Future 10 Fall 2015
Meet 10 of the young professionals who are making Brunswick County a better place.
“I was raised to volunteer my time in the community.”
“I really hit the jackpot here.”
“It’s such an honor to come back and serve my hometown.”
These are some of the things Brunswick County’s Future 10 Class of 2015 said when talking about living in, working in and serving their respective communities. Each of these young professionals holds within them a spark of greatness that can and will illuminate Brunswick County. They’re educators and restaurant owners, counselors and real estate agents, husbands and wives. They work in a variety of industries in towns across the county, and they have one thing in common: This is their home and they’re determined to make it a better place.
Overseen by the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce, Future 10 is an honor given annually to 10 young professionals. Nominated by coworkers, supervisors, employees, fellow business owners and friends, each nominee must meet certain criteria. They have to demonstrate a commitment to excellence in their careers and to making a positive impact on Brunswick County’s communities and quality of life. They have to be younger than 40, a member of the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce, involved in the community and active in the chamber.
Though it’s not one of the requirements, we here at South Brunswick Magazine like to say that the Future 10 recipients exemplify the chamber’s motto: Building Community and Supporting Business.
We spoke with each of Future 10 recipient to find out what fuels their love for Brunswick County, how they view the honor of being one of the Future 10, and how they like to spend their time when they aren’t hard at work.
Resort Brokerage and Consulting
Owner and broker-in-charge
“Growing up here, I developed a passion for this area and have absolutely no doubt that this is the best place on earth to live and visit,” says Clifton Cheek, which explains why he joined the family business, Resort Brokerage, in 2003. For the last 13 years, he’s been helping families find a place to call their own in the place he loves, Brunswick County.
Resort Brokerage is a true family business. Cheek’s father opened the business in 1999. Cheek’s father and mother, one of his brothers, and his wife, Samantha, all work there. Cheek calls it “a blessing” to work with his family and to have the rest of the family (his in-laws and his other brother) nearby. This closeness goes a long way toward building a sense of community.
In building that sense of community, Cheek stays involved.
“The most important reason [to be involved] is the ability to contribute to growing and shaping our area both for the short-term benefits of our generation’s enjoyment, as well as long-term economic stability for future generations,” he says. “That’s why I dedicate a significant amount of time to the Business Development Committee [at the chamber]. To influence the actions and decisions that will ultimately shape the future of our community is incredibly rewarding.”
The oldest of three boys in the family, Cheek feels that the natural competition and rivalries between he and his siblings has given him the drive he needs to excel. That drive has paid off in the form of the Future 10, of which he says, “Every year, I’ve followed the Future 10 and held its [recipients] in the highest esteem. Knowing several awardees … they are undoubtedly the leaders that are building and will continue to bolster our community. I’m incredibly honored that members of our community thought enough of me to cast me in the same league as the other Future 10 awardees.”
Coastal Integrative Health
In Dr. Katie Ulam’s office at Coastal Integrative Health, excellence is expected. “Last year I had two Future 10s from my office,” she says. “That was a big deal to me and really made me push myself to live up to those standards. For me to find out that a year later I’m following in their footsteps is truly an honor.”
Ulam’s Future 10 award also made her reflect on how she’s grown in the community. Hailing from Cortland, Ohio, Ulam hopped from Columbus to Youngstown, Ohio, to South Carolina then to Florida for chiropractic school, then to Myrtle Beach. Two years ago that she found herself in Brunswick County.
“I arrived in August 2013 and I wondered if I was even saying Shallotte the right way,” she says. “I definitely did not want to be the damn Yankee who couldn’t even pronounce her town’s name correctly. In the last two years, I’ve learned how tightly knit this community is. From the locals and the transplants, we all love this community.”
She says Brunswick County has “taken me in and allowed to call it my new home;” two things she’s very appreciative of. Ulam’s jumped right into living in Brunswick County, getting involved with the South Brunswick Island Rotary Club and spending the time she’s not at work (or watching an Ohio State Buckeyes game) on the beach or boating or hanging out with her friends, just “enjoying life in Brunswick County.”
But her life is not all fun and games. She takes her chiropractic work very seriously. She started seeing a chiropractor at age 16 to manage some pain and help her recover after some chronic dance and sports injuries. Because of her education, her philosophy on chiropractic work and the philosophy of Coastal Integrative Health, she says, “I make people feel better every single day using my hands, nutrition and exercise to balance it all out. I’m able to help people feel better without giving them a pill, and that, to me, is the best feeling.”
Ocean Isle Family Dentistry
Owner and doctor of dental surgery
Remember Hermey the Elf? Sure you do, he’s the one on “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” who declares, “I want to be a dentist.” Well Dr. Laura Douna has a Hermey Christmas ornament she hangs on the tree every year.
“With all his experience making toys, he’s probably great with his hands, which would make him a great dentist,” she says, adding that she likes Hermey because he “encourages children to think about what they want to be when they grow up. [He] also puts dentistry in a positive light.”
As a dentist, it seems like there’s an uphill battle to keep that positive light shining on you; after all, no one wants cavities, and if you don’t floss or brush properly, cleanings can be uncomfortable. But Douna and her staff make dentistry more approachable, perhaps with a little of that elf magic, but more so because she’s passionate about providing her patients with the best care she can.
Douna also finds ways to give to the community in ways that others might overlook. One of those ways is with North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NCMOM), a group that’s served 55,000 Carolinians since it began in 2003. NCMOM sets up free dental clinics to provide everything from cleanings to extractions to fillings for those who need but can’t afford dental care.
“With each clinic we can see anywhere from 300 to 3,000 patients in two days,” she says.
Most recently she’s helped with another organization, the Cape Fear Clinic’s Volunteer Referral Program, in which she provides free dental care to their patients once a month. In this work, though there’s no financial reward, though she does get to see an improved smile with every patient.
When asked about being part of the Future 10, Douna says, “[It] means that I’ve been recognized as an integral part of this community, and I plan to live up to that standard and meet the expectations of my patients and neighbors. I also hope that I can be an inspiration to other young professionals who want to start their own businesses in South Brunswick County.”
Supply Elementary School
“I want to be a part of something greater than me,” says Stephie McCumbee, assistant principal at Supply Elementary School. “When I am at work or thinking about work, I feel complete. I know that I am exactly where God wants me to be. I love knowing that I am fulfilling my purpose in life and that I am able to positively impact 700 students.”
McCumbee always wanted to be a teacher. From the age of 8, when her family moved to Brunswick County, she felt the calling to the blackboard. After a decade in the classroom, she made the jump to administration, a move she says allows her to implement ideas, strategies and changes in the classroom and the school that she’s thought about for her entire school career, both as a student and teacher.
Being named one of the Future 10 is something she finds exciting “because of what it can bring to my school.” The honor, she says, is one more thing that says to parents “Your children are in great hands and great things are on the horizon.”
Though McCumbee is a National Board Certified Teacher and is currently working on her doctoral dissertation, her work pushes beyond the classroom. She’s the author of seven picture books designed to teach students and other young readers life lessons on how to handle themselves in certain situations and how to make positive choices.
For her, becoming assistant principal at Supply Elementary School is coming full circle. “I completed my student teaching at Supply and I’ve always felt like it was my home,” she says. “I am honored to have been chosen to help lead this school.”
Family First Health Center
Dr. Monique Weddle, or “Dr. Moe” as she’s more commonly known, walked into the doors of Family First Health Center as a patient. She was in high school and had injured her neck. The chiropractors at Family First helped her, opening her eyes to a career path. As soon as the Ocean Isle native graduated from UNC Wilmington, she moved to Atlanta to study chiropractic at Life University.
Now she’s back home, working as a chiropractor and earning the accolades of her peers. As part of the Future 10, she says it’s her duty and “goal to love and serve my community with passion and purpose, and to better the lives around me.” It’s that kind of attitude that pushed her to excel in business and the community and earn that spot among this year’s claFam
“Brunswick County has always been home to so many passionate, driven and successful individuals who are making the world around them a better place,” she says. “It’s where my family is and where my roots are.”
And now it’s a place where she’s helping shape the future.
Through her work at Family First, she helps patients with pediatric and prenatal chiropractic care. In helping these young patients achieve proper alignment and correct imbalances, she’s enabling them to start their lives in the best way possible. “So many conditions can be lessened or reversed naturally through the body’s ability to heal,” she says, adding that she just helps that process along.
In addition to the Webster Technique, a renowned pediatric chiropractic technique, and the use of other low-force pediatric adjustment techniques, Weddle helps her patients heal. She also brings in other factors like nutrition analysis to provide a more holistic approach to her patients’ health.
Weddle assists everyone, not just her patients. She teaches free classes on health and wellness as a way to spread the word about chiropractic care, but more as a way to help promote more healthful nutrition, exercise and lifestyle practices.
And she practices what she preaches. When she’s not in the office, you’ll find her and her fiancée, Dr. Mac (also a chiropractor), getting outdoors to enjoy the best things Brunswick County has to offer. Whether it’s golf, a hike or going for a jog, they’re always outside, unless, that is, they’re checking out the latest cafe’s healthy food choices. Maybe that’s why Weddle says if she wasn’t a chiropractor she’d like to be Anthony Bourdain, “traveling the globe eating, living and writing to tell all about it.”
Varnam Family Wellness Center
Licensed professional counselor
Nicole Ellen is a comforter and caregiver at heart. As a licensed professional counselor, she provides her clients — children and adults — with emotional support and guidance through the challenges of their lives.
It’s not an easy job.
“My job is both stressful and rewarding,” she says. “You cannot sit in a room and talk with people about the most horrific experiences of their lives and not take some of it home with you. The stories I hear are often heartbreaking. But then you have that person who comes to you and hugs you and, with tears in their eyes, thanks you for making a difference in their life. Those are the moments that keep you going.”
As a mental health professional, she faces these challenges every day, but she finds creative, innovative solutions to help every person she sees. She has crawled under couches and into hiding spots with frightened children, put on clown makeup to make kids laugh, even played Candyland with a grown man as a way to distract him from another panic attack. But the Puppy Protection Agency is one of her biggest, lasting creative endeavors.
“I created the Puppy Protection Agency after I had a grandmother come to me and tell me my four-year old patient wasn’t sleeping and was scared to go to school,” she says. “I wanted to make the patient feel more secure, so I scoured the office for a stuffed animal that I could give my patient. I found a puppy. After I created an adoption certificate and badge for the puppy, I told my patient he was an undercover agent there to provide extra security. I’ve given out many Puppy Protection Agents, and all of the kids know they’re safe to tell the puppies all of their fears and secrets, and that pup will never tell or judge.”
This approach to helping her youngest clients is only one of the ways Ellen works to strengthen her community. She also volunteers as a T-ball coach and softball mom, works in her church and takes an active role in everything her three daughters participate in, from drama club to dance teams.
The Future 10 is something she calls “amazing.” Being recognized by her peers for “the hard work I have put into what I do in making a difference” is part of that honor, but so is “the opportunity that [this award] may give me the chance to help others that I may not have otherwise been able to reach” is part of it too.
Wing & Fish Company
Chris Burrows didn’t come to Brunswick County to run a restaurant, he came to fish. He worked in bars and restaurants in college, and shortly after college he left the North Carolina mountains for the South Carolina low country to pursue his passion: fishing and writing about it. Charleston was ideal in many ways: the fishing was fine and the abundance of restaurants allowed him to keep one foot in the hospitality game.
Along came Captain Brant McMullan, who offered Burrows his dream job at the Ocean Isle Fishing Center: running charters and writing for their website. It wasn’t long before Brunswick County was home.
As Burrows’ strengths started to show, he moved into a management position. Then Brant and Barrett McMullan approached him about opening a new restaurant in Shallotte.
“I immediately saw the need in the town,” Burrows says. “I know the only way to be successful is to be surrounded by the right people, and we have the right owners for this concept. They believe in what we are doing and will invest what is needed to make it happen. My job has been to find and help develop the right people to make the restaurant go.”
Go it has. Burrows has assembled a team that’s allowed Wing & Fish to thrive, and that has helped him maintain the excellence he strives for. “I’m not a big fan of second place,” he says. “Not to say that it doesn’t happen, it happens all the time, but it’s great motivation to improve and get the job done.”
Through the work of steady improvement with his team, Burrows earned a place among the Future 10.
“I believe it means that someone is watching the effort that goes into making Wing & Fish what it is,” he says. “And it’s more of a team honor than an individual award; there’s no way I could have accomplished any of this without the team here.”
Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center
Community engagement specialist
Working in healthcare is a family tradition for Victoria Bellamy. Her grandmother worked as an x-ray tech in Fayetteville, and her aunt is a labor and delivery nurse in Wilmington. So the attraction to work in a hospital was strong, except for one thing: “I didn’t think I was cut out for a clinical career, but I was interested in the business side of healthcare.”
She pursued a degree in communication studies, and as a senior at UNC Wilmington took an internship in the marketing and public relations department at Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center. That internship sealed the deal for her, and she was able to combine her love of planning and outreach with her desire to make a difference in the healthcare field.
At Novant Health, she’s able to support all areas of the hospital through a variety of outreach programs and community events.
“Over the last year, I’ve worked with team members at the hospital to expand our breast health program,” she says. “Through the hard work of many people, we were able to bring a mobile mammography coach to Brunswick County.”
This mobile mammography coach is a critical step in reaching women who live in remote parts of the county or may have difficulty getting to the hospital or a doctor’s office for regular screenings. And it’s just one way Bellamy helps present the hospital to the community. Another way is through events like the Oyster Festival.
“One of the biggest community events that I help plan for the hospital is our participation at the NC Oyster Festival,” she says. “I see the hospital’s partnership with the chamber at this event as a way to emphasize all of the things that make Brunswick County unique, and it’s a way for the Novant Health team to show that we are more than just the local hospital, but a true community partner.”
Bellamy is also a part of the Shallotte Junior Women’s Club and the South Brunswick Islands Shrine Club, but if she’s not busy with work, volunteering or putting on an event, you’ll find her and her husband outside, golfing, fishing, hunting, boating and taking part in Brunswick County’s great outdoors.
Of the Future 10, Bellamy says, “It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized for excelling in a career that I love while I’m serving a community I love. I hope I earned this honor because I’ve positively impacted someone and they saw my potential for success.”
Bachara & Essey Attorneys at Law
Attorney and manager
“A community is only as strong as the people living in it, and while Brunswick County is rich in beauty and resources, there are many people here who are suffering for any number of reasons,” says Mark Bachara. “The obligation to help those in need is inherent in civic duty.” That’s his own philosophy on community and volunteerism, but he could be speaking for each of the Future 10 when he says this.
Bachara’s an attorney at Bachara & Essey, a job that keeps him busy, but no too busy to put his time and energy into bettering his community. He’s a member of the Southport Rotary Sundowners (a division of Southport Rotary Club), serves on the Dosher Memorial Hospital Foundation board, is active in Communities in Schools and Brunswick Community Foundation, and acts as a Volunteer Judge for Brunswick County Teen Court. He’s also involved in the Brunswick Little Theatre, Amuzu Musical Productions and the Trinity Methodist Church Choir. So where does he find the energy to do all of this?
“I’ve been working in some form or fashion since I was 12 years old,” he says.
He’s 34 now. In the five years he’s lived in Southport, he’s made a name for himself and an impact on his new home town.
“I was raised to volunteer my time in the community; that all started with church youth missions,” he explains. “I find it fulfilling to try and be a positive influence on the lives of others.”
But, he says, volunteering isn’t just about the community. He gets something out of it too. “I view each volunteering opportunity as a great way to help others, but also to improve myself,” he says. He adds that the growth one experiences through volunteering helps you become a better version of yourself, which explains how he’s had such an impact on a community in such a short time.
Though he doesn’t do any of his work — professional or volunteer — for the glory, he says of the Future 10, “It’s humbling to be recognized. Encouraging the younger generation to get involved in the community will become increasingly important. It’s good to see so many people taking the time and energy to give back.”
Awesome Website Guys
Before starting Awesome Website Guys in 2015, David Hutnik held some odd jobs. Being from Indiana and growing up in a sea of corn, many of jobs available were agricultural in nature — corn detassler, strawberry picker, online manure merchant — but one day he stumbled upon the entrepreneurship program at Ball State University (David Letterman’s alma mater, which may explain why Hutnik’s sense of humor is so finely honed), and found that he loved the energy and creativity that’s so prevalent in entrepreneurs.
For a few years he worked in online marketing, managing social media for companies large and small, but then he saw the chance to let that entrepreneurial light shine.
“Working with a [website] template company and a web agency for the last eight years, I found a gap in the market and decided to take the plunge with my business partner Daniel Beasley to solve and service this need,” he says.
He calls Awesome Website Guys “more than just websites,” saying they’re a customer service company that answers a wider swath of online and social needs than other companies. And Awesome Website Guys is turning customers into loyal fans. Which is good when you consider Hutnik says he, “traded the corn field for the ocean and I’m not looking back.”
Indeed, he’s embraced the salt life, spending his free time fishing, wakeboarding and generally beach bumming with his wife, Jackie, and daughter, Addie.
But his entrepreneurial fire burns hot, and it found another outlet in Hutnik’s love for the outdoors.
“I also own a race management company, Coastal Race Productions, with my mother-in-law, Johnna Terranga,” he says.
Coastal Race Productions produces road races, putting on events like 5Ks and half-marathons across the area. Their series of races drew more than 2,500 runners from 35 states and Canada in 2015, and he plans to expand that scope as quickly as reasonably possible.
“My family and I, we’ve grown to love this area,” he says. “We call it our forever home, and we’re lucky to count so many people in this community as lifelong friends. I just hope we can make as much of an impact on Brunswick County as it’s made on us.”