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Greenville Business Magazine

South Carolina Women in Business 2024

Jul 02, 2024 05:23PM ● By Meg Salt

In South Carolina, the business community is a vibrant one, and that’s due in large part to the women who have made their mark in just about every field imaginable. 

We’re proud to recognize and honor 69 of those women, who’ve made an impact in health care, law, real estate, marketing, finance, nonprofits, and much more. 

Integrated Media Publishing reviewed an impressive list of nominees to create this list of 66 Women in Business honorees, along with three Women to Watch, who are just beginning their careers in South Carolina.

We will honor these women at a reception on July 24 in Greenville.

Here are their personal stories, along with their advice for other women in the business world.

 












Mandee Armfield

Northwestern Mutual

Executive Director of Development

Mandee Armfield has worked as executive director of development for Northwestern Mutual since 2011. She also provides administrative support to advisers and interns.

How do you define leadership?

I see my leadership style as “The Coach.” I have benefited from having good coaches in school, in sports, and in jobs. I love helping others identify their key skills in combination with encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zone for growth. I enjoy helping colleagues create a feedback-enriched, collaborative environment where everyone is challenged to do their best. Luckily, I get to do this every day at Northwestern Mutual.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

John Tripoli, managing director at Northwestern Mutual. John took a chance on a new graduate over 14 years ago when hiring me. He has believed in me over the years and has provided me with examples of how to lead, motivate, and care for others. He has shown me how to build deep professional relationships by creating a collaborative work environment. The culture you create in your business a lot of time determines the happiness of our colleagues and their overall performance. We all want to work somewhere that we know we are heard and cared about. 


 






Meghan Barp

United Way of Greenville County

President and CEO   

Meghan Barp partners with civic, business, and nonprofit leaders in the Upstate to build pathways to prosperity for more than 60,000 people experiencing poverty in the community.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

One of my greatest strengths is connecting people to collaborate, fostering a spirit of shared vision which is essential to meaningful community change. However, one of my greatest challenges is having patience for change around issues that matter deeply to the overall well-being of our community well into the future.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

My greatest fear is that despite our efforts to eradicate poverty in our community, meaningful change will remain elusive. Issues that we are passionate about at United Way may not see the progress they deserve. This fear drives me to be more resilient and persistent, but also serves as a reminder of the importance of staying focused on our long-term vision.


 






Kendall Bateman

Marchant Bateman & Co.

Broker and Residential Realtor

Kendall Bateman recently partnered with Tom Marchant to launch Marchant Bateman & Co. She has lived in Greenville all her life and strives to help others find their perfect home.

How do you define leadership?

I believe true leadership is about empowering and inspiring those around you to reach their full potential. It's not about asserting authority, but rather serving as a mentor and guide to help others grow professionally. As a leader, my role is to clearly communicate our goals while creating an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration and continuous learning. I strive to nurture talent and lead by example, recognizing that an organization's success depends on the collective efforts of a talented, motivated team.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

Effective leadership requires having a clear vision that inspires and empowers the entire team. At Marchant Bateman & Co., I prioritize kindness, mentorship, and professional development to cultivate a talented, motivated workforce that strives for innovation and continued excellence. As a leader, I aim to expand my positive impact in the Greenville community. Leading effectively means unifying through vision, developing people, staying attuned to my field, communicating with empathy, and balancing excellence with community engagement. Communication and emotional intelligence remain areas on which I focus for building strong relationships. I'm committed to continuous learning, adapting strategies, and maintaining a work-life balance.


 






Dr. Hania Bednarski

Serenity Surgery & Wellness

Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon

Based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Dr. Hania Bednarski pushes the boundaries of breast cancer care, seeing patients from all over the world and giving them the opportunity to feel whole again.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

Being able to pivot. As a classically trained breast surgeon, I am very well-versed in standard-of-care medicine. However, breast care encompasses much more than just standard treatments. Advancements in medicine, integrative care, and optimizing a patient’s basic health have allowed me to serve my patients in more ways than I ever imagined.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

The one thing I have learned that has served me well over the years is putting patients first. This principle guides every decision I make, from adopting the latest medical innovations to ensuring compassionate, personalized care. By prioritizing my patients’ needs, I have built trust and fostered better outcomes. It reminds me that beyond the technical aspects of medicine, the heart of my practice is about caring for people and improving their lives.


 






Emily Bohan

Kim, Lahey & Killough Law Firm

Attorney

Emily Bohan has held more titles than attorney. On the business side, she was a franchise owner, business leader, and mentor. She focuses her legal practice on franchise law, business formation, and labor and employment matters.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

As a leader, one of my biggest strengths lies in my ability to visualize a desired future state, and then methodically analyze and formulate a comprehensive action plan to work toward realizing that envisioned outcome, even if the action plan must be a little creative. After all, we usually do not get to where we are going in life in one straight line. Believe it or not, I am still working on not retreating when the big audacious thing in the action plan comes into play.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

My greatest professional accomplishment — so far — is growing a disaster restoration company from nothing to a 15-year successful franchise and having the privilege to pass the baton and sell the company to new owners earlier this year.


 










Marie Bost

Edisto Real Estate Company LLC
Owner and broker

Marie Bost has lived in Edisto for more than 60 years, and has sold real estate for more than 40 years. She is an expert in luxury homes, resort and secondary homes, and short sales and foreclosures. Every year, she is a top five agent in the Charleston area.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date? After working with two other real estate companies for over 22 years, I took the leap to open my own company at the age of 50. It was the best decision that I have ever made. I have been the No. 1 company and Realtor since that time.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?
Always treat your clients with the same honesty, professionalism, and integrity as you would your family and friends. Everyone deserves the same level of service regardless of how large or small the sale is. Some of my greatest satisfaction comes from helping clients achieve owning property when they never thought they could.  


 












Eliza Bostian

Hughes Agency

Senior Account Director

Eliza Bostian has been with Hughes Agency for nearly 15 years. Her public relations and marketing experience has ranged from technology, banking, and construction to hospitality and nonprofit.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

I continue to learn that as individuals we cannot expect ourselves to excel in every single area of life or business. Each of us is equipped with our own unique personal strengths and gifts, and part of the journey is understanding where we can add value and where we cannot. As part of this, I find it important to surround myself with other people who complement my strengths; know when to ask for help; and seek to set realistic expectations.


 







Tylar Brannon 
Optimal Bio 
CEO 
Tylar Brannon became the CEO of Optimal Bio in 2018. Since then, she has expanded locations across the South, doubled patient count, and continues to work closely with future and existing patients to help them achieve healthier and more balanced lives. 
What makes you an effective leader (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?
 I truly try to embody leading by example and always being a walking testament to the brand. I prioritize the well-being of myself, my employees, our patients, and the company as a whole by being disciplined, staying calm and positive, and working hard. I'm still working on delegating, not feeling guilty about letting the team down as my role is changing and all the things above. Being an effective leader means you continuously work each day to get better. 
What's the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers? 
Understand why you want to lead your business, even when it's not glamorous. Leading a whole business can be heavy, but if you believe in what you're doing, it will always be worth it. 


 












Cheslyne Shea Brighthop

Cavanaugh & Thickens, LLC.

Attorney

Cheslyne Shea Brighthop’s previous law experience in criminal and civil defense gives her the ability to analyze cases from various perspectives and grants her the gift to relate to people from all walks of life.

A native of Trenton, South Carolina, she knew from the age of 8 that she wanted to be an attorney, and her goal is to maker a personal impact on the lives of others. 

Prior to working for Cavanaugh & Thickens, Brighthop practiced at a civil defense firm in which she primarily handled personal injury and nursing home negligence matters. She also worked as a public defender before her civil defense legal career.


 












Kelly Caldwell

Drift Float & Spa

Owner/Operator

Kelly Caldwell has lived in Greenville all her life and works continuously to help provide healing tools for the community. She is the owner of Drift Float & Spa, which brings premier spa services to the Upstate area.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is all about trust. It’s about seeing potential and giving a person enough space and enough resources to do a job without you. This approach builds self-confidence in each team member and allows you as a business owner to thrive through utilizing the strengths of everyone. 

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

Focus on your passion. You can have a great product or service, but passion is what speaks to people. Business is all about adding value to your customers. In return, you will see value back. If you are not passionate about the value you are adding, everything will feel like an uphill battle, and that isn’t fair to you or the world. The world deserves your unique viewpoint and insight to make our community better, collectively.


 










Taylor Cash

Pro Marketing, Inc.

Manager

Taylor Cash, a College of Charleston graduate, immediately began as office manager with Pro Marketing, Inc. She has been with the company since 2008.

She now handles human resources and finances, as well as some sales for the company. She is a board member for the SWA Women’s Group. 

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

Prioritizing the needs of those around you.  More than anything else, a leader will consider the happiness of those around them a top priority.  If your peers are not happy and fulfilled, they will not be doing their job as effectively as they would be otherwise.


 





Kimberli Carroll

Ruiz Food Products, Inc.

President and CEO

Kimberli Carroll has more than 30 years of experience in the food industry. She joined Ruiz Foods, a frozen Mexican food company in March of 2001. She was named president and CEO in January of 2024.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is all about people. It is working with and through people to solve problems and achieve desired outcomes. The best leaders are those that endeavor to build trust with the team and provide an environment that fosters real collaboration and communication, as well as empowering everyone to contribute and find purpose in the work. That is what I strive to do at Ruiz Foods and what I am grateful to have experienced with many of the leaders that have fostered my development.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

Many years ago, I participated in a leadership training program. The training director was a woman about 10 years older than me who was smart and well-spoken. She connected so well with each person and made them feel like they were the most important person in the room. She was whip smart and spunky and had a confidence that I really admired, but more importantly, she really connected with people. She always seemed to be having fun. She made me realize that knowing your business and being willing to work hard is only part of the formula to success. The other part is the people.


 












Dr. Angelica Soberon-Cassar

Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Greenville

Medical Director

Dr. Angelica Soberon-Cassar has been serving patients in the Upstate of South Carolina since 2013. Her passion is in inpatient rehabilitation and caring for patients through their rehabilitation journey.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

I can work well with others and give and take feedback well. I have been working on being proactive and not reactive. Over the last five years, I would say, I am much less reactive and can be very objective. I can acknowledge shortcomings and work on these without blaming others for my challenges. I have witnessed individuals and organizations blame others for their issues, and they are unable to see the role they play in their own success or failure. I do not make myself the victim and do struggle when others do this.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

Be genuine and build relationships. Be invested in people. Learn names and address individuals by their names.


 









Antonia Counts

Off The Block Performance Physical Therapy

Owner/founder and Clinical Lead

Antonia Counts is the first entrepreneur in her family and received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the Medical University of South Carolina. She has a passion for community involvement and collaboration.

How do you define leadership?

As a female CEO in the healthcare world, leadership means breaking barriers, fostering inclusivity, and driving innovation. It's about leading with empathy, compassion, and integrity, while navigating complex challenges with grace and resilience. Leadership, to me, is not just about achieving success, but also empowering others to thrive and make a meaningful impact in their communities. As a woman in business, I embrace the opportunity to redefine leadership norms, inspire change, and leave a lasting legacy of excellence and compassion in the healthcare industry.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

The best advice I've received as a business leader is that "the success you're looking for is in the work you're avoiding." This profound insight reminds me to confront challenges head-on, as growth and achievement often lie on the other side of discomfort. Embracing tasks I may be avoiding, whether it's tackling difficult conversations or diving into complex projects, has consistently led to breakthroughs and progress. It's a powerful reminder that true success is built on resilience, perseverance, and a willingness to push beyond one's comfort zone. By leaning into discomfort, we unlock our full potential and pave the way for lasting success.


 







Lindsay Cox

Edward Jones

Financial Adviser

Lindsay Cox has worked in the financial industry since 2015. She is responsible for creating and hosting Coffee on the Rooftop Networking, You Go Girl Networking, and the annual International Women’s Day luncheon.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

Everyone leads differently based on their life experiences. I have learned to stop trying to lead like others and lead in the ways I know best. I am a highly empathetic person and that is how I like to lead. I have watched myself grow in leadership, and I know there is always room to learn. If you are not learning, you are not growing.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

Not everyone is on your timeline. Keep doing the activity. Keep showing up. Find things you like to do around people. If you are doing work that you are truly passionate about, it will show. If you are trying to find your "passion," keep taking on opportunities and you will find your way. Be patient. Listen to your gut and ALWAYS do the right thing, even when nobody is looking.


 








Kaye Davis

ReWa

Sustainability Services Officer

Kaye Davis oversees the utility’s human resources, communications, safety, and workforce engagement departments. She has a background in human resources and has held roles in industrial engineering.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

I notice and appreciate each person’s unique characteristics. Because I tend to see what makes each individual unique, I can bring out their best. I am authentic, and I think this allows me to build close, long-lasting connections that foster trust. I am working on my strong sense of urgency. Many times, this will result in me taking action without input from others.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

Be willing and ready to do the hard things.


 






Sandy Davis

Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Co.

President and CEO

Sandy Davis began her role as director of operations, then advanced to numerous positions, and now serves as president and CEO. Prior to Myrtle Beach Regional EDC, Davis worked as the controller for Carolina Southern Railroad for more than 10 years.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

In economic development, there are peaks and valleys. Sometimes there are record years and other years are slow. My greatest fear is not producing. I manage it by always putting my best foot forward and doing the best I can.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

My greatest professional accomplishment to date is locating the first subsea cable of South Carolina in Horry County. It was exciting to be a part of a capital investment that totaled more than $90 million and to have Horry County/Myrtle Beach be a leader in technology within South Carolina.


 











Dorothy Dowe

Greenville City Council

At Large Representative

Dorothy Dowe was first elected in 2019 to serve as an at-large representative on Greenville City Council. She was re-elected in 2023 and currently serves as vice mayor pro tem, along with co-founding and directing the Strategic Vectors Academic Planning and Consulting firm.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

Building relationships in our community for 35 years has helped me serve as an effective leader on Greenville City Council. As a leader in our community, I prioritize being responsive to my constituents, and engaging with the stakeholders of our city. As a public servant, I continue to work on seeking input and perspectives from a broad cross section of our community. I am always working on communicating information about the city and seeking more ways to connect with people to ensure they feel informed and hopefully stay engaged on the matters that affect them.


 






Shonna Felkel

Banker Exchange

President

 As president of Banker Exchange, Shonna Felkel manages complex transactions, corporate governance, and overseeing corporate matters. She has participated in the Greenville Professional Women’s Forum for 10 years, serving as a mentor and leader in the Upstate area.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

"What we know matters but who we are matters more." – Brené Brown. This advice reminds us that integrity and authenticity in leadership are crucial. As leaders, our genuine selves can empower and inspire. I encourage other women to lead authentically and fearlessly.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

Resilience is key. Working in commercial real estate, banking, and law — fields often dominated by men — taught me that the ability to bounce back after a setback and to push forward, despite obstacles, is invaluable. This skill has not just shaped my career; it has enabled me to mentor and uplift others, encouraging them to claim their space and excel in their endeavors.


 








Karin Freeland

Karin Freeland Coaching & Consulting

CEO and Certified Life Reinvention Coach

Karin Freeland focuses on helping women in the Upstate transform their lives and achieve their career goals through her 15 years of experience in the corporate sector. She is active in the Greenville community through her church and the Junior League.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

While it’s been said that “behind every successful woman is herself,” I’ve had another experience. Many of my successes can be attributed to the amazing coaches I’ve had the pleasure of hiring and working with over the years. From my first executive coach when I was chief of staff, to my current business coach, I couldn’t have achieved the level of success I have, and as quickly, without their guidance, tough love, and incessant cheering me on. I will forever be grateful for their support and am a better coach myself because of the example they set for me.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be! When I’m tempted to compare myself to others and diminish the success I’ve experienced, I remind myself that I’m running my own race, and this is one moment of that journey. Today’s success, or failure, doesn’t define my entire career. You can remind yourself with a daily affirmation: I am exactly where I am supposed to be.


 





Angela Gaines

Gaines Momentum Management

Life/Parenting Coach and Manager

Angela Gaines and her son started Gaines Momentum Management LLC, a branding, coaching, and promotional management company. She has been working with women and families for over 30 years.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is discipline, courage, and having the confidence to take someone to another level. It comes with knowing your own purpose and how to lead others to find their purpose. Leadership comes with a sense of boldness and determination to lead a team to be effective and grow successfully.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

What makes an effective leader is the ability to motivate others to find their own abilities and purpose. Effective leaders guide someone to pursue their potential and rise with no fear. My greatest strength is showing others how to look inside for their purpose, be passionate, and know their own power.


 











Allison Gantte

City of Clemson

Deputy City Administrator

Allison Gantte has served as the deputy city administrator for the city of Clemson since December 2021. She oversees daily operations, budget preparation, and the formulation of major policies.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

When thinking about this question, I struggled to articulate an answer. Instead, I asked my fellow coworkers what they thought made me an effective leader. Here are a few of their responses: "You are confident in yourself and your decisions," "You empower others and lead by example," "You are consistent and dependable. This consistency continues to build your integrity," "You are always willing to step in and help no matter the task," I am humbled by their statements because they are reflection of characteristics that I look for in a good leader. One area I am actively working on is learning how to prioritize time for self-care.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

One thing I have learned is to believe in and be passionate about your work. When you care deeply about what you do, it’s easier to stay resilient and keep pushing forward, even when things get tough.


 












Veera Gaul, Ph.D.

Oil & Vinegar Greenville

Co-Owner and Chef

After leaving Johnson & Wales University as University Provost, Veera Gaul moved to Greenville, South Carolina, in 2013. She opened Oil & Vinegar in downtown, calling it a “culinary gift shop.”

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

Mentors are everywhere; and I have certainly benefited from having male and female professional mentors that drew out qualities in me that I didn’t recognize in myself. Beyond that though, I have been mentored by my students, parents, husband, staff, fellow entrepreneurs, and thoughtful colleagues. We can each be brave and open ourselves up to learning something from every individual around us – I work hard at doing that every day.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

A young college journalist asked me what it was like to be the only woman in the university’s boardroom – my honest answer was that I didn’t realize that I was the only woman at the table. That willingness to see myself not as a woman but as a person has gained me male and female mentors. Recognize the passion, authenticity, and expertise in people, not gender!


 






Mary Gentry

ScanSource, Inc.

SVP-Treasurer and Investor Relations

At ScanSource, Mary Gentry co-chairs the ESG Steering Committee and has served as co-executive sponsor for the Women in the Workforce Employee Resource Group.

How do you define leadership?

Trust is the cornerstone of leadership. Great leaders trust their people, and their people trust them. By listening, collaborating, and trusting, we can be better together. Integrity is at the core of all this — both professionally and personally. Integrity is the key to building trust.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

Have a “growth mindset.” This does not mean just growing key metrics like revenues (though I do like revenue growth!). It means looking for ways to grow in every facet. Two essential elements of this “growth mindset” are continuous learning and willingness to get out of your comfort zone. If you aren’t challenged, you aren’t growing.


 












Lindsey Halter

Carolina Retail Experts

Partner

Lindsey Halter is a founding partner of the Carolina Retail Experts, a boutique retail commercial real estate firm headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina. She leads the Landlord Representation Team.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is the ability to inspire, empower, and motivate your team members to achieve a shared vision. I believe to lead is to empower. Empowering your team members to take initiative, make decisions, and contribute to the overall success of the team will create opportunities for autonomy and ownership. I believe one of the key factors to effective leadership is to create an environment and culture that fosters trust, collaboration, and open communication.


 







Alice Grey Harrison

AGH Consulting Group

Managing Partner

Alice Grey Harrison founded the AGH Consulting Group to deliver transformative communications solutions to companies going through change. Her career has spanned over 25 years in corporate America.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

For me, that person is Matt Snow, Chairman of Forvis Mazars. I had the honor of working alongside him, supporting him throughout his tenure as CEO and chairman. Matt taught me the importance of listening to understand, considering diverse perspectives, and leading with the heart. He was a masterful communicator, and by observing his leadership style, I learned a great deal about effective communication and leadership, especially during challenging times.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

Upon his retirement, Ken Hughes, founding partner of a top 10 US accounting firm, shared with me the importance of continual self-innovation. He emphasized that the world and business are constantly evolving, and you must evolve with them to remain relevant. I often reflect on that advice and continually think about how to develop my skills and experience to match what is needed and desired by the organizations I serve.


 







Leslie Hayes

The Hayes Approach

President

Leslie Hayes founded the company in 2007, offering full-service HR support to small to mid-size organizations.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

I am genuinely interested in the success and happiness of the people I lead, and they tell me they feel that which, I think, engenders commitment and a willingness to give that extra effort. I am also willing to be held accountable by my team and willing to change — which is important because I often need to slow down, give clearer direction, and remember that others are not mind readers!

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

There are only two things over which we have control — how we invest our time and how we choose to react—and there is only one moment in which we can have impact — the present one. Are you making choices today that align with your values, give you joy or satisfaction, and help make the world a little bit kinder?


 






Meta Hendricks

Meyer Center for Special Children

Executive Director

Meta Hendricks has more than two decades of experience in social service, fundraising, nonprofit, and administrative innovation.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

My greatest professional accomplishment to date is reinventing Pickens County Meals on Wheels from a one-room office housed in a local church and growing it into its own facility that serves as a statewide model for senior services. It was through this process that I recognized my skills for bringing complex problems to practical solutions.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

My focus throughout my career has always been to do everything to the best of my ability. Being the executive director of a nonprofit requires wearing a lot of hats (HR, IT, finance, marketing, fundraising, etc.). These responsibilities are often compounded by monetary constraints. Perseverance is paramount! How you approach hard situations (people, regulations, etc.), especially under stress, determines how well you will achieve the organization’s goals. In all things it is important to be resourceful, creative and take the time to invest in the right team. Surrounding yourself with people that compliment you makes the entire organization stronger.


 





Joan Herlong

Joan Herlong & Associates Sotheby’s International Realty

Owner and CEO

Joan Herlong’s career in real estate spans over 30 years. In 2011, she founded her own independent firm, and became the top selling Realtor by sales volume in the greater Greenville area.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is not a specific, singular act. It’s an attitude, a consistent behavior that creates positive, lasting relationships, and inspires others to want to emulate and learn from that behavior. My personal focus is on accessibility, transparency, and assertive advocacy, on behalf of my clients, and the agents in my company. But without a sense of humor, true leadership seems impossible to me. Humor is not laughing at others; it’s finding joy and humor with others about our shared foibles—most importantly my own.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

Accessibility and expertise. I make myself available to my associates on a daily basis. They know that a text requesting a conversation receives a prompt response, always before the end of the day. I hire great agents, provide them with all the resources they need, including the absolute premium brand in the real estate industry, and then I get out of their way. But when they need backing or guidance, I give 100 percent.


 








Katie Hirsch

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, College of Charleston

Director and Chief Curator

At the Halsey Institute, Katie Hirsch has recently organized exhibitions by Dyani White Hawk, Kukuli Velarde, La Vaughn Belle, and Spandita Malik.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is helping others feel confident and empowered in their own capabilities. I strive to be the type of leader that reaches a hand out to give a leg up.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

My greatest strength as a leader is empathy. I am deeply invested in the “personhood” of my team members and hold work-life balance as sacred for all of us. Even so, I am always working on my own balance in life at work and at home. I think it’s a never-ending and cyclical journey.


 












Candice Hudnall

Hamby Catering & Events

Owner and President

Candice Hudnall began her career as an intern at The White House. During her time at Hamby, she has received recognition in numerous ways, such as being listed in Charleston’s Forty Under Forty list in 2017.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

My greatest professional accomplishment is without a doubt playing witness to the growth of our team and further, the expansion of our brand through our opening of our flagship venue, The Rutledge Room. Our team’s common goal of mutual success is something I do not take lightly, as our synchronicity is undoubtedly why we’ve been able to accomplish so much.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

I’ve learned that while quick decisions are necessary in the business world, it is imperative that rash decisions don’t become your operating strategy. I use the term “marinate” – a way to process the information received and assess from every angle prior to coming to conclusion. Further, I’ve learned that two heads are always better than one. Also, consulting with parties privy to your operations will lead to your best success.


 












Whitney Huttenlocker

Sculpted by WH Aesthetics

Owner and Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

Whitney Huttenlocker uses her artistic abilities and medical background to help others feel confident in their skin. She has built a team under WH Aesthetics, which offers injectables, lasers, facials, and weight loss treatments.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

My greatest strength as an effective leader is my work ethic. It’s crucial for staff to see how hard I work, not just for the company’s growth but for their individual development. Delegation is an area I’m actively improving. For years, I managed all aspects of my practice, from solo injecting to marketing and scheduling. Starting from a 75-square-foot room, I grew my brand to a 2,800-square-foot med spa with eight treatment rooms and seven employees in less than two years. Learning to delegate tasks has been essential in allowing me to focus on what I love most: being the best aesthetic provider for my clients.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

It's important not to compare or measure our own success against that of others. Everyone grows at different rates and has a unique journey. Sometimes, we get caught up in comparisons, which can hinder our own progress. I’ve learned not to view others as competition; my only competition is myself, striving to be better than I was the day before. It's essential to surround yourself with people who share your values and vision, believe in you, support you, and bring positive energy to your life.


 






Tondaleya G. Jackson, Ed.D.

Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation

Chief Operating Officer

Tondaleya Jackson serves as the COO for the Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation, and is an associate professor at Voorhees University in Denmark, South Carolina.

How do you define leadership?

I believe visionary and innovative thinking are among the key strengths that make me an effective leader. My decisions and actions are guided by knowledge, research, and intuition. I feel most confident in my professional endeavors when these factors are aligned. Over my 25+ years of professional experience, I have learned that I operate best when I remain true to my authentic self. I am continuously working to ensure that the same energy I invest in empowering others is also applied to amplifying my own voice.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

One of my greatest professional achievements is the guiding leadership and hands-on direction I have provided to the launch of a national nonprofit. Under my leadership as director, now chief operating officer, I have recruited and developed top talent which further advances our aims. I work directly with the CEO to inform, support, and implement strategy and operational planning. Some of my direct forecasting has helped to position the nonprofit well for expanding our impact in the future. My work in the higher education community has supported the nonprofit’s solid standing as an innovative leader in a learner-centered education community.


 








Debra Jones

City Scape Winery

Owner and COO

Debra Jones joined the winery business after making wine with her husband, Josh, as a hobby. She continues to share her passion for food, wine, and community with her staff and other leaders in South Carolina.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

The best advice I have received was to never stray from your business goals and always stay humble. Solidify your "why" when you start — why did you start the business, what are you trying to achieve, and what is your ultimate goal? Create your mission statement and core values from these answers. Communicate and display them everywhere. For us, our mission is to love people, spread joy, and build a community centered around God. This guides every decision we make, ensuring we remain aligned with our goals and values.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

My greatest professional accomplishment was between 2020 and 2023. When Covid-19 hit, we transformed our 12-acre property into a giant tasting room, hiring 10 additional people to stay afloat. By the end of 2020, we grew 40 percent, leading to a major expansion. Our 800-square-foot cottage became an 11,000-square-foot facility, and our team grew from 20 to 47 employees. Implementing new systems and managers was challenging but rewarding. My biggest accomplishment is hiring an incredible team I call my City Scape Family; I couldn't have done it without them.


 







Jennifer Jones

Beauty Marks for Girls

Founder and Executive Director

Jennifer Jones founded the nonprofit Beauty Marks for Girls in 2019. The organization is dedicated to mentoring girls with incarcerated mothers in South Carolina.

How do you define leadership?

Effective leadership requires versatility and adaptability. When a clear direction is needed, I step up to lead from the front, setting the pace and vision. In collaborative environments, I can move in the middle, facilitating communication and teamwork. And when support is required, I transition to leading from the back, providing guidance and removing obstacles. It’s all about understanding the needs of the team and the situation at hand. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone, take on different roles, and learn from every single experience.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

One individual who has profoundly shaped my career is Rep. Wendell Jones. Under his guidance, I have learned to navigate and overcome numerous obstacles, transforming challenges into growth opportunities. Rep. Jones’ influence extends beyond professional development; he has instilled in me a deeper understanding of purpose and perseverance in leadership. Over the past nine years under his leadership, not once did I reach out for advice without receiving a prompt and thoughtful response. His mentorship has been instrumental in my journey. Without his exceptional leadership and unwavering support, my success as an entrepreneur would have been unattainable. 


 






Denise Beers-Kiepper

DBK Coaching & Consulting

Founder and Chief Vision Officer

Denise Beers-Kiepper’s experience spans from startup/privately held businesses to publicly traded Fortune 500 companies, concentrating in finance, technology, and real estate. She provides personal leadership and coaching.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

My first professional mentor was Pam Barber. Pam was the CHRO at the first company I worked with post-grad. I was in a rotational program, and she came to me and said my next rotation would be in HR. I objected and begged not to be assigned there. She reassured me that it was only one rotation-- three months-- then I could do something I loved next. It turned out that I LOVED HR and never left. Pam saw something in me I didn't know about myself. I found my passion because of her!

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

It has to be my mantra: Chaos presents an opportunity. When we are faced with negative changes or challenges, it is often the universe leading us to something different, better, and new. A closed door or challenging situation usually leads us to where we are meant to be next. When we lean in and find the tether in the chaos of the storm meant to take us to what's next, it can be the best thing that ever happened.


 






Susan Lindsey

AMEC, LLC

Owner and CEO

Susan Lindsey founded AMEC, LLC in 2009. She saw the lack of female presence in the electrical contracting field and wanted to make a difference by owning her own company.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

I believe that failure is every business owner’s greatest fear. However, I put my faith in God and trust he will lead me in the right direction through all decisions.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

AMEC, LLC was recognized as one of the 50 Fastest Growing Companies in South Carolina in 2022.


 












Kate Little

Hughes Agency

Senior Account Director

Kate Little directs accounts for Hughes Agency through management of client services and strategic planning.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

See the forest through the trees.  Details are important, but do not lose sight of the big picture.  Professionally this mindset motivates me to overcome challenges, tackle tasks, and let go of anything that could derail or distract me from reaching a goal. In return, this provides the opportunity to problem solve and think creatively and strategically, as well as practice mindfulness and resilience. In my personal life and as a parent, seeing the forest through the trees reminds me to step back to get perspective and focus on what’s important.


 






Jesse Lockwood

JL Consulting

Human Resource Consultant

Jesse Lockwood is an accomplished HR professional while also being a board member of the Red Shoe Society, and she supports causes such as the Ronald McDonald House and Make-A-Wish Foundation.

What makes you an effective leader (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

My greatest strength as a leader is my ability to communicate effectively, fostering collaboration and understanding among team members. Continuous self-improvement is what I'm still working on, particularly refining my decision-making process and delegation skills.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

My greatest fear is stagnation, but I manage it by embracing change and constantly seeking new challenges to overcome.


 





Casey Lowery

Adams Property Group

Executive Director Asset Management

Casey Lowery oversees the leasing and asset management of Adams Property Group’s portfolio of retail, industrial, warehouse/flex, and office assets.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

My involvement in CREW Charleston is what I am most proud of, although I consider it more of an honor than an accomplishment. The CREW mission of elevating women internationally in the field of commercial real estate resonates with me as the struggle to obtain relevance and influence in this field was hard fought and at times intimidating for a fresh out of college female in the late ‘90s. I am proud of my efforts to help make the path easier for the smart young women now blazing that trail. No more glass ceilings!

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

Commercial real estate and development is temperamental, and every “win” has likely claimed many losses before it. No deal is perfect – even the great ones are littered with mistakes. True leaders find value in failure and share that wisdom with others. Accept it. Dust yourself off and go for it again.  The only inevitable in business is failure, and success lies in one’s ability to use failure as a springboard and not a stumbling block. Anything worth achieving requires risk. Do not allow failure to cause you to doubt your ability to succeed.


 





Brittany Matthews

The Promotion Lady, LLC

CEO

With over 15 years of leadership experience and over 10 years in digital marketing, Brittany Matthews believes her purpose is to make a difference by inspiring leaders to excel through transformational leadership.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is defined as the ability to inspire, motivate, and guide a group of individuals towards a common goal or vision. Effective leadership often involves clear and effective communication, as well as the ability to connect with and positively influence others. A leader makes their team better by bringing out the best in each individual and leading by example.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

My sense of emotional intelligence makes me an effective leader. When leading a team, being flexible and open to feedback gives the mission a chance to grow. It involves skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and effective communication. This enables strong relationships, inspires trust and collaboration, and navigates complex social situations with ease.


 












Elizabeth McFarland

Maxey McFarland Law Firm

Partner

Elizabeth McFarland founded Maxey McFarland Law Firm in 2023 with her law partner, Will Maxey.  She focuses her practice on primarily personal injury and wrongful death cases.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is about being adaptable and resilient in the face of change and challenges. It's the capacity to stay calm under pressure, make informed decisions quickly, and guide your team with confidence.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

Identify and leverage your strengths. Instead of trying to be good at everything, focus on what you do best and surround yourself with people who complement your skills.


 










Kristin Meyer

Southern Crafted Shutters

Owner and Operator

Kristin Meyer is the co-owner of Southern Crafted Shutters, an exterior shutter manufacturer and retailer in the Upstate of South Carolina.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

Always be learning. There are so many ways to learn every day, such as listening to a business book while driving, taking advantage of relevant webinars, or podcasts. Almost every experience can be something that provides a learning opportunity.  We’ve said yes to things we should have said no to, and that taught us to say no in the future. Asking other people questions when you don’t know the answer, or wanting more information to make an informed decision has helped me not only forge new relationships, but it’s allowed me to learn without reinventing the wheel!

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

It’s OK to be vulnerable. As an RA (resident adviser) in undergrad, I told my counselor that I didn’t want my residents to see me upset because they needed me to be the strong leader. She challenged, “If they only see you as always strong, how can they have permission to be vulnerable?” Something clicked. This has provided much deeper relationships, whether it’s with team members, customers, or other business partners, when I’ve been vulnerable and asked questions instead of knowing all the answers and shared fears at times. Being vulnerable allows others to be vulnerable and invites connection.


 







Jennifer Osgood

Wagner Wealth Management

President

Jennifer Osgood was instrumental in the founding of Wagner Wealth Management in 2007 and was named president in 2023 after serving 10 years as managing/equity partner.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

It’s critical to prioritize and foster a culture and work environment where everyone can be successful. Building a strong team of colleagues with complementary skill sets is crucial to moving the company’s vision forward. 


 










Maya Pack

South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH)

Executive Director

Maya Pack joined the IMPH team in 2009. However, she has been working to support improved health and health care in South Carolina since 1998.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is the art of motivating a team toward achieving a common goal. But for me, leadership is simply being there for those I promised to serve to the best of my capabilities. For the IMPH staff, it means setting the direction for the organization and listening when they need guidance. For policy, it means being a nonpartisan subject matter expert who can convey complex public health research in a direct and digestible way.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

My greatest fear is not meeting the need for public health policy in South Carolina. My career has been dedicated to making our state a healthier place and ensuring everyone has access to the resources and support they need to lead healthy lives.


 







Jeanean Petoskey

Finkel Law Firm LLC

Chief Operating Officer

Jeanean Petoskey works closely with the firm’s executive committee on overall management and governance of the firm’s operations.

How do you define leadership?

As a woman in business, I define leadership as someone who is confident, inclusive, and empowering. It is about inspiring other women, advocating for justice, fairness, and equality while creating a supportive environment where they can reach their full potential.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

Trusting my team and their varied knowledge and experience. Trying to view situations and challenges from another’s viewpoint before offering a solution. Not every person’s challenge will share a similar perspective for resolution. Recognizing a perspective other than your own can lead to innovative and refreshing ideas.


 












Rhiannon Poore

Forge Search + Consulting

Founder and CEO

Rhiannon Poore founded Forge Search + Consulting in 2021. She has more than 15 years of experience in talent acquisition, business development, and marketing.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness, so take this with a grain of salt! Ultimately, I believe I'm an effective leader because I care deeply. I care about the people on my team (personally and professionally). I care about excellence in every aspect of what we do, and I refuse to settle for less. Conversely, this can be a little exhausting for everyone (including me!). So, I'm working on learning which battles are worth fighting, and when to "let it go."

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

Do the next right thing. You will rarely (if ever) have all the answers. But you can do one next right thing, and then the next. Yes, you need an overarching strategy and an end goal, but I think life is more often defined by the small "right" decisions we make along the way.


 









Christi Powell

84 Lumber Company

Women Business Enterprise Division

Christi Powell runs the Women Business Enterprise Division for 84 Lumber Company. In addition, she spearheads mentorship connections with women, students, and experienced professionals at her nonprofit, Women Confidence Builders.

How do you define leadership?

The ability to inspire, influence, and guide others towards a common goal or vision. Serving!

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

As an accomplished leader, my approach involves active listening and thoughtful questioning to empower individuals and foster their growth. I possess a keen ability to analyze and devise strategic plans that position communities and businesses for future success and meet the evolving needs of any business or community.  I'm always working on being a better communicator and responding with confidence and humility with my words and actions.


 






Laura Robinson

Ted Law: Accident and Injury Law Firm, LLC

Managing Attorney

Laura Robinson worked for years as an insurance defense attorney as well as a vice president of claims for a national insurance company. She joined forces with Ted Sink to help innocent people who have been injured.

How do you define leadership?

To me, leadership is driving a team based on my example. I believe in living the expectations I set forth for my team. I believe in being available for my team’s questions, providing clean and constructive feedback, setting achievable goals that can be broadened as we meet those goals and championing my team by celebrating their achievement, whether big or small.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

Open and honest communication lines with my team. I want them to always feel they can come to me for advice. I want them to know that I am an advocate and resource for their needs. I am still working on making sure I can be always available for them while still attending to the needs of my own caseload and managing the firm’s day-to-day operations. It’s a delicate balance but one that I work hard to be successful at.


 






Natasha Sexton

Sexton Design and Development

President and Lead Landscape Architect

Natasha Sexton has over 20 years of experience in the project design and development field. Her project experience includes mixed-use development, historical adaptations, urban infill developments, and more.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

I have been very blessed to have had so many people work to teach, assist, and mentor me over the years. My high school art teacher, Ann Bishop, to my two favorite professors, Francis Chamberlain and Lolly Tai. Lastly, the late and great, Tom Keith. He was my first real boss in this profession and was truly a teacher in so many ways. Tom taught me the nitty gritty of my profession while also showing me an amazing example of how to balance work and home. He never once apologized for putting his family first while designing some of our most beloved projects, like Falls Park.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

Most of us are better than we think we are – smarter, harder working, more deserving, etc.  See yourself the way others see you and recognize your strengths and work to grow them. Recognize your weaknesses and work to either improve or negate them. Find team members and partners with complimentary skills that bolster your weaknesses and allow your strengths to shine. Always boost each other up, you accomplish much more this way!


 








Carolyn Shanesy

MetroConnects

Communications and Public Relations Manager

Carolyn Shanesy has worked in Upstate, South Carolina for nearly three decades. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America, the SMC Alumni Council, and volunteers for Make-A-Wish South Carolina.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership should be about the people served. Leadership to me is about inspiring others to be the best versions of themselves. A good leader must be successful in connecting with others, demonstrating empathy and being a good listener. They should be curious about the world around them, comfortable in their own skin, willing to take risks and consistent in their actions. A good leader sets the tone for creating a vision and a direction for the team, organization/business.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

Benjy Hamm was my managing editor when I worked at the Herald-Journal (Spartanburg). He pushed me outside of my comfort zone as a reporter, encouraging me to get involved in newsroom management. Working alongside him, I learned the value of recruiting the right people, asking all the questions, actively listening and engaging with others, and thinking outside the box. He often said, and it still resonates with me, “Winning awards is wonderful, but what we do consistently every day is what wins people.”


 







Tricia Smith

Muncaster Financial Group

Retirement Plan Specialist

Tricia Smith, who was formerly a Division I swim and dive coach, made a giant leap early in her career to the investment industry. She supports plan sponsors and participants in optimizing their retirement plans.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership is shepherding individuals, in the moment and over time, in the direction they need to go to accomplish a goal. This can be done by example, instruction, or mentorship.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

The best advice I have received in business, which also applies to life, is not to confuse kindness with being nice. You can’t always be nice when you need to accomplish something, but you can strive to lead with kindness.


 











Caitlin Steelman

Graycliff Capital Partners

CEO and CFO

Caitlin Steelman joined Graycliff Capital Partners in 2015 as Controller and was promoted to CFO a year later. In 2022, she assumed the role of CEO.

How do you define leadership? 

I define leadership as the ability to inspire, guide, and influence others towards a common goal or vision. A leader not only possesses strong decision-making skills but also demonstrates empathy, integrity, and effective communication. Leadership involves setting a clear direction, motivating team members, fostering collaboration, and empowering others to reach their full potential. It’s about creating a positive impact, driving change, and navigating challenges with resilience and adaptability. Ultimately, leadership is about serving others and driving collective progress towards a shared purpose.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

I believe in leading by example. I am quick to dive into the details to work through a problem to ensure the growth and success of my team. If a challenge arises, I am on the front lines providing any necessary support. Because I’m all about giving back, I encourage Graycliff’s employees to become engaged in their communities on a personal level. I continually strive to earn the respect of my team, fine-tuning my leadership skills along the way. Knowing that Graycliff’s partners rely on my guidance and direction to continue moving the firm forward is especially rewarding.


 






Hannah Stetson

Turner Padget

Shareholder

Hannah Stetson is a member of the Workplace Team at Turner Padget. She counsels employers and company management in various litigation, administrative, and counseling matters.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

In my employment practice, I’ve had the opportunity to observe the importance of prioritizing your workforce and team. A strong, motivated team is the backbone of any successful business. Invest in their development, listen to their ideas, and foster a collaborative environment by treating them well. When your team feels valued and empowered, they are more productive, innovative, and dedicated.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

One invaluable lesson I have learned is the importance of empathy. Understanding and relating to the experiences of others fosters deeper connections and relationships, both personally and professionally.


 












Leah Stoudenmire

The Rock It! Co.

Founder and CEO

Leah Stoudenmire has worked in advertising since 2002. In 2014, she founded The Rock It! Co., an events and marketing firm. The Rock It! Co. is designed to get the results companies and nonprofits need to succeed.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

There are three tips I would like to pass along to your readers: 1. Learn to be decisive. We can get so caught up in the desire to make the right decision that we end up making no decision at all. A decision is better than no decision. And the good news, it's a skill you can practice and master over time. 2. Prioritize life-work balance and self-care to ensure personal well-being and ultimately better job performance. 3. Trust your instincts, overcome challenges, and lead with your gut to accomplish goals.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

Never burn a bridge. Building lasting relationships, embracing integrity, and staying authentic have proven invaluable throughout my life and career. You never know when paths will cross again or how someone might be a major part of your future. I have experienced this to be true many times. 


 





Ashely Teasdel

South Carolina Department of Commerce

Deputy Secretary

Ashely Teasdel joined the S.C. Commerce in 2015, and serves as a board member for SCbio, the SC Economic Developers Association, and the South Carolina Jobs-Economic Development Authority. 

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

My greatest strength is the ability to be an integrator – facilitating collaboration, navigating complex challenges, and driving innovation and adaptability – while leading with empathy and understanding. I’m personally still working on acknowledging my own limitations and recognizing that I can’t solve every problem. However, by prioritizing and focusing on core responsibilities, I concentrate efforts in areas that make the most impact which allows me to allocate time effectively.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

Authenticity in leadership is a key component to fostering an environment of trust, a strong sense of purpose, and it sets the tone for the organizational culture. When others see leaders living out their values and principles, they are inspired to mirror those behaviors and strive for excellence.


 







Ariel Thomas

Columbia-Richland Fire Department

Fire Administration Officer

Ariel Thomas started her journey with the Columbia Fire Department in 2007. She was a career firefighter for seven years, then journeyed into Fire Prevention, where she eventually became the Public Fire Education Officer/Senior Deputy Fire Marshal.

How do you define leadership?

Defining leadership as a woman firefighter involves emphasizing qualities and actions that inspire and guide others, particularly in a traditionally male-dominated field. Lead by example: Demonstrate integrity, resilience, and dedication in all tasks. Your actions should reflect the high standards you set for your team.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

On May 30, 2012, we were riding Engine 31 on the third shift, and we were successful in saving a cardiac arrest patient by performing CPR and using an AED. We didn't know that he made it. A few months later, he surprised us at our fire station; we all hugged each other, and it was the greatest feeling ever.


 











 Dr. Emily Touloukian

Coastal Cancer Center

President and CEO

Dr. Emily Touloukian is a medical oncologist at Coastal Cancer Center in Myrtle Beach. She is board-certified in medical oncology, hematology, and internal medicine.

How do you define leadership?

For me, leadership encompasses cultivating an environment conducive to productivity and success through nurturing and empowering individuals and teams. It's about creating a culture of support and encouragement, where each member feels valued and motivated to contribute their best. True leadership involves not just directing, but also listening, guiding, and inspiring others towards common goals. It's about recognizing strengths, fostering growth, and navigating challenges together. Ultimately, I believe leadership is about driving collective achievement while fostering an atmosphere of trust, respect, and collaboration.


 












Anna Kate Twitty

Flock and Rally

Director of Channel Strategy

Anna Kate Twitty serves as the agency’s lead for marketing strategy, public relations, and digital marketing. She joined the integrated marketing agency in 2021.

How do you define leadership?

True leadership is the ability to inspire and empower others to achieve a common goal. I believe a great leader is someone who actively listens, effectively communicates, empowers others, and fosters an environment of trust and collaboration. Leadership is not just about managing. It’s about guiding and supporting a team through challenges and celebrating successes together. It involves setting a clear vision, being adaptable, and continuously developing alongside your team. Effective leadership is about making a positive impact and driving meaningful change — both within the organization and in the community.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

The best advice I have received in business is the importance of truly listening. Effective listening goes beyond simply hearing words; it involves understanding the needs, concerns, and aspirations of others. By actively listening, you can gain deeper insights, foster stronger relationships, and make more informed decisions.


 











Anna Waters

Ballentine Capital Advisors

Marketing and Brand Strategist

With over six years of marketing experience, Anna Waters specializes in social media management, event planning, and email marketing.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

One of my greatest strengths, and what makes me an effective leader, is my empathy. A good leader should be compassionate and capable of understanding and connecting with their team. My empathy has not only built strong rapport and relationships but has also enabled me to communicate more effectively.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

One of my biggest mentors throughout not only my career, but my life, has been my mother, Tanya Waters. My mother has always instilled a strong work ethic in me and pushes me to break continually break boundaries. She reminds me that the hard days get better, and always is there to provide guidance and advice along the way. I would not be the woman I am today without her.


 







Celina Weems & Brooks Galloway

2 Sisters Packing

Co-Owners

Celina Weems and Brooks Galloway, sisters, co-own 2 Sisters Packing, a residential and commercial packing service located in Greenville, South Carolina, and work in the Upstate.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength) What are you still working on?

Our ability to effectively make our clients feel special and give them a clear vision of how we can help them. We are still working on creating a positive outreach for the seniors with hardships; by helping them find the resources they need for a better tomorrow.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

This one is easy, our mentor would be our mother, Susan Starkey. She would hear from Dad that we were moving within a week, and she flew into action. She was head organizer and packer every time we moved. We moved around 12-plus times over the years, and she always made it seem like such a smooth process. She taught us that moving was exciting for what was to come, and we learned to love the process and adventure that came with moving.


 












Sharon Wilson

Wilson Associates

Co-Founder, President, and Broker-in-charge

Sharon Wilson has worked in the Greenville real estate market for decades. She co-founded Wilson Associates in 2014, and before that, was consistently recognized as a top 10 agent in Greenville.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

I’m very fond of the Maya Angelou quote, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” While there’s no substitute for working hard and being prepared, HOW you do something is as important as WHAT you do. Everything is built on relationships, so if you focus on people and not things, maintain a servant’s heart, be kind and gracious, and try to leave each situation better than you found it, success will naturally follow.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

Over my long career, I’ve seen A LOT of changes in the industry, our city, and the world.  The secret to successfully navigating change is to create it. Truly, the only way forward is forward. With that in mind I have not only adapted to changing times but also embraced advancements and worked to push the envelope if I saw a better way.


 







Nicole Woods

Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Columbia

Chief Executive Officer 

Nicole Woods has over 23 years of healthcare leadership experience in the acute care hospital setting and has been the CEO of Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Columbia for three years.

What makes you an effective leader? (Your greatest strength). What are you still working on?

I would say my greatest leadership strength is my ability to motivate and inspire my teams to accomplish a mission or goal.  I have been blessed with the ability to bring people together of many different backgrounds and skills to encourage the spirit of collaboration as a team. One of the areas I continue to work on is “effective listening.”  It is challenging for me because I like to talk a lot. However, I have seen the mastery of “effective listening” in great leaders that I have had the pleasure to work with.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

My greatest professional accomplishment was my hospital receiving the 2023 President's Circle Award for Encompass Health.  We were recognized out of 150 hospitals around the country.  Our hospital has not received this award in well over 20 years.  It is testament of the team’s hard work and continued diligence to provide great care to our patients.


 









Lochlan Wooten

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Chief Operating Officer

Lochlan Wooten has spent more than 18 years connecting nonprofits with their communities. She helps build innovative, new habitats and creates opportunities for guests to engage in conservation.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

My mom! I owe much of my success to my mom, who demonstrated for me every day how to love your job, work extremely hard and prioritize your family. She also instilled in me a curiosity about the world around us that is the foundation of my leadership philosophy. Curiosity affords us the opportunity to better know and understand our staff, our customers, our industries. It also seeks out diverse perspectives, which is the cornerstone of an innovative, adaptive, high functioning team.


 










Keely Yates

Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A.

Director of Marketing

Keely Yates leads all aspects of marketing and business development for Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. Her area of expertise includes brand development, client retention efforts, digital marketing and social media, public relations, etc.

Is there a mentor who has meant a lot to you in your career?

My first professional position was an association management executive—a position in which I had no prior experience! So, I learned quickly from the team around me and from membership in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). I soaked up the knowledge from my village of peers in ASAE and would count them as my mentors. When I joined HSB, I became a member of the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and soon found my new village of mentors.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

One project that I’m very proud of was the redesign of the firm’s website, logo, and branding. This was one of the first large-scale initiatives that I worked on when I joined the firm. Having the trust and support of the firm’s management committee to lead the effort to change our logo and branding meant a great deal to me, especially early in my tenure year.



WOMEN TO WATCH

 









Amber Ashmore

Guy & Associates

CEO

Amber Ashmore, a Greenville native, is the CEO of Guy & Associates, a premier virtual assistance firm. Outside of the firm, she is an advocate for women’s leadership and entrepreneurship.

How do you define leadership?

Leadership, to me, is about being transparent and adaptable. Transparent leadership means being open, honest, and clear in communication. Also, fostering trust and collaboration within the team. It’s about sharing both successes and challenges and creating an environment where everyone feels valued and informed. The ability to adapt at a moment’s notice is crucial, and being responsive to change ensures we stay ahead and continue to grow. As a leader, I strive to embody these qualities, guiding my team with integrity and agility.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

The best advice I’ve received in business is simple: Start, even if it’s messy. The goal is to get moving and iron out the details along the way. Slow motion is 100 times better than no motion. Waiting for everything to be perfect can paralyze progress. Embrace imperfection, learn from each step, and keep pushing forward. This mindset has been crucial in my journey, helping me navigate challenges and drive growth at Guy and Associates. Remember, progress is made by those who act, not by those who wait for the perfect moment.


 












Katie Harrison

KVH Consulting Group

Owner and President

Katie Harrison started KVH Consulting Group out of the growing demand for her expertise and ability to energize the team she works with and encourage a growth mindset.

What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?

Professionally speaking, I have only one fear: that I will not think big enough. I fear that I will have missed opportunities because I was thinking small and thinking about what is attainable versus what could be attained. To fight this fear, I am constantly analyzing how we can make an idea better. If we had no limits, what would we do? Then we act on it! I challenge myself to take nothing off the table. If I feel an idea is too big, I just have to get a bigger table.


 





SaMonia Mason

Optus Bank and Shero Scrubs & Essentials

Banker and CEO

SaMonia Mason serves as the Premier Banking Relationship Banker and customer service coordinator. Additionally, she is an entrepreneur, running her own medical scrubs company.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

The best advice I have received in business is to understand and recognize your value. As a woman in the business world, challenges can arise simply due to gender. However, by knowing our worth, we can set essential boundaries, cultivate strong relationships, and achieve our desired goals. There's a saying: "If you don't know your worth, then no one else will," and this resonates deeply. When others observe you, they should immediately perceive your value through your presence and demeanor. Embracing and demonstrating your worth is fundamental to success in the business landscape.

What one thing have you learned that has served you well over the years?

One key lesson I have learned over the years in business and leadership is the importance of not taking things personally and maintaining a clear separation between personal and professional matters. By keeping these spheres distinct, you can think more clearly and make more rational decisions.