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Columbia Business Monthly

Columbia Business Monthly Best & Brightest 35 and Under

Sep 12, 2017 05:44PM ● By Emily Stevenson
Columbia Business Monthly is pleased to feature its second annual class of Best & Brightest 35 And Under. This year’s class features 29 young professionals who we recognized for their achievements and community involvement. This year, we’ve asked each of them to write their own biographical summary. We believe we have another stellar class this year and we hope you enjoy reading about their accomplishments.

Amir Abdullah
Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Co. | Director, Product & Market Development
Age 29

I am humbled to receive this recognition alongside other community-oriented business leaders in Columbia. Through my early service experience as an Upward Bound teacher, I learned the veracity of the well-known truism “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I have strived to live by this belief in my work in the community and professionally over the last several years.

As a first generation college student, I am passionate about education issues and this has been the primary focus of my service efforts. Most recently, I have had the privilege to serve on the Midlands United Way Education Council, as well as the council’s public policy sub-committee. As a team champion, I have had the opportunity to support City Year AmeriCorp volunteers during their year of service in local schools. Lastly, through my involvement with the Midlands Education Business Alliance, I have had the honor of working with members of school district leadership on workforce trends.

Protecting America’s workers is at the heart of Colonial Life’s mission and is what makes me proud to work for such an organization. As a director in the products organization, I lead an agile development team charged with supporting efforts related to optimizing the customer onboarding experience and product implementation. Prior to my current role, I had the opportunity to gain experience in several business functions, including underwriting, benefits, broker marketing, and sales compensation. I look forward to continuing to be a student of our business as well as a servant leader in the greater Columbia community.

After hours I can be found at the park, zoo, or one of the many family friendly spots in Columbia, spending time with my wife Kate and our three children.

Nominator Quote: “Amir brings a high level of enthusiasm and work ethic to every challenge and opportunity and is unsurpassed in his focus towards driving results. He adapts very quickly to new challenges and works with others in a collaborative manner to influence positive outcomes for our customers.”

Kathleen Agustin 
PAG Marketing | Owner 
Age 31

As the owner of PAG Marketing, I focus on helping local business owners assess their current marketing plan, navigate advertising opportunities available, and execute campaigns based on their specific needs.  Furthermore, I assist clients through the creative process, helping them achieve the brand image their company desires. I majored in marketing and management at USC, graduating cum laude in 2007. I gained industry experience interning for the Business Development Institute in New York City through a program with NYU. After a few years working in media sales, I started PAG Marketing.

In addition to the agency, I am passionate about serving the community. I’m a volunteer board member with Carolina Sunshine for Children, an organization dedicated to granting wishes for children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. I’m the proud daughter of a U.S. military veteran, and attribute my work ethic and humble attitude to my parents, who both immigrated to the United States searching for a better life. Going forward, I plan to continue to build PAG Marketing and stay dedicated to serving the community.

Nominator Quote: “I believe Kathleen should be considered and selected for this honor because she has been able to achieve success through her work ethic and dedication to her job and community.”

Kara Mackenzie Bailey
Rogers Townsend & Thomas, PC | Associate Attorney
Age 28

I started my career at Rogers Townsend as a law clerk and have had the opportunity to grow my commercial real estate practice into one where I take the most pride in knowing my clients personally. It is important to me as a professional, and part of the firm’s culture, to really understand the client’s business, and immerse myself in what is important to them. That is why my involvement in industry organizations like CREW Midlands and the Urban Land Institute is so vital.  

Teaching Junior Achievement to help children understand the business world has been a highlight of my community involvement. Our work force is such a large part of why my clients choose to relocate to South Carolina, so it’s important to me the children of this state are prepared with business knowledge.  

I’m honored to be selected for Best & Brightest 35 and Under, particularly because so many of my peers are doing such wonderful things in the community.  I look forward to a bright future alongside them, working to grow the city of Columbia.

Nominator Quote: “Kara has a lawyer’s mind and a big heart. Not only has she shown her leadership outside of her law firm, she shines within it.”

Tyler D. Bailey 
Bailey Law Firm LLC | Managing Attorney 
Age 28

I am the founder and managing attorney at Bailey Law Firm LLC, representing our clients throughout South Carolina primarily in the areas of personal injury, workers’ compensation, criminal defense, family law, and civil litigation. Since starting Bailey Law Firm, I have helped seriously injured individuals obtain just compensation to ensure that they can receive the medical treatment they need, united families through adoption, and helped those wrongly accused of crimes gain exoneration. I aspire to grow Bailey Law Firm into a regional powerhouse known for our exceptional results and work in the community.
Giving back means ensuring that the least of those in our community have access to information, resources, and opportunities that our more affluent members have.  I serve on the board of directors for the Compass Community Development Corp., whose mission is to provide the community with educational, economic, and enrichment opportunities, and The Talented Tenth, whose focus is retaining minority talent in the Midlands. I also represent the indigent pro bono with the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission.

Nominator Quote: “Amir brings a high level of enthusiasm and work ethic to every challenge and opportunity and is unsurpassed in his focus towards driving results. He adapts very quickly to new challenges and works with others in a collaborative manner to influence positive outcomes for our customers.”

Rachel E. Cooper
S.C. Homes & Land Realty | Chief Marketing Officer/Associate Broker
Age 27

In 2012, I graduated with honors from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Retail Management with an emphasis in Marketing. I also received three associate degrees from Midlands Technical College in Marketing, Management, and Arts.

I began in real estate in 2013. I act as associate broker and leader of the Home Listing Program for SC Homes and Land Realty on The Lance Woodley Team. I have sold more than 250 homes in less than four years; that’s 15.5 times MORE sales than the average agent in the Midlands.

Most recently, I was given the honor of earning partnership and being chief marketing officer. With my educational background in marketing and management and my work experience in customer service, I have been able to bring fresh and current knowledge to the marketing and home selling process. My goal is to remain truly dedicated to making each client’s experience a success and continuing to improve the quality of life and economic growth of the Midlands one home sell at a time.

Nominator Quote: “Of the many things she does, Rachel works with investors to revitalize neighborhoods. She met with Mayor Benjamin to talk about getting city support to increase investor interest in downtown Columbia neighborhoods.”

Brian D’Amico 
Elliott Davis Decosimo | Shareholder 
Age 35

I attended Clemson University where I received my Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Master of Professional Accounting degrees. After graduating from Clemson, I started my professional career with Elliott Davis Decosimo, a top 30 national public accounting firm. I have been with the firm for more than 12 years and was recently promoted to shareholder in their Columbia office. I have focused the majority of my career auditing and consulting with governmental entities and construction companies. Through this experience, I have become an industry specialist and am regularly asked to speak at statewide conferences regarding emerging technical topics.

I also enjoy giving back to the community through my work with local kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands. I’m currently an executive committee member of the board of directors and previously led the organization as the chairman of the board in 2015 and 2016. During this time, the organization provided after school care to approximately 3,000 kids a day, many of which would not have a meal or supervision to go home to.

I met my wife Staci while attending Clemson and we have three beautiful children; Austin (8), Rylie (4), and Walker (2).

Nominator Quote: “Brian seeks and accepts ever increasing responsibility and challenges all who come in contact with him to achieve their very best. He has seen as a true leader in the community and in his office while providing mentorship to those who work with him.”

Marie Dieckmann
CBRE | Associate, Advisory & Transaction Services 
Age 30

Providing real estate solutions for owners and users of office properties in the Columbia market, I have represented a variety of clients from small, locally owned-businesses to regional nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies. Since 2014, I have participated in more than 240 transactions totaling 1.3 million square feet. I am focused on continuing to grow my portfolio both locally and regionally.

I do not take for granted the opportunities afforded me through the years, thanks to my network of supporters and access to a quality education. It is critical that we recognize not all young people have a support system that encourages an education and success. We must step in and become their support. I am grateful to have found organizations like Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter, Junior Woman’s Club of Columbia and CREW Midlands where I can give back to the community I love.

I am honored and humbled to be included among a group of extremely remarkable and deserving professionals as one of the “Best & Brightest 35 and Under” this year.

Nominator Quote: “Marie is an active member of the community, serving as the president of the Board of Directors for Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter from 2014 – 2016 and was the 2012-2013 president for the Junior Woman’s Club of Columbia.”

Blake DuBose 
DuBose Web Group | President
Age 33

Being grateful, putting others’ needs before my own, and making a difference are all foundational values that were instilled into me at an early age by my parents. As a young entrepreneur, these traits continue to be my compass in every personal and business relationship that I have today.
Being the leader of a small company that I began in 2007 is one of the greatest gifts of my professional journey. DuBose Web is one of five family companies whose sole purpose is to make a difference in the lives of coworkers, customers, and the community. As the president of Columbia Capital Rotary Club, it’s ironic that this year’s Rotary International slogan is “Making a Difference.”
Being successful isn’t about how much money you make, how many friends you have on social media, or your profession. It’s about selfless acts of kindness, building genuine relationships, doing what you’re passionate about, and making a difference in the lives of others. The bottom line is for all of us to work together to make the world a better place.

Nominator Quote: “As Gandi once said, ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’ Blake DuBose cares about how our animals are treated!”

Jean Cecil Frick
Beam & Hinge | CEO
Age 35

When I moved back to South Carolina five years ago, I knew that Columbia was a special place with a real sense of community. After seven years working in the nation’s capital, it was only fitting that I move to my home state’s capital city.

After a rewarding career in Washington, D.C., where I had the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and for a 500 company, I wanted to be a part of a community where I could make a difference. Today, I lead a dynamic team at Beam & Hinge that is committed to helping its clients grow by delivering websites that create strong connections between each organization and their target audiences.

It’s the strong connections I’ve made with our clients and my involvement in the community that have made Columbia such a wonderful fit for me. The most rewarding experiences so far have been serving on the executive committee of the Columbia Chamber, being a reading mentor at Bradley Elementary School and participating in Leadership South Carolina.

Nominator Quote: “Jean Cecil epitomizes servant leadership. She is a champion of Columbia, S.C. as she works, lives and plays in our region.”

Beth Kelly Frost 
Cohn Construction Services, LLC | Director of Business Development 
Age 34

As the director of business development, I’ve maximized the organization’s recognition within the local and statewide communities, built relationships with the business community, and tracked successful projects. As graduate of the USC College of Engineering in 2005, I have a complete understanding of the design and construction process to better serve my clients’ needs.

Actively involved in the Midlands community, I currently serve on the board of directors for the Columbia Museum of Art Contemporaries as art acquisition co-chair, Palmetto Health Hospital Cancer Center as golf tournament and auction chair, Founding Leadership Team for the Cavalry, Central SC Alliance Committee of 100 and the Congaree Vista Guild. I’m also a committee member with the South Carolina Economic Developers Association, a member of Columbia Opportunity Resources, and a graduate of Leadership Columbia Class of 2012.

I am honored to be recognized as a Best and Brightest professional. As a hard worker, I have always lived with the idea of by doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others.

Nominator Quote: “Beth devotes her free time to the development of the Midlands community. Beth’s passion for economic development and overall development of the community not only makes her great at her job but also makes her a true asset to Columbia.”

Gauracandra Nimai Garrett
Allen University | Director of Alumni Affairs/Webmaster
Age 33

I am the director of alumni affairs at Allen University. I am responsible for managing all aspects of alumni engagement, fundraising and development, membership and marketing, volunteer development and coordination, and special events development and implementation. I am also a co-owner of the Florence Wildcats Semi-Pro Basketball Team where I serve as the director of community and public relations.

Currently, I serve on the Talented Tenth’s board of directors as the director of marketing, the South Carolina Alumni and Advancement Directors Board and as an elected officer for the Webster University Alumni Association as the chapter president of the Columbia campus. I am also a volunteer member of the South Carolina Diaper Bank. 

I am a proud member of the international brotherhoods Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in social sciences. I am an award recipient of the UNCF “Hall of Honor” and General Alumni Association of Allen University Presidential Award.

Nominator Quote: “Mr. Garret is a selfless self starter. He does not mind being in the background. Because he often assists with marketing, he is often overlooked for his hard work and dedication. This award should be given to him for his quiet work in the Columbia area. He’s an awesome team player and is a must-have on every team.”

L. Foster Girard  
Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. | Shareholder 
Age 33

As a shareholder in Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd’s Columbia office, I concentrate my practice on corporate finance and commercial transactions. My practice is rooted in real estate matters, where I represent buyers, sellers, developers, and lenders, although I also handle a number of corporate matters and work extensively with contracts for the purchase and sale of goods and services.
As a member of the South Carolina Bar’s Young Lawyers Division (YLD), I’ve been honored to serve as the Fifth Circuit Representative from 2013-2017, and as the YLD Community Law Week co-chair from 2010-2013. I was recently recognized with the YLD President’s Award and am the past recipient of four “Star of the Quarter” Awards.
I am also a lifetime member of the Citadel Alumni Association, involved with the Young Bankers division of the South Carolina Bankers Association, and ULI-Columbia chapter.  I am a 2014 graduate of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Columbia program.
I’m honored to be selected for Columbia Business Monthly’s 2017 Best & Brightest 35 and Under. 

Nominator Quote: “Foster Girard is a worthy recipient of the Best and Brightest 35 and Under due to his commitment to his career through personal development and hard work and the leadership he has exhibited in all aspects of his life.”

Stefanie Leigh Goebeler
Midlands Technical College | Assistant Vice President, Marketing Communications
Age 34

I get to be a change agent for higher education in South Carolina. As the associate vice president of marketing communications for Midlands Technical College (MTC),  it’s my job to showcase a college that provides innovative higher education with real value to our students, our business partners, and our community.

This is a long way from where I started. My career began in journalism, where, during college, I worked at WIS News 10 as a video tape editor – reporting for work at 5 a.m. on Saturdays to edit the morning news. By the time I graduated from USC, I had won an Edward R. Murrow scholarship, earned an Emmy nomination, and was the producer in charge of the station’s highest-rated newscast. Since then, my transition into the business side of communications has included numerous award-winning initiatives on marketing strategy, rebranding, media relations, social media, and web development.

One of the things I am most proud of is being able to use the talents God has blessed me with to serve my community. Over the years, I’ve helped build a foundation for attracting and retaining young professionals in Columbia; I’ve led local, state, and regional professional development organizations; and I have helped raise more than $100,000 for St. Peter’s Catholic School. In retrospect, my story begins and ends with a focus on education -- because when the educational foundation of a community is supported, it will continue to reap benefits for years to come.

Nominator Quote: “Stefanie’s ability to impact decisions through passion and commitment helped create opportunities to make this state a great home.”

Hamilton R. Grant 
Grant Business Strategies Inc. | Vice President 
Age 28

I am a graduate of South Carolina State University, Alabama A&M University, and the vice president of my family’s business, Grant Business Strategies, Inc. GBSI is a financial advisory firm for nonprofits, small business, and middle market companies. Since our conception in 2001, we’ve  arranged more than $1.5 billion in financing for our clients. In the future, I hope to expand GBSI into multiple regions and use our influence as an established black-owned business to uplift, equip, and inspire.
Business aside, I play an invested role in my community as president of the Columbia Urban League’s Young Professionals, Project Ready Mentor, previous vice chair of the Talented Tenth Young Professionals, vice president of the Hate Won’t Win Movement (in honor of Emmanuel 9) , and member of the Famously Hot New Year advisory board. Additionally, I had the honor of being selected for the 2017 Chamber of Commerce Leadership Columbia and The James E. Clyburn Congressional Fellowship Class.
Being named one of Columbia Business Monthly’s Best and Brightest 35 and Under is an incredible honor.

Nominator Quote: “His passion to shine is undeniable. He is a committed and dedicated community member that thrives to lead his generation.”

Lindsay A. Joyner 
Gallivan White Boyd | Attorney 
Age 33

I am honored to be one of this year’s Best and Brightest 35 and Under as Columbia has many young professionals working hard to make it a great place to live and work. Being involved in my community has been a priority for me from an early age. I want to add value wherever I am. Each project gives me a sense of purpose and pride in my community. I get such energy from interacting with children as I present a civic-related topic to them or strategizing on boards over a challenge. Thankfully, I joined a law firm supportive of my values. At GWB, I have had many opportunities to advise clients on interesting, challenging business matters, leading to recognition as a South Carolina Super Lawyer “Rising Star” this year. The firm has also supported my efforts to become president of the Young Lawyers Division of the South Carolina Bar, a role I wholeheartedly enjoy. I hope to keep finding new and exciting ways to stay involved in the community and in my profession.

Nominator Quote: “Lindsay is a passionate leader who is not only a great lawyer, but also much more than that. She is a person who cares deeply about the community she serves and demonstrates that commitment through her time and leadership activities.”

Shayla Merritt
Stevens & Wilkinson | Senior Marketing Coordinator
Age 31

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., I moved to Columbia to pursue my graduate degree in Integrated Marketing and Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina. After graduating from Syracuse University, the plan was to move to Columbia for two years, graduate, and then leave to begin my career back home in New York. The thought of staying in the South never crossed my mind, not even once. But, after living in Columbia, and experiencing everything the region has to offer, I knew this was where I wanted to be.

Since moving, I have enjoyed working for the Georgia Aquarium, PR firm 360 Media, Inc., Experience Columbia SC, and current employer, Stevens & Wilkinson. My love for the profession, and for the role we as practitioners play in delivering a company’s message, has grown exponentially. While I don’t know what the future has in store, I hope that 10 years from now, I am still doing exactly what I love. I hope that I’m able to continue to give back to a community that has given a lot to me over the years!

Nominator Quote: “She is a professional in every sense of the word. Her willingness to see others thrive is commendable.She has a passion for marketing and a heart for the under-served.”

 Mitchell L. Nimmich, M.D.
Lexington Medical Center | Hospitalist Physician
Age 33

I am a hospitalist at Lexington Medical Center and board member/volunteer physician at the Free Medical Clinic. My training started at Wofford College followed by medical school at University of South Carolina and internal medicine residency at University of Vermont. My work as a hospitalist allows me a more flexible schedule to devote time to volunteer work and also hospital committee work as a medical director on Lexington Medical Center’s Sepsis Committee. Since returning to the Midlands in 2013, I have been involved with the Free Medical Clinic as a volunteer physician and Medical Director of Best Practice. I joined the board of directors in 2015. It has been an honor to work with the wonderful staff at the Free Medical Clinic over the last few years and to help patients who would otherwise not have access to care.  Everyone deserves health care and it has been a privilege to advance this goal, in my small way, in the Midlands community.  

Nominator Quote: “Dr. Nimmich donates his time to improve the wellbeing of patients within our community who otherwise would not have access to care.”

Michael J. “Mikey” Norris, II 
ApexGraphix | Business Development
Age 22

My responsibilities include consulting, administration, production, outside-sales, and account management. Serving as a quasi-communications consultant, I work side by side with business owners and communications/marketing personnel to brand, market, promote and communicate with target audiences. Guiding a company through their first mail campaign is a great honor, but even fulfilling day-to-day orders is rewarding. They could call anyone, but they call me. I work hard to maintain that loyalty. I owe my success largely to the ApexGraphix family, who always encourages me to grow professionally. 

At Beulah Baptist Church, I serve by drumming and broadcasting services to Facebook Live. I sat on the Global Business Appreciation Committee of the Central SC Alliance, which serves to appreciate SC’s international investors. I’m the founder of an MTC alumni-driven initiative (en-formation). The Nor-Don Fund emphasizes the importance of first year experiences in student retention, primarily for first-time students who choose MTC over four-year competitors. I also served as VP of public relations and communications on the student advisory board at MTC, calling on the community to elevate student programming.

Nominator Quote: “Mikey is an up and coming business man of Columbia. He makes things happen despite obstacles. He is a godly man of good ethics and sound moral code.”

David Palkovitz
Braddock Group, Janney Montgomery Scott | Account Executive
Age 26

I’m honored to be named in Columbia Business Monthly’s Best and Brightest 35 and Under. I moved to Columbia three years ago to partner with Frank Braddock; our team focuses on multigenerational financial planning for families. We specifically focus on philanthropic planning and primarily work with folks who believe a strong community is vital for the continued improvement of the place we call home.  Likewise, my wife and I live by that same mantra. I am heavily involved in the Columbia Jewish Community, serving on the board for Beth Shalom Synagogue and the Columbia Jewish Federation.  I was a member of the Leadership Columbia class of 2015-16 and currently serve as board chair for Family Connection South Carolina. Through my community involvement, I have been able to connect with a myriad of inspirational people and help organizations that I value grow and succeed.  My goal is to have the Braddock Group of Janney Montgomery Scott be a household name among philanthropic families in South Carolina and play an integral part in the long-term relationships that keep the Midlands flourishing.

Nominator Quote: “He contributes time, talent and treasure to making this area a better place to live. He often says that if you truly believe in something then you have an obligation to work to further those goals. The commitment and energy he has already shown to improve the quality of life is something that we need more of.”

Matt Patterson 
Turbeville Insurance Agency | Agent 
Age 34

It’s an honor to be acknowledged as one of the Best & Brightest 35 and Under in Columbia. As an agent for Turbeville Insurance Agency, it is rewarding to work with so many different types of businesses and see their growth and success as we work together. Enjoying my profession and being surrounded with an incredible support staff has allowed me to be recognized as a leading producer for Turbeville Insurance year after year.

My wife Ginni and I are very fortunate to come from two amazing families and are lucky to have two children of our own with another on the way. We are members of Mt. Hebron UMC and I enjoy coaching with the S.C.O.R.E. youth sports program. I am currently a board member and president elect for the Cayce/West Columbia Rotary Club. Happy Feet is my favorite Rotary Club project where we provide elementary school children with shoes. It is pretty special to see how something as simple as shoes can make a ten year old’s face light up with excitement.

Nominator Quote: “Matt’s personality shines in every room he walks into and everyone feels welcome. He has always been very active in his community and is a great family man.”

Kevin D. Pillsbury
Colonial Life | Director of Service Operations
Age 35

I am grateful to be considered part of this year’s Best and Brightest 35 and Under. Since moving to Columbia, I have looked for opportunities to plant roots and be a servant leader for this community.  I have worked for Unum Group for more than 15 years, holding several leadership roles throughout the enterprise. It is important to me to look for ways to give back where I live, and that has manifested primarily through mentoring.  

In 2015, I began to mentor City Year Core Members to help them prepare for entering the workforce and pursue higher education. I have also worked with other young professionals at my company, Colonial Life, to help develop them into leaders; it is rewarding to see several of these individuals recognize their own potential and give back in ways that are meaningful to them.  In addition to supporting City Year, I am also an advocate for the United Way and the American Heart Association. Longer term, I aspire to help Colonial Life and our community continue to grow through partnership and mentorship.

Nominator Quote: “Kevin is an outstanding example of an emerging leader who combines both professional and community strengths. His commitment to developing himself and others, his service to the community, and his service to our country show he is truly among the Best & Brightest in our area.”

Jaime E. Brown Price, MD, FACOG  
Lexington Women’s Care | OB/GYN 
Age 35

I joined Lexington Women’s Care in 2013, and am thrilled to be able to practice obstetrics and gynecology in my hometown of Lexington. I consider my patients my friends, and treat them the way I would want to be treated. Delivering babies of my friends and neighbors is so special and never grows old. In 2016, I was honored to be voted The State Paper’s “Best Obstetrician”, which feels quite undeserving after only three years in private practice. And in June 2017, I was stunned as a 14-pound baby I delivered made national news.   

Outside of work, I attend Lexington Baptist Church, and I’m an active member of the Junior League of Columbia, leading a committee for the annual Clean Sweep fundraiser. Last year, I was part of the leadership team for the March of Dimes Signature Chef’s Gala and helped raise funds for the prevention of premature births. For many more years, I look forward to serving women of all ages in our community with the best medical care – because that’s what they deserve.  

Nominator Quote: “After only three years working at Lexington Medical Center she was voted “Best OB/GYN” in Columbia by readers of The State newspaper. She is beloved by her patients for her highly skilled clinical knowledge and comforting bedside manner.”

Shawn Scott
Unum & Colonial Life | Information Architect
Age 28

I come from a background in graphic and web design. I joined Unum and Colonial Life in January of 2016. I serve as an information architect on the user experience team where I’m responsible for new and ongoing marketing initiatives. I oversee modifications and enhancements to the company’s websites, produces go-to-market solutions for product programs, and collaborates with business stakeholders to drive updates across all digital channels.
I am an ongoing volunteer and former board member with the Reedy Reels Independent Film Festival. I also assist with their marketing and advertising initiatives in the Upstate.

Nominator Quote: “He’s the creative behind-the-scenes guy that makes success possible. Shawn is precisely the type of person who is integral to Columbia’s success.”

Charles Stuart  
Hood Construction | Senior Project Manager 
Age 35

Although I’m a native of the Upstate, and a graduate of Clemson University, I now proudly call Columbia my home. I began my construction career working in the Greenville market for six years, prior to joining Hood Construction Company in the fall of 2011. In my role as senior project manager, I both lead and participate in numerous pre-construction planning initiatives – while directly managing all quality, financial and field operational aspects of assigned projects – with ultimate responsibility for the construction success of significant client investment.  My belief systems align smoothly with the core values of our firm, which are centered around doing the ‘right thing’ in all areas of life – and I have been blessed with many lasting and valued relationships with owners, architects, subcontractors and other community partners. Thus, I am quite proud of my profession, as well as my personal contributions.  Having primary responsibility for delivery of a diverse portfolio of successful projects, with values ranging from $2 to $20 million, I’ve come to eagerly embrace a very proficient leadership style, strongly focused on delivering total client satisfaction. 

With regards to community service, I’ve been a construction volunteer for numerous Habitat projects, as well as serving various roles in the Columbia Chapter of the SC Coastal Conservation Association.  I also have a passionate focus on training and awareness for the next generation of construction professionals – and enjoy speaking to classes at Clemson University, as well as providing informational jobsite tours for our area’s youth. My wife and I are active members of Shandon Presbyterian Church, and look forward to raising our family in the Columbia area.

Nominator Quote: “He is an outstanding professional dedicated to the success of each client he’s involved with. He’s also extremely detail-oriented, a team-player, a creative problem solver and just a great guy to work with. It’s an honor to have talent like his on our team.”

Christopher Sullivan
The Chris Sullivan Agency | President, founder and CEO
Age 26

I have always been fascinated with history and business, and I decided to become active in the community when I was only six years old. I have continued to be active over the next two decades, developing key healthy relationships with political and business leaders.

After high school, I attended Midlands Technical College, where I served on the Student Advisory Board and was vice president of the African American Male Leadership Institute. I developed and sharpened my business skills while working at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

After an unsuccessful bid for the South Carolina State House of Representative, I launched a marketing firm, Chris Sullivan & Associates. Two years later, I decided to incorporate the business and open The Chris Sullivan Agency, LLC (The C.S.A), a public relations firm that specializes in public affairs and small business development.

I’ve continued to be extremely involved in the community. I serve on the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs’ Committee, Board of Directors for Justice 360, 3rd Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, member of the Knights of Peter Claver, served as National Spokesperson for B.C.F, and I’m the chief organizer of the Annual Finlay Scholars Back to School Bash.

Nominator Quote: “He is a giver, a devoted father of two sons, a spiritual man, and a genius in business and community development! He is on the forefront of solving major problems in our city.”

James “Lance” Tripp 
AppleOne | Senior Account Executive 
Age 33

In my career, I have had the privilege to directly impact my community by connecting top tier talent to businesses through the Midlands and the state of South Carolina. Through AppleOne, I have been able to not only make connections throughout my community, but I have also been able help many of the talented individuals I have met along the way. I have a passion for my career, and I am fortunate to work for a company that celebrates an individual’s hard work and successes. I have been recognized as a three-time “Million Dollar Biller” and a two-time “Founder Club” award winner. These are accolades that my driven team and I have worked hard to achieve. Moving forward, I have plans to expand upon the platform that AppleOne has given me and find new ways to impact the Midlands, its people, and its economic growth. I am truly grateful to be selected as one of Columbia’s Best and Brightest 35 and Under. Since moving to the Midlands from the Upstate in 2012, I have enjoyed calling Columbia home.

Nominator Quote: “I find Lance so impressive because he doesn’t contribute to his community because it’s something to put on his resume or is a great networking opportunity; he truly cares about the people that live in this community.”

Ashlye V. Wilkerson
Wine and Design | Franchisee
Age 34

Sir Wilfred Grenfell said, “The service we render to others is the rent we pay for our room on earth.” I pay my rent by serving on the Education Council of the United Way, Junior League of Columbia, Jack & Jill of Columbia, Heyward Career and Technology Board, Power in Changing Diaper Bank Board, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Main Street Rotary Club and as a Girl Scouts volunteer. These organizations allow me to utilize my passion for children and education, and serve as an advocate and a leader in my community.

I am most proud of the two beautiful girls my husband Kobie and I are blessed to have: Alana (3) and Ariah (8 months).

Professionally, my greatest accomplishment is serving as a children’s author. Through my book series, I use my character Tori to enhance the love for learning and literacy for early readers through education. I eagerly anticipate the release of two upcoming titles.

I am also proud of being a franchise owner of Wine & Design Columbia, a sip and paint studio that brings families, friends, kids and communities together through fun and creativity, as well as serving as a trustee for my beloved alma mater, Winthrop University.

My future goals include impacting the field of education through research, service and advocacy. Through the Magic of Learning Foundation, I seek to meet the needs of children and families in our community and state.

I am truly honored and humbled to be a recipient of this award.

Nominator Quote: “ She has been a devoted volunteer who has shown exceptional commitment to our community by freely giving her time and energy to serve others.”

Ashleigh R. Wilson 
Bowman and Brooke, LLP | Associate
Age 31

Inspired by the flair and charm of one too many television lawyers, I decided at an early age that I wanted to practice law. I was attracted to the compelling stories these characters told about their client’s circumstances and how they were often able to soften the hearts of even the most unconvinced juror. Becoming a lawyer was my very first dream. This dream propelled my studies at both Wofford College and Wake Forest University and my return to South Carolina to work as a judicial law clerk and an assistant attorney general. Based in my hometown of Columbia, I now represent national and international corporations in complex commercial litigation. In my spare time, I enjoy playing tennis and advocating on behalf of athletes with intellectual disabilities with Special Olympics South Carolina. I am honored to be selected for Columbia Business Monthly’s “Best and Brightest 35 and Under” and look forward to representing the best of Columbia’s business community for years to come.

Nominator Quote: “She is passionate about her community service efforts and makes a tremendous difference in the lives of the people she encounters.”

Chris Zimmer
BB&T | Commercial Credit Leader 
Age 33

I grew up in a blue-collar town outside of Philadelphia with two older brothers and loving parents.  After moving south to attend the University of South Carolina and upon graduation from the Darla Moore School of Business in 2006, I began my professional career with BB&T and have recently celebrated my 11th year with the bank. As the commercial credit leader with BB&T, I spend my days working with our great team to provide oversight for all commercial credit administration matters and processes within the state of South Carolina. To me, giving back is the simple act of making one person’s life slightly better. Doing so sparks a virtuous cycle that ultimately makes our community great. I am deeply honored to be both considered and selected for this distinction.  I am forever grateful for the unwavering support of my wife Alley and our two beautiful daughters Anna and Claire, as well as friends, colleagues, and the community.

Nominator Quote: “Chris lives the vision of BB&T: ‘To make the world a better place to live by making our communities better places to live.’ Chris lives this vision at work and in our community - he ‘walks the talk.’ “