Future 10 2022 – Part 1
A leader, in the simplest terms, is someone you want to follow. In this annual feature, we share the stories of those leading by example in our communities. Meet 5 of this year’s Future 10 under 40.
Ten 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.”
This isn’t a competition, but rather 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 Future 10 nominees before them, are champions for their communities and committed to making a positive impact on Brunswick County
Co-Owner and Project Manager, Coleman Building Co.
As far back as Turner Coleman can remember, he absolutely loved going to work with his dad, Wade, on construction sites. When he was 14 and able to go on a more regular basis during summer school breaks, he helped wherever he could, from carrying lumber to cutting sod.
“I knew this is what I was going to do. I’d always wanted to work with my dad,” Coleman says.
Coleman was born and raised in Holden Beach. After high school he went to work for his dad’s company, managing multi-family residential projects. When the recession in 2008 put the brakes on new construction, he filled the time working as a property and casualty insurance broker. In 2015, as the market improved, Coleman was “feeling the itch to get back to construction.” That’s when he went back to work with his dad as co-owner and project manager.
Coleman admits that not everyone can work with family. “But my dad and I get along,” he says. “A lot of father-son duos don’t work out that way. But I love it, it’s all I’ve known for most of my working life.”
Today, Coleman and his dad are as busy as they’ve ever been. The pandemic saw more people moving into Brunswick County trying to escape crowded locations.
“Our initial thought was that our business was going to slow down, but it was the opposite,” Coleman says. “We couldn’t even take vacations it’s been so busy. But I’m definitely not complaining.”
The best part of Coleman’s job is the people.
“I handle most of the homeowner side of the process,” he says. “I get to know their vision of what they’re looking for, even down to the flooring they choose. I also enjoy dealing with the people who work for us, our subcontractors and our employees. I’m just a people person.”
When Coleman isn’t making homeowners’ dreams a reality, he spends time with Jennifer, his wife of more than 16 years, and their three children. He has also served on the board for Brunswick Community College, serves as a worship leader for his church and gives back to schools and community fundraisers.
Surprised by his nomination for the Future 10, Coleman says he was “shocked, but super proud to be recognized.”
Principal, Union Elementary School
Before being promoted to principal for the 2022 school year, Samuel Jennings spent the last five years at Union Elementary School as the assistant principal, learning and growing from former principal Vickie Smith.
“She grew me as a leader and challenged me in so many ways,” Jennings says. “I hadn’t come with an elementary background, so she really helped me develop that.”
Jennings grew up in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and always knew he would be in education. His mom was a teacher for 30 years before retiring, so it seems a natural fit for him. He was inspired by other teachers as well, including Ms. Beverly Thomas, his kindergarten teacher.
“I remember her to this day,” Jennings say. “And my first-grade and second-grade teacher, Ms. Davis.”
Just out of college, Jennings was hired by South Brunswick High School, where he spent more than six years teaching math until accepting the assistant principal role at Union Elementary. Whether he’s in the classroom or in administration, he says the best part of what he does “is seeing the kids learn and seeing those light bulbs go off.”
In his new role as principal, he oversees all the school operations, including daily school activities, coordinating curriculums, managing staff and providing a safe and productive learning environment for students. Though his responsibilities have changed, his goal is still the same: It’s all about the kids. “And I’m here 7 am to 5 pm each day trying to make a difference,” he says.
The impact he’d like to make as an educator and administrator is that “kids should have a lifelong passion for learning,” he says. “I tell them no matter what job or career they have, they should never stop learning. Whether kids stay here in Brunswick County and share their beacon of light or they leave and take that light with them to share elsewhere, they should always want to better themselves.”
For Jennings, “it’s an honor” to be thought of as a Future 10 leader.
“Sometimes in this job, or any job, you don’t always get to be on the positive end of things, so it’s nice to be recognized sometimes,” he says.
Owner and Pitmaster, Simply Barbeque
Part of a talented but small group of women pitmasters, Aimee Mestad is making her mark on Southern barbecue culture.
The thought of owning a restaurant, let alone becoming a pitmaster, wasn’t on Mestad’s radar when she first started working at Simply Barbeque as a cashier in 2017.
“Dennis Sansone, the original owner, wanted to retire and was looking for a successor to keep it going,” she says. “People in the community really enjoyed it, and Dennis wanted to make sure that somebody would carry it on.”
Mestad decided to take on the challenge.
She admits the learning process was more difficult than she initially imagined.
“Every smoke is different, and the meat always comes in all different shapes and sizes,” she says. “It was a bit intimidating at first because I was the only one who was cooking. This is the second year that I’ve been doing it without Dennis, so now I feel very comfortable.”
Simply Barbeque is a family affair. Mestad is currently training her husband, who just recently came out of the army after 10 years, how to help with pitmaster duties.
“My daughter, who is only nine, is already wanting to cook and handle the cash register,” Mestad says. “My mom also works with me sometimes. It’s fun to have my family involved.”
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Mestad is at the restaurant from 6:30 am to 7 pm six days a week. Through the offseason, she cuts back the number of days they stay open. Additionally, Mestad prepares barbecue for weddings, rehearsal dinners and birthday and anniversary parties. “I love being a part of people’s celebrations,” she says.
The hospitality industry is something that Mestad returned to often after trying other things. She is especially passionate about supporting local mom-and-pop businesses.
“It’s important to me that we have locally owned businesses, and I’m proud that I can be part of that,” she says.
Being recognized by the community as one of Brunswick County’s Future 10 “means the world” to Mestad. But her favorite type of recognition is when someone calls her up after they’ve picked up an order and says, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that that was awesome and we really enjoyed it,” she says. “The fact that someone took time out of their day to call me — it’s those personal relationships that mean the most to me.”
Devin and Drew Sellers
Co-Owners, Sunset Slush
Age: 32, 36
Devin Sellers was in high school when he started pushing a Sunset Slush cart on Ocean Isle Beach during the summers. It’s a job he continued when he first went off to college at East Carolina University. Meanwhile, his big brother, Drew, had graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2008 — right in the middle of a recession — and wasn’t too optimistic about the job market.
“Devin would come home on school breaks and work at Sunset in the summer season, and we started talking about operating a Sunset Slush location,” Drew says. “So, we went to our parents, brought them the idea and they were like, let’s try it.”
That was 13 years ago. The pair, along with their parents, Donald and Susie Sellers, opened their first Sunset Slush location in Holden Beach as independent operators. Devin worked during the summer, and when he graduated in 2013, he came back home to help with the business.
Unfortunately, Donald passed away just days after Devin graduated.
“It was in May, the middle of the busy season when he passed away, but staying busy with the business helped us grieve,” Drew says.
By the end of 2021, they had purchased the Ocean Isle Beach, Oak Island and Sunset Beach locations and opened a Calabash store. But they didn’t stop there.
In January 2022 the Sellers purchased the entire Sunset Slush brand from the original founders and owners, Stephen and Catherine Saia. Today, they operate six brick-and-mortar locations (including a candy shop in Holden Beach) and 15 beach carts that operate on three beach strands during the tourist season.
In addition to managing their own stores and carts, the Sellers oversee distribution to Sunset Slush independent operators all over the country.
“It gives people a chance to have their own business,” Devin says. “They buy the rights to use our name and logo and sell our product.”
They also employ 70 to 80 people, including their manager, Chris Bland.
Born and raised in Brunswick County, the Sellers brothers thought they’d end up somewhere else after graduating from college, but The Slush kept pulling them back. They’re excited to be acknowledged in this year’s Future 10, “but it’s just cool to be part of the community,” Drew says.
Filmmaker, Tower 5 Media / A R I M U S E Productions
Sheena Vaught recalls that some of her happiest childhood memories were going to the movies and that film was always an important part of her life.
“We used to go to the 99-cent theater in Myrtle Beach,” she says. “We’d watch the movie and then on the drive back home to Calabash, we’d talk about the movie and consider everybody’s thoughts on the film.”
When Vaught headed off to University of North Carolina Wilmington, she picked math as her major. But her mother, an art teacher at West Brunswick High School, said, “You know UNCW has a film program.”
“She just knew me,” Vaught says.
In 2011 Vaught graduated from UNCW with a degree in film studies. She worked on several professional sets as a script supervisor, but that wasn’t why she went to school.
“Script supervisors are crucial on a film set, but you’re not the creative person, you’re the technical person,” she says.
In 2015, when the N.C. film industry lost its tax incentives and production left Wilmington, Vaught found herself without a script supervisor job. She took the opportunity to begin making her own films.
She pulled out an unfinished script that she began writing in college, re-read it, finished it and found two actors and a location. That film, The Fervent, is one of Vaught’s proudest accomplishments to date.
“I went from asking myself how am I going to do this to telling myself, I’m going to do this,” she says.
Vaught’s work has been featured in several film festivals including Cucalorus Film Festival, Cultural Spirit Online Film Festival and N.C. Black Film Festival. In the summer of 2022, while serving on the Brunswick Arts Council Board of Directors, she coordinated the Solstice Film Festival, the county’s first film festival.
Vaught is doing her part to break down barriers to filmmaking in Brunswick County, particularly when it comes to the difference between video and film.
“A videographer films what’s happening at an event and puts it all together,” she explains. “A filmmaker from start to finish controls the whole story, connecting the words and images.”
Using her experience in the film industry, she hopes to pave the way for other creatives in Brunswick County.
“For me, being recognized as a Future 10 leader means that I’m doing things right and setting an example,” she says.
Vaught would like to see Tower 5 Media become a studio and create jobs for others working in filmmaking.