Future 10: Young Professionals Making a Difference
Story By Jason Frye
Photography By Keith Ketchum and Megan Fogel
“Building Community and Supporting Business.” That’s the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce’s motto, and it could very well be the personal and professional credo of each of the young professionals the chamber selected as its inaugural Future 10 recipients.
Nominated by coworkers, supervisors, employees, other business owners and friends, the men and women profiled in the following pages are undeniably key parts of Brunswick County’s future.
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, Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce member, involved in the community and active in the chamber.
Read on to see what good hands Brunswick County is in.
Al Fulford Heating and Air Conditioning
“To tell you the truth, I’m pretty honored and pretty humbled to be recognized as one of the Future 10.”
Justin Fulford says he was born into this business. As a third-generation owner, it’s easy to believe. His grandfather started the business in 1974, his father took it over in the early 1980s and Justin came on board in 2006. In the time since Justin joined the family business, they’ve gone from 15 employees (seven of which were family members) to 30, “and that’s during a bad economy and a real housing crunch,” says Fulford.
“I can do it all, work on installs, maintenance or system design, but I try to stick to the sales and marketing aspects of the business,” Fulford says. In addition, he’s the public face of the business, representing them at chamber, charity and networking events.
A Brunswick County native, Fulford spends a lot of time outdoors. He was at one time a sponsored semi-pro surfer and is a hunter and fisherman and a lover of nature.
“To tell you the truth, I’m pretty honored and pretty humbled to be recognized as one of the Future 10,” Fulford says. “I hope I can continue to encourage younger people to see the value in staying in and around Brunswick County and help get them excited to grow their own businesses here.”
He attributes his drive to succeed to his parents.
“I’m ambitious by nature, but my parents, they worked hard to see that I never went without,” says Fulford. “I was very fortunate and they instilled that sense of pride and excellence in me. I like to think that I’m following their example and I hope I can be an example for someone myself.”
Programming and Video Production Manager for ATMC-TV
“My husband and I love to travel, to explore and find a new place, to meet new, interesting people and find a new story to tell,” says Jennifer Beasley. “When we’re here, it’s no different. We’re outdoorsy — I run, go to the beach, I’m an avid CrossFitter — but we also spend a lot of time exploring the county we call home.”
Exploring Brunswick County is part of Beasley’s job as the programming and video production manager for ATMC-TV, where she produces eight shows in-house as well as another half-dozen viewer-submitted shows. The shows she produces take her across Brunswick County, feeding that love for travel and putting her in touch with ATMC’s customers.
“That’s when I hear the real stories and meet the real people that make this community great,” she says.
This passion pays off. Since Beasley joined ATMC in 2009, ATMC-TV has doubled its studio space, staff and the number of shows it produces.
Beasley credits her drive to succeed on her education and the self-imposed pressure to “do a better job with every episode.” As for her sense of community, she credits that to her time at ATMC-TV. The West Brunswick High School football team, the Brunswick County Literacy Council Spelling Bee and a number of other community events benefit from her passion and expertise.
“Being part of the Future 10 is humbling,” she says. “I’m honored to be recognized for doing an excellent job, but I couldn’t do it without the support and help of my team and the support from the whole ATMC family. I love what I do, and for others to say to me ‘We love what you’re doing,’ well, that’s about as rewarding as it gets.”
Brunswick County Parks and Recreation
Marketing and Community Events Coordinator
“It’s wonderful to be part of an organization that provides quality recreational activities and is filled with beautiful parks.”
If you’ve enjoyed any of Brunswick County’s parks or special events in the last six years, you have Melinda Johnson to thank. Her job as marketing and community events coordinator for Brunswick County’s Parks and Recreation Department puts her at the forefront of fun across the county.
“I love this area,” she says. “We just bought a boat, have been exploring the Intracoastal Waterway, and are starting to fish a little. I’ve only caught three, but it’s a start.”
Johnson’s love for the region and willingness to try new things (witness the fishing) makes her the perfect woman for her job, which takes her from one end of the county to the other. She organizes free concerts and summer movie series events during the summer and coordinates marketing efforts with local sponsors.
But that’s not all. She’s a volunteer with the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, the Waccamaw River Greenway Committee, First Tee of Brunswick County, the Oyster Festival, Communities in Schools and more.
“It’s quite humbling to be praised for something that you do for a living,” she says. “Having chosen parks and recreation as my career early on, I can’t see me doing anything else. It’s wonderful to be part of an organization that provides quality recreational activities and is filled with beautiful parks. I’m honored to be part of the Future 10.”
InterCoastal Net Designs
“Grind it out. Put family first, then work, then play.”
Brandon Sauls has been in business for a while. In 1999, at the age of 24, he founded InterCoastal Net Designs. Since then, he’s only looked ahead, creating and finding more success at every turn. What started as a one-man-operation has become a 20-person web design and Internet marketing firm that his employees call “the best place in Brunswick County to work.”
“I fell in love with this area in college, around the same time I fell in love with web design,” Sauls says.
Spending summers in Brunswick County as a charter-fishing captain, he found that the area left an indelible mark on him. After graduating from college, Sauls started his business and promptly moved it to the place that impressed him so much — Ocean Isle Beach.
Sauls’ recipe for success is simple: “Grind it out,” he says. “Put family first, then work, then play.”
For him, family is his wife, Whitney, and their twin 6-year-olds Sloane and Sydney. Play is fishing (but no more charters) and family time. Work is web development, volunteering on countless boards and finding ways to motivate his team.
“This award,” he says, “it’s not for me, it’s for everyone who’s part of the team at InterCoastal Net. It says a lot that we were recognized.”
Sauls says his team has done a lot of quality work to get to the point where they are today.
“I think being named one of the Future 10 means that me, my team and the business are respected in the community, and that means the most,” Sauls says. “My philosophy has always been to hire local employees and to try to be a good citizen. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing all along.”
Arbor Landing at Ocean Isle
Director of Community Relations
“Brunswick County is important and I want to see it continue to do well and see more people choosing to stay or move here.”
“Amy is a very driven and self-motivated person … I see every day her desire to be the very best,” reads Amy Causey’s Future 10 nomination form.
Spend 10 minutes talking with her and you’ll see that every word rings true.
A lifelong resident of Brunswick County, Causey says she’s “fortunate to find work I love in a place I love.” Surrounded by her family and friends, her husband, Wes, and their daughter, Reagan, she doesn’t think there’s a better place in the world for her.
As the director of community relations for Arbor Landing, Causey is responsible for showing prospective residents what makes her home county a great place to live. When she joined Arbor Landing in January 2010, she was their first employee in Brunswick County and was on the ground spreading the word before they’d even broken ground on their facility. Now they have more than 40 residents, and her job has expanded to include admissions duties in addition to her marketing and outreach efforts, but this is something Causey enjoys.
“I like wearing a lot of hats and staying busy,” she says.
She certainly stays busy. When she’s not at work, you’ll find Causey volunteering with the Shallotte Junior Women’s Club or working with the Brunswick County Senior Healthcare Marketers Group, where she just stepped down as chair. But on Sundays, you’ll always find her and her husband rooting for the Carolina Panthers.
“I can’t help but root for the home team,” Causey says.
“I’m really excited about [being named one of the Future 10],” she says. “Because I grew up here and I now am raising my own family here, it means a lot to be recognized as a vital part of the future of our community. Brunswick County is important and I want to see it continue to do well and see more people choosing to stay or move here. I’m part of that and I just hope I can make a difference in a positive way.”
Wireless Business Technician
“I need to know the best solutions for a lot of different types of businesses.”
Adam Glisson’s a friendly fellow, which is good since his job as Wireless Business Technician at ATMC Wireless puts him in contact with customers every day. Landing his current job was an act of persistence.
“When I put my application in with ATMC, I was persistent,” Glisson says. “Every couple of days I’d call back to see if a decision had been made. Looking back, I guess I showed them how dedicated I am when I’m passionate about something.”
The job at ATMC is Glisson’s first foray into wireless, but a hunger for knowledge in the wireless technology field pushes him to learn more, play with devices and setups, and to be an expert for his customers.
“So much of what I do is to help setup and maintain our business accounts,” he says. “That means I need to know the best solutions for a lot of different types of businesses. Which means I have to stay current with what’s going on in the industry.”
That makes it sound like when he’s not working, he’s working on knowing more about work, but that’s not totally true. Glisson is a bowler, though he has yet to roll a perfect game. “I came close once. I bowled a 248, but I’m getting there,” he says.
He’s a drummer at New Beginnings Community Church, where he’s also volunteered extensively, helping out with audio/video production and assisting in the youth ministry.
“I think that being recognized like this is really cool,” he says. “I feel like I’m doing a good job and I hear it from my supervisors, but to get something like this, to hear it from the chamber, well, that’s special.”
Autumn Care Nursing and Rehab Center
“The most rewarding part of my job is seeing our residents smile.”
A self-described “social butterfly,” Regina Stanley-Lowry finds that her job as activity director at Autumn Care Nursing and Rehab Center in Shallotte comes naturally.
“I love what I do,” she says. “Every day I get to interact with our residents and organize events, outings and seasonal to-dos. But the most rewarding part of my job is seeing our residents smile.”
Lowry has been delivering smiles to Autumn Care’s residents since 1997, when she joined the facility as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Soon, she joined the activity team and found that to be her calling. She returned to school, earned an Activity Director Certification from Cape Fear Community College and returned as activity director.
“Everything I do is intended to help make our facility as homelike as possible and help our patients have the quality of life they deserve,” she says. “Being a Brunswick County native, ‘homelike’ to me means a lot of things, like oyster roasts, eating fresh spots and big, family celebrations throughout the year. I try to put together as many events like this as I can.”
She and her family — 7-year-old twin daughters Kendall and Kara and her husband, Heyward Lowry — spend a lot of time doing these same activities, but gardening, she says, is where she finds her moments of relaxation.
“I stay busy,” she says with a laugh, “after all, I am an activity director, so we’re always out on the boat or fishing or cooking. Plus, we travel a lot. There’s always something to do when I’m around.”
The job is like giving back to the grandparents who raised her.
“I have a great love for the elderly, and this job, it means a lot to me,” Lowry says.
The staff at Autumn Care, her team of volunteers and the residents and their families all give her a pat on the back for a job well done, but being named one of the Future 10 was something she called “an unexpected blessing.”
“When I heard about the award, I just sat at my desk and cried,” she says. “I realized that I’ve come a long way in my 16 years here and it means a lot to be recognized for what I’ve done. All I do is try to make everyone I interact with as comfortable and happy as possible, so this validates it all.”
Dr. Stephanie Hardy
Vision Square Eye Care
“It’s important for me to give back to my community.”
For Dr. Stephanie Hardy, there’s no better place in the world than near the water, specifically the waters of North Carolina’s coast. The Pinehurst native was drawn here to attend UNCW, where her love for the ocean grew and her passion for optometry presented itself.
“While I was at UNCW, I thought I might want to be an optometrist,” says Hardy. “So I started working for a local optometrist to see if I liked the field. Turns out I did.”
Hardy left North Carolina to pursue her Doctor of Optometry degree in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and found herself once more near the water.
“After school, I stayed in Florida for a year, working, but I felt North Carolina calling,” she says. “The people here are friendlier, and the way of life is much more inviting. So I came back home.”
Back home was Wilmington for a short bit, then Brunswick County, where she joined the team at Vision Square Eye Care in Shallotte.
As a student in Florida, Hardy joined the Lions Club and found that she loved both the camaraderie and the civic outreach.
“Their work with the visually impaired was a natural fit for an optometrist,” she says.
Once in Shallotte, she joined the local Lions Club to continue her civic duty.
“It’s important for me to give back to my community,” says Hardy. “To be named one of the Future 10 and be recognized both for my professional and personal contributions, well, it’s an honor.”
Hardy gives to the community in more ways than with the Lions Club. She’s an active member of the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and she just finished her first year (“my first of many,” she confesses) as “Team Mom” for the Shallotte JV Pirates football team. She describes her duties as Team Mom as “a sort of coach, one to keep them motivated and help keep a positive attitude in everything our players do.”
Ask any of her players (or their parents for that matter) and they’ll tell you that someone as cheerful and upbeat as Hardy was tailor made for the job of Team Mom. And that, in turn, makes her an ideal Future 10 member.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
“I help them because they deserve it. No one should have to deal with being mistreated on their own.”
“By nature, I’m a person who enjoys giving,” says Jessica Dosher.
In her job as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she specializes in giving – giving care, support and a helping hand to her clients, many of whom suffer from mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
“It’s the small, subtle things in life that can mean the most to us,” Dosher says. “Offering to listen. Having compassion. Providing a nonjudgmental place for people to talk. Providing empathy and understanding. These are all important in building relationships and starting the healing process.”
Much of Dosher’s work involves children and adults who are victims of abuse or who are suffering from addictions or mental illness themselves.
“I help them because they deserve it,” Dosher says. “No one should have to deal with being mistreated on their own.”
To get where she is today, Dosher took a path from Brunswick Community College to Campbell University to East Carolina University. At East Carolina, her work and studies took her to a children’s advocacy center in Greenville, N.C., and eventually back to Brunswick County. Here, her hard work, compassion and drive to help others made her one of the Future 10.
“It’s exciting to know that there’s an appreciation for young professionals in our community and that the [Brunswick] chamber is making efforts to recognize us,” Dosher says. “It really is humbling to know that the time, patience and diligence that it’s taken for me to get where I am today are being recognized in such a positive light.”
HWY 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries
Odysea Surf and Kite Boarding
Owner, Co-Owner and Founder
“When I started making fries at Andy’s, I had no idea I’d be where I am today.”
Chris LaCoe is living the American dream. He started at HWY 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries (when it was Andy’s) as a fry cook and worked his way up the ladder, joining the ranks of franchise owners, expanding his business, starting another successful venture and founding a nonprofit. All in the last 18 years.
“I started as a $4.25 an hour fry cook,” LaCoe says. “That lasted about 10 months, then I became manager of that Andy’s. Not long after, I bought my first franchise. When I started making fries at Andy’s, I had no idea I’d be where I am today.”
At 24 LaCoe had started his restaurant empire. To date he’s owned more than a dozen HWY 55’s across North Carolina and recently bought the Master Franchise Rights for South Carolina, a plan that means another 100 stores in the next 10 years.
“Not all of those will be mine,” he says with a laugh. “100 more restaurants would keep me out of the water too much.”
LaCoe’s a surfer, and his other two ventures — Odysea Surf and Kite Boarding and the nonprofit Ocean Cure — keep him on his board throughout the year.
“We started Odysea six years ago as just a surf school,” he says. “Now we’re doing standup paddleboarding and surfing and really staying busy with it.”
As a part of Odysea, LaCoe decided to start Ocean Cure, an organization dedicated to helping children suffering from a variety of ailments (from HIV/AIDS to autism to physical disabilities). His community involvement grew, and Ocean Cure expanded with it, and now he works extensively with Wounded Warrior Project, an organization devoted to injured veterans, and Life Rolls On, a group dedicated to assisting those with spinal cord injuries.
LaCoe is a board member of Communities in Schools and is the major sponsor for the organization’s 12th Annual Benefit Gala for Children. Somehow he also finds time to pursue his interest in golf.
“Receiving this recognition, wow, well, it’s great to think I did something worthy of being nominated, much less earning a spot among the Future 10,” says LaCoe, who’s been a resident of Brunswick County for 10 years. “I just try to do my best to make my community better.” n
Above: LaCoe started as a fry cook but now owns a restaurant empire; Left: LaCoe with staff members Kurstin Dlouhy, Daniel Thorndike and Bridget Brodie.