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Greenville Business Magazine

SC Women in Business

Jul 09, 2019 09:40AM
By Leigh Savage

They work in a variety of fields and represent numerous ages, backgrounds, and career trajectories, but what these women have in common is impact. Our panel selected these businesswomen from across the state based on their career achievements, contributions to their companies, and community involvement. Read on to learn more about 12 women—plus six up-and-coming Women to Watch—who have made their mark and continue to have a powerful impact on their fields and the women and men who seek to follow in their footsteps. These women will be honored at the SC Women in Business Awards luncheon on August 14th. For more information: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sc-women-in-business-awards-tickets-54096532184


SC 2019 Women in Business

 
Amy Urquhart
Finance
President and CEO, WebsterRogers LLP
Years in the industry: 20
Headquarters: Florence


Amy Urquhart assumed the role of president and CEO of WebsterRogers LLP in 2019 and is responsible for managing the firm’s nine offices, including its headquarters in Florence. She’s also managing partner of the firm’s affiliate, WebsterRogers Financial Advisors LLC. 

Working her way up from accountant to leader of the Top 200 accounting firm, she has earned a reputation as a dynamic, responsible, and engaging leader. “To be a leader among equals requires the ability to motivate peers while at the same time providing guidance, a balance that Amy strikes regularly,” said her nominator, Reid Sherard, a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. 

Urquhart is committed to her community, participating in the Liberty Fellows Class of 2020 and serving on McLeod Health Board of Directors and McLeod Foundation Board of Trustees and was a founding member of Women in Philanthropy-Eastern Carolina Community Foundation. Peers and employees agree that she leads by example, and in a traditionally male-dominated profession, her ascent to the leadership of the second-largest accounting firm in South Carolina—while still under the age of 45—offers inspiration and motivation. 


 
Dr. Cheryl Sarmiento
Health Care
Founder and Owner, Doctor for Life
Years in the industry: 24
Headquarters: Greenville


Dr. Cheryl Sarmiento has made it her life’s mission to care for underserved patients battling obesity and overweight issues. An internist, she built a medical facility that includes a registered dietician, a teaching kitchen, exercise physiologist, functional exercise gym with pool, behavioral therapy, and a state-of-the-art internal medicine clinic. 

A Filipino-American and one of just a few obesity specialists in South Carolina, she completed internal medicine residency training at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago and has remained independent, preferring to provide healthcare the way she feels it should be—bringing clinical medicine, nutrition, and fitness together to change people’s lives. She keeps most products and services self-pay and reasonably priced.

Sarmiento leads by example, inspiring women through the results of her work, and empowers her employees to learn and grow. Even after being diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer, she worked straight through chemotherapy, never taking her focus off of her patients. 

Sarmiento is the South Carolina chapter co-leader for Answering the Cry of the Poor, a charity, and is a unit leader for S.C. Couples for Christ. She is also a member of Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders committed to learn, live, and spread the Catholic faith. 



Uchechi Kalu
Education
Founder/Owner, Outlier Admissions
Years in the industry: 5
Headquarters: Greenville


Uchechi Kalu is an award-winning writer and Princeton graduate who now consults with students about international college and graduate school admissions. She named her company based on what colleges are looking for today: someone with passion, impact, and leadership in one or two fields, which she calls an outlier. She is also the author of a college admissions guidebook, “The Outlier Effect.” 

Growing up in rural South Carolina, she has studied and worked on five continents and speaks Arabic, Mandarin, and English. Working as an admissions consultant in China—a competitive market for students seeking admission to U.S. schools—she learned the keys to getting in, and she created Outlier Admissions to help students chart their own destiny. Her clients have gotten into schools including Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, University of Toronto, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. 

Kalu gives back to the community in a variety of ways, including serving as a Board Member of Massey Global, which provides STEM after-school programs to rural African American students across the Lowcountry. She has also partnered with S.C. State University Honors College to facilitate graduate school and career readiness workshops, and she was invited by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott to join discussions on federal policies to help advance historically black colleges and universities. 


 
Ashley Graham
Energy
Senior Health Physics Specialist, Dominion Energy
Years in the industry: 5
Headquarters: Cayce


In the nuclear industry, where advancements and designations are hard to come by, Ashley Graham has moved up the ranks quickly, being named a Senior Health Physics Specialist at Dominion Energy in only five years. She has also earned multiple certifications from various agencies that allow her to ship radioactive material and waste domestically and internationally, something very few people in the U.S. are certified to do. In addition to shipping, part of her job is working to ensure that radiation workers are receiving the least-possible exposure to ionizing radiation and contamination. 

Graham has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in transportation from South Carolina State University, and also served as Miss SCSU, leading a variety of community initiatives and spearheading school improvements. She was also a member of the Executive Leadership Council. 

Her civic and philanthropic activities continue today: she is a graduate of the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Columbia Class of 2019 and also coaches students on transitioning to graduate school and the professional world. She is especially focused on building rapport with young women and encouraging them in STEM fields. Her nominator, Quincy Mack of Huntington Ingalls Industries, says that as a young woman breaking into a male-dominated industry, Graham “pulls others up as she continues to ascend.”


 
Vanessa Bialobreski
Hospitality
Managing partner/founder, F2T Productions, Management and Catering LLC
Years in the industry: 15-plus
Headquarters: Columbia

Vanessa Bialobreski, along with business partners, built F2T (formerly Farm to Table Events) from the ground up, creating one of the first companies in Columbia to focus on locally grown and raised foods, along with local chef talent. Her business hosts events like harvest dinners and festivals and partners with other farms and businesses to bring attention to the quality of food in the Midlands and its origin. 

Her leadership extends from her employees to the entire local food, beverage, and agriculture industry where she is known for raising awareness and boosting the profile of area chefs. She has inspired by leading a successful business in an often male-dominated industry and always takes time to assist other women with business advice and thoughts on overcoming challenges. She created Our Place at the Table to provide women opportunities for career support and guidance, and the organization has already earned a substantial membership and a reputation for women helping each other succeed in the Midlands food and beverage industry. 

Her nonprofit arm, the Charitable Plate, helps individuals in the food and beverage industry who are facing difficult times and has provided numerous scholarships. She is also co-chair of the board of Slow Food Columbia, is on the board of the Rosewood Merchants Association, and has served on the board of Sustainable Midlands. 


 
Professional Services 
Brandy Hart Amidon
Co-president, Brains on Fire
Mayor of Travelers Rest
Years in the industry: 14
Headquarters: Greenville



It’s not every day that you meet a woman who was CFO before the age of 30, a councilwoman by age 27, and the first female mayor of her hometown by age 35. Brandy Amidon has done all of that and more. After working in corporate banking and taxation, she wanted more human connection and began working as a for-hire CFO. Work with Brains on Fire eventually led to her new role as owner and co-president.

Meanwhile, her desire to give back to her community led her to run for city council in Travelers Rest in 2009. She went on to serve three terms, advocating for local businesses, sustainable growth, environmental wellness, and more. In 2018, she was elected the first female mayor in the town’s history. 

According to her nominator, Amy Taylor, the director of Wordology at Brains on Fire, Amidon is champion for the limitless potential of all women—especially her company’s employees. “She’s a shining example that age, gender, and geography are no match for determination, drive, and passion,” Taylor said. Amidon has already abolished outdated time sheets, renewed focus on quality of work instead of time spent creating it, and added more financial transparency. From a “babies at work” policy to paid paternity leave, she is always looking for ways to improve work-life balance for her employees. She regularly speaks to Girl Scout troops, sports teams, and other groups of girls to encourage them to overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals.


 
Abby Leibowitz
Technology
CEO, Call Experts
Years in the industry: 13
Headquarters: Charleston



In 2006, just two weeks after completing her bachelor’s degree from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, Abby Leibowitz joined the family business, Call Experts, a customer service, call center, and telephone answering service provider. Starting out helping with payroll, she worked her way up to CEO. 

When she joined the company, it had 30 employees, and by 2017, it had grown to 200 employees. In 2017, the company celebrated its 35th year and added 10,000 square feet to its headquarters in Charleston to accommodate company growth. She oversaw the addition of two locations on the East Coast and has produced consistent revenue growth; in the last three years, the company experienced growth of more than 129 percent. 2017 revenue topped $8.4 million. 

Her nominator says Leibowitz is an “open thinker who approaches business challenges as opportunities to grow and learn.” One key obstacle has been navigating hurricane season without any disruption for clients. She has also developed quality assurance and training programs that have boosted both the bottom line and customer-call statistics, and her work has earned numerous accolades, including 12 consecutive years earning the Association of Teleservices International Award of Excellence.

An inspiration to many employees, she works to stay flexible and question why things are done a certain way—and makes sure to empower her employees to do the same.


 
Chrystal Wilson
Real Estate
COO, WilsonHouse Realty
Years in the industry: 4
Headquarters: Greenville



In 2015, Wilson blended her love of real estate and her passion for helping people meet their goals and co-founded WilsonHouse, where she specializes in helping minority first-time homebuyers achieve homeownership. As COO, she also oversees company operations and the administration team, and played a large role in the company’s recent award for General Brokerage Sales Team of the Year from The Home Builders Association of Greenville. 

Wilson’s team says she spends countless hours coaching clients through any obstacles and setbacks along their homeownership journey. She has earned a reputation as someone who leads not just through words but through actions, setting an example for both clients and members of the staff. 

Wilson was once unemployed and struggling to make ends meet and enrolled in a United Way-funded job training program to help her family out of poverty. She trained in the field of real estate, and now uses her platform to help others who might be struggling just as she once was. Her powerful testimony for the United Way annual campaign helped the organization raise millions of dollars and reach its goal, and she has served as keynote speaker for a variety of organizations, including SHARE and the YMCA of Greenville. Her commitment to the community, especially to the younger generation, also includes donating a college scholarship to a high school senior for Delta Sigma Theta Inc. and volunteering at Greenville High. 


 
Michele Abraham
Government
State Director, S.C. Small Business Development Centers
Years in the industry: 16
Headquarters: Columbia


During a period of unprecedented change, Michele Abraham has led SC SBDC to new heights. Joining the organization nine years ago, she led a detailed internal review, building consensus around what was working and what needed to change. With the staff fully on board, she led the group to rebranding, enhanced strategic positioning, successful accreditation, and much more. 

From increasing its role in boosting U.S. exports to developing a special unit focused on technology commercialization projects, Abraham’s strategies consistently achieved impressive results, including increased ROI for taxpayers. Members of her team say she is a gifted communicator and a leader of character who challenges others to work hard while holding herself to the same high standards. 

Abraham’s respect from her peers was made evident when she was named to the national ASBDC Board. She is also a member of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce Advisory Council and served on the Small Business Committee for the S.C. Department of Commerce. Despite her many roles, she continues teaching classes to small business owners and entrepreneurs, and often teams up with university professors on student projects. 


 
Christine Tedesco
Construction
OWNER, RSCT architecture + design
Years in the industry: 38
Headquarters: Clemson


Christine Tedesco has always been drawn to art, but her mother told her she needed to find a career that meant she didn’t need to depend on anyone else. Her love for creating led her to architecture, and she earned her master’s degree from Clemson University in 1990. Less than a decade later, she founded RSCT architecture + design, where she continues to work with a large roster of clients on new construction, additions, landscape design, and adaptive reuse of historic structures. RSCT approaches design in an inclusive way, bridging the fields of fine art, architecture, design, and construction. 

Now celebrating 20 years in business, Tedesco is also pursuing creative goals outside of work, and has become well-known for her skills in textile arts. In 2016, her quilt design earned Best in Show at the Anderson Arts Center 41st Juried Arts Show, beating out more than 500 entries. She also won the award in 2010, becoming the first textile artist to earn the honor. She has shown her work at the Mint Museum in Charlotte and the Ogden Museum in New Orleans, and was invited to the White House as an artist representing the Palmetto State in 2001. 

Her nominator, fellow architect Christopher Rose, says Tedesco has been a strong advocate for women in architecture and construction from the beginning. She mentors young architects at her practice and works well with various stakeholders in the building industry. She is a past board chair for the Oconee Economic Alliance and has served on the board of the Clemson Chamber of Commerce and the United Community Bank, in addition to working with Leadership Pendleton.


 
Jenn Henderson
Manufacturing
Sourcing manager, Marleylilly
Years in the industry: 20
Headquarters: Greer



Since joining the Marleylilly team two years ago, Henderson has made her mark on the company, streamlining the merchandising plan and strengthening supplier relationships. When Marleylilly Kids was launched in August 2018, CEO Kelly Owens knew Henderson was the perfect fit to oversee safety and logistics for that custom product development, working alongside the director of design. 

An online store for monogrammed gifts, Marleylilly operates out of a 72,000-square-foot facility in Greer and employs up to 200 during peak season. Henderson works with suppliers and factories in three countries, and her experience with supply chain issues, including tariff and transportation issues that are always changing, has allowed her to navigate complicated issues. She has inspired her team to use effective ideas and communication to handle problem solving in the most efficient way.

Henderson has worked in procurement and logistics at a variety of companies, including OOBE and Southern Tide, and also consults with companies to develop and maintain operations and supply chain processes. She has served as a member of the Greenville Technical College Supply Chain Advisory Board and the FedEx Trade Networks Global Advisory Board. 

 “She has inspired other young female managers in our company to ‘own’ their team’s mistakes and development,” says Owens. “She has shown a young company that a female boss can be direct, firm, fair, and not everyone’s best friend. She expects a lot, and her team wants to work hard for her.“


 
Lisa Hostetler Brown
Law
Managing Attorney/Owner, LawyerLisa LLC
Years in the industry: 12
Headquarters: Columbia


Lisa Hostetler Brown wanted to simplify the legal complications in people’s lives, and she’s been doing just that since founding LawyerLisa LLC five years ago. A key focus of her firm is serving clients in an easy-to-understand, accessible manner, and with a “boutique” approach that makes clients feel at home during what is often a stressful situation. 

In an effort to help the public understand more about legal issues, she has started using the LawyerLisa Facebook page to conduct social media surveys, showcasing common mistakes in estate planning. It has become a popular interactive tool that not only educates people but also encourages them to consider estate planning. 

An energetic goalsetter, she encourages her staff to do set their own goals and then surpass them. She is an elder law attorney, certified by the National Elder Law Foundation, and focuses on real estate closings, estate planning, wills, trusts, health care directives, powers of attorney, probate administration, and more. 

As passionately involved in the community as she is with her work, Lisa has earned numerous accolades, including Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Woman of the Year, Best Law Firm winner by the Free Times, Habitat for Humanity Halo Award, The State’s 20 Under 40 honoree, Rising Star-Super Lawyers for six consecutive years and many more. Lisa often speaks to groups, and recently held a session called “Show Me Your Brave” at the WREN (Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network) Summit, addressing challenges and opportunities unique to women leaders in the contemporary professional landscape. 


Women to Watch

 
Chrisandrea Nguyen
Owner, Anne Bonny’s Lash & Skin Boutique
Years in the industry: 1.5
Headquarters: Charleston



Before the age of 30, Nguyen achieved her dream of owning her own day spa in 2018. A Greenville native and College of Charleston graduate, she received medical and esthetics training at medical spas and physicians’ offices before purchasing Anne Bonny’s, which at the time was offering just a few services. She expanded the staff and began offering a variety of services, including facials, microdermabrasion, eyelash extensions, lash perm and tinting, therapeutic massage, spray tanning, and retail.

Before diving into business ownership, Nguyen not only gained expertise in esthetics but learned about marketing, sales, human resources, and accounting to prepare, and it has paid off with steady growth and numerous repeat clients. Many employees and women who want to own a similar business view her as a mentor, and she is always happy to share her experience, while learning from those who have paved the way for her. She loves to assist organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and local schools, and has donated her services to mothers in need.


 
Crystal M. Brown
Employee and Executive Communications Manager, 3D Systems
Years in the industry: 2
Headquarters: Greenville


After a decade-long career at Fluor that saw her advance from intern to communications manager, leading internal and external communications for business lines with multi-billion revenue, Crystal M. Brown moved over to 3D Systems, the world’s first 3D printing company and  global leader of additive manufacturing solutions. The company has 2,600 employees reaching 68 countries, and Brown manages a special project delivering an employer brand for 3D Systems in addition to managing internal employee and executive communications.

Known for integrity and creativity, Brown has participated in a variety of community and business organizations, including Leadership Greenville Class 45 and work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of South Carolina and the United Way of Dallas. She values the fact that her work in communications has given her the opportunity to shed light on the contributions of women in typically male-dominated fields, including manufacturing, construction, and engineering. She brought the first International Women’s Day campaign to 3D Systems, featuring women in manufacturing across the globe, and she has initiated internal campaigns to raise awareness of social barriers that affect women in the workplace. 


 
Nichelle Harrison
President and Founder, MAP Agency
Years in the industry: 2
Headquarters: Greenville



The MAP Agency is a non-traditional workforce development platform designed to help qualified women relaunch professional careers. Nichelle Harrison has 15 years of experience in marketing and brand promotions. After taking a career break to focus on family responsibilities and earning a degree at University of South Carolina Upstate, she marveled at the level of talent and experience among women who put their careers aside temporarily and knew this was an important demographic that needed to be brought to the forefront. This observation led her to start the MAP Agency, dedicated to empowering women returning to work and providing an important service to the South Carolina business community.  
 
As a collaborator, she has partnered with organizations such as The Clemson Center for Corporate Development to deliver workshops and discounted mini-MBA sessions for members, as well as with Michelin North America to launch a unique return-to-work program. Harrison was a featured panelist at the 2018 conference for the Center for Women in Charleston and the 2018 Upstate Economic Empowerment Summit, and she is scheduled as a session presenter at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Summit. She motivates other women by offering them assistance and resources for returning to work despite employment gaps—and is working towards shattering the stigma of hiring women after an extended absence from the traditional workforce.  


 
Anna Catherine Parham
Founder/President, Suffering to Suffrage; legal assistant and law student
Years in the industry: 2
Headquarters: Columbia


After graduating summa cum laude from the University of South Carolina with a degree in criminology and criminal justice, AC Parham became a law clerk at the Strom Law Firm and became a law student UofSC School of Law in fall 2018. During her senior year, she founded the Suffering to Suffrage program, an organization created to help ex-convicts in the community get registered to vote and become involved in democracy. As a criminologist, she had learned that voting not only encourages productive citizenship but also serves as a deterrent from criminal behavior. 

Parham has since expanded the program to offer free resume-writing workshops to assist with employment, and she uses her contacts to help find employers willing to hire ex-convicts. She then hosts mock job interviews to help people prepare. According to her nominator, Bethany Cromer, “Parham has worked tirelessly to end the stigma surrounding incarceration and has encouraged and uplifted formerly incarcerated individuals so they can lead successful, crime-free lives.”

In April 2018, she and her team added art therapy workshops for women and children who have witnessed or been victims of domestic violence and/or assault. The ever-growing organization has won many awards, including the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service and the Walker E. Solomon Award from the S.C. Education Association. 


 
Candace Spradlin
Marketing and Communications Manager, Ranger Aerospace
Years in the industry: 3
Headquarters: Greenville



Candace Spradlin collaborates with Ranger Aerospace’s CEO, executive teams and boards of directors to facilitate corporate marketing and branding efforts, and also provides market research for acquisitions efforts. Part of her role is facilitating marketing for Ranger’s largest subsidiary, ACL Airshop, a global air cargo services company that has seen business double in the past three years. Ranger Aerospace’s founder and CEO Steve Townes says marketing efforts have been an important contribution to that growth, including successful international rebranding, authoring a corporate style manual, co-authoring effective press releases and transforming the company’s presence at international trade shows. She is currently at work on a “baby brand” launch, debuting this summer, that will be an industry-disrupting first, Townes says.

Spradlin inspires coworkers through her attention to detail and results-oriented approach and has become a mentor to other members of her team. She is an active member of Grace Church, including its Care Ministries, where she leads and mentors groups of women facing difficulties. She is also a member of Daughters of the American Revolution, chair of the public relations committee for the Greenville County Republican Women’s Club, and volunteers with various other local charities and organizations.


 
Bridget Trammell
Owner, The Health Dare
Years in the industry: 3.5
Headquarters: Greenville




Bridget Trammell founded The Health Dare in 2015 after her own 80-pound weight loss, and began her business journey as a struggling mom of two. Today, she has a multimillion dollar company, a master’s degree in education, a health-coaching certification, and manages all company operations for The Health Dare’s eight locations. Trammell is also a radio host for the show “Coaching Me,” and is an author and motivational speaker.

The Health Dare offers a  non-medical cellular health program which includes health coaching and accountability, working with people to reverse their symptoms of high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and more. Bridget’s team promises to reverse unpleasant symptoms in 30 days or your money back! The Health Dare coaching team is known for their superior customer service and what Bridget calls “Vitamin L...” which is love. 

Bridget is known as a hands-on leader, driving to each location to work with each staff member, and she interacts with clients just as closely. Her nominator says she treats every client and employee with respect and as if they are a member of her family, setting a positive example of sacrifice, service and support. For her philanthropic pursuits, Trammell is involved with SHE Greenville, founded a children’s nutrition education company called Kid Fit Nation, and has started an educational center in Guatemala. She inspires women not just in business but in every aspect of their lives.