Charlotte Media Group presents its second annual profile on some of the most dynamic women across the south Charlotte, Union County, Matthews-Mint Hill and greater Charlotte region.
Platinum Group Realty
Alisha DeBerry operates on the premise set by Les Brown: “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one; than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”
This mantra as well as her core values of integrity and excellence have helped her as a wife, mother, business owner and community leader.
“The best thing about the various aspects of who I am is that I’m graced to walk through every open door and whatever I set forth in my mind, heart and soul does prosper,” she said. “I realize success is a very personal thing.”
Some of her biggest achievements are marrying her best friend and opening and owning a real estate school.
Amanda Parris Jones
After years of working as a registered nurse, Amanda Parris Jones set out last year to start a healthcare business.
QCHydrate helps clients feel better through IV infusions. Whether you need help relieving stress or feeling energized, she has a drip for it. The best part is that clients can schedule sessions in their homes or offices.
Having grown up in a single-parent household, Jones sponsors families around the holidays.
“Whether it’s a smile, saying hello, paying it forward or any random act of kindness, you have the power to make someone’s day better,” Jones said. “Why wouldn’t we want to do that every day?”
Angela Gordon Mills
Spotlight Performing Arts Academy
Angela Gordon Mills considers giving children a space that is safe and welcoming through Spotlight Performing Arts Academy in Mint Hill to be her biggest personal accomplishment. She serves as the owner and executive director of the academy.
“Without being emotionally affected by all that Spotlight does, we would not continue to exist,” Gordon Mills said. “Spotlight is more than my job, it is my ministry. We have created a family for our students and a place where everyone can feel they belong.”
She launched Spotlight Community Theatre as a nonprofit part of the academy in 2022. It aims to give children greater access to a community that allows them to grow as artists.
Mint Hill Coffee and Social House
Annette Smith used skills gained from more than 20 years in corporate America to craft a great coffee company.
The business has been building quite the buzz since 2017, including being voted Best Coffee by the readers of Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly in 2021 and 2022.
Smith enjoys mentoring other entrepreneurs. She is a member of the Mint Hill Women’s Club, Women Owned Business Club and Mint Hill Chamber of Commerce.
She also supports diversity, equality and inclusion efforts.
“One of our popular coffee blends is the PRIDE blend that was created to donate a percentage of profits to Time Out Youth Charlotte,” Smith said.
Town of Indian Trail
Brandi Deese remembers when she was younger how her dad was frustrated with the government. Throughout her career, including her time as planning director with the Town of Indian Trail, Deese has worked to change the reputation of government.
She has helped improve government’s responsiveness in Indian Trail as well as previous stops in Pensacola, Florida and Laurinburg, N.C.
“Government can and should be efficient and responsive,” Deese said. “Changing the culture of a government department can be risky and extremely challenging, but for me, I cannot ethically sit back and accept the status quo.”
Corey Brausch Hurley
Corey Brausch Hurley grew up with a knack for social media, splicing home videos into music videos. The Winthrop University alum now helps others harness the reach of social media through her six-figure company.
“We want to be seen as the authority in the field showing you that social media can feel good if you approach them with the right mindset and strategy,” Brausch Hurley said. “We encourage clients to think about their approach to social media, and how their intentions and mindset affect the outcome.”
Mindset is important to Brausch Hurley as she studies to become an herbalist. She already is certified in yoga and Reiki techniques.
Elizabeth Del Rosario
Creative Share Group
Elizabeth Del Rosario launched Creative Share Group to provide employment opportunities for creatives. The company connects the community to creatives specializing in festival art, body painting, costumed characters, photography and other art forms.
“I believe the ‘starving artist’ is an antiquated idea and the work of creatives should be valued and compensated,” Del Rosario said. “Our company represents the talents of our artists and we are very proud of the quality of work we provide for all of our clients.”
The “art-preneur” draws inspiration from her mother when it comes to balancing work, homeschooling two children and being a supportive wife.
Smart Diehl Academy
Jayme Diehl began her career teaching in elementary school classrooms before taking some time off to raise her third child. While raising her three sons, she started tutoring to continue doing what she loves.
“This is where I discovered a renewed fire and passion for education,” she said. “Working directly with students again reminded me why I fell in love with teaching. The challenges and variety that come with working with different grade levels have me excited about learning new strategies and teaching techniques.”
She started Smart Diehl Academy, which offers after-school tutoring, homeschool teaching and supplemental and enrichment classes to students in pre-kindergarten through ninth grade.
Jeni Bukolt launched HAVEN Creative with the hopes of putting her son through daycare while giving herself a creative outlet.
Despite some pushback with one early branding campaign, Bukolt pushed forward to help other communities like Gaston County, Maiden, Marshville and Newtown, Connecticut reach their goals through award-winning work.
Bukolt now pays it forward through her involvement in the Entrepreneur Organization Charlotte Chapter. She partially funded a scholarship to help women and minority entrepreneurs.
“I couldn’t envision growing a business as a possibility because I didn’t have a successful role model who looked like me,” she said. “Without my first business mentor to teach me the tools to succeed, I would never have tried.”
Jenny Melrose replaced a New York teaching salary with a food blog. She uses her knowledge of content, email marketing and social media to show women how to market themselves.
Her “Influencer Entrepreneur Podcast” has logged more than 300,000 downloads. Recent episodes include “Biggest Mistakes Influencers Make When Working With Brands” and “Business Elevator Pitch.”
“It is my mission to show as many young girls that women can run strong and thriving businesses by helping my clients create that for themselves and their families,” Melrose said.
Charlotte Area Chamber of Commerce
Jessica Helms launched the Charlotte Area Chamber of Commerceone week before the economy shut down due to COVID-19.
She and her co-founder held virtual meetings weekly during the pandemic so member small businesses could share information and resources.
Helms faced another major setback in 2022. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Connections she made personally and professionally powered Helms through her victory over cancer.
“As I look forward to the future and all the exciting possibilities it holds, I feel confident and empowered knowing that I have already faced one of life’s greatest challenges and emerged on the other side with a newfound sense of strength and resilience.”
Matthews Chamber of Commerce
Jessica Tullar enjoys offering new programs and community events through her role as executive director for the Matthews Chamber of Commerce. She hopes the chamber grows to become a voice for small businesses and provide resources for their success.
“Supporting our community, supporting our business owners and being at the center of networking, relationship-building, advocacy and helping businesses thrive is significant in itself,” Tullar said. “We all win when we work together, and that’s one of the joys that come from this profession.”
She is also involved in the Rotary Club of Matthews as well as schools. Tuller and her husband of 10 years have four children.
Next Conversation Coaching, LLC
As CEO of Next Conversation Coaching, Kristy Busija taps into her superpowers of making sense out of chaos to help clients move forward.
She also helps teams work better together, create a culture that drives innovation, add depth to their employment roster, and measure and track sustainable results.
“I strongly believe that everyone deserves to feel valued, heard and respected in their own way and for who they are,” she said. “Many times, people come to me and ask me what to change, to which I respond, “Nothing. You aren’t broken and you don’t need to be fixed.”
Mt. Moriah Child Development Center
Kristy Spruill serves as director of the Mt. Moriah Child Development Center in Matthews. She is proud to have helped Mt. Moriah become a five-star child care center from the N.C. Division of Child Development and Early Education
She considers her parents, the Revs. Larry Whitley and Chris Latham Whitley, as her biggest influences. They have supported her with everything from graduating from college to becoming a wife and mother to four daughters.
“They have taught me no matter what to treat people with kindness and believe and trust God,” Spruill said. “If you keep God first, all things are possible.”
Grab Life by the Goals
Lauren Widrick’s company, Grab Life by the Goals in Fort Mill, provides clients the support they need from her Goals Squad to live the lives they want or grow their businesses.
Widrick can speak from experience about doing things she once thought were impossible, such as performing standup comedy and speaking in front of hundreds of people. She left a career in investment banking to let her “freak flag” out.
“As a suburban mom and successful business owner, I’m not “supposed” to make dirty jokes, wear certain clothes, talk about money or drop F-bombs on stage,” Widrick said. “However, I have embraced the risks and rewards of authenticity.”
Lavette Shirley Elee
Wingate University recognized professor Lavette Shirley Elee this year as the faculty winner of the MLK Award for establishing a diversity, equity and inclusion committee and promoting physician assistant careers to students of color.
“I had the opportunity to develop a mentorship program to help bridge the gap in the PA profession for those who have been historically marginalized,” she said “The program connects prePA students with current PAs and alums.”
Her efforts go beyond the university. She writes children’s books that make visits to the doctor’s office more relatable and co-hosts a podcast called “Medicine as a Second Language.”
Meaningful Change Consulting
Leslie Ellis had to be determined and resilient to build a business after being laid off. She turned the experience into an opportunity for learning, growth and success.
“I married the love of my life, Brett, in 2020. In a short time, we successfully weathered becoming work-from-home co-workers through the pandemic, a cancer diagnosis and the loss of two of our pets. I believe we are still together because of our ability to adapt and exercise other resilience muscles like pros.”
She now owns two businesses that allow her to be creative and take calculated risks.
Healthy Phit Physical Therapy and Wellness Consultants
Dr. Lisa Folden has helped thousands of people recover from injury and hundreds repair their relationships with their bodies and food.
She was even featured in Oprah Magazine in 2018 for contributing to an article on self-care.
“I believe one thing that sets me apart in some ways is that I have a very keen sense of who I am,” Folden said. “Not just now at the age of 41, but even when I was a child. Obviously, things have changed, goals have shifted and I have evolved in many ways as a person since my childhood. But in any given stage of my life, I have always been very confident in knowing who I am, and what my true purpose is.”
The Dean’s List
Meredith Dean has had an interest in branding ever since the days of customized MySpace profiles.
As a digital branding and career consultant, she has worked with high-profile clients in journalism, professional sports and television.
She moved to Charlotte to work as the manager and on-air personality at Ryan Seacrest Studios at Levine Children’s Hospital.
Dean believes in finding the positive and empowering everyone.
She donates a percentage from every branding package to empowering women and alleviating poverty in Western Kenya. She donated a girls’ dormitory in Western Kenya and takes groups every year to the country to support the efforts in building girls’ schools, clinics, and clean wells.
Matthews Athletic Recreation Association
Monique Brooks’ work as sponsorship director has helped Matthews Athletic Recreation Association reach new heights. The Matthews Chamber of Commerce recognized MARA as Nonprofit of the Year in 2021.
Brooks works specifically in growing relationships and sponsorships at MARA.
“I have absolutely enjoyed my commitment to the restarting of the Bambino Baseball program for children living with special needs,” she said. “I care deeply for every player, family, volunteer and sponsor that is involved with the program. It has changed my life.”
Brooks has also been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for more than 13 years, helping two sons and others achieve the Eagle Scout rank.
The UnOHverse Network – Oh Show LLC
Ohavia Phillips understands what it is like to grow up in a single-parent household, live in a domestic violence shelter and wash clothes in a sink. But she also knows about the work it takes to reach new heights as an entrepreneur.
Phillips, a member of the ForbesBLK community, works as a media trainer and educator, an e-commerce specialist, an in-arena host for the Charlotte Hornets and host of “The Oh Show.”
In recent years, she has won awards for her activism and community building, been highlighted by her alma mater UNC Charlotte and shared a stage with national political figure Stacey Abrams.
Many people may recognize Page Fehling from years of anchoring the morning news in Charlotte or Raleigh.
She left a 20-year career in television in 2021 to start a new chapter and the move has paid off.
Fehling and her husband, Jake, co-host the “Date Night with Jake and Page” podcast and are co-authors of the book, “Holy Crap, We’re Pregnant.”
She is also known for emceeing some of the largest nonprofit fundraising events in the region for groups like the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Me Fine Foundation, Band Together NC, Pink Boots Society and South Charlotte Dog Rescue.
Rosanny Crumpton left a full-time job in 2021 to pursue her side hustle as a full-time business venture.
Crumpton described the jump toward entrepreneurship as extremely challenging to her spirit. She has worked hard to rebrand herself as a health and wellness coach after years of being known as a social worker and writer.
Sophrosyne Wellness Has formed partnerships with clinics, organizations and other stakeholders, and Crumpton became a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach.
She also gives back to the community through her involvement with the Mint Hill Women’s Club as well as health coaching at the Matthews Free Medical Clinic.
Sabrina Winters Attorney At Law, PLLC
Sabrina Winters has created a welcoming environment where clients can talk to an attorney about estate planning and probate services. She saw first-hand how important end-of-life decisions can affect loved ones if not planned out in advance.
Throughout her nearly 20 years in elder law, Winters has been included in Excellence in Estate Planning by Lawyers of Distinction, Top 10 Estate Planning Attorneys by Attorney and Practice Magazine, and 10 Best Attorneys by the American Institute of Legal Counsel
Business Leaders also included her in its list of Top 50 Entrepreneurs 2012.
Lanti Performing Arts
Sarah Lantigua has created a positive environment where budding actors can flourish at Lanti Performing Arts.
The performing arts studio has won awards through Union County Weekly, Charlotte Magazine and Macaroni KID for its approach to growth.
She uses a “never give up attitude” not just with running a business but also with working on her marriage of 23 years, raising a family, homeschooling and taking on new challenges.
“The journey has not always been pretty and, to be honest, some days I find myself just limping to the finish line,” Lantigua said, “but on those days that’s all any of us can do. Just keep going.”
Nailed It DIY Studio
Shannon Evans has carved a niche in the do-it-yourself industry that allows her to explore her passions.
Evans was able to pair her background in television and DIY to build a relationship with RYOBI to help others in the community.
One program allows students with intellectual disabilities to complete projects she created and designed to sell in The Shepherd Hotel to benefit Clemson Life. Her Widows for Wings program guides children who lost a parent in fun craft projects.
“I find pride in knowing that the choices I make for my life are being led by my heart and that they line up with my values,” she said.
Mint to Be of the Carolinas
Within a year, Sharee Allen mourned the loss of her father and the loss of her marriage.
The mother of two credits God and an incredible tribe with coming out of these experiences. As executive director for Mint To Be of the Carolinas, Allen helps mothers going through challenging transitions in their lives.
“I have never felt so free and understanding that there was purpose in everything that I experienced,” Allen said. “Being able to serve the mothers of our community through advocacy, counseling and education – there is no greater feeling than being able to reach back and help another mother overcome an obstacle that she thought she couldn’t do.”
Sharon L. Allen
H&S Therapeutic Services
Sharon L. Allen believes that education is important to advancing one’s career.
Allen works as agency director for H&S Therapeutic Services, which provides home health care in five counties. She has sought to build on her expertise by attending Harvard Business School to obtain a certificate in business management.
Allen is active in the Mint Hill Women’s Club and Mint Hill Chamber of Commerce. She serves as vice president of the chamber’s board of directors.
She does all this to set an example for her children.
“It’s important that they have people in their lives they look up to,” Allen said.
Witness My Life
Shereese Floyd owns Witness My Life, a people and culture firm that partners with corporations and universities to create and implement women’s leadership programs. Floyd champions women’s stories.
“I am on a mission to stand alongside women as they stop auditioning for their value, own their stories and get paid for their ideas, not their labor – so their contributions are recognized and compensated accordingly,” Floyd said.
She launched a T-shirt line last year called MemoirWear in Charlotte. These shirts serve as a story prompt to allow women to express themselves.
“Our stories are the fastest way to break the glass,” Floyd said.
SOS Union County
Stacey Swanson said it gave her great satisfaction to stand up as a representative for parents concerned about Union County Public Schools.
She encouraged dozens of parents to find the courage to speak up as well.
“I’ve found many people need to see true advocacy work in action before taking the plunge,” she said. “That is where I feel my strengths shine: Speaking truth to what an issue is, and then encouraging others to do the same.”
She has coordinated more than 100 people for community activities such as sending valentines to UCPS staff and partnering with nonprofits like Common Heart, Union County Christmas Bureau, Union County Democratic Party and the NAACP.
ImageZ Salon & Spa
Stephanie Robinson has been a salon owner in her hometown of Indian Trail for 15 years.
Robinson, who owns ImageZ Salon & Spa, believes accepting people for who they genuinely are will enhance their lives and yours.
“I love getting to enhance people’s lives by having a career that I am passionate about,” Robinson said. “I get to be a ‘day-maker’ for so many people and interact with them and their families by adding positivity, a new look, a relaxing pampering experience and a smile.”
Robinson is a color educator and platform artist for REFerence of Sweden.
Summer Baruth works as head of global employer brand and talent attraction at AECOM.
She led the global team through the development of the company’s employee engagement, value proposition and talent attraction strategies.
“This initiative involved pushing our company to go in a new direction and develop a more localized content strategy that allowed employees and candidates to feel seen and understood,” Baruth said. “Helping others feel seen is something I strive for as my personal mission and being able to align it to our company goals has been more than I could imagine.”
She considers her core value to embrace life and all of its opportunities.
Abbey Rose Floral Artistry
Suzanne Wolf has been designing floral tokens of love, celebration and gratitude for more than 40 years.
Her work at Abbey Rose Floral Artistry in Mint Hill has been featured in Carolina Bride, The Knot and Martha Stewart Weddings.
Her passion for flowers grew from memories of her father taking her to the florist to pick out a surprise for mom. She worked at a florist shop and took floral design classes before opening the shop in 1982.
Her daughter has taken up the family business. Wolf describes the mother-daughter dynamic as “a true, dedicated partnership built on respect for each other and for the floral industry.”
Creative Share Group
Teah Burse is working to bring more awareness to multiple sclerosis in hopes of finding a cure for the disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
“After being diagnosed with MS late last year, I have learned so much about perseverance and determination,” Burse said. “I have strengthened my faith in God, which has given me hope and the courage to share my story with others who have similar struggles.”
She credits her family, friends and the congregation at New City Church for their influence on her life. She is committed to her family, including a husband of 10 years and three children as well as growing Creative Share Group in Indian Trail.
Tip Jones Global
Tiffany Keaton helps women-owned businesses thrive thanks to the expertise gained from starting several successful companies over 25 years, including a dance school, natural hair company, custom apparel line and online magazine.
Keaton, who owns the Tip Jones Global marketing and consulting firm, has a wide range of experiences, from overcoming negative thoughts to interviewing Maya Angelou for the cover of POSE Magazine.
“I want to be remembered for helping others do what they once believed they couldn’t,” Keaton said. “I want my children to remember me as a supportive, loving, honest parent who set an example they can be proud of.”
Mint Hill Dance Center
Whitleigh Cook welcomes more students each year to Mint Hill Dance Center. Class enrollment and interest in competitive teams continue to grow as the center went from a one-room studio to triple the space.
“My philosophy is that not every dancer who comes through our doors will be a professional dancer, but they will be a part of our society,” Cook said. “Through dance, we hope to instill many character traits that will last long after a student’s dance experience.”
Her dance students are active in the community, pitching in to help organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Second Harvest Food Bank.