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Business and Community Leaders Honored at The Chamber's 2023 Business Excellence Awards

Business and Community Leaders Honored at The Chamber's 2023 Business Excellence Awards

Chapel Hill, NC – The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro hosted the 2023 Business Excellence Awards ceremony on Friday afternoon. Twenty-one finalists were honored, and 10 winners were presented awards live at American Legion: Chapel Hill Post 6.

“We are so happy to be back in person for our 9th Business Excellence Awards” said Aaron Nelson, President and CEO of The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill Carrboro. “It was an honor to share the stage with our community’s best businesses and leaders.”

The 10 award winners listed below were selected by The Chamber’s Awards Selection Committee, made up of local business and community leaders from diverse industries with a demonstrated commitment to our community. The Committee, chaired by Denny Marcin of Pinnacle Financial Partners, reviewed detailed pages of nominations from many nominees, selected three finalists in each category, and then voted by secret ballot on the winners.

The 2023 Business Excellence Award Winners

Businesswoman of the Year


Ellen Shannon, Triangle Media Partners

The 2023 Business Woman of the Year Award is presented to an exceptional woman in business, who has excelled in her job function and industry, and has pioneered initiatives to promote female leadership in business and the community. This year's award is sponsored by The Downsizers, The Consignors, & Shuttle Movers. The 2023 Businesswoman of the Year is Ellen Shannon of Triangle Media Partners.

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Throughout Ellen Shannon’s 40+ year career in the media business, she has not only built successful events, magazines, and publications but has been an influential mentor to countless women - supporting their growth, happiness, satisfaction, and success.  

Under Ellen's leadership, Triangle Media Partners has honored and recognized over 200 women through the Women of Achievement magazine features and events, inspiring and uplifting women from all across the region. Ellen fosters a culture that nurtures, inspires, empowers, and uplifts women by providing opportunities for their growth, recognizing their talent and hard work, and actively promoting them. Her commitment to mentorship is evident in the lasting impact she has made on dozens of mentees, who continue to reach out to her for guidance and support. 

At age 30, Ellen became the youngest Vice President of a high-power media company and continues to thrive and defy expectations in an increasingly complex and competitive media market. In the past 24 months, Triangle Media Partners, better known for their popular Chapel Hill Magazine, Chatham Magazine, Triangle Weekender, Heart of NC Weddings, visitor and relocation guides, and their popular events Sip and Savor and Women of Achievement, has doubled its revenue with their new digital arm, Triangle Digital Partners, and expanding print business.  

Beyond her professional accomplishments, Ellen is deeply involved in the community. She has served on various local boards, including The Chamber’s, where she demonstrated outstanding leadership by steering them and their members throughout the COVID crisis as the Chair of the Board of Directors. In July, Ellen will assume the role of Vice President of the Board of the Durham Tech Foundation. Triangle Media Partners also donates tens of thousands of dollars in advertising to nonprofits each year.  

In recognition of her business leadership, mentorship, tenacity, and dedication to community, we are proud to recognize Ellen Shannon as The Chamber’s 2023 Businesswoman of the Year.

Black Business Alliance Businessperson of the Year

Creighton Blackwell, Coastal Credit Union

The Black Business Alliance Businessperson of the Year is presented to an exceptional person in business that has not only excelled in their job function and industry, but has also pioneered initiatives to promote Black business and community leadership. The Black Business Alliance is proud to present its inaugural award to Creighton Blackwell of Coastal Credit Union.

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As the Chief Community Impact and Public Affairs Officer at Coastal Credit Union, Creighton Blackwell creates and leads organization-wide strategy to increase membership and to grow Coastal’s already substantial positive community impact.  Creighton’s strategic approach and unwavering dedication to the credit union’s members and to positive community outcomes has contributed significantly to Coastal’s growth and success. 

Creighton successfully led Coastal’s efforts to direct over $1 million in grants to support local nonprofits impacted by Covid-19.  In addition to managing the credit union’s strong external impact, Creighton also leads internally, including launching Coastal’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee and strategies that strengthen the company’s operations as an inclusive and equitable workplace.  

Raised in Orange County and a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, Creighton Blackwell continues to serve through his involvement in various community impact organizations. Whether serving North Carolina as the chair of the state’s Council on Economic Education and on the Governor’s Taskforce on Inclusive Education, or locally as Chair of the Chamber’s Partnership for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Creighton gives his personal and professional time, expertise, and leadership to organizations that make a difference on people and communities.  

Creighton’s most impactful local work has been in the resources he directs to, or raises in support of, service organizations and in his leadership as chair of the Chamber’s Partnership and chair of the Big Bold Ideas initiative for the last four years. 

Creighton firmly believes that "doing good is simply good business.”  

In recognition of his business leadership and community service, we are proud to name Creighton Blackwell the Black Business Alliance’s 2023 Businessperson of the Year.  

Young Professional of the Year

Alex Brandwein, Brandwein's Bagels 

The 2023 Chapel Hill Young Professional of the Year Award presented by Trinisc Residential is awarded to a local professional under the age of 40, who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in their industry and whose achievements have promoted young professional engagement through leadership in the community pertaining to economic development and civic involvement. The 2023 Young Professional of the Year is Alex Brandwein of Brandwein's Bagels.

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Upon receiving his MBA from Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC, Alex Brandwein launched Brandwein's Bagels in the spring of 2020, and has since transformed from a pop-up bagel shop to a thriving restaurant and catering company. Aware of the importance of investing in your own community, Alex sources local ingredients and is an Orange County Living Wage Employer, paying his 50 plus workers a fair wage. 

Alex’s hustle and strong leadership have earned Brandwein’s recognitions including Chapel Hill Magazine's "Best Breakfast" and "Best Catering" Awards, and INDY Week's "Best Bagel of the Triangle,” and the Chamber’s University-Born Business of the Year.  

Brandwein’s serves the community delicious bagels, but they also support the community through Brandwein’s "Fundraiser Fridays" initiative, donating 10% of sales to local organizations - over $25,000 was donated to 33 organizations in 2022. Brandwein’s also provides generous in-kind support, providing bagels and gift cards for community activities. Additionally, Alex mentors high school and college students, both at work and in their academic pursuits, furthering their growth and development. 

Alex recently capitalized on an opportunity to purchase his building and the building next door to expand and renovate the shop, increasing production capacity.  

In recognition of his leadership, entrepreneurship, and community service, we are proud to name Alex Brandwein the 2023 Young Professional of the Year. 

Large Business of the Year

Jersey Mike's Subs

The 2023 Large Business of the Year presented by PHE, Inc is presented to an outstanding Chamber member with 50 or more employees that has shown growth, innovation of product, exemplary customer service, response to adversity, and contribution to the community. The 2023 Large Business of the Year is Jersey Mike's Subs.

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Jersey Mike’s is owned and operated by eight families who share a common vision—to change the world by taking care of their customers, employees, and community. From a single store on Elliott Road, led by Charlie Farris and Clint Winslow, they have expanded their presence to 13 stores in the Chapel Hill/Triangle area.  

What sets this local Jersey Mike’s apart from others is their unique owner/operator model where customers are often greeted and served by local owners working alongside their employees. Jersey Mike’s dedicated staff of 150 individuals are trained to provide laser-focused attention to customers embodying the mantra, "make that sub like you're making it for your momma."  In the face of the adversity that Covid and subsequent hospitality staffing challenges created, Jersey Mike's has shown resilience as they continue to grow, maintain quality, and deliver outstanding customer service.  

Jersey Mike's has consistently given back to their local community through financial contributions, food donations, or hand delivered community coupons, building a reputation as a reliable community investor. For their impressive growth, brag-worthy customer service, and dedication to their employees, we are proud to name Jersey Mike’s the Chamber’s 2023 Large Business of the Year. 

2023 Large Business of the Year Finalists: Chapel Hill TireGonzalez Painters & Contractors


Mid-Size Business of the YearJ. Hoffman Studio Design Build

The 2023 Mid-Size Business of the Year presented by Pinnacle Financial Partners is awarded to an outstanding Chamber member with 6-50 employees that has shown growth, innovation of product, exemplary customer service, response to adversity, and contribution to the community. The winner of the 2023 Mid-Size Business of the Year is J. Hoffman Studio Design Build.

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Jenny Hoffman founded J. Hoffman Studio Design Build as a one-woman operation in 2015. Eight years later, J. Hoffman Studio Design Build now boasts a team of 10 talented individuals, each with specialized skills including architectural design, interior design, and construction and project management, as well as sales, operations, and administration.  

One of the hallmarks of J. Hoffman is their meticulous attention to detail. From translating extensive notes from client conversations into detailed blueprints, to working with municipalities to ensure compliance with local regulations, J. Hoffman’s thoroughness is evident.  

J. Hoffman Studio Design Build’s talented staff and exceptional work has garnered well-deserved recognition within the industry, recently winning awards in five categories at the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange, and Chatham County’s “Remodelers Outstanding Construction” Awards.  

As a woman and LGBTQ-owned and staffed company, J. Hoffman Studio Design Build champions inclusivity and actively supports local and national non-profits and trades-training initiatives. By advocating and creating opportunities for young people, women, and gender minorities in the design and construction fields, J. Hoffman has become an agent of change and a role model for others. 

In recognition of their remarkable growth, excellent customer service, and attention to detail we are proud to name J. Hoffman Studio Design Build the Chamber’s 2023 Mid-Size Business of the Year. 

2023 Mid-Size Business of the Year Finalists: Goldfish Swim SchoolJoel I. Levy, CPA PLLC


Micro Enterprise Business of the Year

Olmaz Jewelers

The 2023 Micro Enterprise Business of the Year presented by Adkin CPA, PLLC is awarded to an outstanding Chamber member with 5 or fewer employees that has shown growth, innovation of product, exemplary customer service, response to adversity, and contribution to the community. The 2023 Micro Enterprise Business of the Year is Olmaz Jewelers.

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In three short years, Olmaz Jewlers has captured the hearts and trust of their customers and embodies the qualities and values that define a truly outstanding local business. Co-owned and managed by friends and business partners Jack Daud and Elie Abu Rjeileh, this family-owned and operated retailer earns customer loyalty and racks up the 5-star google reviews with exemplary customer services and a commitment to quality. Located in Eastgate Crossing, at Olmaz, customer satisfaction is the cornerstone of their business, as they strive to ensure that every individual who walks through their doors receives the utmost care and attention. 

Over the past year, Olmaz has expanded their team, welcoming two new sales associates and a jeweler. Their dedication to excellence is evident in their investments, including the acquisition of advanced equipment like a laser welder and a gem setting microscope. In their relentless pursuit of quality, they are now shopping for a cutting-edge diamond screener that differentiates between natural and lab-grown diamonds. 

Through their community volunteerism and generous donations to local non-profit silent auctions, Olmaz has positively impacted many organizations, including Hope Renovations, the YMCA, Ronald McDonald House, and Orange Literacy. Olmaz owners are generous with their times as well serving on the Chamber’s Board and Membership committee and leading a new Retail leaders group to share best practices in local retail management.  For their continued growth, exceptional customer service, and meaningful contributions to the community, we are proud to name Olmaz Jewelers the Chamber’s 2023 Micro Enterprise Business of the Year. 

2023 Micro Enterprise Business of the Year Finalists: The Builders AgencyMy Muses Card Shop

New Business of the Year

Momo's Master

One sign of a thriving economy is the growth of new businesses. The New Business of the Year presented by Town of Chapel Hill Economic Development is awarded to a business that has been operating for less than three years. The winner of the 2023 New Business of the Year Award is Momo's Master.

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Momo’s Master Himalayan Bistro has been serving up delicious momos, a type of dumpling popular in Tibet and Nepal, since opening in downtown Chapel Hill in late 2021. The Momo Master himself, Ramesh Dahal, cooked in Iraq, Somalia, and the southern United States before opening Momo’s Master, bringing a new type of food and culture to Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro.  

Momo's Master stands apart from other downtown restaurants, with a menu of healthier alternatives and offering their delightful pan-fried and steamed momos, rather than the traditional deep-fried dumplings. With the goal of making every customer feel like they’re at home with family, Momo’s Master uses the freshest ingredients and serves their dishes with pride and a smile.  

Within just a year and a half, Momo's Master has become a beloved establishment within the Chapel Hill community. Chef Dahal’s love for serving others shines through, not just his enthusiasm for sharing his culture with diners, his personal infectious energy, and also through Momo’s donations of food to community groups and gatherings.    

For their strong business growth, excellent customer service, and most delicious dumplings, we are proud to name Momo’s Master the Chamber’s 2023 New Business of the Year. 

2023 New Business of the Year Finalists: Exquisite Experience Venue, Sandhills Medical Staffing


Innovation Award

Habitat for Humanity of Orange County

The Innovation Award presented by Fidelity Investments is presented to a business that has demonstrated innovation through the concept, value, delivery, and impact of a product or service, system, or event. The winner of the 2023 Innovation Award is Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.

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Habitat for Humanity has built a global reputation for addressing the challenges of safe, affordable housing through a partnership between the homeowners who help built the homes and the staff, donors, and volunteers who support them.  Locally, Habitat for Humanity of Orange County is delivering on its mission, exceeding its fundraising goals, and is beginning the construction of its ambitious Weavers Grove development.  

Weavers Grove is a unique project among the nation’s Habitat chapters – developing a mixed-income neighborhood with 101 affordable and 136 market-rate homes.  The diverse homeowner base and pedestrian-centered design will promote neighborly interaction, healthy recreation, and support local families in a safe, stable environment. 

Through careful stewardship, collaboration with local governments, and a historic $8 million capital campaign, Habitat has successfully realized this $30 million project. Weavers Grove's impact extends beyond its homeowners, supporting economic mobility, educational improvement, reduced healthcare costs, and positive environmental impact with planned solar, green spaces, and electric vehicle charging stations. 

For their continued dedication to serving the people of our community, and their innovation and ambition in developing affordable housing, we are proud to honor Habitat for Humanity of Orange County with the Chamber’s 2023 Innovation Award. 

2023 Innovation Award Finalists: Kate's Korner Learning Center, Leigh Brain & Spine


Community Impact Award

Grubb Properties

The Community Impact Award presented by Congruence Counseling is awarded to an outstanding organization that has significantly and measurably made social, economic, or environmental improvements within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. The winner of the 2023 Community Impact Award is Grubb Properties. 

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Founded in 1963, Grubb Properties has prioritized the development of sustainable communities while giving back and investing in projects with community, social, and environmental benefits. In Chapel Hill, no organization is currently having a greater positive impact on our local economy than Grubb Properties.   

Most notably, Grubb is helping lead the redevelopment of downtown’s Franklin and Rosemary Street into Chapel Hill’s future Innovation District, beginning with their purchase and redevelopment of the newly renamed Junction, a glass-clad innovation hub and start-up accelerator anchored by two floors of UNC’s Innovate Carolina.  

Next to The Junction is Grubb’s recently approved Life Sciences Center with 240,000 square feet of lab and work space for researchers and biotech companies. Across from the Junction is the Downtown Parking Center, with eleven hundred much-needed parking spaces currently under construction. Rounding out the project, Grubb Link apartments will bring 150 new units priced for local working professionals with first floor retail, priced to be affordable to locally-owned businesses. 

Just a mile down South Road from UNC, Grubb is redeveloping Glen Lennox into a mixed-use live, work, play community.  With guaranteed long-term affordability for long-term residents, an affordable housing partnership with Community Home Trust and the new Link apartments, Grubb has completed the project with The Gwendolyn - a building named for the first African American Woman to enroll at UNC.  

For their substantial and lasting investments in Chapel Hill consistent with community priorities, we are proud to name Grubb Properties the recipient of the Chamber’s 2023 Community Impact Award. 

2023 Community Impact Award Finalists: B3 Coffee, Extraordinary Ventures


Nonprofit of the YearSouth Orange Rescue Squad

The Non-Profit of the Year presented by Brooks Pierce Law Firm recognizes an outstanding Chamber member charitable non-profit organization that has shown growth, innovation of product, exemplary customer service, response to adversity and/or contribution to community. The 2023 Non-Profit of the Year is South Orange Rescue Squad.

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Since 1971, South Orange Rescue Squad’s all-volunteer team has served the citizens of Orange County by providing essential emergency medical and technical rescue services and offering free first aid and CPR instruction throughout the community.  

South Orange Rescue Squad proudly supplements Orange County’s nighttime EMS 911 operations and provides ambulance surge coverage when the county’s system is overloaded and provides EMS services at UNC sporting events, local high school football games, road races, street fairs, and other community programs.  

South Orange Rescue Squad continues to innovate and expand their offerings: Their volunteers undergo rigorous training, staying up to date with the latest advances and practices in emergency medicine and response. Continuously upgrading their training and certifications, they are working to ensure they are ready for anything.  To ensure the most up-to-date use of technology, their Technical Response Team has embraced drone technology for search and rescue operations.  

Committed to promoting career development pathways in emergency medicine, South Orange Rescue Squad recently donated a retired ambulance to Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School’s technical education program.  

For their dependability, innovation, and life-saving service to the community, we are proud to name South Orange Rescue Squad the 2023 Nonprofit of the Year. 

2023 Nonprofit of the Year Finalists: SKJAJA Fund, TABLE

About the Business Excellence Awards: The 2023 award winners were announced during the Business Excellence Awards – a celebration that took place on Friday afternoon at American Legion: Chapel Hill Post 6. The luncheon was catered by 39 West Catering and photos were captured by Barbara Bell Photography.

Event sponsors included: Adkin & Associates, CPA PLLC, Brooks Pierce Law Firm, Chapel Hill Economic Development, Congruence Counseling Group, The Downsizers | The Consignors | Shuttle Movers,  Fidelity Investments, Trinsic Residential, Pinnacle Financial Partners, and PHE Inc.

About The Chamber: The Chamber is a membership organization that serves and advances the business interests of the Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, including the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro as well as southern Orange, northern Chatham, and southwest Durham counties. The Chamber's network includes over 600-member enterprises that employ more than 95,000 workers throughout the region. Together with its network, The Chamber is committed to building a sustainable community where business thrives.

Contact: Aury St. Germain, Communications Manager, The Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro,, 828-674-8982 (direct)

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