Future 10 – Part 1

by Mar 14, 2024People, South Brunswick

Meet 5 of the young leaders of Brunswick County.

The future of any community relies on the individual and collective leadership of its citizens to make their communities work for everybody.

Brunswick County is without a doubt well-supplied with an impressive bench of talented leaders who are working to build a strong foundation for growth and opportunity for the next generation of Brunswick County.

Eleven years ago, Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and South Brunswick Magazine first partnered to introduce the Future 10 Under 40, a group of community-minded and enthusiastic young professionals in Brunswick County who are enthusiastically a part of their county and who live up to the chamber’s motto of Building Community and Supporting Business.

Again, we are bringing together a new group of Future 10 leaders for 2023. We invited coworkers, supervisors, employees, clients, business owners, friends and family to nominate outstanding young men and women who are under the age of 40 and who have a demonstrated commitment to excellence in their personal and professional lives. Who are these remarkable leaders? They are teachers, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, role models, business owners, public servants and other professionals eager to use their passions to inspire and lead the community.

This year’s professionals are helping to shape Brunswick County’s future. They have each individually made a difference in their industries whether that is through their leadership skills or their participation in civic organizations, nonprofits and volunteer work. They all have one thing in common: They are passionate about Brunswick County, and they all are making a positive impact here. In this issue, you will read their stories and come to see that they are all key players in the present and future of Brunswick County.

Business Development Coordinator, FOCUS Broadband
Age 33

Ryan Hill Focus Broadband
With Brunswick County ranking once again as the fastest-growing county in the state, Ryan Hill has his work cut out for him. He is the liaison between FOCUS Broadband and the building community.

“I make sure all of our services are properly distributed and on time for new and existing communities,” Hill says. “I work on getting contracts with builders and make sure residents have the correct service.” With the company’s expansion into 10 counties, Hill says he has “a lot of ground to cover.”

A native of Brunswick County, Hill grew up in Shallotte. After graduating from West Brunswick High School, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he played football. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an MBA from Western Governors University.

His talent and drive have contributed to making him an integral employee at FOCUS Broadband, where he continues to offer new ideas and ways to approach business practices, making him a leader in his field.

Both personally and professionally, Hill is invested in Brunswick County and in making it a better place for young families. He volunteers his time by providing private baseball lessons and training for children in the county. Hill is also an active member of his church, where he assists with youth activities and church ministries including the Kids Own Worship Team.

“I really would like to inspire the younger generation,” he says. “Sometimes I see that my own generation gets a bad reputation for not working hard and putting in the effort. I want to change that narrative. That’s why I like working with young kids and put all my accomplishments out there, not for bragging reasons, but because I want to show them that they can be productive members of society; as long as they work hard and stay true to their faith and good things will come to them.”

The Future 10 recognition “is an honor” Hill says. “First of all, I’ve worked really hard in this role, so it’s a blessing to see all the hard work be recognized.”

In his downtime, Hill spends time with his wife, Kristen, and two children, 4-year-old daughter Charlee and 2-year-old son James. They can usually be found at the beach or at Carowinds.

Finance Director, Village of Bald Head Island
Age 37

Zachary Hewett Bald Head Island

When he was a student at West Brunswick High School, Zachary Hewett was one of those gifted musicians who could play multiple instruments — trumpet, piano and baritone horn. In fact, he got a music scholarship to Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

“I realized that I loved playing music, but it just wasn’t my passion,” Hewett says. “I knew I did not want to teach music as a career. I wanted to explore other things.”

That is when Hewett transferred to East Carolina University and immersed himself in finance, economics and business communications courses. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics, a Master of Business Administration and a Certificate in Management Information Systems, all from ECU.

After graduate school, Hewett got his start as a finance officer at a regional library system in Washington, North Carolina. From there, he held both the finance director and city manager positions for Randleman, North Carolina. This allowed him to take a more direct role in helping community members — and not only from a financial side, but also a more customer service and face-to-face role with the public. He knew public service was his calling.

But his deep family roots in Brunswick County were calling him back. Both of his parents are public servants and Brunswick County natives. So, in July 2020, he accepted the finance director position for the Village of Bald Head Island.

A day in the life of a public servant is never the same, and Hewett likes it that way. He may be responsible for overseeing all the financial aspects of the Village, but at the end of the day, what he does directly benefits the residents, visitors and the business community of Bald Head Island.

“It’s a rewarding job, being a public servant,” he says.

Being named as part of this year’s Future 10 means a lot to Hewett.

“I take pride in what I give back to the community, and everything I do is in the best interest of Brunswick County, so it means a lot to be recognized for my efforts,” he says.

But this is not his first recognition for his success as he was part of the 2022 class of East Carolina University’s 40 Under Forty.

Away from the office, Hewett spends time with his wife, Brittany, their daughter Brooklynne, and their goldendoodles, Clover and Arlow. He coaches his daughter’s softball team, and when he can “convince the girls to attend an East Carolina football game,” they head to Greenville. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of Brunswick Community College, as treasurer of Town Creek Dixie Youth, Inc., and as secretary/treasurer of the North Carolina Government Finance Officer’s Association.

Founder of Blondie’s Boutique, LLC and Band Director at Shallotte Middle School
Age 38

Lauren Borowski Blondies Boutique
For Lauren Borowski leading and inspiring nearly 150 band students at Shallotte Middle School is a very rewarding vocation, but turning a hobby into a business has also become a fulfilling and creative opportunity.

For 18 years Borowski has been an educator, with the last 16 spent teaching at Shallotte Middle. She never thought about starting her own business. But the seeds of her entrepreneurial journey were planted in 2021 when her husband, Jeremy, bought her a Cricut. It’s a smart, app-based cutting machine that is used to design and personalize clothing, totes and a variety of everyday items.

“I was making things for fun, some kids’ shirts, and then people started asking me to make things for them,” Borowski says.

Once the number of orders increased, she purchased new equipment, including a commercial direct-to-film printer to handle the volume. That’s when Blondie’s Boutique, LLC was born.

Blondie’s Boutique (the moniker comes from Borowski’s childhood nickname) is a small, family-run custom apparel shop that designs and creates t-shirts, hats, hoodies, polos and much more based on the client’s vision.

Her determination as a business owner is something that she hopes inspires her students.

“When I first started Blondie’s, I was so unsure of how to do it,” she says. “I reached out for advice from others who were successful and then things just slowly began to build. I want to be the kind of person that my kids and students and even other business owners look to for advice as they think about their own possibilities.”

Borowski finds that several of her skills as a teacher have helped her succeed as an entrepreneur. She is driven by organization and attention to detail.

“I have a very systematic process with lots of spreadsheets,” she says. “Being very organized allows us to quickly turn around our orders.”

These same skills help Borowski balance running a business, teaching and managing a family with three active kids. Giving everything 100 percent is who she is. Her inclusion in this year’s Future 10 leaves her “excited to be recognized for working hard and creating something from nothing.”

When Borowski isn’t working, she loves spending time camping with her husband, Jeremy and three kids, Zachary, Bradley and Charlee.

Teacher, West Brunswick High School
Age 30

Kourtney Saavedra WBHS
Kourtney Saavedra’s mission in her classroom is to create global citizens who are thinking about the world beyond Brunswick County, beyond North Carolina and beyond just the United States.

“I want them to have a better understanding of other cultures and what the world is like,” she says.

But at the same time, she encourages her students to embrace where they live and see all that the county has to offer.

In her ninth year as a teacher at West Brunswick High School, the school she graduated from in 2011, Saavedra was named Teacher of the Year in the spring of 2023 and subsequently the 2023-2024 Brunswick County Schools Teacher of the Year.

Even so, she says she was not expecting a Future 10 recognition. “I’m super excited, and I know so many incredible teachers who are deserving, so I have a little bit of imposter syndrome,” she says.

On becoming a teacher, Saavedra followed her grandmother’s lead. Her grandmother taught at West Brunswick High School for more than 20 years.

“In fact, the first classroom I had here as a teacher was next door to the room where my grandmother taught,” she says.

Saavedra currently teaches three classes for ninth through 12th grades: AP US History, AP Human Geography and Latin American Studies.

“We’re the only high school in the county that teaches Latin American Studies, and I’m the only teacher who teaches it,” she says. “It’s a fun social studies class.”

also leads the after-school sewing club.

What she enjoys the most about teaching are the relationships with her students. Because she teaches several different subjects, she will have some of the same students more than once.

“I may have a kid who takes my geography class, then sociology, then history or Latin American studies, so it gives me a chance to see them grow over the years, and that’s very rewarding,” she says.

Saavedra is passionate about the teaching profession; she is on a self-described recruiting mission to encourage students to become teachers. She admits there are factors like pay, working conditions, lack of support and bitter politics that may deter people from pursuing the profession.

“But some of these kids are such powerful, awesome leaders, I would love for them to go out into the world, get their degrees and then come back here to teach,” she says. “It would be great to see West Brunswick High full of alumni!”

At the end of the day, Saavedra wants people to know that teachers are professionals, degreed and licensed, and their goal is to do what is best for students.

“I wouldn’t do anything else,” she says. “I don’t feel like there are many other opportunities to make this kind of difference.”

Away from the classroom, Saavedra spends her time with her husband, Miguel, working on home improvement projects, bowling, watching movies, reading and enjoying their two dogs — Mia, a chihuahua, and Otis, a maltipoo.

Owners and Operators, Huckleberry Farm
Ages 36 and 37

Lauren and Jason Gore Huckleberry Farm

For Lauren and Jason Gore the desire to live a healthy and simplified lifestyle was the inspiration for starting their farm. Unable to find options for local, organic produce, they decided to grow their own — not just for their own family, but for others in search of farm-to-table foods.

“Goods that are grown or raised locally help build relationships within the community and create independence when we can support each other for our needs,” Jason says.

In 2015 the Gores purchased 6 acres in Ocean Isle Beach and began to build their farm, naming it after their pointer, Huckleberry. Owning a farm was not unfamiliar territory for the Gores. Lauren grew up on her grandparents’ farm, helping with gardening and canning, and Jason had a deep interest in landscaping and agriculture. Both graduated from North Carolina State University. Jason studied both agronomy and turf grass management, and Lauren studied elementary education and horticulture.

Since they started farming, they have been growing organic crops and providing eggs from their pasture-raised hens. They also offer fresh flower subscriptions throughout the year, including an annual season subscription with blooms typically available May through August, a spring bulb subscription and a fall sunflower subscription.

“We always try to offer different varieties of flowers that you wouldn’t find at a local florist,” Lauren says.  Produce and flowers can be delivered or picked up. Lauren gets excited when people choose to come to the farm.

“I want to share the farm lifestyle with the community,” she says. “We’re a small farm compared to others, but it gives families a little taste of farm life and how grounded it can make you feel.”

A big part of that lifestyle for Lauren is horse riding. She is a PHBA Western Riding World Champion, and she teaches lessons for beginner to advanced riders. They also have a monthly Pony Club program for children ages 10 and younger.

Operating Huckleberry Farm has given the Gores a chance to introduce a new way of life to others.

“Where I grew up, it seemed like everybody lived on a farm, and when I moved here, I realized it was very different,” Lauren says. “Some kids don’t realize that food doesn’t just come from the store. I want our farm to allow them to get a hands-on connection and experience, so I hope we make a great impact on local kids and families.”

Jason adds, “Knowing where our food comes from is important to us.”

When they are not busy with the farm, Jason is a soil scientist for Brunswick County and Lauren homeschools their son, Wyatt, who is in the first grade. They are also parents to two-year-old daughter Lena. They enjoy spending time at the beach when they can.

Photography by Megan Deitz