Business Leaders honored at 117th Annual Meeting on June 26, 2014

June 27, 2014

The Asheville Chamber is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2014 annual leadership awards honored at the 117th Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 26th:


The Asheville Chamber is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2014 annual leadership awards honored at the 117th Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 26th:

  • Small Business Leader of the Year Award (15 or fewer employees) : Stuart Cowles, Climbmax
  • Small Business Leader of the Year Award (16 or more employees): Mark Ledyard, Charlotte Street Animal Hospital
  • Excellence in Public Service Award: LaVoy Spooner
  •  Good Health – Good Business Award: Pisgah Legal Services
  • William A.V. Cecil Tourism Leadership Award: Pat Whalen, Public Interest Projects
  • Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award: Himanshu Carvir, Holiday Inn Biltmore West
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Justin Belleme, JB Media Group
  • Women Entrepreneurs, Best in Business: Dure Ray, SimplyHome

About the Award Winners

Small Business Leader of the Year Awards (sponsored by HomeTrust Bank) are presented each year to two individuals who reflect quality and dedication in their business operations and who have exhibited leadership accomplishments in the areas of innovation, initiative and civic responsiveness. Stuart Cowles of Climbmax Climbing was chosen as Small Business Leader of the Year in the category, “15 or Fewer Employees.” Cowles founded Climbmax in the early 1990s and has steadily grown the business through his dedication and passion.  Cowles shares his love of the mountains through instruction and community involvement.

Dr. Mark Ledyard of Charlotte Street Animal Hospital is the recipient of the Small Business Leader of the Year in the category of 16 or more employees. Ledyard opened the veterinary hospital in 1998. Through his vision, business acumen and ability to anticipate client need, Charlotte Street Animal Hospital has blossomed into a full-service animal hospital blending traditional and eastern medicine. As a small business leader, Ledyard stands out for his dedication to a culture of positivity and his commitment to employees and clients.

The Women Entrepreneurs Best in Business Award (sponsored by Webb Investment Services) honors a woman who demonstrates the transformation of her dream into reality and who exhibits the traits of an entrepreneur. This year’s recipient is Drue Ray of SimplyHome. SimplyHome is the manifestation of Ray’s lifelong mission of helping the aging and people with disabilities. Commitment, risk-taking and innovation have been paramount in Ray’s work at SimplyHome to provide dignified solutions for residential independence.

Justin Belleme of JB Media Group was selected as Entrepreneur of the Year, which recognizes someone who demonstrates willingness to take a risk, personal drive and business acumen. Belleme has contributed to Asheville’s burgeoning entrepreneurial scene by growing his own business, sharing his expertise and supporting other entrepreneurs.

The Excellence in Public Service Award (sponsored by Asheville Savings Bank) recognizes outstanding contribution to the community.  Lavoy Spooner was selected for his extensive community involvement and dedication to improving the quality of life of citizens of Buncombe County. Spooner’s strong and compassionate leadership has been an asset to many organizations throughout Buncombe County including his service on the board of the UNC Asheville Foundation, United Way, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and WCQS. He has advocated on behalf of Western North Carolina in a variety of capacities.

The Good Health Good Business Award (sponsored by Mission Health) is given to an organization outside the medical community that has contributed to making Western North Carolina a healthier place to live and work. This year Pisgah Legal Services was chosen for their healthcare navigators program. Pisgah Legal Services joined other local organizations in providing a much needed service helping consumers navigate the complexities of purchasing health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Training and coordinating a team of volunteers, Pisgah Legal was able to inform and assist thousands of individuals.

The William A.V. Cecil Leadership Award recognizes senior management-level employees for leadership in the local hospitality industry. The recipient has displayed foresight, exceptional leadership skills and has impacted the Western North Carolina hospitality industry and the community as a whole. The 2014 recipient is Pat Whalen, president of Public Interest Projects, owner of the Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club and a longtime advocate of downtown Asheville. He has been central to the equation that helped build a thriving, revived and vibrant downtown that today is one of the top destination motivators for travelers. 

The Volunteer of the Year Award honors an individual who has given of his or her time and talents beyond the call of duty in volunteer efforts with the Chamber. This year’s award goes to Himanshu Karvir of Holiday Inn Biltmore West. A current Chamber board member, Karvir has lent time and expertise across tourism, membership and public policy. He has been a wonderful volunteer and asset to the Chamber and by extension to the Asheville business community.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a member organization with over 1,800 member businesses and organizations. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of building community through business. The Chamber is home to a 4,000 square foot Visitor Center which welcomes over 200,000 visitors per year.