Future 10: 2020
Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and South Brunswick Magazine recognize Brunswick County’s young professionals and future leaders.
Leaders come from all walks of life, and they lead with optimism and determination. They have a passion for learning and growing and passing on the tools of success to others. In this annual issue, we share the stories of those in our communities who are doing just that. We present, the Future 10 under 40.
Marilou Smith survived a childhood of abuse and homelessness to serve others. Justin Wittkofsky discovered his own field of dreams. Alister Chick realized you don’t have to be a doctor to help people. Shane Britt took a leap of faith and started his own businesses. Janie Torbich found the confidence she didn’t know she had. Kasey Robinson felt called to healing through touch and intention. Stephanie McMullan nursed a failing restaurant back to health. Samantha Youmell founded a business that helps the homebound and disabled. Brent Gallant turned a hobby into a passion job. Will Ivey turned his appreciation for safety into a career.
Eight years ago Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and South Brunswick Magazine introduced the first Future 10 leaders under 40. Each year since we’ve continued to recognize 10 new leaders as part of this esteemed group, all of whom live up to the chamber’s motto of “Building Community and Supporting Business.”
As you read on, you’ll learn their personal stories, dreams and goals and come to see that they, like the Future 10 nominees before them, are champions for their communities and committed to making a positive impact on Brunswick County.
Future 10 isn’t a competition, but a nomination-based search in which we invite coworkers, supervisors, employees, business owners, friends and family to recommend exceptional men and women under the age of 40, who not only contribute to the current and future success of our county with a proven commitment to excellence in their careers, but also provide inspiration and leadership for other young people. In the following pages you’ll learn their personal stories, dreams and goals and come to see that they, like the Future 10 nominees before them, are champions for their communities and committed to making a positive impact on Brunswick County.
OWNER, FIN-FISHER CHARTER SERVICES
Would you sign up for a career that requires you to start your day at 4:30 in the morning? Captain Shane Britt did — especially since he is working for himself and fulfilling a dream.
For 12 years, Britt worked for Duke Energy. By his own admission, it was a great job, but he realized that “some people are better working for themselves,” and he knew he was one of them.
With a passion for fishing and teaching people his personal tactics, he decided to take a leap of faith in 2015. He left his stable job and started his own fishing charter business from Holden Beach. Fin-Fisher Charter Services, named after his sons, Finlynn, 8, and Fisher, 6.
At least six days a week, Britt is on the water teaching people how to fish and providing a chance for them to explore the backwaters of Brunswick County. He typically runs two four-hour charters a day, although some clients will book him for the entire day. For Britt, it is not just about taking people fishing or “catching” as he prefers to call it, but about helping people make memories.
“I like the fact that I’m giving people a way to step away from their lives for four hours,” he says.
Britt got his own opportunity to step away from his day-to-day life by appearing on the National Geographic Channel’s Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks as part of the Rasta Rocket crew, which also includes his friends Zack Shackleton and Daniel Blanks. The reality television series is about commercial tuna fishermen who fish for the lucrative Atlantic bluefin tuna off the coast of North Carolina.
When Britt isn’t helping paying clients put fish on the boat, he often donates charters to local charities for raffles that help bring awareness to their causes, including New Hope Clinic and Waves 4 Kids. He also coaches baseball in Lockwood Folly and makes family time a priority with his wife, Devan, his two sons and his 4-year-old “princess” Fia Kay.
Being nominated as a Future 10 leader reassures this self-described “people person” that he made the right decision to start his own business. “It’s a huge accomplishment, to be recognized for running my own business as a standout in the community,” Britt says.
FINANCIAL ADVISOR, EDWARD JONES
I had aspirations to become a doctor,” Alister Chick says. “I was accepted to medical school but then talked to my dad, who is a financial advisor, about the long-term outlook for the profession and changed my mind.”
Chick’s core reason for becoming a doctor was to help people. He realized that he could also fulfill his purpose as a financial advisor helping people create and reach long-term goals that can put them on track for the rest of their lives.
“The two most important things in a person’s life are health and wealth,” Chick says. “Stress is a major health condition, and money is a major stress factor. I feel like I’ve found a way to hit both targets.”
On being included in this year’s Future 10, Chick says, “It’s a big honor, and I’m very excited, especially since I’m relatively new to the county.” Before moving to Shallotte, Chick served Wilmington-area clients for Edward Jones.
Born in Arizona but raised in Moore County, North Carolina, where his dad has his own Edward Jones office, Chick graduated from UNCW before being accepted to the Edward Jones Financial Advisor Career Development program.
In addition to managing his own office, he is very active in the firm’s leadership and helps develop and train other financial advisors in the region. Understanding how having a financial roadmap with goals can help people feel better about themselves and their futures, Chick appreciates being part of that experience. “Working one on one with clients to help them build out their goals, and then to see them achieve those goals, is one of the best parts of my job,” he says. “A lot of advisors really enjoy the nitty-gritty data-driven side of the business, but for me, I enjoy the personal relationships.”
Given the chance to move from Wilmington to Shallotte, Chick was eager, as was his wife, Candice, since her parents and grandparents live on Oak island.
But it’s the opportunity to help more people here locally that also compelled him. “I want people here to know that they have access to Fortune 500 financial services right here in their own backyard without having to drive or access services through an 800 number,” Chick says. “As a resident, I’m directly affected by the success and happiness of other local residents.”
OWNER, GALLANT VIDEOGRAPHY
Brent Gallant grew up skateboarding and enjoyed filming his friends as they carved ordid grab and air tricks. As he grew older and his interests changed, he put the video camera away for a while but still always had a lingering interest.
A chance to do some video work for a minister inspired him to take up the hobby once again and turn it into a career. “I left my office job and said ‘I’m going to take a chance and go for it,’” he says.
While living in Atlanta, Gallant built a successful videography business working exclusively in the wedding industry. He specialized in creating cinematic wedding day films that craft a story using shooting and editing techniques much like filmmaking. “Today’s weddings are about storytelling,” he says. “It’s no longer just about a camera and a tripod.”
In 2017 Gallant relocated with his family to Ocean Isle Beach and soon found that the wedding market here was not quite the same. “Many of the people getting married at the beach aren’t from here,” he says. “They’re visitors who don’t really know about you or how to find your business.” He quickly realized he would need a new strategy.
Relying on networking and building new relationships in the community, Gallant was able to successfully change his approach from a consumer-driven product to a business product by working with local companies and nonprofit organizations to develop branded video and photography campaigns and commercials. He has worked with BEMC, ATMC, Novant Health and Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce.
Since he works for himself, a day in his life is never the same, and he is always prepared for challenges. Especially with the current pandemic. “It’s forced me to think outside of the box,” he says. He is involved in every aspect of his business including answering the phone, responding to emails, setting up shoots, filming and editing.
Gallant’s Future 10 recognition is completely unexpected. “It’s definitely an honor,” he says. “I’m not someone who enjoys the spotlight, I usually just keep to myself and focus on my day to day.”
When Gallant is not busy running his business, he enjoys spending time with his wife and their 12-year-old daughter, playing golf and volunteering with media production at his local church.
ENVIRONMENTAL, HEALTH & SAFETY MANAGER, ATMC
Before taking the role of environmental health and safety manager at ATMC, Will Ivey wanted to make a career in cable TV, where he’d been since 2009, both as a mainline technician and a department foreman. In fact, Ivey began his career with ATMC 15 years ago as an installation and repair technician, working directly with hundreds of customers to help solve their phone and cable issues. Out in the field every day, Ivey always respected the safety considerations of his work — for himself and his colleagues.
Two and half years ago, ATMC announced an opening for an environmental, health and safety manager, and Ivey jumped at the chance to be part of the growing safety culture within the organization.
“Honestly, I love my job,” he says. “I have a passion for wanting to help make people’s lives better. I’m a people person, so I really enjoy walking back and forth through the company, being encouraged and encouraging others.”
Ivey has applied a guiding principle to every position he’s held— one that he learned from his dad, Gerald: “Be a man of integrity, set your standards high and do not lower those standards just to take the easy way out.” Ivey credits both his dad and his mother, Connie, who passed away recently, for his personal and professional successes.
Ivey’s Future 10 nomination leaves him feeling honored and “very grateful that somebody thought enough of me and my work to recognize me like this,” he says. He also credits the senior staff at ATMC for their support of his role and the significance they place on keeping the company’s employees safe.
The lasting impact he would like to make on his fellow coworkers is that safety isn’t an accident. It happens on purpose, and by making safety a habit he wants to ensure “that they leave safely at the end of the day and hopefully
they’re going home and changing the safety culture in their own homes.”
When he’s not at work, Ivey spends time with his wife, Alisha, and their two daughters, Haylie, 14, and Alexa, 8. He has volunteered at Harvest Fellowship Church for the past 20 years in the praise and worship band and is also a firefighter for the Tri-Beach Volunteer Fire Department and sits on their board of directors.
OWNER, WING & FISH COMPANY AND
OCEAN ISLE FISH COMPANY | AGE: 38
When Stephanie McMullan isn’t serving patrons at her downtown Shallotte restaurant, Wing & Fish Company, she’s managing her other restaurant, Ocean Isle Fish Company, and other commercial properties along with her husband, Barrett, through their business, McMullan Properties. And if that’s not enough to keep busy, McMullan volunteers with Meals on Wheels, Union Elementary PTO, swim meets and the Oyster Festival. Oh yeah, and she and husband
have three young children who have their own schedules.
On managing her full schedule, McMullan says her life “is a bit like Tetris,” a video game in which players try to strategically create order out of chaos. For that reason, she is a strict time manager.
“I know what time I have to leave my house to get to the first restaurant and then to the second restaurant,” McMullan says. “I’ve almost got it mastered.”
McMullan became a restaurateur by chance. She and her husband own the building where the failed Carolina Wing Company restaurant once lived. Not ones to shy away from a challenge, the McMullans acquired and took over the restaurant in April of 2013. The couple renamed it Wing & Fish Company and nursed it back to life; it is a thriving restaurant today.
For the past seven years, McMullan has been a part of every aspect of her businesses. She manages the books for both restaurants, oversees staffing and checks in on customers. She enjoys the human resources aspect the most. “I
love being with people,” she says. “I enjoy working with our staff, cutting up with them, even dancing with them in the kitchen!” says McMullan.
McMullan’s Future 10 recognition confirms her choice to move to Brunswick County in 2005 when she accepted a teaching job.
“Brunswick County is a special place,” she says. “I lived in Atlanta, but a small town like this where everybody knows everybody, it’s just so fresh here.”
She is humbled by her nomination and wants to share the credit. “I hate being singled out,” she says. “I surround myself with such good people, and that’s how we’ve been so successful. I almost hate to take the spotlight away
from them, so I guess this is actually for them.”
OWNER, SYNERGY WELLNESS
Kasey Robinson has always felt called to healing. As an athletic trainer in high school, she began to understand the body in a new way. She was interested not only in physical healing, but also the mental and emotional and spiritual ties to healing.
“This, in addition to my spiritual upbringing, has provided a foundation of understanding health and well-being in a unique way that I desire to share with as many as I can,” she says. Robinson, a massage therapist, is a graduate of
The Whole You School of Massage and Bodywork Therapy in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.
A native of Shelby, North Carolina, Robinson and her husband, Josh, a graduate of the same school and a Brunswick County native, moved to Shallotte in 2010, where they both saw clients at Family First Health Center for more than five years before moving into their own space in 2015. Synergy Wellness offers massage, bodywork, yoga, meditation and more.
“I am blessed to be here and be a leader of wellness in this community with my husband and staff and friends alongside,” Robinson says.
As a massage therapist and wellness center owner, Robinson’s mission is to see the community she now calls home to be strong, encourage one another, rely on their individual strengths and passions and reach their
optimal health and wellness goals.
“I am a naturally born builder and encourager of community,” Robinson says. “It is important to me that this community stays strong and continues to grow. I strive to meet individuals of the community and bring people together in an awareness of well-being!”
What also inspires Robinson is healthy eating and organic gardening. Inside Synergy Wellness, they have a Juice Plus Tower Garden, where they grow organic greens and herbs. They offer assistance for anyone who wants to grow their own organic food.
For Robinson’s recognition as part of this year’s Future 10, she says, “It means a lot that I am noticed, that I am living my mission, my dreams! I know I am here to do great things and I know I am doing those things every day.”
In their spare time, the Robinsons and their two sons, Tucker, 10, and Eli, 8, spend time growing their own food, exploring nature, fishing, kayaking, hiking and camping.
“We also love the beach, the mountains, live music and cooking delicious food with friends and family,” she says.
PRESCRIPTION ASSISTANCE COORDINATOR, BRUNSWICK SENIOR RESOURCES, INC.
Marilou Smith was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and raised mostly in Mount Airy, North Carolina, by a single parent. She spent much of her youth in and out of homeless shelters, enduring abuse and often going without food to make sure her younger siblings could eat. In search of a better life, Smith dropped out of high school, moved to Wilmington with her now ex-husband, and at the age of 19 gave birth to their daughter. Thanks to the Workforce Apprentice Program, Smith obtained her GED at the age of 17 and was matched with Brunswick Senior Resources, Inc. (BSRI). Thirteen years later, Smith is still with the organization and is now the prescription assistance coordinator.
Smith refuses to let her upbringing derail her. “For me, growing up the way I did made me who I am today,” she says. “I don’t take it back. I just keep pushing forward. We have to tell ourselves that we aren’t our parents. Just be a better version.” During her 13 years at BSRI, Smith has developed the drive, motivation and compassion to help uninsured and low-income senior citizens in the area get the important medications they need at no cost. She’s more than a resource provider, she’s also their advocate.
“I really love the clients,” Smith says. “I like being their backbone, helping them find the medicines that improve their quality of life. Some of these medicines can run over $600 a month. I work with healthcare providers and pharmacies to help them get their medications.”
In the past 13 years, Smith has helped save Brunswick County seniors more than $17 million dollars in prescription costs and has counseled more than 5,000 Medicare beneficiaries in choosing the best Medicare prescription drug and supplemental plans.
Caught off guard by her Future 10 recognition, Smith says she “was surprised and very excited.”
I’ve been with the organization since I was 18,” she says. “Given my background, it just means a lot to me.”
Smith’s outlook for the future continues to evolve. Her job with BSRI has inspired her to pursue higher education. She graduates in December 2020 with an associate degree from Brunswick Community College and plans to transfer to UNCW to study social work. When she’s not working or studying, she enjoys spending time with her two children and hosting her own podcast, Hidden Within Yourself.
MANAGER, COASTAL FINANCE COMPANY
Driven. Motivated. Forward-thinking. Those are the qualities of every good leader, and they certainly describe Janie Torbich. Nearly 13 years ago she started with Coastal Finance Company in their Smithfield location, crunching numbers and keeping up with the paperwork. Then the owner of the family-run business encouraged her to take on a bigger role. Their Shallotte location was existing, at best, so she made the move to Brunswick County to turn it around.
“The office wasn’t going anywhere, as far as the numbers,” Torbich says. “At first, I didn’t feel like I was qualified.” But the owner saw something in her drive and dedication over the years, and those instincts were right. After Torbich became manager of the Shallotte location, “In one year, we became the company’s number two location in grossing sales,” she says. As part of her business plans to overhaul the location, Torbich put together fresh advertising strategies and focused on improving the customer experience. “I love our customers,” she says. “I love helping them solve their financial problems. It makes me feel good to lend money when customers are in need. It makes me feel useful.”
Torbich spends much of her time problem solving so she can help as many people in Brunswick County obtain vehicle or personal loans. “My day is never the same; I like the mystery of it all!” she says. Not content with being the number two producer in the company,
Torbich’s goal is to “grow Coastal Finance to be the top finance company in Brunswick County, the place everybody goes to when they have a financial need.”
The Future 10 recognition is “important” to Torbich. “I was super surprised and excited,” she says.
When she isn’t working, Torbich volunteers her time and fundraising skills to Brunswick Christian Recovery Center, Celebrate Recovery and Beach Assembly of God. She is also an avid, award-winning angler and cast netter. “I can cast net and release for hours,” she says. “It’s a good stress reliever!”
PARK SUPERVISOR, BRUNSWICK COUNTY PARKS & RECREATION
Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Justin Wittkofsky thought he would end up playing college baseball, and who knows, maybe make a career of it. But when he was 17 and in high school, he had shoulder surgery — and his pitching arm never returned to its former ability.
“I was kind of lost,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.” He enrolled in Brunswick Community College (BCC) and took general education classes, then got a part-time job with Brunswick County Parks & Recreation. That inspired him to change his educational focus. He earned two associate degrees in turfgrass management and horticulture management through BCC, and it led to a career as the park supervisor.
Naturally drawn to the outdoors, Wittkofsky grew up around his grandfather’s farm. When he was young, he rode on his grandfather’s lap as he drove the agricultural and construction equipment. Wittkofsky was driving the equipment by himself by the time he was 12.
Wittkofsky manages Town Creek District Park in Brunswick County. He and his crew handle everything from routine mowing on the common areas and sports turfs to fertilizing, aerating, cutting, edging and irrigating. At the end of the day, his goal is to make sure that the parks provide a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience for anyone who visits.
Park management is a team effort, and one of the aspects that Wittkofsky likes best about his job is the people he works with. “I have a great relationship with everybody I work with,” he says. “We’re a tight
Wittkofsky is a perpetual student of his field. Even when he’s not working, “I’m studying trending topics in the turf world,” he says. For his recognition as a Future 10 leader, Wittkofsky says, “It’s an honor I wasn’t expecting. I hadn’t realized I had been nominated.” Though it is not the baseball career he envisioned, Wittkosfky loves what he does. “Being able to be out there every day, all day, that’s what I enjoy,” he says. “It gives me that feeling that I’m still on the mound. It’s cool to be on the other side of it, taking care of the fields and still watching the action.”
In his spare time, this self-described gear head “enjoys taking a wrench and fixing something. It’s my place of peace.”
OWNER, BUZZED & CLIPPED MOBILE HAIRCUTS
“Being nominated for the Future 10 this year means a lot to me, especially as a brand-new business owner and just ahead of the pandemic,” says Samantha Youmell, owner of Buzzed & Clipped Mobile Haircuts.
But her business model couldn’t be any better positioned right now during the current health crisis. Based in Calabash, Youmell, a licensed cosmetologist and barber, brings her mobile services directly to the disabled and the homebound. And right now, homebound has a new meaning for many who have compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions that put them at risk of catching the coronavirus if they venture out to a public hair salon.
Since she was in middle school, Youmell has been doing hair. It’s all she’s ever wanted to do. “My aunt does hair and nails too,” she says. “This is just what I was put on this earth to do.” The idea for her mobile business came after years of doing hair in a shop and seeing how difficult and stressful a task it is for the caregivers of her homebound or disabled clients to get them to the salon. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I go to them?’ In fact, I’m surprised this business isn’t already out there,” she says. Youmell books every hour, with six to eight appointments each day, depending on the clients. Some have more mobility issues than others, so she makes sure she dedicates extra time. The comfort of her clients is her main priority, and they routinely let her know how important she is to them.
“When people say, ‘You have no idea how much your service has changed our lives,’ it changes you in a way that you just don’t get from working in a shop,” Youmell says. “It’s genuine.” The sense of community is one of the reasons that Youmell has fallen in love with Brunswick County. She moved here two years ago from Ohio and is inspired by everyone’s willingness to work together and “be there for each other through good and bad. Working together makes this a beautiful place.”
When she isn’t out and about giving haircuts to her clients, she provides free haircuts to people in need. On her website, people can nominate someone who has fallen on hard times and is in need of a haircut.