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Greenville Business Magazine

Best and Brightest Charleston

Sep 27, 2022 12:23PM ● By David Dykes

Welcome to Charleston Business Magazine’s 2022 Best & Brightest 35 and Under! This is our 28th year of recognizing the business and community leaders who are making an impact in our state.

These men and women are young, but they’re committed to making a difference in their communities and the business world. They are attorneys, medical professionals, architects, CEOs, nonprofit leaders, artists, bankers, and more.

We salute these young leaders, and we look forward to seeing the contributions they will make in the years to come. Each person is unique, and it is our privilege to tell their stories.

We will be celebrating these honorees at an event in Charleston during the month of September. Congratulations to all!


Julia Allen - AGE 25

Business Strategy Analyst

Synovus Bank

As a Georgia native, I attended the University of Georgia majoring in economics with a minor in sociology. In 2020, I was accepted to the Accelerated Bankers program with Synovus Bank. The fast- track, robust program consisted of nine recent graduates who complete six months of training in Atlanta then have a new market placement – for me, that was Charleston! I moved not knowing anyone but later found it was a pretty good decision. I advanced to the role of a commercial underwriter upon the graduation of the AB program. In March 2022, I shifted onto the corporate side in a new business strategy role. Currently, I work in a two-person team to support the strategic and financial goals of the Community Bank. 

Outside of work, I am a member of the Junior League of Charleston and the current president of the UGA Alumni Association Charleston Chapter. Both organizations contributed to me finding a place in Charleston to meet people, learn more about my new city, and give back to my community.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“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

I think this is a great quote because it is a reminder not to take life too seriously but also implies that life is not always easy. I think this quote encompasses what it means to find meaning in your life, in whatever aspect – in your career, at home, around your friends and family. Be kind, laugh at yourself, and embrace any challenge.

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

Be present, be patient, be proactive.


Christopher Baker - AGE 34

Transportation Project Manager 

Mead & Hunt, Inc. 

Born and raised in the Midlands of South Carolina, I attended the University of South Carolina. After graduating with a degree in civil engineering, I began my career with the South Carolina Department of Transportation. In 2012, I joined Mead & Hunt as a transportation engineer. In 2016, my wife Laura and I both had career opportunities that would allow us to relocate to the Lowcountry, and we jumped at the chance.

As a transportation engineer with Mead & Hunt, I have spent my career working alongside SCDOT and municipalities across the state to improve infrastructure. My roles include management and design of roadways and other transportation facilities, as well as stormwater management. With projects ranging from sidewalk enhancements to highway widenings, each one provides a chance to enrich the lives of the citizens of our state and leave a positive impact on the community. The opportunity to have that sort of impact is what drives me to keep serving our community.

Outside of work, I enjoy backpacking, playing soccer, traveling, and dining at the many wonderful restaurants our city has to offer.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford

We all make mistakes, but using them as an opportunity to grow ourselves and the others around us, is important to leadership.

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

Learn to ask yourself, “So what?” Challenges you encounter are not nearly as bad as you’ll make them out to be.


Kimberly Balaguer - AGE 35

Program Manager, Office of Community Engagement

Medical University of South Carolina

Born and raised all over the South, I knew I wanted to attend the University of Florida when it came time to choose the next steps in my future. It wasn’t until my junior year that I found the next steps in my plan would be finding my inspiration to join the Peace Corps. While serving for over two years in Namibia, I developed and managed an after-school program that directly impacted 150 vulnerable children. After my contract ended, I came home and started working in a Charleston clinic serving those living with HIV/AIDS. In 2017, I completed my Master of Social Work from the University of South Carolina. I have served on state advisory committees to help address the need for healthcare access for those living with HIV/AIDS. Moving to MUSC in 2019, I now have the privilege to work in the office of community engagement. I also serve on the Dorchester County Community Outreach and A Steady Hand Foundation board.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life” – Mumford and Sons, Awake My Soul.

The line in this song always remind me that life is short and to spend my time with the people I care about doing things that bring me joy!

What is your definition of a successful leader?

Someone who sees the potential in their team and helps bring that out in each person while helping each person achieve their individual goals.


Brandi Blake - AGE 33

Executive Director of Intercultural Development

Charleston County School District 

I attended South Carolina State University and University of West Georgia, where I got my master’s in education. I humbly serve Charleston County Schools as the first executive director for intercultural development. Over the last year, I have offered an equitable lens to our leadership and developed strategies to address issues that have plagued our school district for decades. A long-term goal of mine is having Charleston County Schools serve as an aspirant school district for student sense of belonging and wellbeing, in addition to its goals around academic excellence. 

Personally I have a goal of developing a community-based social justice curriculum for 11th- and 12th-graders who are interested in civic engagement and activism as they enter college. Over the past year, Charleston County’s students and families have made a lasting impact on me. Giving back to this radiant community of students who are overflowing with creativity and compassion for their peers has become a cornerstone of my life’s work. I will continue to serve and make a difference where I can.

What is your favorite quote and why?

Regarding advice for people who are discouraged by slow progress, Dr. Tonya Matthews, chief executive officer of the International African American Museum said, “This is not a sprint, and I would also say that this work is not a marathon. It’s actually a relay race. ... We are not alone. ... It may not be your job to cross the finish line; you’ve just got to get the baton to the person who is waiting.” This quote means so much to me as someone who works in educational equity. It helps me to zoom out and realize I am part of a much larger picture or “race,” as she referenced in the quote. Her words offer a gentle grace but a clear charge; do your part and don’t let your team down.

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

Keep your beautiful imagination and exquisite humor. You are going to rely on them heavily in every aspect of your life.


Reid Boehm - AGE 31

Market Executive

Synovus Bank

After spending most of my youth in Huntsville, Alabama, and attending Auburn University, I ultimately decided that I wanted to spread my wings and get uncomfortable. That meant moving to Charleston, where I had zero family and zero friends to accept a role with Synovus Bank in early 2014. After many years, various job titles, and several consecutive “top sales producer” awards, I assumed the role of market executive for the South Carolina Coastal Region. While leading a team of commercial relationship managers and being responsible for managing partnerships among all Synovus lines of business, I am proud to say that our region continues to perform at a very high level and is recognized as a premier growth market throughout our $60 billion organization.

Striving for the betterment of our communities is a guiding principle of ours and something I support by personal volunteer hours each year at several organizations in the Lowcountry. Currently, I serve on the board of directors for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, as well as hold positions on the Ocean Alliance of the SC Aquarium, the executive leadership team for the American Heart Association, and the finance committee for CRDA.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is one that demonstrates servant leadership while recognizing their influence by helping those around them perform at high levels.

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

Continue to push your limits and don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone. Listen, absorb, and learn from all that is around you so that you can continuously improve.


Helen Bourdier - AGE 30

Assistant Vice President, Regional Banking Manager

Wells Fargo Bank N.A.

As a regional banking manager and diversity equity and Inclusion champion, I take pride in fostering team cultures that promote an open and secure space for team members to be their very best selves. At Wells Fargo I am responsible for leading retail and small business efforts while inspiring my team to be accretive to the organization. In addition, I participate in several Team Member Networks, including the Women’s TMN, My Generations TMN and Latin Connection TMN.

I am a native of the Dominican Republic, was raised in New Jersey, and relocated to South Carolina in 2009. I am proud to say that I am a first-generation college graduate and earned a degree in International Business.

Outside of the Wells Fargo I am part of the We Are Family board of directors. I serve on this board as a diversity equity and inclusion chair. Our work focuses on fostering the importance of diversity equity inclusion and belonging in the community while establishing an open path for LGBTQIA youths as they embrace their changes and cope with sociocultural differences.

When I am not working or volunteering in my community, I will most likely be spending time with my husband and two beautiful boys. In addition, I enjoy traveling with my family.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are” – Anaïs Nin

This is one of my favorite quotes because it speaks to the importance of being self-aware. It is important we recognize that most of the time we are subjective viewers and bring our own perspectives and world views to the table. If you can appreciate this as a leader, you will train yourself to see things objectively and from a removed perspective so that you can be diverse and inclusive through your leadership journey.


Eileen Burkhart - AGE 33

Founding Director of Operations 

Compass Collegiate Academy 

I grew up in Estes Park, Colorado, on the campus of an alternative boarding high school, Eagle Rock School. Being immersed in a holistic educational setting early on jump-started my trajectory of empowering students to reach their full potential. I took a gap year to travel, attended Elon University, and moved to Charleston in 2013. I worked at a restaurant, in higher education admissions, I coordinated events, and even worked on the ramp at the airport. For several years, I served as the executive director of Be a Mentor, connecting adult volunteer mentors with students in schools across Charleston.

I earned an M.Ed. from Northeastern University in Learning Experience Design and am helping start a new school. In 2021 I joined the founding team as director of operations for Compass Collegiate Academy, a tuition-free public charter elementary school in downtown Charleston. I want to help our team create an equitable educational environment rooted in social emotional learning, diversity, and joy. Looking forward, I am energized to continue serving students and the Charleston community by growing this trailblazing school that we built from scratch.

Outside of work, you can find me traveling with my wife, spending time outdoors, and taking our dog to Sullivan’s Island.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“Find a need and fill it.” – Spotted by my Dad on a concrete truck in Newark, New Jersey, in 1965 and repurposed as a life philosophy for situational awareness, pitching in, and filling gaps.

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

It’s OK to not have it all figured out. No one really does. Try a lot of different things because you never know where one will lead. Don’t let your drive for perfection get in the way of learning and growth.


Brenda Linh-Ngo Callari - AGE 29


Coastal Marinas

I attended The College of Charleston where I received a double major in business administration and hospitality and tourism management. Upon graduation, I was fortunate enough to work with Mike Shuler, a distinguished entrepreneur who has made an astonishing influence on the Charleston community. Always being open to learning new things, I was introduced to several fields of work from property management to real estate development. I quickly proved to be a versatile asset, which has led me to my current role as COO of Coastal Marinas.

In 2020, I co-founded Seabreeze Boat Club. What started out as four boats operating out of our downtown marina has now grown to be 60-plus boats operating out of Shem Creek, Johns Island, Seabrook, and downtown. I’ve been lucky enough to work with an amazing team of passionate individuals to help build and grow what is now the largest marina operator in South Carolina. I can proudly say that we’ve changed the way people of Charleston experience our beautiful waterways by creating more opportunities for locals to get out on the water. This would not have been possible without the constant motivation and opportunities given to me by my mentor, Mike Shuler. As a leader, I strive to give the same guidance to my employees and hope to look back and know that I impacted someone in the same way.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” These words have driven me to build up the determination, dedication, and self-discipline to achieve my dreams.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is someone who can inspire and motivate others through their words, actions, and results.


Richard Callari - AGE 30


Birchin Lane Realty Advisers

I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and began my career in commercial real estate while still a student at The College of Charleston. I started in this business as a site selection specialist for retail developers throughout Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

As a resident of downtown Charleston, I soon realized the many opportunities within our local market and transitioned my focus to value-add and redevelopment opportunities. Since this transition, I have brokered well over $100 million in local real estate transactions. In addition to brokerage, I run our development management division that focuses on the underwriting, entitlement, and construction oversite for our investor-funded commercial projects. In 2020, I founded All Hospitality Group, LLC, which handles the day-to-day operations and profit optimization for several of our stabilized re-development projects within the hospitality sector. Since the establishment of AHG, we have been able to significantly increase investor returns through management efficiencies and automation.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

Communicate clearly and delegate effectively.

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

Ask a lot of questions. Always listen to what people have to say, but be selective in who you trust.


Molly Copple - AGE 29

Investment Associate

South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA) 

As an investment associate at South Carolina Research Authority, my job is to provide founders with the resources they need to achieve critical milestones towards commercialization. I am heavily involved in the emerging startup ecosystem in the Lowcountry, as well an angel, VC and private-equity investment partners in the Southeast to help our companies secure future investment funding.

From a young age, my parents instilled in me the importance of community involvement and hard work. I continue to give back to the community by donating time, resources, and skills to various organizations. As a Michigan native, I graduated from the University of Michigan as an honor society member and dean’s list award winner and will be starting a master’s program in spring 2023. I was a participant in the Leadership Discovery class and in the VC University program with the NVCA in spring 2022.

Personally, life is about always being ambitious. Focus, discipline, and determination allowed me to be the person I am today. And that’s my biggest achievement in life.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“A wise girl knows her limits; a smart girl knows she has none.” – Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn embraced her individuality and rebelled against the mold that women were told to stay in during that era. It’s really inspiring, and it helped me embrace who I am.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

I believe leading with trust, focus, integrity, and discipline make an influential leader. One who leads by example and embodies core values. They have a clear vision and can communicate it effectively. They demonstrate passion, which encourages their team to accomplish their goals.


Elizabeth Darby - AGE 35


Wonder Works

When I was 9, my family moved to Mount Pleasant, and my mom got a job at Wonder Works Toy Store. Little did we know this would be one of the greatest opportunities she ever gave me. I grew up in the toy store and began working there as soon as I could at age 15. After graduating from the College of Charleston, I worked in many different roles from operations manager to buyer. In July 2021 I purchased the store and became Head Magic Maker/Owner.

I believe that every child can and will make a difference, and we must provide them with all the tools to do so. Yearly, we host our Winter Wonderland event that benefits local children’s charities. We partner with many organizations to provide toys that promote imagination, creativity, and learning opportunities for all children.

I look forward to continuing Wonder Works Toy Store’s legacy of showcasing the industry and making magic in the Charleston community for years to come. In my free time, you can find me chasing after my 1-year-old with my husband, working out, going for walks with my dog, and spending time with family and friends.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“What if I fall?” “Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson

This quote reminds me of the challenges I faced, the worries I had, and those that believed in me. I look forward to the day my daughter asks me, “What happens if I fail?” so I can respond, “My darling, what happens if you succeed?”

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is one that inspires others to succeed, gives back to their community, acknowledges their own weaknesses, and is always moving forward.


Tara Edmonds - age 35

Vice President, Manager of IT Strategy 

SouthState Bank 

Born and raised in Charleston, I began my professional career at SouthState Bank in 2013. I immediately developed a sense of belonging, gratitude, and pride in SouthState’s commitment to growing our employees and the communities we serve.

While I started in the financial services industry as a personal banker, I have been fortunate to serve in a variety of roles specializing in bank operations, information technology, and vendor management. With no shortage of diverse challenges and opportunities, my journey over the past nine years has uniquely prepared me for where I am today. In my current role as manager of IT Strategy, I have the privilege of leading the bank’s vision through technology and innovation. I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of others and am eager to continue pursuit of that mission as I advance in my career.

Outside of the office, I enjoy traveling with my husband and son, who share my desire to explore the world.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.” 

This quote by John Wesley is applicable to all facets of life, personal and professional. The responsibility we have to each other to put good in the world cannot be overstated.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

Successful leaders are the driving forces within their organizations, setting the cultural standards. The foundation for successful leadership is built on integrity, trust, and investment in employee growth and development. During my tenure at SouthState Bank, I have been fortunate to have the support of leaders that personify the gold standard of leadership and am incredibly grateful for their contributions: Renee Brooks, Jeff DeLong, Robb Byrd, Patti Appleton, Holly Pingatore, and Jason Ellis.


Fernando Soto Gaulden - age 28

CEO & Publisher

New Digital Press

I am the CEO and publisher of, a Spanish-language digital news outlet focusing on informing and engaging Latinx audiences across South Carolina. I am also a co-founder of, an English-language media company that aims to center BIPOC communities in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina.

Previously I worked for an NBC affiliate in Mobile, Alabama – after that I went on to work as a digital media consultant for a Spanish language newspaper. Folks could also catch me on their evening news on Estrella TV Las Carolinas. In recent years I worked as a consultant for the Fight for $15, telling stories of South Carolina fast food workers who are on the frontlines of the movement to demand a livable wage. For the past four years I’ve embarked on being an advocate for Latinos in South Carolina, specifically the undocumented population.

My work in media has had a strong focus in politics that has given me a deeper understanding of how campaign promises become policy proposals that can then be enacted as law. As a journalist I have had the opportunity to cover high-profile politicians such as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

I’m also a founding member of the Charleston Immigrant Coalition and The Lowcountry Mutual Aid. In my spare time I like to cook, learn new skills, and spend quality time with my husband, John Gaulden, a Charleston based photographer.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” -- Amanda Gorman

I like that she is young, and it resonates with me. I feel like regardless of any obstacles I’ve faced, I have had to push myself to get to the end of the tunnel to see and experience that there is more and how much of it I can build for myself and others.

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

I would tell my 18-year-old self to be more patient. Things don’t always work out the way we want them but a lot of times that is because we try to make them happen before they should.


Silva Goxhaj - age 35

AVP, Branch Manager 

Beacon Community Bank 

I am the AVP, Community Banking Branch manager at Beacon Community Bank on Daniel Island. I am responsible for leading retail and small business efforts and fostering a positive work environment for my team.

As an 11-year banking industry veteran, I started my career at Wells Fargo in 2011 as a teller. After leading my first branch, I proceeded to manage three other Wells Fargo branches throughout the Charleston area until I decided to take on the Business Development Officer role at Beacon Community Bank in August 2019. In 2021, I had the privilege to take over the Beacon Community Bank De Novo branch on Daniel Island.

I am a native of Albania, and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and one in journalism and mass communications from the American University in Bulgaria. Having lived the first 24 years of my life in Europe, I have an appreciation for diverse cultural backgrounds and enjoy traveling.

Based in Mount Pleasant, I am involved in the community and an active member of The Daniel Island Rotary Club and Daniel Island Business Association.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“A ship in harbor is safe, but sitting in harbor is not what ships are built for.”

I love this quote because it represents the courage to dare and step out of comfort zones and do the things you want or need to do, without fearing failure. Regardless of that being a possibility, you’ll still learn something extraordinary in the process.

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

I would tell my younger self to focus on what matters, not let distractions or circumstances pull you away from your goals and passions, and take advantage of the opportunities in front of you. I would also tell my younger self to slow down and smell the roses, as it is the magic in the little things that make life beautiful.


Jessica Goyack - age 30

AVP, Retail Banking Manager

Beacon Community Bank 

The financial industry fell into my lap eight years ago, as a young mother working in retail, just looking for a 9-5 job. What I actually found was a passion for helping others. I was fortunate enough to start my banking career in downtown Clemson, where I primarily assisted college students as they navigated their newfound freedom and gave them the financial education they were lacking. I developed a love for helping others feel the joy of financial success and wanted to branch out into the community more, so I partnered with the university to facilitate credit-building seminars, I taught financial education courses through United Way and hosted cyber security sessions with the local senior living facility.

I moved to Charleston about three years ago, and my banking experience and love for community outreach brought me to Beacon. Service is at the heart of Beacon Community Bank, as it is our priority to serve and contribute to local causes that will make a lasting impact on the Lowcountry.

My husband and I hope to be able to pass along the embodiment of servant leadership to our four  beautiful children and show them the value of hard work and serving others. I currently serve on the board for my East Cooper Kiwanis Club, I am the treasurer of my girls’ middle school PTSA, and our kids are heavily involved in youth sports in our community. When we’re not on a football field or volleyball court, you can find us on the beach or taking a road trip to the mountains!

What is your definition of a successful leader?

As Stephen Covey says, “Think first to understand, then to be understood” – building rapport with your team will allow them to be successful in your absence. I believe successful leadership is a choice, not a granted position. Coaching and developing your team to see their true potential allows for a cohesive dynamic that retains talent and increases morale, which allows for more profitable business


Taylor Ion - age 33

Art Director 


Hailing from the Windy City, I grew up in a creative household with big-city dreams. I’ve always considered myself a confident and passionate leader constantly looking for new ways to make a difference. Starting out at a nonprofit, the Chicago Loop Alliance, opened my eyes to ways I could combine my love for the arts while giving back. After graduating from Columbia College Chicago, I launched myself into the world of advertising working with incredibly talented B2B professionals. After accomplishing a global rebrand of a Fortune 500 company with an Olympic sponsorship, I was hooked in the world of marketing. 

Moving to Charleston in 2018 with my husband allowed us to launch Braised & Glazed, a pop-up concept that has grown to be more than just our passion project. Continuing to work in the marketing and nonprofit industries in the Lowcountry, I serve as marketing and events director for our restaurant, lead Charleston AMA, and have been blessed to work with the teams at Trio Solutions and rūmbo currently serving as their art director.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

I believe the best leaders are passionate about developing the emerging leaders around them. They are constantly working to improve their emotional intelligence and know that a strong team culture is the foundation for accomplishing the mission or challenge at hand. They are compassionate, humble, committed, welcomes change and leads with confidence and intention.

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

How little you will learn if you don’t fail. Do not be afraid to be wrong, to lose, or to fail. We are human, it will happen and that is okay! There are no flowers without rain, girlfriend!


Erika LeGendre - age 30

Director, Marketing and Communications

College of Charleston School of Business

I grew up in North Charleston and hold two communication degrees from the College of Charleston. I began my career in higher education at Trident Technical College. I then worked in the office of communications and marketing at The Citadel before landing back at my alma mater.

I am currently the director of marketing and communications for the School of Business at the College of Charleston. In this role, I have the pleasure of promoting and telling the stories of a business school that encourages students to approach business differently.

I have served as public relations co-chair of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s 104th annual meeting and conference, and a lunch buddy/mentor for Be a Mentor. Currently, I serve as a member of the marketing advisory council for Trident United Way. I am excited to give back to my community even more. Outside of work, you can find me thrifting or reading a good book.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

I think we all surprise ourselves sometimes by what we are capable of accomplishing. When you know you can achieve anything you set your mind to, it makes all the difference.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

One who knows that they can do anything, but not everything. They have the technical skills and emotional intelligence to not only lead but to empower people.


Trey McMillan - age 36


Lowcountry Oyster Company 

Growing up in the Old Village of Mount Pleasant, my summer days were spent fishing and crabbing along the creek adjacent to Pitt Street Bridge, not to mention inhaling oysters at the many roasts held in Charleston.

At the time, I didn’t know that 20 years later I’d be serving up some of Charleston’s best local oysters, hand-raised at my own farm in the shimmering waters of the ACE Basin. I founded Lowcountry Oyster Company in 2017, and it’s now one of the largest oyster farms in the Southeast. My oysters, Lowcountry Cups, can be found in restaurants in all over the South, and they also ship directly to consumers nationwide.

I also just launched a manufacturing arm of the business where I am the only producer of fully outfitted aluminum oyster cages with floating technology in the United States.

I am vice president of the South Carolina Shellfish Growers Association and South Carolina’s state representative for the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

Leading by example and ensuring everyone on your team has every tool they need to do their job to the absolute best of their ability.

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

Don’t take time for granted and make every day count.


Fallon Meyer - age 34

Senior Vice President, Market President

Encore Bank

Although I am not a Charleston native, I have proudly called it home for the last 11 years. After attending the University of South Carolina, I moved here in 2011 and started my career in commercial banking. In 2015, I returned to the Darla Moore School of Business and graduated with my MBA while working in Charleston. I am a proud alumna and still engage with the business school Regional Network Committee in addition to my prior service on the Young Alumni Board.

Encore Bank is a fast-growing boutique bank, and I joined the team in 2021 as Charleston Market President. I have been focused on building a team, an office, and a portfolio from scratch. In under a year, we have built an impressive balance sheet as well as engaged investor network locally and we celebrate our office’s grand opening in September. So far it has been the most rewarding season of my professional life. I am so grateful for the talented folks on my team who took a leap with me to try a more entrepreneurial approach to banking.

I’ve been involved with several impressive community organizations including One80 Place and Charleston Junior League in the past, but my most enduring service has been with the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, where I currently serve as immediate past chairman of the board. I am so proud of the work the center does to help heal families, and I am passionate about supporting our amazing staff.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my husband Fritz, 2-year-old son Knox, and rescue dog Freckles. As a family, we love traveling and trying new foods and restaurants.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“If you want something done, do it yourself.” This quote has always served as a reminder to put in the work. Although my role is very collaborative, it’s important to remember that you can’t wait on others to accomplish your goals, and goals are achieved one task at a time.


Toni Moore - age 31

Culture and Community Manager

Frampton Construction

“And don’t forget to do something nice for somebody today. Take care now!” is what I grew up hearing daily as a kid. For as long as I can remember, my father recorded a new voicemail every morning because he liked to begin each day with a fresh start. These words are how I’ve approached life ever since.

I attended the College of Charleston, where I played on the women’s soccer team and earned a degree in special education. My passion for unearthing people’s potential naturally guided me toward teaching. For six years, I taught special education at Ashley Ridge High School and served as assistant coach for the girls’ soccer team. I was proud to be recognized as 2017-2018 teacher of the year, after helping develop a specialized program for students on the autism spectrum.

Upon completing my MBA at the Citadel in 2020, I began a new career as culture and community manager for Frampton Construction. The empowerment I was given to spearhead a newly created position gave me the confidence to grow both professionally, and more importantly, personally. I cherish the opportunity to live out my passion for helping others by encouraging their growth and fostering meaningful connections in my community.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

To me, a successful leader is someone who fights for the highest possible good in the lives of those they lead. They take the time to learn how each person brings something unique to the table, while fostering meaningful connections. An inspirational leader creates an optimistic environment, always leading with a glass-half-full perspective.

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

Give yourself some grace and have confidence. It’s OK to celebrate progress, not just perfection.


Beth Myers - age 35

Associate Vice President for Development 

Charleston Southern University 

My loyalty to Charleston Southern University is seconded only by my passion to see my alma mater succeed in fulfilling its vision of being a Christian university nationally recognized for integrating faith in learning, leading, and serving.

As the associate vice president for development, I work with internal and external constituents through relationship building and resource development to achieve the university’s strategic goals. Previously, I served as the director of alumni relations and in the athletic department. I am proud to have also worked in marketing for Chick-fil-A and at Disney World. Many of the principles I learned from those organizations stick with me to this day.

My family and I enjoy serving our community in Summerville, S.C. My commitment to giving back has led me to join the Summerville Rotary Club, to serve on the board of the Flowertown Players, and volunteer with the Junior Service League of Summerville, which I served as president.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – A.A. Milne

This quote encourages me to have confidence in myself and reminds me to challenge myself to do hard things.

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

Be nice and do the right thing. People will remember your kindness, effort, and attitude.


Tori Nardone - age 29

Senior Creative Manager and Copywriter / Small Business Owner

Obviouslee / Storied By Tori 

I’m a passionate marketing professional on a mission to spread joy in both my personal and professional endeavors. My innate love for writing led me to a degree in communications from The College of Charleston, followed by a career in brand strategy and copywriting, where I’ve learned how to strategically build a brand’s identity and share their stories in a way that connects with others. I’ve crafted messages for real estate companies, fitness studios, entire cities, TV shows, candle companies, whiskey brands, and more. Working with a wide variety of brands has allowed me to strengthen my skills as a writer and learn about many different industries and their audiences.

My goal in everything I do is to simply leave things better than the way I found them and inspire others to become the best version of themselves. This can be applied to both my career with Obviouslee and my small business, Storied, where I provide health coaching services and sell my handmade goods. I believe that authentically sharing stories is the most powerful thing we can do for one another and the world.

What is your favorite quote and why?

My favorite quote is, “Grow through what you go through,” because I feel like how we react to anything is how we react to everything. When we choose to see our setbacks as lessons learned rather than failures, we become a force to be reckoned with and stronger for it.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

Someone who is invested in the growth of others, eager to see them succeed, and excited to help them get there.


Lauren Sims - age 33

Community and Government Affairs Chief 

Town of Mount Pleasant

I’ve worked for the Town of Mount Pleasant for the past decade serving as the community and government affairs chief and overseeing the town’s strategic planning, business development and communications efforts.

I also manage the town’s Youth Council program, Accommodations Tax Advisory committee, and various special projects. I was the project manager for the $33 million new Town Hall, which opened in 2017. I have also facilitated several ad hoc committees, including the 2014 Blue Ribbon Committee of Council on Education and the 2019 Shem Creek Task Force. One of my proudest accomplishments is designing the town’s award-wining citizen engagement strategy.

I am a board member of the Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce and an active member of both the International City and County Management Association and the South Carolina City and County Management Association. I’m also a graduate of the South Carolina Local Government Leadership Institute and a pending graduate of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Charleston. I hold a bachelor’s degree in political science from Clemson University and a Master of Public Administration from the College of Charleston.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is easy to complain about things we don’t like in the world, but it takes courage to be different and step outside of the norm to influence the kind of change you hope for.

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

I’d tell myself to think bigger for myself. Don’t be afraid to venture outside of your comfort zone and ask lots of questions along the way.


Cat Taylor - age 33 


ByrdHouse PR

Growing up in a family who loved to eat out and explore new places, I determined early on to transfer my passion for food and travel into a career. I attended the College of Charleston, earning a degree in corporate communications and incredible first-hand experience as an intern at ByrdHouse PR and the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.

ByrdHouse’s founder, Annie Byrd Hamnett, quickly became an incredible mentor and friend and inspired me to follow her path in the public relations industry. After graduation, I moved to Chicago where I spent four years at a national PR firm, gaining invaluable experience but missing Charleston. In 2015, I moved back to partner with Annie and since then, we’ve grown ByrdHouse into a small but mighty firm with some of the best restaurants, chefs, and products in the Lowcountry.

I’m proud to work with local businesses whose passion for gathering people around the table matches my own. As a community advocate, I serve on a handful of boards, including Society 1858, Good Friends of the Lowcountry, and CofC’s Martin Scholars program

What is your favorite quote and why?

“Your life begins when your comfort zone ends” 

 Sounds cheesy, but I saw it on a billboard when I was graduating college, and it pushed me to think differently about what I was intimidated by. I go back to that quote often and it reminds me that sitting in discomfort, or thinking outside the box, can often lead to great things.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

For me, success equals respect. I’m in a business where your reputation is everything, and I believe that all depends on the way you treat people. A successful leader is someone who values everyone on their team and gains their trust and admiration by showing them that they care about them as people first, followed by the job that they do.


Maggie Wickey - age 32

Vice President of Marketing and Communication

South Carolina Federal Credit Union

I moved to Charleston in 2018 and was surprised at how quickly it felt like home. After living in Chicago for six years, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the Lowcountry and the sense of community it offers. 

Being involved in and giving back to my community isn’t something I take for granted. Not everyone is in a position to help others, so I try to find as many opportunities to give back as I can, through efforts both big and small. I love animals, so the Charleston Animal Society is one of my favorite nonprofits to support. 

I also enjoy making professional connections and networking, which is why I got involved with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce shortly after moving to the area. I served as the chair for Charleston Young Professionals in 2021 and currently sit on the Chamber’s board of directors, and through these commitments I have met so many incredible people who encourage me to play an active role in shaping Charleston’s future.

What is your favorite quote and why?

Walt Whitman’s words, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes)” help remind me that people are multi-dimensional, and contradictions are a natural part of life.

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

Trust your gut. 


Elyse Welch - age 32


Carolina Retail Experts 

By the age of 31, with my two partners, John Orr, CCIM, and Lindsey Halter, CCIM, I launched one of the only majority female-owned commercial real estate brokerage firms in the state of South Carolina.

Born and raised in Peachtree City, Georgia, I arrived in Charleston on a scholarship to play NCAA Division I volleyball for the College of Charleston. After college, retail commercial real estate quickly became more than a career, it was a lifestyle. I specialize in tenant representation services ranging from publicly traded clients like Starbucks statewide to High Street Retail on King Street.

The passion extends outside of deal making into nonprofits, most recently serving on five boards, one specializing in the advancement of women in the industry: Commercial Real Estate Women, Charleston Chapter President (2021), earned Charleston Commercial Realtor of the Year 2021, and SC Women in Business 2022.

I am most proud of my privilege to be a wife and a mom to two littles.

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

At 18, I was self-conscious of how forward, steadfast (some would say stubborn, I might now say gritty), impatient (strong sense of urgency in everything), and honestly, intense that I could get when I set my mind to something, whether it be a test, a practice, a match or a championship tournament. I would tell myself, own those traits. These traits are skills people work to develop later in life, and you were born with that natural drive. They are rare. Rare is great. Not everyone appreciates those qualities today. But tomorrow? Tomorrow, my goodness. These skills in the real world will be cherished, celebrated, and take you as far as you can imagine. Don’t let trying to “fit in” guide you, those who go against the flow are the ones who make the biggest impacts.


Rebecca Whetsell - age 32

Director of Operations 

Medical Home Development Group, LLC

I am a native of Charleston. Currently, I serve as the director of operations for a medical service organization, Medical Home Development Group LLC. My passion for health care started at a young age. My father was pediatrician, and my mom is a health care technology pioneer. I received my BS in business administration from Winthrop University in 2011 and had the privilege to be in the first cohort of the health care administration program. From there my interests grew to learn every aspect of the business of health care. I returned to Charleston to start my career while completing my MBA at Charleston Southern University. I have worked in almost every type of healthcare setting: urgent care, private practice, multi-specialty physician offices, hospitals, long-term care, and nonprofit.

In addition to my “9 to 5,” I have the pleasure to serve as chair of Big Brother Big Sister of the Lowcountry’s board and volunteer as a Big Sister. I am very passionate about mentorship because I can have a positive effect on the trajectory of a young person’s life.

When I am not busy with work, I like to enjoy quality time with my family, friends and godson Jaxson.

What is your favorite quote and why?

“Carefully consider, what prevents you from living the way you want to live your life?” ― Dalai Lama

This is one of my favorite quotes because life is all about choices. As human beings we have complete control over the choices we make. Often, we blame outside factors for why we are unhappy, unfulfilled or unmotivated, but the solution to those problems starts within.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

A successful leader is trustworthy, transparent and thoughtful.


Catherine Woods - age 34

Director of Communications and Special Programming

The Charleston Place 

As a child growing up in Myrtle Beach, I saw firsthand the impact of the hospitality industry from my father, who spent his career in hotels around the globe. Some of my fondest memories were spent in hotels, so it’s only fitting that all these years later, I have found a career that I love, doing just that. As the director of communications and special programming for The Charleston Place, I spend my days celebrating a hotel and city that I’m proud to call home.

Whether it is planning an Easter egg hunt for 1,200 people on Market Street or making it “snow” during the festive season, I take great joy in creating memorable moments for our community. Serving others with open hands and open hearts is not only the mission of The Charleston Place, but mine as well.

A graduate of the Honors College of the College of Charleston, I currently serve on campus as a chapter adviser for Alpha Delta Pi as well as in the Junior League and at my church. In my free time, you can find me with my husband, Jim and our dog Charlie, most likely outside or at one of our city’s great restaurants.

What is your favorite quote and why?

”Let excellence be your brand.” – Oprah Winfrey

I approach everything that I do with great care and attention to detail. Whether it’s trying a new recipe or finishing a work project, striving for excellence is at my core.

What is your definition of a successful leader?

In my opinion, a successful leader genuinely cares about the wellbeing of his team. When a leader shows that they care, it naturally fosters an environment that inspires commitment to one another. And with that, comes a shared sense of responsibility. Throw in some creative thinking and a big vision and you have the recipe for success.