Story By Jason Frye
Photography By Jason Hudson

The future of Brunswick County is improving. As towns and communities grow, as new residents arrive every day, as the next generation of business and civic leaders come into their own, the potential for greatness increases across the county.

In 2012 Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce introduced the Future 10, a group of young professionals who are community-minded and enthusiastic about Brunswick County and who live up to the chamber’s motto: “Building Community and Supporting Business.”

A new crop of Future 10 professionals were named for 2013-14. They were nominated by coworkers, supervisors, employees, fellow business owners, friends and even spouses. In the following pages, you’ll hear their stories and come to see that they, like the inaugural class, are key players in the future of Brunswick County.

Nominees for the Future 10 award demonstrated a commitment to excellence in their careers and to making a positive impact on the Brunswick County community and quality of life. Additionally, they met internal requirements: younger than 40, actively involved in the community through a civic organization, and passionate about Brunswick County.

Read on to see the future in Brunswick County.

Aaron Perkins
Brunswick County Parks and Recreation
Athletics Coordinator

“It was a dream come true to come back, especially into my dream job.”

When you grow up playing sports year round, it’s no surprise when you go to college and major in Recreation Management. It’s also no surprise when you return home and land a job as the athletics coordinator in your home county. That’s the story of Aaron Perkins.

“It was a dream come true to come back, especially into my dream job,” he says.

Returning home after college was an easy choice for Perkins; he grew up here, his family was here and he wanted to serve the community that helped make him who he is.

“Plus, I have a lot of little cousins and I knew they’d need what I did at their ages — a great athletic outlet,” he says.

Perkins says his passion for sports keeps him going. And it must be true — the time it takes to coordinate 45 to 50 basketball teams, a dozen football teams and 20 baseball and softball teams every year is incredible.

“I just try to stay ahead of it,” he says. “I try to make each season better than the last.”

From his earliest days as an athlete to his collegiate baseball career, Perkins has kept sports as a central focus in his life. As he sees interest in outdoor sports dwindling in the face of iPods, iPads, game consoles and endless TV entertainment options, his passion makes him press forward to encourage more youth to get up, get out and get moving.

That’s why he always makes time to volunteer with one sports team or another as time allows. By getting in with the kids, coaches and parents, he can find ways to not only streamline his operation, but also grow participation.

Perkins calls his Future 10 award a “big accomplishment,” and says, “I never expected to be where I am today. I’m amazed that I can return home to my dream job and then be recognized by the people around me for the job I do. I do it because I love it, but this validates it in a much different way.”

Dr. Brian Lank
Coastal Integrative Health

“Chiropractic gave me that ability and the education to help people without the use of drugs or surgery.”

We don’t often think of a sports injury as a positive thing, but in the case of Dr. Brian Lank of Coastal Integrative Health, an injury led him to seek help with a chiropractor.

“Pain meds and muscle relaxants didn’t do the trick,” he recalls, “but the chiropractor had me fixed within a few visits and I loved the fact that all he needed were his hands, rehab exercises and knowledge.”

A lifelong athlete, Lank was excited to see a profession that focused on taking care of your body and keeping performance at top levels with natural methods.

“Chiropractic gave me that ability and the education to help people without the use of drugs or surgery,” Lank says.

When he’s not at work, you’ll find Lank with his family — he lives with his wife, three kids and a “shoe-chewing black lab,” and his parents as well as his brother and his family live nearby. If he’s not with them, though, he’s on the golf course.

“My weekends are all about family, but when I get some ‘me’ time, I go for golf,” he says.

Lank says being named one of the Future 10 is an honor as well as a challenge.

“There are a lot of young, successful people in our community, so being named as one of this year’s Future 10 is humbling,” he says. “With that being said, I see this as a challenge to surpass expectations and constantly innovate.”

Lank has picked an ideal spot to constantly innovate. With a population that keeps growing, he is frequently presented with new challenges and opportunities to utilize new techniques. He sees the future of Brunswick County as a bright one and plans to serve the citizens as both a chiropractor and leader for some time.

Crystal Babson

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage

“I prayed that if I could make a difference in someone’s life, that God would allow our paths to cross.”

Real Estate is Crystal Babson’s job, but her true passion is helping others. Whether it is assisting people with buying a dream home or selling a current one, to something more profound like becoming a surrogate aunt or a foster mother to a child in need, it all comes back to strengthening her community.

“Three years ago my son and I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua, where we saw people literally living in cardboard communities,” she says. “I realized then just how fortunate all of us are to live where we live, do what we do and have what we have. I prayed that if I could make a difference in someone’s life, that God would allow our paths to cross.”

Her path did intersect with a grandmother in need of help not long after she uttered that prayer. The grandmother was raising three kids on her own, and Babson was able to provide the grandmother with some rest and relief while being a positive force in the grandkids’ lives. Then the worst happened: the granddaughter received a cancer diagnosis. Babson began a fundraising campaign to help the family. It succeeded and gave birth to a Kid Sister/Kid Brother program that Babson spearheads, enabling her to help many others.

Additionally, Babson has worked with a local Adaptive Water Sports charity that provides disabled adults with a day on the water doing everything from riding in the boat to wakeboarding.

“I saw this program in operation in Wrightsville Beach years ago and I thought, ‘Why can’t we do that?’” she says. “So I started working to bring it to Brunswick County.”

When she’s not in the office connecting homeowners with the perfect properties, you can find Babson scuba diving or horseback riding or maybe even at a photo shoot (she models a little on the side). But when it’s family time for her and her two kids, you probably won’t find them at home.

“We love a road trip,” she says. “We love to explore.”

When asked about the Future 10, Babson says, “It shows you what people think of you, and for me it says they believe I’m doing something positive in my community. I can’t think of a better compliment.”

Daniel Simmons
OIB Ready Mixed Concrete

“What could be more rewarding than to receive such an honor from the community where I work and live?”

Daniel Simmons couldn’t have done what he’s done without help from his father and mother. From introducing him to the coastal lifestyle by emigrating from Lumberton to Ocean Isle Beach every summer to providing the financial (and moral) backing to purchase the first of three ready-mix concrete facilities, Simmons’ parents instilled in him the qualities required to succeed in business and become one of the Future 10.

“My father, Grady Simmons Jr., had a Commercial Design/Build and General Contracting business, so after graduating from N.C. State, I went to work with him,” says Simmons. “That’s where I learned about the many uses for concrete and found out about a concrete plant that was in distress in Whiteville. The owner was ready to sell and I was ready to buy, but it took six months of worrying my dad over it until he finally agreed to help in acquiring what would be our first concrete plant in 2003. Without that help, I’d never be where I am now.”

Here’s where he is now: owner of Whiteville Ready Mix, Tabor City Ready Mix and OIB Ready Mix. In less than a decade, he learned the ins and outs of the industry and expanded his concrete kingdom. He’s all business — “business is inevitably on my mind,” he says — except when he’s on the water, fishing, boating and reliving his childhood summers. In the moments he’s not on the water or on a paying job, he’s working with local municipalities to find solutions to problems he can solve. He’s worked with the Town of Shallotte and the Calabash and Sunset Beach fire departments, and he assisted on a community boat ramp, to name a few of the outreach efforts he’s made.

OIB Ready Mix and his other plants are helping change the ways builders use concrete. Innovative finishing techniques as well as products like pervious concrete, through which storm water can flow, are helping homeowners, homebuilders and municipalities find new uses for concrete.

“Being named as one of the Future 10 is quite an accomplishment and a surprise,” he says. “To think that I’m one of the top 10 brightest, most talented young professionals in Brunswick County is quite an honor. It says to me that the community has confidence in me to bring about positive change to the place we call home.

Jace Myers

Brunswick Community College and Lola’s Olas
Turfgrass Management Instructor at BCC,
Owner of Lola’s Olas

“Whether it’s a freshman in the Turfgrass Management program or a 60-year-old on vacation who wants to try out paddleboarding, I find it’s very fulfilling to play a role
in helping them accomplish their goals.”

“I’ve been teaching for seven years now and truly feel I have found my calling,” says Jace Myers, Turfgrass Management Instructor at Brunswick Community College (BCC).

Intrigued by an advertisement for a Turfgrass Management Instructor vacancy at BCC, he threw his hat into the ring and found that his experience — an associate’s degree in Turfgrass Management and years spent at courses in California and North Carolina, including Pinehurst #8 and #1 as well as the Members Club at St. James Plantation — qualified him for the job. He hasn’t looked back.

Growing up just north of Charlotte, Myers spent a lot of time on Lake Norman.

“My father encouraged me to try things like sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing and wakeboarding. Simultaneously, my stepfather introduced me to golf,” he says.

Combine that early love for the outdoors with frequent trips to Ocean Isle Beach and Figure Eight Island, and you end up with someone who has a passion for working outdoors. Hence, the travels and years at various golf courses (and countless rounds played in his lifetime).

Myers extends his love of the outdoors through Lola’s Olas, a business he started as a way to connect with people who want to learn how to surf, standup paddleboard or skim board. He says the most rewarding aspect of his professional life is sharing in others’ successes.

“Whether it’s a freshman in the Turfgrass Management program or a 60-year-old on vacation who wants to try out paddleboarding, I find it’s very fulfilling to play a role in helping them accomplish their goals,” he says.

Through Lola’s Olas, Myers is able to help several charitable organizations — Widow’s Mite, the Novant Health Foundation and local animal rescue groups — and he’s an active member of Coastal Vineyard Church.

Through the Turfgrass and Horticultural Department at BCC, he works with First Tee of Brunswick County, a group dedicated to introducing golf to children from across the social and economic strata. His work with First Tee extends to the many golf courses in Brunswick County, where his ongoing relationships with the various turfgrass teams keep him and his students connected to the industry. From internships to job opportunities, this work pays off for his students in tangible ways, and an advisory council of local Turfgrass pros helps Myers identify trends and make curricular decisions that best serve his students. “In some ways,” he says, “I’m a matchmaker between the golf courses’ needs and my students’ knowledge.”

Myers says it’s humbling to be thought of and recognized alongside the other Future 10 recipients as well as those from the inaugural group.

“I view all of these folks as professionals who excel at their roles in the workplace while contributing greatly to the local community,” he says. “To be included in such a group really means a lot.”

Michael Abushakra

Brynn Elizabeth Jewelers

“It’s great to come back home and work in a place you know and love.”

Ask Michael Abushakra what drives him to be the best in his industry, and he’ll tell you this: “No matter how good or smart you believe you are, there’s always something to learn, there’s always a challenge, there’s always something you can do to improve. I try to practice that at work and in my personal life.”

Abushakra owns Brynn Elizabeth Jewelers in Ocean Isle Beach and is following squarely in his father’s footsteps. His father has owned a jewelry store for 30 years, so Abushakra has been around the business all his life.

“It’s great to come back home and work in a place you know and love,” he says. “It seems that no matter what I need here or at home, when I call someone, I know them or their parents or their kids, so there’s something comforting about that. On the business side, because so many people are familiar with me and know me as a hometown boy, they trust me to do right by them.”

As a jeweler, trust is a key component to good relationships with your customers, and he’s won that trust, not only through having a wide network of friends and acquaintances, but also by being active in the community and lending a helping hand wherever it’s needed. In addition to operating the soundboard at his church (Waterbrook Community Church in South Carolina), he’s involved with the South Brunswick Rotary Club and is always ready to help anyone who needs it.

“I was raised to believe that we’re very fortunate to have what we have, whether it’s a little or a lot, and no matter what it is or how much you have of it, you help others when you can,” he says. “So I try to help. It’s just who I am.”

His peers recognized this, garnering him the Future 10 nomination and award.

“To get that call saying ‘You’re one of the Future 10’ was awesome,” he says. “It’s an honor enough to be nominated, but to receive the award and be part of this group is really something.”

Michael Braddock II

Brunswick Forest
Sales Executive

“Seeing the potential in a raw space or a piece of land and then turning it into reality? That seemed more thrilling and more satisfying than anything else I could study.”

During your first conversation with Michael Braddock II, it’s apparent that he’s good at his job. A champion and cheerleader for both the community of Brunswick Forest and Brunswick County as a whole, his attitude, demeanor and professionalism speak volumes to his enthusiasm for his home county and his longtime passion for real estate.

“In college I was looking at going into engineering or pharmaceuticals, but something always attracted me to real estate and development,” he says. “Seeing the potential in a raw space or a piece of land and then turning it into reality? That seemed more thrilling and more satisfying than anything else I could study. I was fortunate that I have a knack for seeing that potential and being able to show it to other people.”

While in college, this Brunswick County native discovered the world of real estate and began working for a local developer and hasn’t looked back since. From 2004 to 2007, he worked locally, and then followed opportunities to Tennessee and Georgia before returning home.

“I came back to Brunswick County in 2009 and that was enough time away,” he says. “I missed the people here, but after working in other states and other developments, I was ready to step up and highlight the place I love the best and do it better than ever before. In 2010 I joined Brunswick Forest and I haven’t slowed down since.”

What makes Braddock such a success is his approach to his job; he sees his function in real estate as helping to fulfill the housing and retirement dreams of his clients. “Relationships,” he says, “are 70 to 80 percent of the job.”

Braddock volunteers with Communities in Schools and mission outreach, and in 2013 he went to Honduras for eight days to distribute medicine, food, shoes and other supplies.

“Being named one of the Future 10 is exciting, and I’m honored and humbled by it at the same time,” he says. “I know a few members of the inaugural class, so I have some big shoes to fill.”

With his attitude toward work and the world, and his vision of Brunswick County — he calls it “fertile ground” for positive growth — he’ll have no problem helping steer the county in the right direction.

Dr. Patrick McCauley

Coastal Integrative Health
Physical Therapist

“I just hope that I can be an asset to the community and that Coastal Integrative Health can continue to set a high bar for quality, forward-thinking healthcare.”

Dr. Patrick McCauley, a physical therapist at Coastal Integrative Health, works closely with Dr. Lank, also a 2013 Future 10 recipient.

McCauley became interested in physical therapy after he was injured playing lacrosse at Miami of Ohio. There, he required the help of a physical therapist to return to competitive play. Plus, the medical field is in his genes.

“I grew up in a medical family,” says McCauley. “My paternal grandfather was an internal medicine MD back in the time of house calls; my maternal grandmother was a nurse; my father was an obstetrician; and my mother a hospice nurse. Medicine just seemed like a natural fit.”

In the office, McCauley is driven by the unique circumstances and needs each patient brings. The way these come together challenges him to devise a plan that meets his patients’ rehab goals, while keeping them healthy, safe and operating within their own limitations.

Out of the office it’s another story.

“Hands down, my three sons and my local siblings and their families keep me going when I’m not at work,” he says. “I love cooking for friends, seeing live music, traveling and meeting people. There’s always a story to hear and a story to tell, and I like finding those stories.”

McCauley’s three sons (ages 10, 8 and 6) keep him active outdoors between playing football on the beach, camping and hiking and volunteer coaching for their soccer teams.

“Locally, we love Carolina Beach State Park for camping and Brunswick Nature Park for hiking,” he says. “We also love jumping in the car and taking road trips to explore places like Grandfather Mountain and Asheville.”

He sees Brunswick County as poised for even more growth as more retirees and young families move here.

“I just hope that I can be an asset to the community and that Coastal Integrative Health can continue to set a high bar for quality, forward-thinking healthcare for them,” he says.

“It’s absolutely flattering to be named one of the Future 10. I see it as a confirmation that healthcare can be provided in a personal manner today, just like it was years ago.”

J. Ryan Smithwick

Baxley Smithwick PLLC
Partner and Attorney at Law

“I think I’m making a difference, but with all the time in court, with clients or at home with my family, you never really know if you are or not. [The Future 10] tells me that I am. I’m grateful to be recognized for doing the right thing.”

“I became an attorney by a process of elimination,” jokes Ryan Smithwick, a partner at Baxley Smithwick PLLC. “My father was a doctor and my mother was a nurse and I didn’t really want to go into medicine, so I got a degree in psychology from UNC Chapel Hill. I was working at three different jobs and hating it, and then I saw the movie A Time to Kill with Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L. Jackson. It inspired me to become an advocate for people.”

The movie was about a young lawyer defending an African-American man who stood accused of murdering two men who raped his daughter.

“After seeing that movie, I applied to law school, got in and earned my degree,” says Smithwick.

He met his wife, Kim Baxley, in law school, and the pair now have three children — a 7-year-old daughter and twin 2-year-old sons.

“When I’m not in the office, I’m busy with my family,” he says, but that’s not entirely true.

Smithwick, an Eagle Scout, volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America and continues his involvement with youth through Teen Court. He’s also active in his church, the South Brunswick Rotary and Habitat for Humanity. All of these activities reinforce his statement that he and his family are “here and here to stay,” so anything he can do to strengthen his community, he’ll do.

“I think I’m making a difference, but with all the time in court, with clients or at home with my family, you never really know if you are or not,” he says. “[The Future 10] tells me that I am. I’m grateful to be recognized for doing the right thing.”

Whitney Sauls

Sloane Realty Vacations
General Manager

“Knowing that my efforts and dedication in my professional life are being recognized motivates me to work harder.”

Whitney Sauls’ story begins in 1955. That was the year her maternal grandparents moved to Ocean Isle Beach and created Sloane Realty. Her mother and uncle followed in their parents’ footsteps, and Sauls followed in theirs. Now, a third-generation member of the Sloane Realty legacy, she’s the woman in charge of their vacation rental division.

“I manage the operations of our vacation rental division and nearly 500 properties and homeowners associated with it,” she says. “I oversee revenue management, recruitment, staff development, financial performance and marketing. Many people think we ‘just rent houses,’ but it’s much more than that, especially as the industry continues to evolve.”

Growing up in a real estate family, she learned the ropes early by helping out in various aspects of the business. Her early experiences guided her to make the family business a lifelong career choice.

“Essentially, I grew up working in several departments within our company, including the Ocean Isle Inn,” she says. “After graduating from College of Charleston with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Hospitality Tourism, I chose to return home and work in the family business.”

Sauls credits her grandparents with laying the groundwork for the family’s future, but she says she “learned from the best” when she watched her mother and uncle. In them she saw the same work ethic, strong will to succeed and commitment to the business and community that drove her to be nominated as one of the Future 10.

“To be acknowledged amongst a successful group of young professionals is a privilege,” she says. “Knowing that my efforts and dedication in my professional life are being recognized motivates me to work harder.”

When she’s not strategizing or developing new programs, Sauls enjoys time with her family — a husband and twin daughters — and teaching them the same lessons she learned at their age: hard work, a will to succeed, and dedication to her job and community. To that end, she’s a volunteer at her daughters’ school as well as a board member for the Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation.