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Charleston Business

Charleston Best and Brightest 35 and Under

Sep 17, 2021 03:06PM ● By David Dykes

Welcome to Charleston Business Magazine’s 2021 Best & Brightest 35 and Under.

Now in its fourth year, our annual Best & Brightest 35 and Under issue celebrates the women and men who are rising stars in the business community.

Even though they have many more years in the workplace, these Best & Brightest have made an impact at their businesses and in our community.

In the following pages, discover those we consider to be the most influential young leaders of the year.   

The 2021 Best & Brightest 35 and Under for Charleston is sponsored by ACL Airshop, AMEC,  Juiceria Cafe and Better Collision.

Tickets for the 2021 Best & Brightest 35 and Under Awards Ceremony can be purchased at

Please join us in saluting them.


Ava Ayers

Chief Executive Officer

A.P.S. Firm, LLC

Age 27

I am a native of Hampton Roads, Va. I attended Norfolk State University, lived in Newport News, and settled into my career as an orchestra teacher in Suffolk Public Schools. I graduated with my bachelors in education in 2018 and received my teaching license shortly thereafter. The very next school year, I received my masters in higher education administration from Liberty University and relocated to the Midlands area of South Carolina.

 Upon my move, I used my drive, work ethic, and passion toward education as a foundation for my networking. I was fortunate enough to have worked within the public school system, Youth Challenge Academy, and a technical college here in South Carolina while working on my doctorate degree. As I enter into my last year of my studies, I took a leap of faith that led my husband, Juwan Ayers, and me to start A.P.S. Firm, LLC. My husband and I are deeply invested in the well-being of the state, and A.P.S. Firm, LLC, is dedicated to enhancing organizational culture, and educational principles in our area.

When I’m not studying or working, I enjoy reading, shopping, and spending time with my husband, family, and friends.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My mother. She’s simply amazing!


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

It’s OK to be different.


Jonathon Best


Better Brands

Age 32

I created the Better Brands business portfolio. I sold my first online international textile business at the age of 21 and became the CEO of Fender Mender Group before the age of 30. I’m no stranger to hard work. I see myself as an innovator and a leader who brings a personal touch to all of my business dealings.

Making an impact is the foundation on which my companies are built. High-performance businesses and high-performance people are driven by inspiration, and that is the fuel that drives my teams and myself.

I believe strongly in giving back to the community. In Charleston, I am very active on food drives, charity events, sponsoring young children in the communities who play sports, and I created a charity fund that distributes money to families with mental illness.


Who was your most influential mentor?

I have had many mentors, but one that I always seem to route back to is Carlos Huesca. He is the owner of Fender Mender Collision Centers. My father worked for him when I was young, and he for many years would ride me around in his car during the summer when I worked at his stores. When I got out of college, I went to work for him. Within a few years, I was managing one of his operations. He made me a partner at a very young age and appointed me CEO before I was 30. He brought a family culture to all of his business dealings that I had never witnessed. In my 10-year tenure with him, I learned two lifetimes’ worth of business that I feel I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else at such a young age.


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

Find your passion and go after it like the world is on fire!


Vernita Brown



Age 35

I am a native of Tampa, Fla., but fell in love with South Carolina after a college tour at Clemson University. Following my acceptance there, I was a student athlete, active in the university’s gospel choir, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Upon graduation, I started my career off in the social service sector and worked for local and national nonprofit organizations over the years. I was honored to be recognized for doing that community-based work by Anderson Independent Mail’s “20 under 40” in 2012 and Athena Young Professional of the Year in 2013. But when I joined the founding team at Natalist, I was ready to do something new and make an impact in a different way. Since then, I have been fortunate to touch thousands of women’s lives through this brand, and we are only just beginning! 

I currently serve on the board of Charleston Hope, where we work to alleviate the barrier of poverty for kids in Title I schools, and The International African American Museum, slated to open at Gadsden’s Wharf in 2022.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Jeff Davis, who was the director of player development for the football team when I was a student athlete at Clemson. He always challenged me to be better than I was the day before and fostered a spirit of excellence within me.


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

Plan in pencil, remember that you deserve a seat at the table, and have fun.


Brooke Clark

Treatment Director

SAFY of Charleston

Age 32

Being from inner-city Philadelphia and having experienced many obstacles of my own, I was able to find my passion: To be who I needed when I was young.

I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from Saint Augustine’s University in 2011. I then went on to receive my Master of Social Work with a focus in children, youth, and families from the University of Southern California in 2016. I am a Licensed Independent Social Worker-Clinical Practice, with more than 10 years of experience in the field of social work, in a variety of settings and diverse populations. My areas of expertise include trauma/PTSD, depression and anxiety, family interventions and children and adolescent behavioral health. I have studied many evidenced-based practice modalities, including CBT, DBT, SPARCS, TFTC, ESFT, and PCIT. I am also rostered in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (TFCBT), an evidence-based treatment for children and adolescents and their parents and caregivers, who have been impacted by trauma. 

Currently, I am treatment director with SAFY of Charleston, within the therapeutic foster care setting, servicing Charleston and surrounding counties. I supervise an amazing staff. Even more rewarding is being able to help provide foster youth across South Carolina with a safe, loving home and family.

I believe in meeting every child and family where they are. In my practice, I take a strength-based approach when helping children and families heal. I incorporate my education, creativity, experience, and sense of humor in my work with each child and family. I am compassionate, empathetic, patient, down to earth, and nonjudgmental. I am passionate about my role as a social worker and pride myself on being a member of each of my client’s “village.” I believe that when given the proper guidance, support and a chance, children and families can overcome any obstacle to live happy and fulfilling lives.

 When I am not practicing, I enjoy spending time with my husband Rasahn and my daughter Rowan, traveling, playing basketball and football and cooking. I also enjoy engaging in community service and charity work as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My grandmother, Ethel White. I miss her dearly and wish she was here to see all that I have accomplished.


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

Always stay true to yourself. Relationships come and go. Get to know all of YOU. The love that you have for yourself is the most important love there is. Don’t be afraid to express your thoughts and emotions. Use every opportunity available to you. Set boundaries and stick by them.


Tejbir Dhindsa


Roper Emergency Physicians

Age 31

I have spent most of my life in education and training to become an emergency physician with the goal of one day serving the community that raised me. I grew up in Mount Pleasant and have always been passionate about giving back, a value my parents instilled in me at a young age.

When given the opportunity to return to Charleston post-medical training, it felt like the most natural progression to pursue my life’s work. I have become a trusted, familiar face for those in their most vulnerable time of need, doing my part to bridge the gap of access and quality medical care. The COVID-19 pandemic has created unforeseen challenges, but has also shed light on our resiliency as a community. It is an honor to work alongside talented and dedicated nurses, physicians, and ancillary staff to make Charleston a safe and healthy place to live. I strongly believe in a grassroots approach to meeting local leaders to better understand how I can best serve my community outside of my professional role.

I currently serve as the secretary of the Porter-Gaud Alumni Association, am a member of the Gibbes Art Museum 1858 Society and the Medical Society of South Carolina. It is my hope to continue to advocate, volunteer, and treat the people of Charleston.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My parents, Drs. Inderjit and Avtar Singh


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

It is OK to be different. Achievement is a spectrum. Follow whatever path leads you to happiness.


Lauren Ellis

Marketing Coordinator

Sonepar USA

Age 25

As a Mount Pleasant native, marketing professional, and greater Charleston-area advocate, I am passionate about being involved and making a difference in the region. After graduating Furman University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies, I moved back to the Charleston region to start my professional career in the office of the mayor, serving as the tourism and marketing assistant for the city of North Charleston. After 2½ years of working for the city, I accepted a job with Sonepar USA in November of 2020 to gain experience and exposure in corporate America. I currently hold the title of marketing coordinator on the Sonepar USA marketing team. I am involved in multiple organizations, serving on the Charleston Young Professionals steering committee, the board of the North Charleston POPS!, the Junior League of Charleston, the Sonepar USA Cares Team, and I serve as a Sonepar brand ambassador. Every day I am dedicated to lead with my heart and do good by making others feel inspired, valued, and happy.


Your favorite quote and why:

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” I truly believe that if you set and then pursue your personal, career, spiritual, relationship, and health goals beyond what you think you are capable of, you will ultimately have the ability to achieve everything your heart and mind desire. Chasing my big dreams may seem scary, but I must remind myself that I cannot achieve what I do not believe.


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

Accept where you are now and make the most out of every day. The only person holding you back from achieving and receiving what you want out of this life is yourself. You are the master of your destiny.


Helen Hall


Blender Bombs

Age 28

I am passionate about helping people achieve their health and wellness goals through food, mindset, and inspiration, which is why I founded Blender Bombs in 2017. With the help of my amazing team, Blender Bombs are now available to virtually everyone in the United States through Amazon, Whole Foods, Costco, Walmart, and dozens of other retailers. Soon after Blender Bombs found success, I went on to found Hustle Smoothie Bar, 80X20 Market, and Tipsy Spritzers. With each company, I have kept health and wellness as the forefront of their mission statements. I want to be able to look back and know that my products impacted people in a positive way.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My Tipsy Spritzers business partner, Katie. She has literally taught me so much about business and finances.


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

Learning does not stop after college. Make time to invest in yourself through personal development/business/leadership audiobooks and podcasts that resonate with you.


Lindsey Halter


Carolina Retail Experts

Age 33

I was born and raised in Greenville, and grew up around a family of commercial real estate professionals. I was exposed at an early age to the industry and had many “go to work days with Dad.” I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in real estate and marketing and then moved to Charleston to pursue my commercial real estate career.

I am currently a partner at Carolina Retail Experts, a retail commercial real estate firm founded in January 2021 by myself; John Orr, CCIM; and Elyse Welch, CCIM. I focus on exclusive landlord representation of investment-grade anchored shopping centers in the Charleston MSA. 

I am actively involved in Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) serving on the board of directors since 2018 and serving as a delegate in 2021. I’m a firm believer in advancing the success of women in the commercial real estate industry, and I strive to leave the ladder down.

Outside of work I enjoy spending time outdoors, on the water, or with my dog, Cooper, and playing in recreational soccer leagues.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My father, Brad Halter. My father instilled in me the drive, dedication, and passion to succeed both personally and professionally. 


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

The best gift you can give to yourself is to invest in yourself. It’s worth it; just trust me.


Brennen Heinz

Operating Partner

Southern Valet & Transportation

Age 35

I grew up on a farm in central Illinois and attribute my upbringing to much of my success. I was raised by two hard-working parents who instilled the value of a strong work ethic and drive in me at a young age. I moved to South Carolina to attend the University of South Carolina and am a proud graduate of Darla Moore School of Business.

While in college I worked for Southern Valet and Transportation to pay my way through college. After finishing at the University of South Carolina I accepted a job with Southern Valet as area general manager for the Upstate. After eight years in Greenville and much growth, I decided to accept the position of operating partner and expand the company to Charleston.

 I am so proud of the growth I have been able to contribute and witness with Southern Valet & Transportation. We offer not only valet services, but transportation services and parking management throughout South Carolina. I cannot wait to see where we are five years from now. My business partners are outstanding along with our entire team, which I attribute to our continued growth and success.

I enjoy mentoring my employees for future success, along with future entrepreneurs. I had great mentors growing up, so it is important to me to continue to give back.

In my free time, I love spending time with my wonderful wife and our new daughter soaking in all that Charleston has to offer!


Who was your most influential mentor?

My father. He is one of the most hard-working men I know and has always been someone I look up to and aspire to be. He set an example of what a loving husband and father looks like, while also providing for our family. I know that I can always go to him for business advice and life in general.


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

It’s OK not to have your life all figured out yet. Travel often and soak in all the experiences you can. Life has a way of leading you to exactly where you are meant to be, doing what you are meant to do!


Jenna Johnson

Assistant Director

of Integrated Marketing

Charleston Southern University

Age 33

As a kid, when others dreamed of being an astronaut or vet, I declared I’d be the first woman president. I’ve since rerouted to the marketing and communication industry. In all that I do, my goal is always to inspire, inform, and impact others through storytelling.

After graduating from Clemson with a B.A. in political science and journalism 12 years ago, I stumbled into the world of media relations when working political campaigns. I’ve never looked back. From working in the private sector to the nonprofit world, and now in higher education, my journey has uniquely prepared me to be where I am today. My current role at Charleston Southern University has allowed me to manage public relations for the university (doing what I love) while also juggling life (for my loves) as a wife, mom of two young kiddos and a dog, as well as serve in my church and community. CSU also gave me the opportunity to pursue my MBA, and I am proud to say I am now an alumna as of May 2021.


Who was your most influential mentor?

There are so many people who impacted my life in every possible way – spiritual, academic, career. My mom and dad were the most significant to who I am as a person and my unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. In my career, there is no way I can choose just one as most influential. I’d like to acknowledge a few who had a lasting impact on the type of leader I strive to be: an encourager, team player, hard worker, and ultimately, someone who values her employees. A thank you to Leonardo McClarty, Michelle Potter, Dr. Laura Olson, David Geer, Debbie Kidd, Richard Esposito, and Dr. Dondi Costin.


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

Beauty is fleeting, but inner beauty never dies when the focus is on Jesus’ command to love God and love others.


Josh Johnson

District Six Traffic Engineer

South Carolina Department

of Transportation (SCDOT)

Age 34

As a South Carolina native and Clemson University graduate, I always wanted to stay close to home and find a career path where I could benefit the people of this state. I feel I have been able to do that, both in my prior work as an engineering consultant and certainly in my current role as district traffic engineer for SCDOT. The path to get to this point was not how I would have drawn it up, but I’ve come to find that God’s plans are immensely greater than mine. In my profession, I’m very passionate about working with others and applying engineering principles to create a safer road network for all modes of travel.

In addition to my career, I also serve in the community in a variety of ways. I have just completed terms as chairman of the city of Goose Creek Planning Commission and as president of The Oaks Estates Civic Club, and I currently serve in various ministries at Crowfield Baptist Church, work as a high school football official for the South Carolina High School League, and dabble in coaching girls’ coach-pitch softball. At the end of a hectic day, I’m proud to come home to my wonderful wife, Jenna, and two children, Julia, 7, and Jonas, 4.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My mother, Shama Johnson.


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

God is in control even when you aren’t, and trust me, his plans are better than yours anyway.


Andrea Leonard

Senior Tax Analyst


Age 29

I am originally from Guatemala, and I moved to Augusta, Ga., to attend college. I was fortunate to serve as the accounting, Spanish and German tutor throughout my undergrad at Augusta University. This was a very fulfilling opportunity that allowed me to contribute to the development of others.

I started my career in 2015 in public accounting, and I specialized in international and corporate taxation. In 2019, I had the amazing opportunity to join Polestar and our little family (husband, dog, and myself) relocated to the beautiful city of Charleston. The idea to become part of the tax team of this electric performance car startup was very exciting to me, as their vision to innovate and improve the world that we live in was in alignment with mine.

I enjoy giving back to the Charleston community by mentoring first- through fifth-graders at the children’s ministry of my local church. I am also a huge dog person, and I love to take care of any dogs in need during my free time.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Professor Blackwood


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

When somebody is talking to you, listen with the intent to understand and not with the intent to reply.


Tope Leyimu


Motley Rice LLC

Age 33

My passion to advocate for others led me to law school and keeps me motivated today. After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, I began practice with Motley Rice, where I focus on helping people catastrophically hurt or killed as a result of corporate wrongdoing, occupational hazards, and environmental negligence. I also represent government entities in litigation designed to protect public health and safety, including nationwide opioid cases. 

Recently, I was appointed to the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission and serve on the board of Charleston Legal Access, both with the aim to expand access to legal services and rights for people of low income and modest means. I also serve as president of the board of directors for the Green Heart Project, a service-learning organization integrating school farms as outdoor classrooms for kids, and have served on the board for the Charleston Habitat for Humanity and Charleston HALOS, supporting neglected children and kinship caregivers. I truly believe there is no higher fulfillment than service to others.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My parents, for their unwavering guidance, support, wisdom, and sustaining love.


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

Don’t be afraid to take up space.


Elizabeth “Liz” Luke

Director of Broker Success


Age 33

As director of Broker Success at zavvie, the first end-to-end brokerage platform for all selling solutions, I am deeply involved in shaping and implementing the strategy and operations for partner brokerage adoption and overall success using the zavvie platform. I graduated from Mississippi State University with a B.S. in human sciences, and began my career in New York working as an executive assistant at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. After several years in NYC, I accepted a role in Charleston with real estate software company BoomTown, dedicating seven years to building the customer success and operations department. Prior to joining zavvie, I was the acquisitions and operations associate at Ziff Real Estate Partners. I am an experienced professional with a demonstrated history of uncovering and remedying operational inefficiencies, consistently establishing relevant and easily adopted processes. I serve as the chair of South Carolina’s Finest and launched the annual Brewer’s Ball of Charleston, which benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My parents, Bob and Kathy Luke.


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

Embrace fear, explore and experience things that scare you, and know that there is no failure when you learn. Travel often, enjoy good food, and take time to get to know people and learn their stories.


Jennifer Maxwell

Regional Director of Sales


Age 33 

I have proudly been a part of the hospitality industry for more than 15 years, which was an easy choice growing up in Charleston. I received a double major in business administration and hospitality and tourism management from the College of Charleston. I am the regional director of sales for Raines Hospitality’s Charleston area. Some of the major accomplishments over my career so far have been being awarded Director of Sales of the Year for Hilton Garden Inn North Americas in 2017 and a top 50 sales manager for in 2015. I have helped open three Charleston hotels, which is such a fun and rewarding part of my job.

I am a volunteer with the Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce and currently serve as the vice president, Charleston Chamber of Commerce’s East Steering Committee and serve on the Advisory Tax Accommodations Committee with the Town of Mount Pleasant.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Judy Parsons.


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

Travel more! Experience as many places and cultures as possible.


David McCabe

RSFH Physician Partners

General Surgeon

Roper St. Francis Healthcare

Age 33

Although I’ve spent the last 15 years living in the South, I grew up overseas as part of an expatriate family for the first 13 years of my life. Growing up in five different countries before moving back to the U.S. allowed me to travel the world from an early age and gave me a unique perspective I cherish to this day. That being said, moving to Charleston for medical school at MUSC after finishing undergrad at U.Va. was one of the most fortuitous moves of my many. After leaving South Carolina to train in general surgery at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, I was ecstatic to find myself returning to Charleston. Now done with training, I’m fortunate to be a member of Roper St. Francis Healthcare, as part of the Physician Partners General Surgery group. My job allows my passion for medicine and caring for others to shine through.

One of my biggest passions outside of work has always been service. While COVID-19 made the transition back to Charleston more difficult, I look forward to getting involved with charities and organizations with whom I was previously involved, as well as find new and interesting ways to get involved in the community. My wife (a physician at MUSC and a Mount Pleasant native) and I hope to make a strong and lasting impact in the Charleston community over the years. Hopefully, we can give back as much if not more than we have received.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My mother and father.


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

I would tell him to stop taking himself so seriously, enjoy the journey, learn useful and tangible skills, and keep being as kind to the world as it has been to you.


Jackie McKelvey

Chief Operating Officer

Blinkcns Inc.

Age 29

Since 2014, I’ve served as a jack-of-all-trades for startup companies. I was born with a “get it done” mentality and ambition that I credit with becoming a COO at age 29. Outside of college I ran a nonprofit dedicated to growing entrepreneurship and scalable companies in the Charleston region, where we helped hundreds of entrepreneurs launch and/or scale their businesses by providing them resources such as mentorship, weekly curriculum, workspace, and a network of investors.

Four years later, I had the opportunity to help start Blinkcns, a biotech company improving the detection and management of neurological disease. Our technology stimulates, measures, and assesses a patient’s blink reflex, a biomarker of brain function. After 3.5 years with the company, I was promoted to chief operating officer, where I now thrive as a leader for my team and manage day-to-day operations. Outside of the business world I am a founding instructor for the Works Cycle, Charleston’s premier indoor cycling studio. Inspiring and helping others to be the strongest versions of themselves mentally and physically is my ultimate passion in life and certainly my favorite way to give back to the community.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My parents, of course!


What is your favorite quote and why?

“Is this aligned with the life I’m trying to create?” is a quote I live by, because it can be applied to every choice in life. It’s taught me to ask the hard questions about people and situations and how to choose me unapologetically when the answer is no.


Tyler McSwain

Student Services Coordinator

Student Ministry Director

Charleston Southern University

Age 34

I am a Charleston native, and I have lived in the beautiful Tri-County area my whole life. I am a two-time alumnus of Charleston Southern University, graduating with a BA in Christian studies/youth ministry in 2009, with honors, and an MA in Christian studies in 2018. I am currently pursuing a Master of Divinity from Knox Theological Seminary. I’m employed at Charleston Southern University in Academic Technology, where I serve students by providing new online services and tools to help them better engage in their learning and meet their academic goals. I am also on staff at Metro North Church as the Student Ministry Director serving middle and high school students through counseling and discipleship. I am married to my amazing wife, Tracey, and we have a beautiful son, Noah.

Giving back to the community means sacrificially serving the community with my time, finances, and talents. It requires that I invest in people and help meet their needs without regard of getting anything in return.


Who was your most influential mentor?

John Schley served as my mentor in ministry and life. He has discipled me in what it means to be a leader and a follower. He has challenged me to be a better husband, teacher, preacher, leader, and father. Karan Sorenson served as my mentor professionally. Karan has taught me the meaning of stepping out of the spotlight and giving away credit to those who follow your leadership.


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

Appreciate the career stepping stones that get you to your dream job. While you may not have the dream job you want right now, each job before it will develop, grow, and prepare you for the career you want. It will take some time, but be patient. It will come. In the meantime, serve others selflessly as often as you can. More importantly, spend more quality time with your family. You have the rest of your life to work, so always give your family your best first. They are your whole world and the reason you get up every morning.


Makisha Montgomery

General Manager

Tara Investments

Age 33

I never would have imagined I would be here, right now, in this role. But what a ride it’s been!  Working in hospitality was never one of my dreams, but when I landed in this industry, I absolutely fell in love with it. The good, the bad, the ugly, all of it. I’ve been in this industry for four years and counting with so much more room for growth. It’s been a tough year with the pandemic, but we are still standing together. Moving to South Carolina two years ago ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I have always had a passion for helping people, whether it’s a random act of kindness or volunteering at a local shelter or hospital. Being able to connect with people from all over the world is remarkable and a thing that I think a lot of us take for granted.  There are so many amazing stories that travel from state to state when you decide to be in this industry. There is always a possibility that maybe your one random act of kindness will change a life.


Who was your most influential mentor?

I have a few. My brother, first and foremost. I joke around and call him my twin, but he is absolutely my very best friend, and I’d be lost without him. He’s the first person to hold me accountable for things, no matter how tough the conversation is. He’s also the most protective. His growth inspires me as well to push for more all the time. Matt “Lew Lew” Lew is the most influential person career-wise. Somehow, our paths crossed, and we haven’t looked back since. He’s always eager to teach and is the reason I have grown into the GM you have here today. He, no matter how busy, will definitely show up when you and your team need it the most to get through difficult times in this industry. He’s grown into a corporate position as the VP of Ops, but somehow finds the time to call you every day to make sure you are OK. I’m beyond grateful for every opportunity he has given me. Lastly, my mother. She taught love and acceptance. Culturally, being Samoan, she values family. I’ve seen her help complete strangers, wanting nothing in return. Her heart has never changed throughout the years, and if I had one wish it would be for her to live forever.


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

Have a little more patience with myself and the world. We need that right now.


Kyle Skelton

Technical Recruiter

Atlas Technologies Inc.

Age 30

After growing up in Greenville, I made the move to the Lowcountry to attend the College of Charleston, where I graduated with a degree in political science. Charleston is now home to me, my fiancée Abby, and our dog. The local restaurants, proximity to the beach, and being able to explore downtown never gets old. In my free time, you can typically find me on the boat or watching sports, particularly Falcons and Clemson football.

My journey with Atlas Technologies Inc. began in early 2019, and I just celebrated my two-year anniversary here. At Atlas, I have learned so much and gained a passion for the government contracting industry. Atlas has given me the opportunity to grow not only personally, but professionally. In the last year, I obtained my CAPM and CSM certifications. Our organization is very fervent on giving back to the communities in which we serve, which aligns very well with my own ideologies. Over the past two years, I’ve been able to serve with our Atlas Positive Impact Team, which volunteers throughout the local community.


Who was your most influential mentor?

My mother.


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

There are so many things you do not know, and there always will be! Always keep that passion for learning … and maybe invest some money in Bitcoin.


Vijay Soni

Design Engineer


Age 25

I am a design engineer on the 787 Dreamliner program at The Boeing Company in North Charleston. After attending Hanahan Middle and High schools, I enrolled into the engineering program at the University of South Carolina. During my time at UofSC, I was very involved on and off campus through various organizations and jobs, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, intramural sports, aerospace research, running a student painting business, two Boeing internships, and much more! After graduating in May of 2019 with a Bachelor’s of Science in mechanical engineering, I enjoyed traveling the world before starting full time with Boeing.

Giving back to my community is one of my top priorities and values. I have reaped many benefits from those who have given back and served their community, and now it is my turn to help make a difference. I spend the majority of my time getting involved with my community as a Big Brother with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry organization and also as a member of the Exchange Club of Charleston.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Both of my parents.


Your favorite quote and why:

“Tough times don’t last; tough people do.” We go through a lot of adversity in our lives, and those who keep persisting through all the ups and downs will become the strongest.


Amber Hultgren Topping

VP, People and Culture

Avocet Hospitality Group

Age 35

My love of travel and helping others started at a young age while on mission trips with my family. I knew early on that I wanted to devote my career to working with people and helping others. My passion for the hospitality industry and its people began in 2006 when I started working for a locally owned boutique hotel while attending College of Charleston. In 2007, I was hired at Charleston Place Hotel, where my love for the industry blossomed into a successful career. I eventually moved out of hotel operations and took a position with the hotel’s human resources department. This gave me the ability to serve a new type of customer in advocating, assisting, and engaging with our employees. In 2019, I was hired by Avocet Hospitality Group to bring a focus on our company’s greatest asset, the people.

I bring empathy and a drive to help people succeed. With my amazing team, I oversee the company’s human resource efforts and the overall workplace culture for our team members at Avocet Hospitality Group, The Vendue, Tides Folly Beach, Pier 101, and The Read House in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At Avocet we believe our team members are like our family. By embracing uniqueness, encouraging creativity, and empowering them, we strive to help all of our team members meet their professional potential.

I have also volunteered in the past as a Guardian ad Litem for the Charleston County Family Court. Through this work I was able to be an advocate for children in the greater Charleston area. I hope that, as my career progresses, I will be able to find a balance between my professional responsibilities and the Guardian ad Litem program in order to give back more to the community that I love.


Who was your most influential mentor?

Nathan Foster, director of housekeeping at Charleston Place Hotel. He is a true example of servant leadership. The encouragement and empowerment that he gave me early on in my career were truly instrumental in helping me forge my own path.

And of course, my parents, who taught me how to be a woman of my word, to have a strong work ethic, the importance of kindness, and taking time to stop and smell the roses.


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

Success has many different definitions. Have an open mind to learn new things from everyone around you.