovation, Industry Partnerships, and Economic Engagement. These two organizations have afforded me the opportunity to represent and develop countless relationships with Midlands-based entrepreneurs who are passionate advocates for cultivating change within an industry or our community at large.

As a relentless supporter of women and minority entrepreneurs, I serve on several boards, including the American Marketing Association Columbia Chapter, diverseIT and R2i2 Advisory Council. I also volunteer my time with SC Women in Leadership.

On the weekends, you can often find me at Soda City Market, day tripping to Folly Beach or Asheville or jet setting out of CAE with ease.

 

What is your favorite quote?

“Closed minds should come with closed mouths.”


Today’s society appears to be more polarized and divided than ever before. I enthusiastically believe everyone should have opinions, but we should also be open to conversations that will stretch, challenge and potentially change those opinions throughout life.





Bryant Davis

Assistant Director of Government and Community Services

Richland County Government

Age: 34

Bio: I was born and raised in Columbia, S.C. I grew up in the Broad River Corridor. I have always wanted to see our communities thrive, so I have invested my time and efforts in communities across the Midlands and more specifically Richland County. I was fortunate enough to graduate from Gardner-Webb University with two degrees (international business and master’s in business administration).

I spent seven years in sports marketing and worked in two collegiate athletic departments, at Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb. I believe one of my biggest accomplishments is being a father to three lovely daughters: Ella, Raelyn and Emoree. My wife Megan helps us hold it all together.

My current work at Richland County has been phenomenal. I have the opportunity to work with organizations, agencies, businesses and neighborhoods all over Richland County. I have gained so much knowledge from working with various boards, councils and committees that will help in my continued growth and maturity through life. I am also a graduate of the Leadership Columbia Class of 2020!


What is your favorite quote?

 “You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.”  - Maya Angelou


Who was your most influential mentor?

Dr. Tony Evans





Mary-Margaret “Maggie” Dittmar

Preconstruction Services

M. B. Kahn Construction Co., Inc.

Age: 29

Bio: After graduating from Erskine College and Clemson University with degrees in physics and engineering, I moved to Columbia to begin my career in engineering. I joined M. B. Kahn Construction’s preconstruction team, where I bring my project management field experience and knowledge of facilities planning and engineering to aid our clients in the successful development of their projects. In M. B. Kahn, I found the ideal partner to support my professional growth and encourage my desire to be involved in the Midlands community.

I am a 2019 graduate of Leadership Columbia and currently serve on their advisory board. I also volunteer as a mentor for ACE (Architecture • Construction • Engineering) of the Midlands, and I am a new member of the Junior League of Columbia and a nursery volunteer at Lexington Presbyterian Church.

My most valued role is wife to my husband Tyler, a Lexington County firefighter, and mom to our two crazy pups, Peter and Piper. Community is important to us both and we enjoy giving back through personal and professional means.

I am honored to receive this recognition and attribute it to all the people who have invested and partnered with me along the way.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Choosing only one is tough, but my sister (Leslie Horton) has unequivocally been my greatest cheerleader, dedicated coach, patient teacher, invested mentor and best friend for the last three decades. As my elder sister by seven years, she went through the major life events first and then guided me through them when my turn came.





David Erbacher 

Director of Sales & Marketing

Hyatt Place Columbia/Downtown/The Vista

Age: 32

Bio: I’m director of sales and marketing of the Hyatt Place Columbia/Downtown/The Vista and have been there since the hotel opened in 2015. I’m a 2010 graduate of the University of South Carolina’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management.

I am very active in the hospitality industry and sit on Hyatt’s Sales Advisory Council to grow, develop and guide the brand. I was nominated for Director of Sales of the Year for Hyatt Hotels in 2017 and 2019 and was also awarded the Director of Sales Leadership in 2018. I’ve been on the Vista Guild Board of Directors since 2016, sitting as president in 2017, and currently serve on the executive committee as secretary. I’ve served on Richland County’s Accommodations Tax advisory committee since 2016.

One of my side passions is soccer. I have officiated soccer since the age of 12 and have officiated up to Semi Pro and International Friendlies. I officiate college soccer for the ACC and Big East and was awarded the 2014, 2015 and 2016 ACC Women’s Semifinals, 2017 Women’s ACC Final and the 2018 & 2019 ACC Men’s Semifinals.

My wife Kimberly and I are proud parents of two girls, Amelia, 3, and Ellison, 1. We love swimming, strawberry picking and doing as many activities as we can to match the fun energy levels of our girls.


What is your favorite quote?

“If you’re going to do a job, do it right the first time.”


Who was your most influential mentor?

My dad is easily my most influential mentor in life. My dad has always been successful in everything he has done and always taught me to strive for the best. He laid the foundation for everything I have accomplished today.





Jared Evans

Director of Military Engagement & Veteran Initiatives

University of South Carolina

Age: 34

Bio: My commitment to serving those who serve has been my mindset and approach to life since enlisting in the Marine Corps in 2005. Born and raised in the Midlands, I have had the privilege of carrying that mission forward since returning to Columbia.

As a two-time alum of the University of South Carolina, I have been blessed to work with a team dedicated to enhancing the university’s commitment of support to the veteran and military community. Advocating for this population, who bring many intangible assets to higher education, and watching them achieve a degree from UofSC and then immediately become a value-add to the private and public sector workforce, is a joy. Throughout the state, I have the honor of serving on multiple nonprofit boards that support the veteran and military community, focusing on homelessness, scholarships, mental health and other areas of need.

When I am not working or volunteering, I enjoy spending time with my beautiful wife, Leah, and being a girl dad to our three amazing daughters, Brinley, Marley and Sutton.


What is your favorite quote?

“Learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.” Stepping outside of your comfort zone is the only way to truly grow, whether that be personally or professionally.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Dan Hennigan





Valente’ Gibson

Teacher

Jackson Creek Elementary, Richland School District 2

Age: 26

Bio: In my role as a teacher, I help to mold and encourage the minds of future generation leaders, bringing awareness to the need for culturally relevant learning opportunities.

Currently, I teach at Jackson Creek Elementary School, where I focus my research and teaching on racial and social justice education practices while working to promote equity in issues of race, gender, class and sexuality. I also serve as a teacher for the Center for the Education and Equity of African American Students and a member of the National Council of Teachers of English. In 2019, I received the Social Justice Award through the Early Childhood Education Assembly and recently was awarded the 2020 NCTE Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award.

I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a minor in counseling education. I owe this honor to my family, friends and scholars who continue to believe in me and help guide me on this journey. It is an honor and privilege to receive this recognition.


What is your favorite quote?

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

  - Martin Luther King Jr.


It is important that we understand that we are all connected. We cannot allow ourselves to sit idly and ignore the mistreatment of others. We all must play an active role in fighting for justice for all.


Who was your most influential mentor?

I was raised on the principle of “It takes a village to raise a child.” Throughout my life, I have been blessed with so many influential people that I can’t name just one particular person. My entire village has played a part in helping me find hope within myself and empowering me to achieve anything I put my mind to.


Chandra Goodwin

Behavior Health Care Manager

Centene Corporation

Age: 34

Bio: Earning my B.A. degree in psychology from HBCU Benedict College changed my life and catapulted my career in the mental health field. As a licensed psychotherapist in North and South Carolina and advocate for mental wellness, I have dedicated my life to helping others heal. I have received numerous accolades for my work in mental health and service in the community. In 2019, I was honored by “The State” as a Top 20 Under 40 Honoree and received the National Council of Negro Women’s Living The Legacy Award. In 2016, I was a South Carolina Black Pages Top 20 Under 40 Honoree.


My future goals include opening several international faith-based private practices that focus on working with victims of sexual abuse and increasing my advocacy for women of color, addressing systemic racism and its impact on our physical and mental health. Giving back to the community substantiates my purpose and gives me an opportunity to sow into others. Outside of work, I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

 

What is your favorite quote?

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”  - Maya Angelou


Who was your most influential mentor?

My most influential mentor is psychologist Dr. Rozanna Tross.





Margaret Deans Grantz

Cofounder and Director of Development and Marketing

The Camp Cole Foundation

Age: 29

 

Bio: I’m a fourth-generation Columbia woman, and the city has always had a very special place in my heart. As a graduate of Hammond School and Wofford College, I moved back to Columbia to pursue a career with nonprofit organizations with hopes to truly make a difference in our community. In 2018, I co-founded Camp Cole, which is a camp and retreat for children and adults with disabilities and illnesses in Columbia. We will be opening our doors in June 2021.

In addition to working for Camp Cole, I coach cheerleading for Hammond School, am a member of the Junior League of South Carolina, serve on Hammond’s Alumni Council and have been a volunteer with Camp Kemo programs for the past 13 years. Additionally, I am a graduate of Leadership Columbia Class of 2017 and received the 2019 Outstanding Rising Star award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Central S.C.

My husband, Derrick, and I were married in June 2018. We have a 1-year-old daughter and another baby on the way. We love to spend time at the beach, at our farm and cheering on the Gamecocks! 


What is your favorite quote?

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”  - Dr. Wayne Dyer

Being kind is one of the best things you can do to others. You never know what is going on in someone’s life, and being kind is always something that is easy to do.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Truly, my most influential mentor and hero is my mom.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

The advice I would give myself at 18 years old is to realize that nothing is fair in life but a ground ball through first and third, which is something my dad has told me all my life.





Whitney B. Harrison

Attorney

McGowan Hood & Felder, LLC

Age: 35

Bio: As a Columbia native, I have always known our community’s warmth and the joy of being from a place that values people and service. These principles shaped my decision to attend Presbyterian College — an institution dedicated to instilling its motto: “while we live, we serve.” After college, I attended the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Following graduation, I clerked for the Honorable Aphrodite K. Konduros at the South Carolina Court of Appeals and later clerked for the Honorable Kaye G. Hearn at the Supreme Court of South Carolina. Through clerking, I discovered my passion in appellate practice as an avenue to serve others for a lifetime by tackling legal issues that transcend one person or case.

Today, I work at McGowan Hood & Felder, LLC, where I focus on novel issues and constitutional law. In 2020, I became the first woman to receive the South Carolina Bar’s Trial and Appellate Advocacy Award. I proudly serve on the boards of S.C. Bar Foundation, S.C Appleseed and S.C. Association for Justice.


What is your favorite quote?

“How far you go in life will depend on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and strong. Because some time in life you will have been all of these.”  - George Washington Carver


Who was your most influential mentor?

Justice Kaye G. Hearn is a charismatic and brilliant thinker who I have the distinct pleasure to call my mentor. Working alongside her, I witnessed her tremendous talent and seasoned experience, yet it was her work ethic that struck me the most. 





Sabrina Hasty

Manager of Product Development

Rhythmlink International, LLC

Age: 36

Bio: I am a proud graduate of Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in ceramic and materials engineering and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Brown University. I have spent my career with medical device companies whose focus is on helping improve patient care and have been involved with numerous patent applications. My calling is to continue to use my creativity to invent and develop technologies and devices that potentially save the lives of thousands of individuals.


I am currently the manager of product development at Rhythmlink International, LLC. I oversee a team that addresses the clinical challenges of connecting patients to machines that record or elicit physiologic information.


Outside of work, I enjoy serving in my church, traveling and, most importantly, spending

time with my husband Wade, daughter Olivia (2), son Ethan (10 months) and stepdaughter Claire. My faith is what motivates me to give back to the community: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful

stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:13)


What is your favorite quote?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  - Proverbs 3:5-6

No matter what life throws at me, I can always count on this promise to see me through.






Chanda Jefferson

2020 South Carolina Teacher of the Year

Fairfield County School District

Age: 33

Bio: A native of Beech Island, S.C., I attended the University of South Carolina, where I received a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences (2009) and a master’s degree in teaching secondary sciences (2011). I am a recent graduate of Columbia University (N.Y.), where I received a master’s of education in public school building leadership. I have taught in the public schools of South Carolina for nine years. As a teacher, I developed programs to increase student achievement and served in a number of leadership roles in my school and district. I continually search for innovative ideas and strategies to positively impact the lives of students and encourage them to follow their dreams. 

I have received many honors and notable fellowships throughout my career. In May of 2019, I was named the 2020 South Carolina Teacher of the Year, allowing me to serve as an ambassador and advocate for educators and students in South Carolina. I encourage all educators to use their stories, their students’ stories and their voices to advocate for positive change in education. I was recently named a 2021 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator and I will spend the next year working on Capitol Hill.


What is your favorite quote?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My most influential mentor was Mrs. Calvernetta Williams. She was assigned as my mentor teacher by the University of South Carolina, and she taught high school life sciences at W. J. Keenan High School in Richland County, S.C. From the moment I met her, she was a great inspiration. She made science come alive while teaching students life lessons, discipline and compassion. She never gave up on students and always inspired them to strive for their best.





Sara Krisnow

Community Relations Manager

Lizard’s Thicket, Inc.

Age: 34

 

Bio: At 15 years old, I lost my mother, Sally Williams Rentz, to breast cancer. It was a pivotal moment in my life and one that ignited my passion for philanthropy. Today, I blend my corporate marketing skills, centered around our family-owned and operated business, Lizard’s Thicket, with my passion for making a positive impact on our community. I am proud to be a founding member of The Cavalry, a giving society for Prisma Health Cancer Centers, and proud to have also served as the Prisma Health Midlands Foundation Walk for Life chair, raising more than $1.2 million in my two years in the position with my committee. When I think about what’s next, my focus is expanding Lizard’s Thicket’s market and increasing scholarship support to hospitality students throughout the state. Giving back is an integral part of my life and the best way to thank everyone for supporting my family’s business for more than 40 years.


What is your favorite quote?

“Act like a lady, think like a boss.” This quote expresses the balance that I try to strike in my roles at home and at work.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My mother – she instilled in me the importance of a great work ethic, which impacts everything I do.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Slow down, live in the present and appreciate the season of life you’re currently living. I would tell myself not to be in such a hurry to turn the page and enjoy the chapter I’m in.





Mark McLawhorn

Attorney

McLawhorn Legal, LLC

Age: 35

 

Bio: I am proud to call Columbia home. After earning my undergraduate and law school degrees from the University of South Carolina, I served as judicial law clerk for the Honorable H. Bruce Williams of the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

Following my clerkship, I received a life-changing opportunity to study at The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law on a full scholarship, where I earned a master of law (LL.M.) in Chinese business law. After Hong Kong, I completed a second judicial clerkship where I served as a judicial law clerk to then-Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart of the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

My commitment to public service led me to represent indigent clients in federal court as an assistant federal public defender. In addition, I have served the Columbia community by providing pro bono legal services, educating people on voting rights and volunteering at career day events.

Earlier this year, I started my own law firm, McLawhorn Legal, LLC, which concentrates on business litigation, personal injury and criminal defense.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My third grade after-school teacher and retired educator, the late Mrs. Mary Cooper, was my most influential mentor. Mrs. Cooper instilled in me at an early age the importance of hard work and time management.





Lindsey Miles

Vice President of Operational Excellence

Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation

Age: 30

 

Bio: I am a University of South Carolina graduate with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. My husband and I live in Lexington with our very sassy 2-year-old little girl and our two dogs. I absolutely love my job! It is very unique, as I get to dabble in business, finance, administration, philanthropy and everything else that goes on at Nephron.

I began my career in environmental regulations. I really did not know what I was getting myself into, but I had the opportunity to learn so much. When I first started, I did not realize all of the regulations that manufacturing facilities have to follow and report to stay in compliance with EPA and our local SCDHEC. I became a licensed wastewater operator and was known as the crazy recycling lady.

Giving back to the community means everything because you are only as good as the people and community around you. I started the Adopt-a-Highway program at Nephron and feel it is a great way to help the community while enjoying time with coworkers and their families outside of work. I have always enjoyed giving back to the community and plan to be more involved and try to make a true difference in the Midlands!


Who was your most influential mentor?

My grandfather is my most influential mentor. He worked extremely hard and taught me that if you work hard, you can accomplish anything! He was also a stickler for being on time; he would always tell me, “Be the first to arrive and the last to leave.” He was selfless and always put others before himself, and was the greatest person in the world to me.





David S. Myers

Director of Operations/Project Manager

Construction Dynamics, Inc

Age: 34

Bio: Originally from Würzburg, Germany, I am a 2009 graduate of Francis Marion and Clemson University where I hold a dual degree: a bachelor of science in physics and civil engineering. I currently hold a professional engineering license in the states of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina, and serve as the director of operations at Construction Dynamics, Inc. in Columbia. In this position, I manage the daily operations and procedures of the company while also serving as a project manager overseeing several multimillion-dollar projects throughout the state. 

I am a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). I have a great passion for mentoring individuals who are looking to join the construction and engineering profession. I am an active member of Brookland Baptist Church. My wife Kristian, a Clemson alumna, and I are the proud parents of one son, David II. My hobbies include exercising, listening to music, cheering on the Miami Dolphins, Celtics and Clemson Tigers, and spending time with my family.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Nathaniel Spells, Sr., founder/CEO of Construction Dynamics, Inc.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Go for it. Momentary failures could lead toward greater success, and focusing on success alone could lead toward failure.






Marcus Nellems

Physical Education Teacher and Basketball Coach

School District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties

Age: 35

 

Bio: Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I never thought I’d be living twelve hours away in a suburb of Columbia. I’ve called South Carolina home since 2009 and it is where I’ve seen myself grow into a man, husband and father.

I say all the time that basketball got me to where I am today, but honestly, it taught me the fundamentals: hard work, sacrifice and being willing to be a part of something bigger. These skills paid off when I was accepted into Butler University, when our basketball team went to the Sweet Sixteen and when I graduated not only from Butler University but from the University of South Carolina with my master’s degree. I now use those same principles in my career.

For the last 10 years, I’ve been the physical education teacher for Lake Murray Elementary School. I have the opportunity to be a role model for the next generation. I teach the same lessons and values that basketball has taught me over the years. Coaching is also a way that I’ve been able to give back to the game. For the last few years, I’ve had the honor of coaching and mentoring high school students within the community to find their passion and purpose in life. I will continue to teach and coach because it is my passion. I’ve enjoyed building lasting, positive relationships with those around me.


Now, I have entered into the most important stage of my life: fatherhood. My wife and I

welcomed our son into the world in 2019 and we are eager to see where this journey

takes us.





Britney Oliver

Marketing Coordinator

Webster University

Age: 28

 

Bio: I didn’t start off wanting a career in marketing. Originally, I was a nursing major, but once I transferred to the University of South Carolina, I decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree in public relations. I started my career working in international corporate marketing and communications, where I was able to travel the world and do what I love doing. Fast forward a few years and I still do what I love, now in nonprofit communications and education with Webster University.

The amazing part of working at Webster is that I’m able to combine things that I’ve learned from internships and previous positions and use my creative talents to create unique experiences and events for our students, faculty, staff and the community. When I’m not working with Webster, I work within the community as a marketing consultant, and as a recent MBA graduate, I hope to take this new knowledge and eventually expand my consultant work into a full marketing agency to help other local businesses grow to their fullest potential. I feel incredibly blessed and honored to have been selected for this recognition.


What is your favorite quote?

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”   - Zora Neale Hurston

As a black woman, it’s important to believe in yourself and your abilities. Even though some people may never believe or appreciate what I have to offer, I believe in me. I know the obstacles I’ve had to face but also the accomplishments that have come from it. It’s never a grievance against me if you deny yourself what I have to offer.


Who was your most influential mentor?

It’s so hard to name just one; I’ve been blessed to have encountered some amazing people. The first one is pretty cliche, but honestly my most influential mentor has been my mother. She’s the one that pushes me to always believe in myself, even with all of my crazy ideas. She encourages me to never give up, to keep pushing and to keep striving. Daily she shows me what it means to have tenacity, despite bad days or good days. She always reminds me to show up and do my best. She has always told me that “faith without work is dead, so put your faith into action!”

My other two mentors are my current director, Sherriel Byrd, and assistant director, Rhonda Sherman. Since working for these ladies, my drive has been on 1,000. They constantly show me what hard work and determination means. They allow me to be me, and because of that I’m able to be my best self daily with them.





Joshua E. Pozsik

Attorney at Law

Pozsik and Carpenter Law Firm

Age: 35

 

Bio: I am a South Carolina native, born and raised in Columbia. I graduated summa cum laude from The Citadel and earned a juris doctor degree from Stetson College of Law, Florida’s oldest law school, located in St. Petersburg. I represent my clients in matters involving a variety of practice areas, primarily family law, DUI defense, estate planning and probate. 

I routinely take cases in Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties, but will never turn down a client in need simply based on geography. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my fiance, Angaeli Lall-Butcher, and our dogs Libby, Rosie and Daisy. I am a high school and college football official and officiate girls lacrosse in the winter. I am always game for live music or a round of golf!  


What is your favorite quote? 

“The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the person of every calling, is diligence.”  

  - Abraham Lincoln


Who was your most influential mentor? 

My most influential mentor was Vickie Eslinger, Esq., of Nexsen Pruet.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? 

Goals are important, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey!  





Dr. Whitney Leigh Prowell

Assistant Principal

Richland School District 2

Age: 34 

 

Bio: I am a proud Furman University and University of South Carolina graduate, having earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Furman and a master’s degree, educational specialist degree and a doctor of philosophy degree in educational administration from the University of South Carolina.

I am a proud Richland School District 2 employee who has served in a variety of capacities in different schools over the past 12 years. I currently serve as the assistant principal at Joseph Keels Elementary School, which is a joy as this is the elementary school I attended long ago.

I have spent my professional career researching and studying educational best practices as well as serving and mentoring others. In my current role, I have the opportunity to work with students and their families, teachers, faculty and staff members and our community. My goal for all students is to ensure they are growing both academically and socially. My goal for teachers is to ensure they make continuous improvements professionally. I created and facilitated an after-school professional development opportunity for teachers, “Wednesday Workshop,” that boasts a relaxed setting and an opportunity to learn topics that are relevant to attendees. It is my great pleasure to provide excellent customer service and help others achieve their greatest potential.

I am a proud member of Saint John Baptist Church and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I am also the loving wife of Quan Prowell and doting mother of Carter Prowell.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My parents, John Jones and Linda Jones, were my most influential mentors. They taught me many important values and lessons in life. I not only hear them “talk the talk,” but I see them “walk the walk.” I am everything I am because of their work as parents.





Robyn Rogers

Architect

Quackenbush Architects + Planners

Age: 35

 

Bio: As an architect at Quackenbush Architects and Planners and a native of Columbia, I have had the very special opportunity to design buildings and spaces for a city and community that helped raise me. Since I was in first grade, I knew I wanted to be an architect or work in a field that would allow me to be creative. I am fortunate to have been mentored by wonderful architects and designers since my first summer job right after high school. At Quackenbush Architects, I am surrounded by the best.

I am currently an active member of both the American Institute of Architects, serving as communications director for the South Carolina Chapter, and the Junior League of Columbia, serving as a vice chair for the “Done in a Day” Project Committee. When not at the office, on construction sites or volunteering in my community, my husband, Kirk, and I stay busy with our very active 16-month-old son.


What is your favorite quote?

“Bloom where you are planted.” - 1 Corinthians 7:20-24


Who was your most influential mentor?

Two that have impacted me significantly in my professional career are Doug Quackenbush and Barb Haller. They have taught me so much about the profession of architecture, including the importance of beautiful, functional design and how through collaboration with our clients we can create buildings and spaces that positively impact how people live, work and play.

And of course, my parents, who have been my mentors long before I knew I needed mentoring. They are a huge source of encouragement in all aspects of life, work and relationships. They have taught me to dream and to go after those dreams with all I have - and most importantly, to be nice to people along the way!





Dr. Kimberly Seibles

Associate Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs

University of South Carolina - Columbia

Age: 29

Bio: I enjoy enriching the community through education and advocacy. I hold a B.A. from the University of South Carolina in Aiken, an M.Ed. from Columbia College and a doctorate from the University of South Carolina.

I began my career working in the Upstate, where I received accolades for my work as a diversity strategist.

Since returning to the Midlands, I’ve enjoyed becoming involved in the community. I have the pleasure of serving as the associate director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at UofSC, where I create diversity education opportunities. I enjoy utilizing my platform to transform spaces and people.

I’m the founder of Brown Professionalism, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women. I serve on the John A. Martin Primary Health Care Board. I also serve as the health ministry chair at my church.

My future goals include creating a scholarship program for young women and continuing to contribute research on social justice education.

I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling and DIY projects.


What is your favorite quote?

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” —Malcolm X

When I was a child, my parents taught me that to achieve my dreams, I must write my vision and make it plain. Writing my visions has allowed me to understand and remember my goals and make provisions to reach them. This context has been my passport to building a successful future while working toward a lasting legacy.

 

Who was your most influential mentor?

My most influential mentors would be my parents. Everything I have achieved is due to my parents’ guidance and support throughout my life.

 

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Hold the vision and enjoy the process. I would advise myself this because holding on to my visions has ignited a fire of passion and commitment within me that knows no boundaries or limits. Enjoying the process plays an important role in turning dreams into realities. Successes have shown me what is possible, while I have taught myself to look at challenges as teachable moments where I can still achieve excellence.




Dr. Aditi Srivastav

Director of Research

Children's Trust of South Carolina

Age: 30

 Bio: When I first moved here, days before the historic flood of 2015, if someone had asked me if I expected to make Columbia my home, I would have looked at them skeptically. A proud University of Virginia alum, I grew up right outside of Washington, D.C., loving the hustle and bustle of a big city and tolerating really bad traffic. Five years later, Columbia has given me an incredible Ph.D. student experience at the University of South Carolina, countless life lessons, meaningful friendships and real opportunities to make a difference through my career as a public health researcher and advocate. My passion for community work comes from the belief that everyone, regardless of background and cultural experiences, deserves the American Dream.

Throughout graduate school, I was fortunate to work at Children’s Trust of South Carolina, a statewide agency focused on preventing child abuse and neglect. Upon graduation, I was promoted into the newly created role of director of research, where I conduct research on child health equity and well-being and help communities tell stories using data. A favorite memory in my role is launching Resilient Richland with community partners, a successful initiative that is focused on preventing childhood trauma.

Currently, I serve on the city of Columbia’s Complete Count Committee that works to ensure everyone in the city is counted in the 2020 U.S. Census. I am also a board member of Columbia Opportunity Resource and Richland County Public Education Partners, opportunities that allow me to help showcase our flourishing city and build a more equitable place for all. In my downtime, I like to read and explore the beautiful parks in South Carolina with my dogs.


Julius Streater

CEO

Extraordinary Headhunters LLC, Shine Bright Cleaning, Real Ripe Juice Bar and Wellness Center

Age: 30

 

Bio: I am a proud South Carolina State University cum laude graduate, having obtained my degree in physical education.

For the past four years, I have been an educator at Dent Middle School (Richland School District Two) and founder and CEO of Extraordinary Headquarters LLC, Shine Bright Professional Cleaning and Real Ripe Juice Bar and Wellness (established 2020). My motive and vision has always been crystal clear: to inspire people and serve my community. With 500-plus career opportunities provided in South Carolina and surrounding areas, it’s been a blessing to witness my hard work pay off. Serving as a member of the Columbia Chamber and South Carolina Chamber Business Councils, and the American Staffing Association, has been a true honor, and I’m a proud member of Iota Phi Theta Incorporated. Legacy is so important to me, and I’m proud to instill the same values and work ethic in my children, Imani, Julius and Kareem.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My most influential mentors have been both of my parents, Brenda and Frank Streater! My father was bold, and he instilled in me a sense of fearlessness, courage and discipline, all tools I will need to succeed in life. My mother was my peace and a true shining example of the will never to quit and the importance of education and personal integrity.




Kiara Streater

CEO

Extraordinary Headhunters LLC

Age: 30

 Bio: A business powerhouse, humanitarian, motivational speaker, philanthropist, devoted wife, and mother of three (Imani, Julius, Kareem) and South Carolina’s tenacious superwoman. Coming from a small town - Batesburg-Leesville, S.C. - it has always been my passion to help people and inspire those around me to stay positive and to have drive, work ethic and tenacity. The road hasn’t been easy, and I have fought extremely hard to achieve my dreams. Running a successful business is not easy, but when I look at career seekers and clients that need exceptional talent, I consistently push myself to bring my A game and always deliver. I’m proud that my business, Extraordinary Headhunters LLC, has provided 500-plus jobs with great pay! It amazes me all the beautiful things you can accomplish when you believe in yourself. 

I’m grateful to every company that has partnered. I’m also grateful to serve and be a part of such prestigious groups: the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council, as well as the United Way Young Leader Society, Women in Philanthropy, S.C. Chamber of Commerce Business Council and Forbes Business Council. I’m also a nonprofit founder, creating “Women Inspiring Girls,” and a member of Midlands Education & Business Alliance. I always say, believe in people. Remind them how great they are. You never know the reach and power of your words to help someone get activated to be their best. You can help make dreams come true! And that’s what we are striving for - my story and company has changed many lives and I’m grateful.


Brittany Williams

Transportation Marketing Manager and Client Liaison

Mead & Hunt

Age: 32

Bio: I am blessed to have a career that allows me to positively impact the lives of others. As a Certified Professional Services Marketer for a 900+ national AEP firm, I connect with clients, peers and the public to identify goals, deliver results and shape the world around us.

Proud of my South Carolina roots, I recognize the importance of giving back locally. I always look for opportunities to share my passion for our state with others. Professionally and personally, I work with a multitude of public, private and nonprofit sectors to develop productive relationships within their communities. Through public outreach and involvement, I also help citizens find their voice on infrastructure projects locally and nationwide.

As chair of Central SC’s Committee of 100, it has been a dream realized to support the growth and economic prosperity of our great state. I also served as the Society for Marketing Professional Services Palmetto President, helping to elevate the marketing profession in the AEC industry. 


What is your favorite quote? 

“A river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but its persistence.” - James N. Watkins

For me, this quote highlights the intrinsic value of hard work. Running a marathon taught me that an unshakable belief in yourself coupled with persistence, preparation and determination is powerful, and can carry you through anything. We all face challenges, obstacles and trials in life. It is in these moments that we realize our inner strength. Keep your focus on how far you’ve come, not on how far you have left to go. Put in the hard work and keep going.


Who was your most influential mentor?

I have had countless individuals generously invest their time and talent in me. It is my goal to pay that forward. My grandmother, Liz, is my most influential mentor. She exemplifies the qualities I aspire to embody when I “grow up.” She is the stylish family matriarch who lives life to the fullest, loves us dearly and has weathered life’s storms with ultimate grace. She taught me to have a strong work ethic and to always pull for the Gamecocks. She is the quintessential depiction of an independent and successful woman who is now enjoying retirement.


What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Never give up – pain is temporary, regret is forever. Never leave a situation knowing there was more you could do. Dedicate yourself to your mission, passion and growth, and transform the impossible to possible. You can change the world. All it takes is one person, conversation or small act to change a life. Worry less, pray more, and enjoy every moment.






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