Meet the 2019 Movers & Shakers

Samantha LoPiccolo, Charlene Dunn, Sharon O’Connor
Samantha LoPiccolo, Charlene Dunn, Sharon O’Connor
Rima Nasser, Michael O’Donnell, Lesley White
Rima Nasser, Michael O’Donnell, Lesley White
Michelle Sautro, Maggie Kane, Rose Reif, Lauren Clements
Michelle Sautro, Maggie Kane, Rose Reif, Lauren Clements
Janet Lee, Joey Bradley, Casey Midkiff
Janet Lee, Joey Bradley, Casey Midkiff
Dr. Meenal Patel
Dr. Meenal Patel
Kelly Shiley, Josh Monahan, Vaughn Crawford, David Haydysch
Kelly Shiley, Josh Monahan, Vaughn Crawford, David Haydysch
BACK ROW: Barbara Conroy, Sarah Morgan; FRONT ROW: Meghan Roy, Jessica Mitsch
BACK ROW: Barbara Conroy, Sarah Morgan; FRONT ROW: Meghan Roy, Jessica Mitsch
Sunita McCoy, Beth Klatt, Amrish Raj
Sunita McCoy, Beth Klatt, Amrish Raj

Success means something different for every leader: hard work, perseverance, gratitude, incremental wins, a trusted team, a client’s smile, a goal met or a hot meal.

We know, because we asked 25 young professionals about their work, their inspiration, their challenges and their accomplishments. These Movers & Shakers are shaping the future of our community in many different ways. They are entrepreneurs, educators, philanthropists, health care professionals — and even a craft brewer.

And while we applaud their successes so far, we may be even more excited about what is to come.

Meet the 2019 Cary Magazine Movers & Shakers Thursday, June 13, at the Mayton Inn in downtown Cary. The event is open to the public, and tickets are on sale now.

Get your tickets


Title: Founder, Grow Our Kids

Biggest risk: Starting Grow Our Kids! Leading, let alone launching, a nonprofit was a complete unknown for me, particularly since we were creating an entirely new model for childhood hunger relief. Every step felt daunting – particularly since I also balance a family and full-time job. I’ve learned that support and advice from caring people, along with courage and fortitude, can move mountains.

Greatest challenge: Hunger is a direct barrier to education, and there is still a huge gap for children struggling with food insecurity in Wake County. As an all-volunteer organization, our challenge is reaching more children in year-round schools to help break the cycle of hunger.

Inspiration: A kindergarten teacher identified a student in need, because this child was caught stealing food from another child’s backpack. When asked why, the little girl said it was because she hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before. These stories are the reason Grow Our Kids exists. Knowing that we’re helping year-round students return to the classroom after their track-out breaks feeling nourished and ready to succeed drives everything we do.


Title: Business educator for Wake County Public Schools, owner of Infinity Educators LLC and organizer of the Holly Springs Children’s Business Fair

On success: Success is a personalized cycle of goals and achievements, and individuals get to create their version of how it’s lived. I’ve learned to plan for success, work my plan, celebrate my achievements, enjoy the fruits of my labor — then start the cycle again.

Core values: My personal philosophy is to “Thrive at Life that Makes Sense,” a life in which who I am, what I believe and what I do, all align. I am a teacher at heart, an entrepreneur in spirit and an educator by profession, and as an ‘edupreneur,’ my mission is to provide learning experiences that foster income, entrepreneurship and livelihood development.

Inspiration: Knowing that my services could help change someone’s mindset, socio-economic status or, their life.

Fun fact: Although, I am fascinated with the concept of social media, I am not a social -media savvy person. This year, I have challenged myself to engage and to be more “social.”


Title: Owner, Triniti Salon

Biggest risk: The most significant risk I have ever taken was moving to North Carolina, on my own, away from my family in Pennsylvania. I had insufficient funds in the bank and a car pieced together from a junkyard. I learned that North Carolina and specifically the Triangle area is full of incredible people who are willing to go out on a limb to help people succeed.

Core values: Triniti Salon encompasses all that I stand for and allows me to express myself and my vision for the world — from our sustainable practices to our contribution to charities and local nonprofits. We call ourselves and our guests the Triniti Tribe for a reason — we care about each other, our community and our planet. Triniti Salon also allows me to coach young women into their success — not only in their careers, but in their lives.


Title: Owner and lead interior designer of TEW Design Studio

Biggest risk: I firmly believe in the saying “great things never come from comfort zones.” So, I took a huge risk that could have jeopardized everything I owned and dedicated myself to this business. Looking back, I had a new mortgage and was about to get married. I never took out any loans and had no backup plans. Today, I think if I can do that, I can do anything!

Core values: We believe that interiors can be uplifting and visually inspiring. It’s not always apparent that home and business environments deeply affect our moods. For example, living in a cluttered, dark home without storage solutions or ample natural light can be emotionally taxing on a person. It’s similar for businesses, a good experience for both employees and customers is key to business success. We strive to design each space, whether residential or commercial, as a space that lifts people’s spirits.

Fun fact: I’m a big Carolina Hurricanes fan. Growing up in the Middle East, hockey is not a common sport, but after living in the Triangle for eight years, I feel like this is home. My husband took me to a game on one of our first dates seven years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since.


Title: Owner and head trainer, Sit Means Sit Dog Training Southern Raleigh

Biggest risk: Quitting my comfortable corporate job while my wife was seven months pregnant with our first child to open our own business. I had a company car, benefits, the ability to move up and a 401k. I gave all that up and used our savings to pursue what I was passionate about. I have an amazing wife who supported me through this transition.

Core values: My core beliefs are family, health and happiness. I help people build relationships with their dogs and their family. This leads to them being more active and happier as well.

Greatest challenge: My biggest challenge is getting clients to trust in our team of trainers. The success of Sit Means Sit Dog Training is not because of me, it’s the hardworking team we have.

Inspiration: My clients really help to keep me passionate about what I do. I love seeing not only the relationship change between the owner and their dog, but the change in the happiness of the family as a whole. I have the privilege of helping them take a little stress out of their lives and seeing the cohesion of the family grow.


Title: Owner, Peak City Puppy Inc.

On success: Success is having pride in the daily work and habits that define your business more than an outcome. Peak City Puppy is successful, because we live our values in every interaction we have.

Biggest risk: In my sixth year of business I considered selling it and even entertained an offer. I had two young children under age 3 and felt overwhelmed by trying to manage a growing business and family at the same time.

I rejected the offer and instead, a month later, acquired a competitor in Raleigh. It seems counterintuitive that during a period of overwhelm I would choose to expand, but I trusted myself and the team I had assembled. Four years later, that was a turning point that nearly doubled our business. And my kids are doing just fine.

Inspiration: The dogs. I’m someone who greets a dog before introducing myself to his owner. All breeds, all temperaments, though my true passion is improving the lives of rescues. Dogs embody a simple contentment with life, and I admire that. Whether I’m considering a new hire, creating a new commercial or determining where our charitable funds will be allocated, it all flows from a sincere love of dogs.


Title: Second-grade teacher, Weatherstone Elementary

Biggest risk: As a teacher you take risks every day! I’m lucky to have a supportive staff that encourages me to take risks and try new things. It’s important to me to maintain a positive classroom community where my students can take risks in a safe place too.

Greatest challenge: I am challenged daily to teach curriculum, give assessments and benchmarks, all while trying to teach and foster love and kindness with all of my students. Teaching, tests, crazy schedules are all challenges, but my biggest challenge every day is to make sure that all 21 of my students go home knowing that they are loved and cared for and that they are eager to return to school the next day.

Inspiration: It’s a blessing to work with staff who are like family. They encourage me when faced with obstacles and celebrate with me over victories, no matter how small.
Fun fact: I used to be a baton twirler.


Title: Founder and executive director, A Place at the Table

Biggest risk: The biggest risk was October 2014, age 23, when I said, “I want to open a pay-what-you-can café in Raleigh.” A bit crazy, I know. The risk to me of saying it out loud meant I was absolutely going to do it no matter what. I learned that I can do anything I put my mind to, even if it takes time. More than that, I learned that the community is here to help. When a community comes together around a common purpose, great things can happen.

Core values: I believe I am on this earth to love people. At A Place at the Table, we have this authentic, real community happening, hugs being passed around and love screaming throughout. I can’t believe I get to live my deepest core value every day.

Inspiration: I get to meet people all day, every day in the cafe who are the most special people in the world. The stories that I take home each night keep me energized and thankful for the life I have the opportunity to live.


Title: Mental health counselor and owner, Reif Counseling Services

On success: Success is consciously choosing contentment and gratitude, even in times of failure or scarcity. When you do this, you escape fear and negativity and are free to help others succeed.

Biggest risk: Starting a counseling practice where I only serve people with disabilities and the people who love them. Many other therapists told me that these were groups of people who didn’t value mental health. They said I’d never have enough clients to fill a practice, and that my family would suffer because I was chasing my dream.

Fun facts: I serve on the board of directors of Kids Together Playground. I love that it’s a place where kids of all abilities can come together to play. Being there reminds me of the power of play, no matter your age! I’m also writing my first book. Woodbine House will publish my book on helping people with Down syndrome cope with grief in 2020.


Title: Managing director, CORRAL Riding Academy

On success: I have to define success for myself. I had “success” in other jobs, according to other people in my life, but I never really felt successful until I was in a job that turned my passion of horseback riding into a way to change lives.

Core values: I am very passionate about social justice, and that is the core of my work at CORRAL. Empowering the next generation of kids who have little to no resources and the most stacked against them is incredibly fulfilling.

Greatest challenge: Right now, growth of the organization. I am opening the second location of CORRAL this fall, and the community has been the biggest support — from board members to volunteers to neighbors of the second site. When I don’t have an answer, I have a great network of folks who are ready to jump in!

Inspiration: Seeing the teens I work with succeed and realize they can achieve goals when society has said otherwise.

Fun fact: I have almost reached my goal of visiting all 50 states — just 11 to go!


Title: Owner, ZenFish Poke Bar

On success: Don’t let the bottom line be what drives your business. Do things out of your values, from the heart and for your customers.

Core values: ZenFish aligns perfectly with my core values, because I believe that if we eat meat, we should choose to eat responsibly, creating as little negative impact on our environment. That is why at ZenFish, we source everything as responsibly and sustainably as we can. Another of my core values is positivity and inclusivity, so everyone feels welcomed and at home. ZenFish does that with our friendly staff and our mission to donate a portion of our sales to different nonprofits that are close to our hearts.

Greatest challenge: Our biggest challenge is how to keep sourcing locally and sustainably while giving our team a good wage, donating to different charities and making a profit.

Inspiration: Our amazing, supportive community — customers, small businesses and team — as well as learning about different ways to not harm the environment and eat healthy keep us passionate about what we do.


Title: President and CEO, Bradley Woodcraft Inc.

On success: Hard work and diligence breed success, but never get complacent. There is always someone working harder then you, so you should never let off the gas. Success is about making others around you successful as well; it’s not about “YOU.”

Greatest challenge: Our biggest challenge is finding skilled labor to join the team. Most young people now don’t have the desire to get into the trades— or anything blue collar — which is going to pose a huge problem in the future. We are trying to mechanize much of our processes — investing in new machinery, technology, space and software — to attract more interest and talent into our field, as well as to bring costs down.

Fun fact: My mom had me try out for a Heinz ketchup commercial when I was 3, while we were living in Los Angeles. Apparently, I did great until the real cameras came on, when I proceeded to cry and not make the cut. It could’ve been my big break.


Title: Owner and head teacher, Young Writers’ Institute

Biggest risk: When I opened Young Writers’ Institute, it was at the absolute worst possible time for me professionally, personally and financially. I learned that running a successful business does not require what people typically think it requires — business smarts and lots of money. A strong vision and an ability to build trusting relationships are so much more important.

Inspiration: My work requires a massive amount of creative energy. There have been times when I worried that energy might run out! Luckily, it’s become clear over time that it’s not possible for that well to run dry, because my students constantly replenish it. I hear them say all the time that they want to be journalists or novelists. They just keep finding inspiration, and their enthusiasm just keeps building. It’s impossible to avoid getting caught up in their energy.


Title: Founder and owner of Preston Dental Loft

On success: My parents have been the best mentors of my life. According to them, success takes grit. It’s not one event or accomplishment that defines success. It’s a series of wins and prioritizing being happy.

Core values: People need care, and they need to be listened to. A dentist’s office is a scary, unpleasant place for most. What I have found over the years is listening with two ears and one heart allows me to take time with each patient and really listen to what they want. Working from the heart and taking care of people is what it’s all about for me.

Greatest challenge: Being a practice owner and striving to offer the best to everyone in my life has been a difficult balance — spending enough time with my family, friends and team, managing my leadership roles at the community, state and national levels. I am realizing that it’s OK to say “no” to things sometimes!

Inspiration: As a dentist, I have the ability to change people’s lives. I can help people achieve a smile that they’re confident about! This is what keeps me passionate every single day.


Title: Owner, CEO Mary Square

Biggest risk: The biggest risk I’ve taken is starting this company with absolutely no industry experience, work experience or business plan. I have learned that taking calculated risks are the best way to grow. Even if you fail, you learn faster and come back more equipped to make the next decision.

Core values: Live without regret is my No.1 core value. Everything I do at work is run through this filter. I never turn down an opportunity or decision if I feel like I may regret not trying.

Greatest challenge: Time and balance. I’ve been married for almost 17 years and have three kids. There is never enough time in the day. I address it by incorporating my kids into my work decisions and letting them help me solve problems. Sometimes, I even let them write responses to my emails. (Of course, I edit them before sending.) I also sleep a lot on the weekends to recover from the week.


Title: Owner, 1 in 6 Snacks/Carolina Kettle

On success: It does not come easy. I am constantly thinking about work and how we can improve, and it is difficult for me to “turn it off” when I leave the office at the end of the day. Although work is important, I have had to learn how to separate work and personal life.

Core values: The name 1 in 6 Snacks represents the 1 in 6 people in America who do not know where their next meal will come from. In an effort to combat that statistic, we donate a portion from each sale to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

Greatest challenge: Our biggest challenge is competing with the large snack companies. We stand out by having unique flavors, while also giving back to the community. We strive to have top quality products with the best flavor profiles.

Inspiration: Knowing the impact that we are having on our community, is a great feeling. I love seeing the business grow! It is an awesome feeling to see our products on the shelves of large grocery stores where I have shopped my entire life.


Title: Owner of Five13 and council coordinator at the Child Well-Being Transformational Council at the North Carolina General Assembly

On success: As someone with dyslexia, my brain is wired a little different. Embracing that difference versus trying to be more like everyone else was key for me. For most of my life, I viewed it as a disability. When I started embracing my different style of thinking, I realized I was much better than most of my colleagues at complex system thinking.

Core values: I am passionate about children. I am also fascinated and energized by large, complex, interconnected systems and the concept of collective impact. I am fortunate to be working in a role where my job is to help North Carolina’s children by helping to organize the agencies and organizations that provide important services to children and families.

Those programs and organizations often fail to collaborate, coordinate and communicate about services, so children and families experience fragmented and disorganized services. A more systematic and collective approach to services will help ensure that the state achieves the best outcomes for children.

Fun fact: I am a reluctant triathlete; I love swimming and was pulled into triathlon by my fiancé.


Title: Head brewer, Mason Jar Lager Co.

Core values: I get to interact with new and different people every single day. I get to touch their lives in the best of times and sometimes at the worst. I get to share my passion, my craft, my heart for people, love and positivity without even trying. Craft beer is so much more than beer. It is a community, family, friendships, support, compassion and love.

Inspiration: Aside from the absolute joy of doing what I love every day, it is incredibly rewarding getting to introduce people to craft beer and the amazing industry that it is and see the smile on their face and nod of approval when they sip something that I have dedicated myself to. It makes all the long days, blood, sweat and tears worth it.

Fun fact: I am an avid fly-fisherman (and regular fisherman) and go any chance I get.


Title: President and co-founder, Apex Public School Foundation

Biggest risk: Committing to launch the education foundation felt like a gigantic risk. There are times when I think, “What did I get myself into?” Thankfully, those moments are short-lived, as I am inspired by an incredible team of directors and advisers.

Core values: As an educator, my core values have always included:

  • All children can learn.
  • Adults, especially educators, have an incredible responsibility to make meaningful connections with children.
  • Community support of and involvement with our schools strengthens our schools and our entire community.

Personally, I have a deep belief in civic and social responsibility to our immediate and greater communities.

I am proud that the guiding philosophies behind the APSF integrate these core values as we focus on funding programs to enhance learning opportunities for all students in the 18 Wake County public schools located in Apex.

Inspiration: Whether I am volunteering in my daughter’s elementary school classroom or attending a PTA meeting, it’s clear our schools are making the most out of limited resources. Our community, our schools, our teachers and, most importantly, the students, deserve more.


Title: Director of marketing, Whiteboard Digital

Core values: The principles I practice at home with my family in terms of accountability, honesty, respect and praise, translate in to my work environment as well.

Greatest challenge: I have a hard time saying, “No.” I am maintaining a job, raising three children, coaching for NCFC Soccer Club (formerly CASL) for more than 10 years and volunteering with local organizations as much as I can. My desire to help others and be everywhere and do everything has taken away from family time in the past. I’ve settled our life down and now only take on what I have time for without spreading myself too thin.

Inspiration: It all goes back to how my three brothers and I were raised. My parents instilled in us at a young age that we needed to work hard, get an education, serve our community and find satisfaction in not only our work, but life. I think we’re all trying to impress someone, and that’s where my passion comes from, my parents. I saw how hard they worked growing up, and I want to set that example for my children.


Title: CEO of BuzzARooney LLC, a human resources consulting company, and the senior director of HR at SafeStreets USA, a home security provider

Biggest risk: I left Virginia for North Carolina in 2008 with my two children, who were both under 5, after exiting an abusive marriage. I’d accepted a promotion with relocation at my job primarily to get away. I had a limited support system here, and I wasn’t earning much money. It was scary and lonely for a few years. However, I managed to finish grad school, start a successful side business that keeps growing and meet a wonderful man who I am now married to.

Greatest challenge: Time management and work/life balance are my biggest challenges. In addition to having a full-time job and a growing business, I am also a wife and mother of five. Consistently planning and executing my calendar with all my responsibilities, personal and professional, is the only way to address it.

Inspiration: Helping people — both employers and employees — to improve their work environments keeps me going. Work is not everything, but it is an important thing! We spend a lot of time there and our earnings, our benefits, etc., are important to the quality of our lifestyles.


Title: Co-founder and CEO, Momentum

Biggest risk: Starting a company at 28 years old is without a doubt the biggest risk I’ve taken. Every day since starting Momentum, I’ve learned something that has stretched me personally, professionally and spiritually.

Core values: I believe deeply in the potential that each of us has — to do something great and enjoy every minute of life. I have heard that half of the people in the United States would change what they did for a living if given the chance.

At Momentum, we give people that opportunity. The vast majority of our students have already had one to two careers. They have the courage to know that what they were doing wasn’t serving them, and we provide them the chance to make a big pivot towards a career that will.

Inspiration: The work we do at Momentum allows us to work side-by-side with career changers. Not just any career changers, but people who have the courage and the drive to invest in themselves, take a leap of faith and go for something challenging. Those are inspiring people, and I’m glad to be around them.


Title: Owners, Growler USA in Raleigh; McCoy is the quality assurance IT Director at MetLife, and Raj is an independent IT consultant

On success: Success comes to those who persevere and work hard.

Core values: We love building a community hub that’s diverse, inclusive and welcoming to everyone.

Greatest challenge: We seem to work 24/7, and finding the sweet spot for work/life balance is our biggest challenge.

Fun fact: We’re a husband and wife team who built this Growler location while we were pregnant with our second child. In preparation for this venture, we both went to the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. This was while our first child was 2 months old, and we were working corporate jobs with occasional travel. So, either call us gluttons for punishment or daredevils.


Title: Co-owner, NEXTAFF, a professional hiring organization

On success: Success isn’t just measured by awards, salaries or bonuses. It should be measured through your relationships and the people who choose to spend time with you.

Biggest risk: At the age of 28, with a 6-month-old, I opened NEXTAFF with Rachel Reynolds. Even though we had staffing experience, opening our own business was a huge, challenging, nonstop roller coaster ride. My husband was extremely supportive through the many, many months when I did not bring home a paycheck. There were a lot of long days and sleepless nights when we were doing creative math, trying to figure out how we were going to grow a profitable business, pay our monthly expenses, pay mortgages and also pay for daycare. Also, we couldn’t afford to pay a staff for those first few years, so our workforce consisted of Rachel’s retired father-in-law, my retired parents and my 85-year-old grandma.

Fun fact: I watch at least one episode of “Golden Girls” before I go to bed every night; I am a longtime fan of this show! I’m also obsessed with food trucks; I actually have four apps on my phone to track them.

Thanks to The Fairview and Themeworks for our photo location and the beautiful furniture. Themeworks 1125 Capital Blvd., Raleigh (919)833-7900

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