Introducing Cary Magazine’s 2024 Movers & Shakers

With so many entrepreneurs joining the ranks of this year’s Movers & Shakers, it’s perhaps unsurprising that several among them would seek inspiration — or, at times, solace — in the same Mike Tyson quotation. Yet, for the ambitious achievers of 2024, their inroads to success are just as unique as their professions and industries … and the eclectic wisdom they share about their personal and professional lives. So read on to discover what happens when preparation and chance collide.

Joshua Almond

Lieutenant, Morrisville Police Department

Origin story: I got my interest in law enforcement while volunteering at a rescue squad; working wrecks sparked an interest that led to me wanting to learn how these collisions happened. Once I started in law enforcement, I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my career. It also led to me becoming a crash reconstructionist while working for the police department.

Favorite accomplishments: My proudest accomplishment is undoubtedly my marriage to my incredible wife and raising two remarkable children. Without them by my side, I would not be able to accomplish the other great accomplishments throughout life.

A proud moment: Recently I was able to see an officer I’ve mentored over the years achieve a promotion to corporal as well as receive Officer of the Year. It displays the importance of investing in the growth of team members and the positive impact it can have on the agency.

On continuing to grow as a leader: I’ve come to recognize that in the realm of leadership, the moment you think you’ve learned it all is the moment you should reconsider your role. Every day presents opportunities for growth, and I actively seek out chances to expand my understanding and skills as a leader.

Libby Azzarello

Co-Owner, Bumble Brews Raleigh
Realtor, At Home with Libby and Choice Residential Real Estate

Origin story: I began my career working for Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons and continued my trajectory through roles in event planning, social media, relationship management, and professional education. When my husband and I got married, we each picked a place off a map to try and convince the other person to move to our choice. After visiting Raleigh — my choice! — there was nowhere that could compare.

Our Bumble Brews venture was born out of a desire for my husband to leave the corporate world and become more ingrained in the community we had grown to love. He explored many franchise options; all along I told him: “If you pick something fun, I’m in. If you pick something boring, you’re on your own.”

Core values: Creativity and authenticity. My creativity comes into play when I’m negotiating for my real estate clients, planning events at Bumble Brews, coming up with strategic ways to help our staff grow, and encouraging my 2-year-old daughter to put on pants. Authenticity is a rare value in today’s world where social media has created a highlight reel of people’s accomplishments.

Favorite quote: One part stands out from The Sound of Music’s “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” — “Climb ev’ry mountain, ford ev’ry stream, follow ev’ry rainbow, till you find your dream. A dream that will need all the love you can give, ev’ry day of your life for as long as you live.” Entrepreneurship emphasizes hard work and hustle, but the perspective shifts when you think about pouring love into what you do — waking up daily and continuing to love it is no easy feat!

Motivation: My daughter, Nell. I want her to understand the benefits of entrepreneurship and relying on her community and developing and practicing her unique skills. I hope she understands that “work” can look however she chooses but that it’s not the end goal. I want her to understand that living a great life with loved ones and practicing self-care are the ultimate desired outcomes of hard work.

Kerrin Cox

Communications Coordinator, Town of Apex

Origin story: During a college internship in my hometown of Asheboro, North Carolina, I saw how — unlike federal or state governments — local, municipal governments have an opportunity to truly know the people they serve. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, my goal was to find employment with a municipality. In 2015, I began my career with the Town of Apex. Knowing that my work contributes to community members feeling proud to call Apex home, understanding the important work of our town staff, and engaging with various programs and initiatives means everything to me and keeps me going … even on the tough days.

Favorite accomplishments: Leading an amazing group of staff in planning and executing the Town of Apex’s sesquicentennial. Our 150th anniversary was a yearlong celebration that kicked off in February 2023 and unified community members, created common understanding, and challenged everyone to go “all in” by participating in over 150 ways to celebrate throughout the year. A highlight of the celebration year was the What Makes Apex Home video series that showcased more than 100 community stories — many previously untold — from various ages and backgrounds.

Motivation: Working in communications, I have a lens into every department within our town government. While I am no expert on any department, I do have the opportunity to get to know many important pieces so that I can better communicate to the community. My motivation is always twofold: to help our community members know what is going on in their local government, and to tell the stories and accomplishments of our staff. Internal and external communications are at the forefront of my mind — I love when I get to bring the two together to tell the stories of our community.

Biggest challenge: A challenge local government communications staff face is balancing creating fun and engaging content and getting important information out quickly. Maintaining transparency and accountability often leaves us to figure out how to communicate a project in a way that engages the community for the least amount of tax dollars. As we strategize and develop the tactics, graphics, and messaging surrounding a new project, we often face the challenge of knowing how to reach our audience effectively.

Nathaniel (Nate) John Branscomb

Co-Founder, BCombs

Favorite accomplishments: Being able to live vicariously through my children’s accomplishments. Parenthood has been both phenomenal and trying, but it’s all worthwhile when I see my children apply some of the lessons and insight my wife and I have tried to instill in them.

Selfishly, I am celebrating 20 years of marriage in June, BCombs has won two NC IDEA entrepreneurial grants, I have been named one of the 10 to Watch nonprofit leaders by the United Way of the Greater Triangle, I have the opportunity to serve our youth and volunteer with groups that include CIS Wake, the Emily K Center, Coastal Credit Union, and the 100 Black Men, and now I’m a Mover & Shaker.

Origin story: As the oldest child growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was accustomed to telling my siblings and cousins what to do. I mean lead by example. Fast forward, and I have been able to combine my love for helping others, leadership qualities, and years in nonprofit leadership into BCombs, a CRM software to help nonprofits and youth-serving organizations save time, reduce costs, automate processes, increase engagement, and better track and utilize data.

Favorite quote: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” was Mike Tyson’s response when asked whether he was worried about Evander Holyfield and his fight plan. Life, parenthood, and entrepreneurship are all about facing the unknown. The unknown can be an opportunity — and getting punched in the face may sometimes be the wakeup call we need to do something different.

On success: It’s funny how our definition of success changes. Entering Miami University (Ohio), success was obtaining a role that would serve as the building block for a successful corporate career. Now living in Cary, looking forward to celebrating 20 years of marriage, raising children in an environment that is almost the polar opposite of where I was raised, I view success through prisms related to my enjoyment of life, whether I’m living up to my purpose, if I’m testing my limitations, and whether I contribute to the lives of others. So, here’s to new challenges and getting punched in the face.

Cortney Duncan

Founder and President, CADCO Construction Co.

Favorite accomplishments:

  1. Marrying my wife, Ashley, almost 20 years ago. She motivates me to be the best version of myself and a better person every day.
  2. Becoming a dad to my triplets, two sons and a daughter. Being a triplet parent has its challenges, but it is also one of the greatest blessings of my life.
  3. Starting CADCO. I always wanted to be a general contractor, having started in the field at 16 years old. I graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Construction Technology and after working for a construction company for five years, I took a leap of faith and started my own company.
  4. Giving back to our community through CADCO’s Annual Autism Awareness Golf Tournament, which benefits the Autism Society of NC. My wife and I, with the help of numerous volunteers and supporters, hold this tournament to raise funds in support of ASNC’s mission to improve the lives of individuals with autism, support their families, and educate communities.
  5. Coaching my sons’ football teams and serving as a coach for Cary High football. As a former football player and avid sports fan, I enjoy using my passion for sports to make a difference in the lives of young athletes.

Core values: Just as CADCO’s core values are loyalty, dependability, and integrity, these are the values I try to live my life by. As an entrepreneur, I also value creativity, hard work, and the effort it takes to be successful in business and in life.

Mentor: I am fortunate to have had several great mentors in my life — coaches, teachers, family members, friends, and colleagues. My most influential mentor is my dad. He taught me to work hard and do everything with purpose and integrity while keeping faith and family first. His leadership and selflessness gave me an example of the kind of man I continue to try to be.

Favorite quote: As a lifelong Notre Dame football fan, I love this quote by Lou Holtz: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.”

Mike Forman

Chief Marketing Officer, Carolina Hurricanes

Proud moment: In February 2023, we had the opportunity to host the NHL Stadium Series game in Carter-Finley Stadium. With the passion of our fan base, we knew this market would shine nationally and globally; we wanted to put a full week’s events together to make it a true celebration of our region. The Stadium Series game ended up being the fastest sellout in NHL outdoor game history, with nearly 57,000 people filling Carter-Finley on a perfect Saturday evening. That week’s events had a $20.1+ million economic impact on the region.

Leadership style: I think everyone needs to find their unique leadership style. The principles I’ve tried to live by include hiring the best possible people with the right attitudes, empowering them to make autonomous decisions, and making sure they have the resources they need to be successful at elevating our brand.

On fostering a positive work environment: The more I’ve advanced in my career, the more I’ve learned how fostering a positive work environment is as important, if not more so, than any other job duty as a leader. It’s not easy to balance every personality, so if you create a culture where people treat each other with respect, communicate with each other, and are solutions based, it becomes much easier to get buy-in from every individual — as they know these are nonnegotiable as team members.

On maintaining work/life balance: This is probably the most challenging aspect for anyone who works in sports, as you’re going to work long, nontraditional hours, holidays, and weekends. For many, it also often becomes a personal identifier — people associate you with the team or school you work for. Where I’ve grown is in understanding that working in sports is what I do and not necessarily who I am. Being more present at home, on vacation, or while watching my kids play sports themselves has helped with the mental fatigue caused by always being “on” or thinking about work. It’s not easy and something I still need to improve, but I’ve come a long way.

Damón Gray II

Employment Attorney, Jackson Lewis P.C.

Origin story: As the child of a United States Marine, I was nurtured by the steadfast support of both my parents and raised in 12 different cities across the globe. From Japan to Hawaii, I was exposed to many corners of the world. My educational path led me to graduate from Cornell University. However, it was during my tenure at Wake Forest Law School that I developed a deep connection to North Carolina, which prompted my decision to establish firm roots here.

Favorite quote: “Chance favors only the prepared mind” is a quote by Louis Pasteur that has always resonated with me and reinforced the notion that success stems from diligent preparation. This principle highlights the significance of continual learning, planning, and constant attentiveness and aligns with my conviction that being well prepared enhances our ability to make the most of unexpected opportunities.

On company culture: I am privileged to be a part of Jackson Lewis P.C., a nationwide employment law firm that excels in fostering diverse, inclusive, and high-performing teams. Beyond legal services, the firm deeply values its culture and focuses on personal growth, diversity, equity, and leadership development, and provides ample mentorship opportunities. There is also a commitment to community involvement in local initiatives such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Triangle, Salvation Army Angel Tree Adoption, and NC Legal Feeding Frenzy. I have contributed to the firm’s culture by helping to plan office events, participating in community service events, and assisting with mentoring our yearly legal interns.

Fun fact: In high school, I had the unique opportunity to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and featured on her daily talk show. In 2006, Oprah ran a series discussing ways to enhance America’s school systems. One proposed solution was to adopt a new model of school, which had been developed and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As a student representative, I had the honor of being interviewed not only by Oprah but also by both Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates.

Brittany Johnson

Planner II, Town of Morrisville

Favorite accomplishments: Helping to establish the Town of Morrisville’s inaugural mural program, a component of our evolving public art program. Developing the program — a labor of love I am appreciative to have coordinated — allowed me to combine my passion for art and my love of planning.

As the summer installation of the first murals draws near, I can now take a moment to reflect on the people and steps it took to see this plan through to fruition. The program’s goal is to activate and enhance the cultural connectivity and vitality of Morrisville through engaging artwork and creative placemaking. We aim to honor the town’s natural beauty, add to the collection of public art, and provide opportunities for community engagement. We want murals to be colorful and inspiring for residents and visitors, and to reflect the unique characteristics of Morrisville!

Fun fact: I have an identical twin, which has informed much of who I am and made me hyperaware of the impact I can have on others daily. I also believe that being a twin uniquely prepared me to work collaboratively. Because of this, I strive to bring positive energy to all situations.

On fostering a positive work environment: I have the wonderful and unique chance to have a true impact on the Town. I take that opportunity seriously and understand what a privilege it is to serve in this role, guiding residents through understanding the intricacies of the Unified Development Ordinance and helping them to understand local and state provisions. I am also privileged to see projects from inception to development. As a student of architecture and a visual artist, I see the beauty in all structures. Being able to share that beauty with my coworkers and the community contributes to my positivity.

Favorite quote: My grandfather had a motto I have adopted as my own and choose to live by: “Rather the task be great or small, do it well or not at all.” My parents further instilled in me the importance of doing my best in all situations and were great examples to follow.

Jill Santa Lucia

President, Catering Works
Culinary Director and Popcorn Visionary, Ella’s Popcorn

On fostering a positive work environment: Having a great leadership team to teach, train, and hold accountable is the first step — sharing the company vision and having your team understand how they are a part of it. When you foster a team to care and they see that the leadership cares, it creates a positive workplace.

On success: When you own a business, you measure success using different metrics. The team’s happiness, sales, profits, and reputation in our industry can make you feel like you are on top of the world or at the bottom of the well. Success is fluid. Consistency, hard work, resilience, and even fear are things that I think make you successful.

Biggest risk: I have taken many, from starting a business at 22 years old, to launching Ella’s Popcorn during the pandemic, to opening a retail store in 2003. The food industry is one of the riskiest. When I first started out, I couldn’t get a loan without a co-signatory. I was told by a banker that I wouldn’t last five years in the restaurant business. I had to correct him that I was starting a catering business. At the time, catering wasn’t recognized as a separate industry.

The risk of feeling like I wasn’t going to make it was both a curse and a blessing — it motivated me to keep going. Everything we do outside of our comfort level is a risk. Owning a business is always one.

Biggest challenge: By far, getting through the pandemic. As a single mother, I was terrified of what it could mean for my girls and our future goals. As a business owner, I had to let many people go and estimate how long we could go on without business. My sister and I had to dig deep to figure out a plan. We started by making personal family meals for our employees and customers. We made masks, and we started doing Zoom cooking classes.

In October of 2020 we launched Ella’s Popcorn, named after my daughter, using a longtime recipe from our catering menu. We started shipping all over the country, and are forever grateful for all our customers, employees, families, friends, and neighbors who supported us through this time.

John Lugo

Head Trainer and Owner, FluidK9 Dog Training

Mentors: One person who really impacted my life as both a dog trainer and a person is Kostas Koilias, from Greece. Kostas taught me about the real values of dog training: to be fair and to train each dog according to what they individually need to succeed — and that at the end of the day, it is all about the dog.

Favorite quote: “You should be grateful to the dog who’s willing to show you his teeth. At least he is being honest.” — Kostas Koilias

Impactful lessons: One of the challenges in life is finding out what you’re good at. Once you find that gift — that purpose — you have to figure out a way to use it to help people.

Recent challenge: For about a decade before covid, I mostly trained sport and working dogs, along with an occasional pet dog. This type of work took me all over the country and the world. The travel came to a sudden stop during covid, and I had to reevaluate my work. This was when I refocused on working mostly with pet dogs, and I put down roots in the Cary area. It has been an adjustment that has been made easier by the wonderful clients and community that have welcomed me with open arms.

Fun fact: I am a huge jazz guy and lover of all music. Before becoming a dog trainer, I went to music school, graduating from Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico. I still play the upright bass. Music and playing is a big part of my life, and I feel like it always will be.

Morgan Mansa

Deputy Director of Housing, Wake County

Favorite accomplishment: In Cary, it is helping to transform the landscape of affordable housing. I authored Cary’s first housing plan, which intentionally integrated other Cary priorities such as the environment, transportation, and economic development. The journey to create this holistic document and have authentic support from Town Council and other leaders was a labor of love and something I’m incredibly proud of. We went beyond traditional housing documents and published a plan that speaks to the true essence of Cary. It’s this milestone in Cary that gives me excitement about my new chapter at Wake County — an opportunity to broaden my geographic impact and support even more residents needing access to high-quality housing.

Impactful lessons you have learned: The power of the pivot. Like most people, there were experiences in my career and life that didn’t go according to plan. In the moment it felt uncomfortable, and I didn’t know how I was going to overcome what I perceived to be adversity. Now, instead of allowing myself to feel defeated, I immediately say to myself: There’s probably something better waiting for me.

I’m from Chicago, and when my husband relocated us to Nashville, it was difficult to leave my family, friends, and professional network. In hindsight, our move to Nashville was critical for giving us the geographic proximity to do a road trip to this region and learn about the high quality of life and opportunities. Today, I can’t imagine living anywhere else or having a career that does not serve the people of this community.

Motivation: It changes depending on the season, but my son is without a doubt my biggest motivation to do this incredible work and take care of myself — to leave a legacy he’s proud of and be here with him as long as possible.

Favorite quote: “We have the ability to be the heroes of our families, our community, and our lives. It’s important to remind people of that truth: You have what it takes to make an impact.” — Kerry Washington

Dr. Christopher McGowan

Founder and Medical Director, True You Weight Loss

Guiding philosophy: The philosophy that drives me and my team is that obesity is a disease — and not a matter of willpower. As a practitioner and advocate, my goal is to reduce the stigma associated with obesity and encourage patients to seek medical treatment for it just as they would any other disease state. For decades, patients struggling with obesity have had minimal treatment options, but we are fortunate that the emerging field of medicine I specialize in provides novel, safe, and highly effective treatments that offer sustainable weight loss.

Origin story: After completing medical school and finishing my Gastroenterology subspecialty training at UNC, the entire field of endoscopic bariatrics was first coming online. Practicing GI, I saw many patients battling obesity-related issues. Apart from bariatric surgery, treatment options for obesity were almost nonexistent. With the advent of endoscopic tools, an entire world of options became available. As an early pioneer in the field, I immediately experienced the impact of these procedures. In 2020 I founded the first dedicated endoscopic bariatric practice in the country, and I continue to focus on improving the health of my patients and advancing and innovating within this rapidly evolving field.

Motivation: My patients. While their individual struggles are unique, their stories are often similar. These patients have put in the work to lose weight but just haven’t been given the tools to succeed. Once we provide the tools, guidance, and accountability, it is a joy and privilege to witness their renewed commitment to living a healthy life. And while losing 50 or 100 pounds is great, it’s the “non-scale victories” that really make me proud. We provide the tools, but my patients must put in the work.

Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, diet and exercise aren’t that effective for long-term weight loss. While both are critical to good health, when it comes to losing weight, they don’t do much to move the scale. The human body is skilled at maintaining weight and will fight every effort we make to lose it. That’s why we sometimes need weight loss tools to disrupt those innate mechanisms — so the work can finally work.

Terry Parker II

Vice President, Relationship Manager, Bank of America

On maintaining work/life balance: Work/life balance is essential for overall well-being and productivity. Maintaining this balance is like finding the perfect harmony between your professional responsibilities and personal life. I have accepted that work/life balance will not always balance; instead, work and life will likely coexist. There will be times when work will outweigh my personal life and vice versa. I try to set boundaries, prioritize tasks, and establish routines. I think the healthiest way to manage positive work/life balance is learning when it’s time to unplug and reset.

On continuing to grow as a leader: Growing as a leader is an ongoing mission. Our best leaders recognize learning never stops. As a “young professional,” I am doing more learning than I am leading in this phase of my career. I take mental notes of the leaders in our community and identify the characteristics I would like to reflect. Lastly, I frequently seek advice from my mentors. I try not to seek the answers I want; I try to accept the feedback I need. I must admit, I am still a work in progress in that regard.

On success: Success is in the eye of the beholder. I also believe success looks different in different phases of life. Currently, success is about setting the stage for the next chapter of my life — being a community-focused leader while being available for my family and friends. From a career perspective, my success is contingent on making a positive impact within the business community. I am fortunate to be in a profession that affords me that opportunity. My personal success is simple: showing up for my support system. Balancing the two can be challenging but is well worth the effort.

Favorite quote: “To whom much is given, much will be required.” — Luke 12:48

Dr. Dwijesh (DJ) B. Patel

Interventional Cardiologist, Rex Hospital

Mentors: Kusum Patel, my mother, and Sweta Patel RPH, my sister, were instrumental in my early life, instilling in me the values of hard work, perseverance, and compassion. Their unwavering support and guidance provided the foundation upon which I built my aspirations and pursued my dreams. As I navigated the complexities of growing up, their wisdom and encouragement served as beacons of light — shaping my character and fostering my determination.

Throughout my journey as a cardiologist, I have been profoundly guided and supported by my mentors, Drs. George Stouffer, Joel Schneider, William Newman, Ravish Sachar, and countless others.

Origin story: I moved from India to the United States after high school with my mother and sister and supported by my uncle, Piyush Patel, and his wonderful family. Determined to pursue a career in medicine, I completed my undergraduate studies at UNC at Chapel Hill. Following this, I earned my medical degree and solidified my passion for cardiology. My journey continued at UNC, where I completed my residency and specialized training in general cardiology. Further honing my skills, I undertook advanced training in interventional cardiology. Now, I take pride in being a member of the North Carolina Heart and Vascular at UNC Rex Hospital. Additionally, I have the privilege of caring for patients at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, where I serve as the Cath Lab Director.

Leadership style: My leadership style is a blend that defies firm categorization and draws elements from servant and identity leadership. I believe in serving others with empathy and humility, prioritizing their needs and growth. Simultaneously, I empower individuals to embrace their identities and strengths, which fosters a collaborative and inclusive environment.

Favorite quote: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill

Alexis Proulx

Pilot, United Airlines

Biggest risk: At 23 years old and after graduating from NC State and flight attending for a year, I quit my job, took out a very large loan, and had my first flight lesson. Becoming a pilot was not something I’d “always dreamed of” like most people. In fact, I didn’t even think it was possible — not for me, anyway. Until one day when a pilot around my age started telling me about his journey, and it just clicked: If he can do it, I can do it. Seven years after that first flight lesson, I’m now flying Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft internationally at the major airline I once flight attended for.

Fun fact: 95% of airline pilots are male. Only 5% of airline pilots are female.

Favorite quote: “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never be ready.” — Jen Proulx

Impactful lessons you have learned: At any moment, you can make a decision to change your life. It is never too early, too late, or too wild to do anything. If someone else has done it before you, then ask yourself: Why not me? Never be the person who stands in your own way.

Katsuji Tanabe

Culinary Innovator, a’Verde Cocina + Tequila Library and LM Restaurants

Favorite accomplishments: When I moved to the US from Mexico in 1999 — with no money or immigration papers and knowing no English — to opening my own restaurant in Beverly Hills 10 years later and without the need for any investors. I had told myself if I couldn’t make it within 10 years, I was mediocre. The first time I was on Top Chef was another proud moment — especially because by that point I had applied for the show 11 times and been denied!

Overcoming adversity: My wife says I never take no for an answer, but I think that luck has something to do with it. I also never complained. I had a goal, and since I couldn’t leave the country because of my immigration status, I saved every penny I made from the three jobs I worked — at the best restaurants, to give me the best experience and education — and I learned fast.

Core values: The most important thing to me is to never lie. Attention to detail is also critical in this industry.

Current goals: Thanks to traveling a lot and having a great team, I’m opening a vegan hot dog place in the Hamptons. Also, Flour & Barrel Kitchen + Bar in downtown Raleigh and a secret project: the coolest Japanese-oriented speakeasy. Several bakeries and a kosher steakhouse are coming soon to Chicago, and I’m continuing my work with LM Restaurants in Raleigh — a city that has welcomed me and my family unlike any other place. I love living here, and I plan to die here. Raleigh just needs better food … and I’m working on it!

Dr. Brad Waffa

Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Truss Vet – Veterinary Urgent Care

Fun fact: I was a dinosaur kid who never grew up. I spent much of my life keeping and breeding rare reptiles. I co-founded the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium. I ride bikes long distances, enjoy photographing the many random things I collect, and like watches and ceramics. My creative outlet is bonsai.

On maintaining work/life balance: This has been my greatest challenge since starting a family and business. I benefit from a range of interests that offer balance and diversion, but I battle a constant tendency toward overcommitment. But here’s a secret: Your life will not make time for you. Ride your bike. Call your friend. Sign up for the class. Your greatest regrets will be forgoing opportunities because you thought there would be enough time.

Impactful lessons you have learned: Starting a business quickly teaches you humility. Entrepreneurs are inspired by a desire to solve problems, and then operating a business is the slow, painful exercise through which you learn you’re wrong about most things. I’m increasingly convinced that the most successful people in business are not necessarily brilliant or even that smart, but simply adaptable and willing to listen to those closer to the problems than themselves.

Biggest risk: I’d be lying if I cited anything other than launching Truss Vet. My partners and I didn’t dive into this with the backing of some venture capital group — just some modest startup capital and a big idea. My wife and I were also getting her small business (Art by Shalimar in downtown Cary) off the ground. Additionally, she was pregnant with our 3-year-old, and we were in a once-in-a-generation global health crisis. We went from enjoying an easy and free-spirited time to having to quickly get serious about our futures. Maybe it was just the motivation we needed.

I’m probably over credited for being brave or ambitious when I’m just idealistic and naive. My partner and I have our families’ futures wholly staked on the success of Truss Vet. We like to joke that no matter what happens, we will somehow end up in the Bahamas. (Our lenders don’t like this joke.)

Favorite quote: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson

Paul Wasmund

Owner, The Albatross Golf Pub

Origin story: Born in Wilmington to a brilliant engineer and a creative artist, I inherited opposing strengths and pursued paths that harmonize them. Beginning in brewing, I fused technical precision with inventive flavors and earned national acclaim for my beer. With impending fatherhood came a shift to corporate America, where I leveraged my knack for creative problem-solving to excel. Driven by a quest for excellence and a yearning to create significance in a world often lacking authenticity, I founded The Albatross Golf Pub. Utilizing state-of-the-art simulator technology and a scientific approach to our food and cocktail program, The Albatross is a unique experience that I’m thrilled to offer in our downtown Cary flagship location.

On maintaining work/life balance: Achieving balance means recognizing my limits and taking steps to address them. Juggling a demanding corporate job with raising two young kids and managing a new business leaves little time to spare. When burnout looms, I prioritize self-reflection and communication. Embracing the mantra “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” I carve out time each week for activities that replenish my energy beyond my professional and parental duties.

Core values: Establishing our core values was a priority when launching The Albatross. These values serve as our guiding principles, informing our decisions and fostering clear communication within our team. They are innovation, excellence, fun and enjoyment, customer centricity, community, and respect. Having a professional set of core beliefs isn’t often seen in small operations like The Albatross, but a personal core belief is that you must set your goals high. By treating The Albatross as if it already has the potential to become a large enterprise, I have set us up to embrace future opportunities when they arise.

Favorite quote: “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice.” — Steve Jobs

Tiffany Welton

Owner, RBF, Your Authentic Champagne Bar

Leadership style: When I started my business, my 20 years in corporate America taught me exactly how I wanted to lead: with transparency and authenticity. As we have grown and changed, I have invited my staff for input and feedback. Our guests are amazing and vital to being a successful business, but the safety and well-being of my staff has and will always come first.

Guiding philosophy: In this divisive world, we must shift, grow, and understand one another more deeply than we have before. We are no longer just adding chairs to the table — we need to build a brand-new table and bring in many more chairs, voices, ideas, and experiences. In every detail of RBF, I purposefully created a safe and diverse space that in turn has brought thousands of women together to connect in a beautiful and authentic way.

Biggest risk: I grew up being told not to trust my own voice or instincts. I spent a significant part of my adult life under the assumption that my deep inner knowing was wrong. Starting a business, I had to let go of fear and rely on my gut, past experiences, and the passion in my purpose and the brand I was building. Many people challenged parts of my living-wage model, business plan, décor, bar name, etc. For the first time, I stood strong in my vision, research, and knowledge — even when it didn’t make sense to others. I would rather make a mistake and learn from it than risk not listening to my mind, heart, and soul.

Advice to offer: Be selfish. Love your alone time. Dig deep to know who you are. Drink the good bottle of bubbles. Get the massage. Build strong relationships with your friends — talk money, how to break toxic family cycles, and how to smash the patriarchy together … Golden Girls style. Be raw. Be real. And remember: There is no timeline. You are not behind. You’re only getting started.

Jennifer Zewe

Owner, Artful Libations and RallyPoint Sport Grill

Proud moment: When we hit 50 weddings in a year. Now we are four times that size, but I remember clearly hitting 50 weddings and knowing the business was going to work. The confirmation that we did it.

Inspiration: I am inspired by my husband. As a State Farm agency owner, he made entrepreneurship feel normal. When it was time to hire, have tough conversations, and scale the business, I had inspiration as a constant in my life. (Muchos, babeee!)

Core value: Do the right thing and be a good person. No matter the situation, this core value has led to my success. Be kind and a ray of sunshine to people — always!

Overcoming fear: As a young adult, I was very insecure and never fathomed I could own my own business — let alone two! Anything is possible with blood, sweat, and tears … and an extra strong work ethic! With every step of business growth, there is a fear of failure. The more times you succeed and see a positive outcome, the more confidence you grow. I used to stress over two weddings in one weekend. Now, 8 to 10 is typical. The opportunities are endless when it comes to creating new thresholds. You can always stretch your limits, which reduces your fear.


  • I am very proud of all of our Morrisville Staff including Lieutenant Joshua Almond and Planner Brittany Johnson whose accomplishments and dedication to helping others as Movers and Shakers are highlighted above.
    Great job.

  • Barbara L. Scott says:

    I am excited for Terry Parker, II

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