Here are the recipients of the 2022 WomanUP Awards:
Twelve years in pharmaceutical sales left Franny frustrated with what she calls the “UNhealthcare system.” With a background of farming, forestry and agriculture, Franny was inspired to quit her corporate career. She bought uncultivated land in Leicester sowing the seeds for Franny’s Farm. The venture has branched out from organic farming and raising heritage chickens to hosting weddings, festivals and even goat yoga.
Eventually, Franny started growing hemp and has quickly become a trailblazer in the industry. She has participated in hemp research trials with NC State, helped found the nonprofit Women in Hemp and unknowingly became the first female hemp farmer in North Carolina in 75 years.
Four years ago, she began growing hemp varieties for cannabinoid production and opened the first Franny’s Farmacy Dispensary in downtown. As demand has grown, Franny has been faced with how to scale the business while retaining high quality standards. Behind every business decision is a commitment to supporting health and wellness of customers. The result is a collective of farmers, a franchised company with 11 locations and a fully traceable product from seed to shelf. Franny has also been an advocate for the hemp industry and mentor to others.
As her nominator notes, “Franny’s personal drive is unstoppable. She is a true believer in a more peaceful, honest planet and it’s safe to say no one will get in her way…on the side of business it is always Win-Win, with no man left behind.”
Woman Executive of the Year, presented by MAHEC: Janelle Tatum, Mother Earth Food
Janelle has served as CEO of Mother Earth Food since 2019. The local food hub and grocery delivery company sources products from the surrounding region’s vibrant food community of local and regional farms, food vendors and restaurants.
Through her vibrant personality and passion for local food, Janelle inspires the Mother Earth Food team to shine in their roles and responsibilities. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for convenient, local food increased exponentially – resulting in 450% growth for Mother Earth Food.
With over 3,000 new customers on the waitlist, the company stepped into action to provide more customers with local food delivered to their doorsteps and created viable income options for many affected local vendors. Janelle led the team as they skillfully put new systems in place, restructured operations, added team members and increased delivery routes from seven to 21.
And, Janelle is at the helm as the company just reached a significant milestone with the award of a $750 thousand dollar grant for the ‘Mother Earth Food Hub Expansion Project’ from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Local Food Promotion Program. The project will increase capacity in the Mother Earth Food warehouse and support a robust marketing plan educating the public about the importance of local food. As the project unfolds under Janelle’s leadership, Mother Earth Food expects to double sales to retail customers through the home delivery service, implement a wholesale buying option, and increase the number of farmers and local producers who sell their products through Mother Earth Food.
Outstanding Woman Nonprofit Leader, presented by TD Bank: Greta Byrd, Liberty Corner Enterprises, Inc.
As Executive Director, Greta has transformed Liberty Corner Enterprises into a statewide leader of innovative supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.
As a non-profit leader, Greta uses her ability to see what is coming down the road to meet challenges and take advantage of opportunities to advance supports for individuals with disabilities and the workforce that enhances their quality of life. Throughout her career, Greta has been a champion for direct support professionals and has advocated for training, higher wages and quality supports. She has mentored young women and encouraged them to pursue advanced degrees in Human Resources, Social Work, and Accounting.
Greta collaborates with other community agencies to address workforce challenges and affordable housing. And she advocates for equity and community inclusion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most recently, Greta was instrumental in implementing Growth Through Opportunity Cadets in partnership with Arc of Buncombe County, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Asheville Fire Department, and others. GTO Cadets provides an internship for adults with intellectual disabilities to learn job, safety, social, and life skills alongside first responders in the community. This program was implemented in early 2020. Greta was instrumental in transforming the program into the only GTO program in the country that continued virtually during the pandemic. This is one of many examples of Greta’s collaboration and can-do attitude.
As her nominator said, “Greta is one of the most kind and generous professionals in our community. She is often on board with a simple ask for help and is always at the table to address more complex issues. She is a “problem solver”. She is not satisfied with stopping at advocacy. She wants to see action and makes it happen. She does not see obstacles only opportunities to make things better.”
Impact Award, presented by Kudzu Brands: Laura Sullivan, Atelier Maison & Co.
Ten years ago, Laura opened her design company ID.ology and she’s successfully grown the business into an all-woman team of twelve.
After getting her interior design business up and running, Laura realized a sincere need for natural, organic furniture. Her husband Sean Sullivan was designing tight, energy-efficient homes. But Laura realized new furniture, historically made with numerous harmful chemicals, was off-gassing in the homes and making homeowners sick. She sought out and found different manufacturers that offer healthy, non-toxic furniture. As this effort was cultivated and took off, Laura decided it was time to make the leap to create Atelier Maison & Co. – focusing on design-forward, heirloom-quality, non-toxic, healthy furniture.
Laura has been able to fuse her love for design with helping people well beyond just providing them with a beautiful home. What Laura does for her clients is about beauty and caring for her client’s health in their homes as well as sustainability and caring for the world we live in.
Laura continues to evolve herself and the surrounding community through her entrepreneurial spirit and drive. Laura hosts talks and discussions at Atelier Maison geared towards helping young designers and small businesses gain access to healthy, organic furniture at great trade rates.
Laura’s impact goes beyond her business. Laura and her husband have now launched the new Asheville Design District along the Sweeten Creek Road and Swannanoa River Road corridors. This initiative is all about enhancing and reviving the area, spurring job growth in this economic opportunity zone and the design community as a whole.
Rising Star Award, presented by Western Carolina University: Maddy Rhinehart of Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte
In the short time Maddy Rhinehart has worked at Catholic Charities, she has demonstrated strong community leadership and has been a role model for other young women. Maddy has committed to a year of service to Catholic Charities through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Maddy is always willing to help where needed and to try new things. Maddy inspires coworkers and volunteers of all ages with her work ethic and flexibility on the job. She leads by example, hard work and a positive attitude that resonates with her coworkers. Maddy is always looking for ways to contribute. She has volunteered to write grants and has accepted coordinator responsibilities with the organization’s diaper ministry, a monthly food distribution event with MANNA FoodBank, and with Catholic Charities weekly food pantry.
Maddy also recently participated in the Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge. She’s participated in continuing education opportunities during her time at Catholic Charities, sharing her experiences with other nonprofit leaders in western North Carolina and learning from them in the process.
Maddy cares about helping people in need and impacting the world on a global level, and she’s off to a great start with her educational achievements, international experiences, and service. Maddy is intelligent, hard-working, kind, enthusiastic, positive, energetic, and wants to make a difference in this world. She’s already making a difference in our community and is truly a rising star.
Suzanne DeFerie Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by First Bank: Jacquelyn Hallum of Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC)
Jacquelyn Hallum always wanted to be an attorney. She was studying for the LSAT when she got a call about a new position at Mountain Area Health Education Center. At the time, she considered the job to be short-term until she passed the LSAT.
That was 25 years ago. Jacquelyn has been at MAHEC ever since.
In 2000, she moved to health careers and workforce diversity. There, she expanded the diversity resource council that helped guide MAHEC’s diversity recruitment and retention efforts and also created student programs.
Personal experience with the impact and tragedy of racism in healthcare motivated Jacquelyn in her work. Today, her student programs are working to erase racism and bias in healthcare by helping more students of color get jobs in this field. Jacquelyn has a passion for working with youth and helping them make positive life and education choices. She has influenced the lives of countless students of all ages in her work within the local school system.
She has provided a pathway for students that has inspired them to achieve great outcomes to improve the health of our community and all of Western North Carolina.
For example, the Minority Medical Mentoring Program, which Jacquelyn leads, has graduated over 80 high school students from under-represented minority groups who have an interest in health careers.
Jacquelyn has long fought on the social justice front. She is a trainer and consultant in Diversity and Multicultural Education and a motivational speaker. She wrote a health column for the Asheville Citizen Times. She has served on the Western Carolina Medical Society Board and is an integral member of MAHEC’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Committee. And Jacquelyn is a former member of the Asheville City School Board and the Asheville Housing Authority.
Pursuing her early dreams of becoming a lawyer would have taken Jacquelyn away from Asheville. Instead, she stayed here and sacrificed some of her dreams to help young people of color pursue theirs. In turn, she’s helped build a path to a better future for MAHEC and our community.