2024 PROpel AVL Award Nominees

April 15, 2024

As the inaugural PROpel AVL Awards approach this May, the anticipation is palpable in Asheville’s vibrant professional community. These awards celebrate young professionals under 40 who have not only excelled in their respective fields but have also demonstrated outstanding leadership, innovation, and mentorship.

Get your tickets to celebrate on May 7th

Let’s take a closer look at the nominees across the various categories:

Aimee Aiken**

  • Community Relations Advisor, Express Employment Professionals
  • Aimee’s proactive approach to enhancing employment opportunities within the community reflects her dedication to empowering individuals. Her leadership roles in organizations like PROpel AVL demonstrate her commitment to nurturing the growth of young professionals. According to one nominator, “Aimee’s proactive approach and genuine concern for the well-being of others have earned her widespread admiration and respect.”

Ryan Appleton

  • Founder, Lazy Tiger Hostel
  • Ryan’s entrepreneurial journey embodies innovation, taking a risk to create a modern hostel that fosters community engagement alongside business success. His dedication to building connections within Asheville showcases his commitment to both business and community development. As one nominator highlights, “He’s a total underdog, charting a course for what rising leadership in Asheville is all about.”

Savannah Bayliss*

  • Founder, Appalachian Wyld Botanicals
  • Savannah’s dedication to supporting local businesses and offering low-cost, locally sourced, non-toxic teas highlights her innovative approach to wellness. Her commitment to community involvement is evident through her local shop downtown and her support for other entrepreneurs. As one nominator shares, “She’s a trailblazer in the wellness sphere of AVL, helping others with her own clinic and offering her products locally.”

Jonathan Blakely Jr.*

  • Owner, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Potential Sports and Fitness
  • Jonathan’s leadership has transformed Potential Sports and Fitness into Asheville’s premier sports performance training provider, showcasing innovation in business growth and community impact. His commitment to mentorship extends beyond business, actively training and guiding young athletes to success. As one nominator emphasizes, “Jonathan’s multifaceted leadership and mentorship leave a lasting impact on both the business and sports communities in Asheville.”

Marc Gonzalez

  • Owner/Dentist, Embark Dental
  • Dr. Marc’s innovative approach to dentistry blends high-quality care with exceptional customer service, prioritizing patient comfort and satisfaction. His dedication to continuing education and embracing the latest trends in dentistry reflects his commitment to excellence. As one nominator notes, “His focus is high-quality care and exceptional customer service, allowing patients to find their true smiles as they embark on their dental journey.”

Josue Molina

  • Director of Independent Living Sales and Marketing, Givens Communities
  • Josue’s innovative marketing strategies and leadership in the senior living industry reflect his commitment to revolutionizing the aging experience. His dedication to community involvement extends to various initiatives, from elder abuse awareness to sustainability efforts. As one nominator underscores, “In his capacity as Director of Independent Living Sales and Marketing, Josue actively shapes the future of senior living opportunities, propelled by a steadfast commitment to revolutionize the aging experience.”

Megan Carroll*

  • Executive Officer, Builders Association of the Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Megan’s leadership in promoting sustainability within the construction industry and her dedication to community betterment through volunteer efforts and mentorship highlight her commitment to making a positive impact. Her innovative approaches to addressing environmental challenges reflect her passion for creating positive change. As one nomination states, “Megan’s contributions, both big and small, have left a lasting impression on Asheville, embodying the spirit of community stewardship.”

Samantha Coffin**

  • Owner, Matcha Nude
  • Samantha Coffin embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship and community impact. Her innovative approach to organic marketing and commitment to societal change reflect her role as a trailblazer. Her nominator remarks, “Samantha’s journey isn’t just about achievements; it’s about the genuine connections she forges and the meaningful impact she makes.”

Walter Hill*

  • Wholesale Accounts Manager & Sales Rep, Biscuit Head
  • Walter’s dedication to community service and his leadership within the Asheville food industry exemplify his commitment to making a positive impact. Through his mentorship and volunteer work, Walter continues to uplift and empower individuals both personally and professionally.  “I am humbly throwing my hat into the ring. While I’m not accustomed to championing my own achievements, completing this nomination process has made me profoundly aware that the recognition itself isn’t the pinnacle of success,” he says.

Erin Mitchell*

  • National Account Manager, IntelliSound
  • Erin’s selfless dedication to serving others is evident through her volunteer work with organizations like the WNC Rescue Mission and her efforts to create a cleaner environment through trash pick-ups. Her commitment to making a difference in people’s lives reflects her compassionate nature. As one nomination highlights, “Erin’s willingness to go out of her way to assist those in need demonstrates not only her compassion but also her genuine desire to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Lucy Philips

  • Agency Relations, Manna Foodbank
  • Lucy’s commitment to serving the community through Manna Foodbank demonstrates her passion for helping those in need. Her energy and ability to connect with others make her a valuable asset in volunteer organizations like the Young Professionals of Asheville. According to one nominator, “Lucy is a ball of energy and always has a smile on her face, making her a wonderful person to have in your corner.”

Sara Shaff*

  • Associate Consultant, Craft HR Solutions
  • Sara’s dedication to her role as an HR consultant at Craft HR Solutions is evident through her adaptability and competency. She approaches challenges with a focus on opportunities, delivering unparalleled value to her clients across industries. As one nominator describes, “Sara’s superpower is listening, which helps her discover opportunities hidden from view, making her an outstanding example of our company culture.”

Woody Taylor

  • Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach, UNC Asheville
  • Woody’s impact extends beyond the basketball court, as he actively engages with the community to inspire students about the importance of education and hard work. His efforts in organizing basketball summer camps and mentoring young athletes showcase his commitment to making a positive difference. According to one nomination, “Woody puts on and organizes the men’s basketball summer camps, which have provided opportunities for young athletes all over WNC to grow their basketball skills.”

Kaila Tolsma

  • Licensed Financial Service Representative, First Citizens Bank
  • Kaila’s commitment to community involvement is evident through her various leadership roles and volunteer efforts, including teaching financial literacy classes and supporting individuals facing job displacement. Her dedication to making a positive impact on the community showcases her compassionate nature. As one nomination describes, “Kaila’s dedication to serving others and her tireless efforts to connect individuals with opportunities demonstrate her genuine concern for the well-being of those around her.”

Catherine Turner*

  • Senior Program Director, YMCA of Western North Carolina
  • Catherine’s leadership in youth and teen development, especially during challenging times like the pandemic, highlights her dedication to community service. Her programs, such as the Horizons Grant Teen Program, provide essential support and opportunities for Asheville’s teens. As one nomination states, “Catherine is foundational in developing and implementing programming that serves Asheville’s teens, providing them with a safe and welcoming place to thrive.”

Baylee Avera 

  • Human Resources Director at Givens Communities, 
  • Baylee Avera is a dynamic leader dedicated to organizational growth and employee development. Her journey from an HR Administrative Assistant to her current role reflects her exceptional leadership qualities and commitment to excellence. Her nominator notes, “Baylee shines brightly as a current leader within Givens Communities. She is trusted by her colleagues and team members.”

Jake Bailey

  • Assistant Project Manager, Blum Construction Company
  • Jake Bailey’s dedication to mentoring and developing regional talent reflects his passion for empowering the next generation of construction professionals. His commitment to diversity and inclusion in the industry sets a commendable example for others to follow. As his nominator notes, “[He] takes pride in providing information and opportunities to people who are capable and who previously may not have had a clear understanding of a path to success.”

Willow Caristo

  • General Manager, Bear’s Smokehouse
  • Willow Caristo’s rapid ascent to General Manager at Bear’s Smokehouse highlights her exceptional leadership and resilience in a challenging industry. Her commitment to mentorship and community involvement sets her apart as an inspiration to young professionals. As one admirer notes, “Willow’s kindness and dedication shine through in everything she does, making her a true role model for aspiring leaders.”

RJ Crai

  • RJ Crai, the Project Development Director at Semper Fi Custom Remodeling, 
  • RJ Crai exemplifies unparalleled commitment and innovation in his field. His extraordinary dedication to fulfilling clients’ dreams, as showcased by a transformative project for a family with special needs, reflects his compassionate leadership. As the nominator notes, ”RJ’s genuine care and attention to detail result in personalized and tailored solutions that consistently exceed clients’ expectations, while giving their grandson a reasonable and safe quality of life and improved standard for living.”

Maxwell Deholl

  • Commercial Production Manager, Modern Mountain Builders
  • Max Deholl’s journey from construction intern to Commercial Production Manager demonstrates his commitment to excellence and community upliftment. His leadership in diversifying the construction industry and his dedication to community projects like the Framing Frenzy showcase his passion for making a positive impact. As one colleague expresses, “Max’s humility and dedication are the backbone of our team, setting a standard for leadership in Asheville.”

Niki Duff

  • Director of Development, Western Carolina Medical Society Foundation
  • Niki’s leadership during a period of organizational upheaval showcased her resilience and commitment to excellence. She not only stabilized operations but also significantly increased membership and fundraising efforts, demonstrating her ability to thrive under pressure. As her nominator notes, “Niki Duff demonstrates exceptional judgement and leadership qualities for someone of her age. Or any age.”

Ashley Kepley-Steward

  • Red Tree Builders, Inc., Operations Manager
  • Ashley Kepley-Steward’s journey from intern to Operations Manager at Red Tree Builders showcases her exceptional leadership and dedication within the construction industry. Her commitment to safety, mental health, and community involvement sets her apart as a trailblazer in her field. As one colleague reflects, “Ashley’s contributions serve as a beacon of inspiration, demonstrating the profound impact one individual can have on enriching our community.”

Sarah Korellis

  • Manager of Generation Project Engineering, Duke Energy
  • Sarah Korellis is a trailblazer in a male-dominated industry. Her journey from a Senior Technical Professional to leading project managers showcases her exemplary leadership skills and determination. As the nominator notes, “Sarah is the definition of a trailblazer and continues to break down barriers in the utilities industry as a strong female voice!”

Amy Michaelson Kelly

  • Managing Principal, Hatteras Sky
  • Amy’s visionary leadership has transformed Asheville’s business landscape, from innovative hotel concepts to revitalizing historic spaces. Her commitment to empowering women and fostering inclusive environments sets her apart as a true trailblazer in the industry. “Amy stands out as a leading female executive and donates her time to mentoring rising women entrepreneurs and real estate professionals.”

Jazmin Rogers

  • Community Engagement and Strategic Partnership Coordinator, Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation
  • Jazmin Rogers is a dedicated advocate for community empowerment. Her involvement in grassroots activism and leadership roles showcases her commitment to effecting positive change. Jazmin’s selfless dedication to community service and mentorship exemplifies her as a trailblazer and leader in her field. Her nominator notes, “Jazmin represents now and the future of what strong leadership in not-for-profits of color are and will become.”

Russ Robertson

  • Operations Director, Highland Brewing Company
  • Russ’s swift rise to leadership within Highland Brewing showcases his exceptional leadership skills and dedication to fostering a supportive work environment. His commitment to promoting from within and nurturing talent underscores his belief in the potential of every team member. As his nominator says, “Russ’s blend of big-company skill and family-business heart adds immeasurable value to our financial strength and our culture.”

Tessa (Frank) Scarborough

  • Administrative Director, Department of Psychiatry, Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC)
  • Tessa Scarborough’s leadership at MAHEC exemplifies dedication and excellence in healthcare and community service. Her commitment to mentorship and advocacy for mental health resources underscores her impact on both her organization and the wider community. As one supporter expresses, “Tessa’s maturity and wisdom defy her age, making her a true leader and inspiration to us all.”

Charlotte Stack

  • Chief Operating Officer, Chai Pani Restaurant Group
  • Charlotte Stack’s leadership at Chai Pani Restaurant Group epitomizes trailblazing, transforming the perception of Indian cuisine while fostering a culture of mentorship and community engagement. From server to COO, Charlotte’s journey exemplifies dedication and excellence, earning her the respect of her peers and the admiration of her community. As co-owner Molly Irani attests, “She’s the unsung hero driving our success, embodying the spirit of leadership in our industry.”

Hannah Welborn

  • Junior Brand Strategist, Kudzu Brands
  • Hannah Welborn’s journey from intern to Junior Brand Strategist showcases her dedication and drive for personal and professional growth. Her leadership within Kudzu Brands and her role as a mentor to fellow young professionals demonstrate her commitment to excellence. As one colleague remarks, “Hannah’s passion and expertise make her a true leader among her peers, guiding the way for future trailblazers in our industry.”

Christine Dozier

  • VP/Lending Manager, HomeTrust Bank
  • Christine Dozier stands as a beacon of knowledge and guidance in the mortgage industry, with 35 years of experience under her belt. Her dedication to mentoring newcomers and her involvement in numerous non-profit organizations showcase her commitment to community building and professional development. As her nominator eloquently puts it, “There have been many folks before and after me that Christine has helped learn the industry, almost always with no personal gain to herself.”

Jessie Bosshard

  • Executive Director, Givens Home First
  • Jessie Bosshard’s commitment to the aging sector is unwavering. Her international experience and leadership at Givens Home First highlight her dedication to enhancing the lives of older adults and their families. Jessie’s role as a mentor extends beyond her team, as she actively advocates for innovation and inclusivity in aging services, earning her the title of a natural leader and advocate. Her nominator remarks, “She has natural leadership ability and makes others feel part of a team, like they are able to be their authentic selves, and reach for new opportunities that will be supported.”

These nominees exemplify the spirit of innovation, mentorship, leadership, and community involvement that the PROpel AVL Awards seek to honor. Their unwavering commitment to excellence and their passion for making a difference serve as an inspiration to us all. 

Join us on May 7, 2024, as we celebrate these remarkable individuals and their contributions to our community. Get your tickets now and be a part of this momentous occasion!