5 women to watch, and the moves they’re making in 2018


These are innovators and creative leaders, bold speakers and motivators who easily inspire. From artists to entrepreneurs, these five Charlotte women are making big moves.

(1) Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp

Photo by Elli McGuire

Who she is: Director of Operations at Undercurrent Coffee.

Her big move: She brought to life the inaugural POUR Coffee Festival, a specialty coffee festival, in South End, with co-founder Matt Dudley. The event took place March 3, 2018, celebrating talented coffee roasters from companies including Counter Culture Coffee, Methodical Coffee, Pure Intentions Coffee, Black and White Coffee Roasters, and Summit Coffee. Her description of the festival, after the fact: “a beautiful whirlwind.”

Her inspiration: Mnatsakanyan-Sapp seeks to close the gap between what the professionals know and what the consumers know about specialty coffee and the workings of independent coffee shops. The festival offered educational opportunities around craft coffees, from the origins to the tasting notes. Plus: The festival supported the creation of a southeastern branch of Women Investing in Northwest Coffee Champions, a barista-led
initiative that provides tools, coaching and financial support for marginalized coffee professionals seeking to compete in coffee championships.

“The heart behind this isn’t just to taste coffee right,” Mnatsakanyan-Sapp told C5. “It’s to truly celebrate coffee culture and to celebrate people who work in the industry who are daily pouring their hearts out and are so passionate about this craft.”

Follow her work: @dianamakescoffee on Instagram

(2) DeAndrea Salvador

Photo by Salvador.Photography

Who she is: The founder of the nonprofit RETI (or Renewable Energy Transition Initiative), which seeks to educate local communities and leaders about energy conservation, with an emphasis on behavior changes.

Her big move: Salvador will speak in Vancouver in April at TED2018 as one of the 20 fellows announced as participants in the TED Fellow program, which was established to bring together innovators from around the world to address global issues. She has been thrown into extensive training and networking to prepare her for her talk.

Her inspiration: When she’s not preparing for her talk, Salvador is invested daily in her work with RETI to sustainably decrease energy costs faced by families living in energy poverty (which occurs when a household is spending more than 10 percent of its income on energy expenses annually) through educational events and collaborative work with the City of Charlotte and other local organizations.

“At the heart of it is making families more comfortable and giving them tools to do so,” she told C5.

Follow her work: @reti.set on Instagram

(3) Samantha Allen

Photo courtesy of Samantha Allen

Who she is: The pastry chef at The Fig Tree Restaurant, who was also featured among female pastry chefs at this year’s Sugar Shock event, an innovative, six-course tasting.

Her big move: Allen is hitting the road this summer or early fall with her side business and gourmet bakery, Wentworth & Fenn. She’ll be cruising around town in an upfitted Shasta 61, nicknamed her “dessert camper,” to roll out the Wentworth & Fenn menu, featuring seasonal pastries, local coffee and some bakery staples like breads, brown sugar butter cookies and silk tort.

Her inspiration: Allen and her wife wanted to go mobile with Wentworth & Fenn in an old-school way to fit their love of vintage, while featuring as many local suppliers and the best ingredients possible. The dream is to park the camper at more pop-up markets, and to be able to rent it out for weddings, birthdays and other special occasions with a full cake or a dessert assortment.

Allen told C5: “I really want to give people something that is really beautiful, but it tastes like home.”

Follow her work: @wentworth_and_fenn on Instagram

(4) Emily “Breeze” Ross-Watson

Emily Breeze Ross Watson in 2016. Photo: Robert Lahser

Who she is: Ross-Watson is a CrossFit Games Athlete, mobility expert, Charlotte fitness personality and Boot Camp Trainer at STAX. In 2016, she was lifting 205 pounds at 9 months pregnant, despite put-downs from critics. She stopped reading negative comments on her social media feeds — like people accusing her of harming her unborn child with her fitness regimen. “They don’t know what I was doing before, they don’t know my athletic ability, they don’t know that I’m going to the doctor,” she told the Observer.

Her big move: Proving, yet again, that fitness is not wrong for moms-to-be. She is keeping up her fitness frenzy and working out six days a week while pregnant with her second child. She chronicles her journey on InstagramFacebook and Twitter, and promotes online workouts including a training program and a stroller fit program. Ross-Watson believes that not exercising during pregnancy is outdated, and she has the support and encouragement of her doctor. Her fitness videos on Instagram alone (baby bump and all) over the past month have gotten more than 17K views each. And although Watson is a CrossFitter, she doesn’t want moms-to-be to think that is the only exercise out there. She just wants pregnant women to move. That is the message behind her often-used hashtag, #moveyourbump.

Her inspiration: Ross-Watson publicly expresses gratitude for being able to keep “health, wellness, exercise, sleep and nutrition” constant themes in her lifestyle despite change — like pregnancy.

“Big life changes like introducing a baby into the world doesn’t really mean that your entire world will flip upside down,” she posted on Instagram. “I’ve found that it just means I have a little guy to take on the journey with me, and I can’t wait to show this little girl the ropes too.”

Follow her work: @emilybreeze on Instagram

(5) Victoria Schweizer

Photo by Justin Driscoll

Who she is: Schweizer is an artist and owner of Vane Gallery in South End, and she also owns gift-basket company Southern Luxurie.

Her big move: Promoting her high-end gift baskets for Charlotte newcomers through her growing business, Southern Luxurie. Schweizer was featured in SouthPark Magazine this month for her aim to introduce newcomers to some of the city’s best goods and services. Her clientele encompasses both the people giving the baskets — think real estate agents and executive recruiters — and the businesses seeking to be included in the baskets.

Her inspiration: She doesn’t want people new to Charlotte to end up with traditional — and forgettable — gift baskets with basic items like nuts or wine. Rather, her baskets contain gift cards and gift certificates for complimentary services throughout the city.

“It’s perfect here,” she told SouthPark Magazine. “Everyone is wonderful, and they make time for you. And it’s fascinating to see how quickly the city has grown. That was one of the reasons I was inspired to start Southern Luxurie—one Thanksgiving afternoon, I saw so many cranes in the sky.”

Follow her work: @victoriaschweizer on Instagram



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