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WilmingtonBiz Magazine

The WilmingtonBiz 100: The Innovators

By Staff Reports, posted Dec 8, 2020

The Innovators – The disruptors shaking things up and getting the region to see things in a different way


Chris Babcock

CEO, Apiture​

Chris Babcock joined the Apiture team in 2019 as chief technology officer (CTO), now serving as the CEO of the company whose platforms support the digital banking services of banks and credit unions. Babcock brings more than 25 years of experience in financial services technology to Apiture including as co-founder of the Americas office of Clear2Pay where he served as CTO.

Why he's an innovator this year: 
In 2020, Babcock helped Apiture close on a $20 million funding round in July. 

Company officials said at the time that the funding would be used to “accelerate development of transformative digital banking technologies.” 

During this year he continued to grow the Apiture team with the hiring of over 25 employees. Under his leadership, the Apiture team is working on continuing to innovate on its platforms, which include Apiture Xpress and Apiture Open, and getting products to market faster for its clients, Babcock said. 

This year, the company also launched Live Oak Bank’s new business banking experience, including enhanced banking capabilities that the company also provides to banks across the country. 

No. of Apiture employees: 209 


Brooke Bloomquist

President, Blue Shark Vodka

Brooke Bloomquist, who has a master’s degree in hospitality management from the University of Nevada, worked in the hospitality and music industry before opening up the Blue Shark Vodka distillery in Wilmington.

Why she's an innovator this year:
June 2020 marked one year in operation for Blue Shark Vodka as a distillery, and in that one year, even with COVID-19 challenges, Blue Shark Vodka saw exponential growth. 

As president and head distiller of Blue Shark Vodka, Bloomquist carved a way for Blue Shark to become the flagship distillery in Wilmington and one of the few female-operated craft spirits organizations with the teamwork of the whole Bloomquist family. 

Bloomquist led the company as distribution grew from mostly local in New Hanover County to availability at all North Carolina ABC stores. 

With little distilling experience, Bloomquist got her master distiller’s license before starting Blue Shark with her family. 

One of the greatest accomplishments in 2020 for the distillery was the announcement of a Platinum SIP Award win for Blue Shark Vodka. The next goal: to take the brand national. 

Fish tale: The biggest ongoing project for Bloomquist is shark conservation. This summer, the distillery partnered with the Atlantic Shark Institute to fund an ocean marker with a receiver that tracks tagged sharks. 


Anne Brennan

Executive Director, Cameron Art Museum

Anne Brennan became head of the Cameron Art Museum in 2011 after working for years at the facility, first as a volunteer and later as a curator and registrar of collections. 

Why she's an innovator this year: 
For nearly six months, the Cameron Art Museum’s sprawling building in midtown sat empty – except for a flock of oversized inflatable rubber ducks that became social media mascots in the spring when gathering restrictions shut down CAM and other local museums down. 

Brennan and her team responded quickly to the new virtual-only operations and tried several online offerings and events to continue connecting with the community. 

They launched #ConnectwithCAM in March as an online initiative featuring family programs, meditation, art lessons for students and videos about the museum’s exhibition and collections. 

Brennan hosted livestreams from the museum’s “vault” collections and interviews with artists. 

And they added on from there, continuing new programming after being able to reopen in September when state restrictions eased. Virtual art classes and seminars continue. 

$50,000: How much CAM lost monthly while closed to visitors 


Travis Corpening

Founder, All Your Cool Ideas

Travis Corpening, an author, is the founder and chief anomaly officer of All Your Cool Ideas, a company that produces children’s book series aimed at promoting diversity and STEM among young readers. Corpening, who currently works as a coordinator at CFCC, is also a speaker and coach who has led his nonprofit Young Mogul Development Group, which teaches introductory entrepreneurship, self-branding, decision-making and innovation to young men, particularly those of color.

Why he's an innovator this year:
In 2020, Corpening further advanced his efforts at All Your Cool Ideas through partnerships and grants. 

Corpening won the inaugural Genesis Block Demo Day pitch contest, which included mentoring and networking opportunities as well as a cash prize. 

He also secured a partnership with Cape Fear Museum to provide children’s books for local grandparents who are raising children and won grant funding through the CFCC Small Business Center to develop an interactive website that provides virtual STEM activities for kids. 

The year also brought funding through the Small Business Administration to develop an animated web series for kids.

Corpening hosts a weekly Cumulus-syndicated radio broadcast called ShaperSpeaks “to allow business leaders, entrepreneurs, celebrities, political leaders and visionaries to share their message and inspire others,” he said.

Current project: The Adventures of Lucas and Alyci book series


Philip Dattilo Jr.

President, Trial Management Associates

Philip Dattilo purchased TMA in 2014, having worked with the clinical research management firm since 2011. He has a history in the pharmaceutical world, starting work in the industry with PPD in 2004. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
Dattilo has been leading local COVID-19 vaccination trials in the global race to find a safe and viable vaccine. His firm was chosen this year by a leading national biotech company to help develop a vaccine. 

Trial Management Associates (TMA) was selected as one of 10 sites nationwide for Phase 2 trials of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, an early frontrunner in the pursuit of a vaccine. Following a successful Phase 2 rollout, Moderna again selected TMA as a site for Phase 3 trials. 

The work provided a potential vaccine to local health care workers, teachers, first responders, restaurant workers and other members of the community who volunteered for the trials. 

And TMA has more future COVID-19 vaccine trials, both Phase 2 and 3, slated to start soon and into early 2021. 

Dattilo is also looking to incorporate more virtual aspects of the trials for additional safety, on top of engaging with the community about the importance of clinical research. 

No. of employees: 20 


Beth & Shane Faulkner

Founders, End of Days Distillery

After brewing at home and having conversations about opening a distillery, Shane and Beth Faulkner renovated a WWII-era Quonset hut on Castle Street and transformed it into a 4,800-square-foot distillery with a cocktail bar, lounge, tasting room and event space. 

Why they're innovators this year: 
In February, the Faulkners held a grand opening for EOD Distillery, one of two distilleries in the Wilmington area, to a crowd of 2,500. 

A few weeks later, the distillery would close due to restrictions set during the coronavirus pandemic. 

EOD quickly transitioned its operations and used its distillers to produce hand sanitizer for the community, a much-needed resource at the onset of the pandemic. The company provided hand sanitizer to many critical industries during a shortage and provided thousands of bottles to the community, they said. 

EOD also released its Port of Entry rum and vodka, which went into ABC store distribution in March. 

Awards: Port of Entry Vodka won North Carolina Vodka of the Year at the 2020 New York International Spirits Competition


Shane Fernando

Vice President of Advancement and the Arts, CFCC

In addition to his leadership position at CFCC, Shane Fernando serves as a trustee for the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts. He also serves as president of the N.C. Presenters Consortium and on the governor’s COVID-19 task force for planning the reopening of North Carolina performing arts venues. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, event venues shut down in the state, including CFCC’s Wilson Center. 

Fernando helped support local artists and reimagine entertainment through the development of stage performing arts programming, which also supported downtown businesses. 

That includes the Wilson Center’s Ghostlight Series, in partnership with The Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, that aired performances of local and regional artists live online. Another program has been the Skyline Drive-In movies, set up on the top of the Hanover Street student parking deck. 

Fernando also helped CFCC redevelop student education and internship programs as well as helped rethink traditional fundraising initiatives during the pandemic to increase giving to support student scholarships and needs. 

Recognition: 2020 Presenter of the Year in North America by North


Huntley Garriott

President, Live Oak Bank

Huntley Garriott was appointed president of Live Oak Bank in 2018. He previously had a more than 20-year career at Goldman Sachs, where he was a former partner. He helps lead the firm of about 600 employees. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Garriott worked alongside CEO Chip Mahan to lead Live Oak Bank’s participation in the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, in which the firm dispersed more than $1.75 billion in funds to small businesses. Garriott helped Live Oak Bank’s efforts to guide small businesses through the federal program and secure loans to aid during the crisis.

The bank ended up processing more than 11,000 PPP loans across the United States. As a result, Live Oak Bank officials attribute the efforts to impacting more than 215,000 jobs nationwide, with more than 8,600 jobs impacted in the Wilmington area.

Garriott also worked to get off the ground Live Oak Bank’s debut on cloud-native Finxact core’s banking platform.

Other involvement: NourishNC, Cape Fear Collective and Camp Schreiber


Jeff James

CEO, Wilmington Health

Jeff James has served as head of Wilmington Health, the largest independent multi-specialty physician practice in the region, since 2008. He was previously chief financial officer and chief operating officer for Christie Clinic in Illinois. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
With the pandemic, Wilmington Health moved quickly to implement an integrated telehealth solution within three days with all of its providers adopting the technology to see patients. 

They also were the first to provide open-air sites for COVID-19 testing, lab work and patient visits in the community. The outdoor setups have continued with drive-thru flu vaccine booths ahead of the flu season. 

Wilmington Health converted its Ambulatory Surgery Center to a hospital outpatient department to help prevent overflow at the local hospitals. 

On the technology end, this year Wilmington Health implemented a comprehensive communication platform allowing patients to interact with practice team members and providers through texts, emails and live chats. Real-time online scheduling for patients also launched. 

As part of James’ focus on containing health care costs and leading on value-based care, Wilmington Health this year also opened Today’s Care Plus to provide acute care outside of the emergency room. 

James and his team also launched Anchor Senior Care Advantage this year as an offering for local seniors for coordinated care. 

No. of employees: 895


Todd John

Founder, PlayerSpace

Prior to PlayerSpace, Todd John founded Innovative Binding Inc. in Virginia in 1996, a business he grew from an “apartment company” to a three-office organization that he sold five years later. After working at Time Warner Cable, AOL and Listingbook, John founded PlayerSpace in 2008 in Wilmington with current office space in Wrightsville Beach.

Why he's an innovator this year:
As the founder of PlayerSpace, an online sports management platform, John entered a still-emerging industry. 

The company provides software services including a swim management system, as well as its newer service RiskMGT, a risk management system for background checks. 

In January, Daxko, a major player in the health and wellness industry based in Alabama, bought PlayerSpace for an undisclosed amount. 

Under John’s leadership, the company was able to grow in a developing field and become a major competitor, which helped it establish its current partnership with Daxko. Under Daxko, the company will be able to provide service to more customers, increase revenue and facilitate more youth and sports programming, company officials said.

Major client: YMCA


Brett Lanier

President, Isosceles Pharmaceuticals Inc.

With a background in pharmaceuticals, it is not surprising that Brett Lanier is president at the early-stage startup Isosceles Pharmaceuticals Inc. Lanier’s experience includes his role as director at Noramco and senior manager at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

Why he's an innovator this year:
Lanier, who has a degree in medicinal and pharmaceutical chemistry, and the Isosceles Pharmaceutical team are developing a non-opioid pain relief alternative that utilizes the health benefits of cannabidiol, or CBD. 

This pain relief would be delivered through a skin patch or injection and avoids the often-addictive opioid options. 

In 2020, the company gained recognition by winning the inaugural NC BIONEER Venture Challenge. The company received a $20,000 investment and a one-year tenancy at the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The company was also a winner of the Coastal Entrepreneur Awards in the Biotech category. 

This year the company also engaged a management team consisting of pharmaceutical and medical doctors and had meetings with the Food and Drug Administration.

No. of employees: 7


Lisa Leath

CEO, WorkTok

Lisa Leath has had experience in human resources for more than 15 years including at Corning Inc., Alcami and at her own HR firm Leath HR Group, where she is the president. She has used her experience in HR to launch a new startup.

Why she's an innovator this year:
While work on her startup WorkTok started in 2019, the company launched to the public in 2020. 

WorkTok is a mobile application that is trying to address current workforce trends and increase employee/employer interaction. Through the app, employers can communicate with employees regularly and document feedback. 

Leath realized while using Human Resource Information Systems (human resource software) that many of the platforms were overpriced and too complicated, so she developed her own employee engagement app. 

This year, WorkTok took home the Coastal Entrepreneur Award in the Emerging Company category. The service that Leath developed through WorkTok took on even more relevance in today’s remote working world as a result of COVID-19.

Other 2020 involvements: Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, Communities in Schools of Cape Fear, Cape Fear Museum and United Way of the Cape Fear Area.


Ryan Legg

CEO, MegaCorp Logistics

Ryan Legg and his wife founded MegaCorp Logistics in 2009. Legg runs the logistics company of about 350 employees. The firm specializes in full and less-than-truckload shipments.

Why he's an innovator this year:
Legg has led MegaCorp Logistics’ continued growth throughout the COVID-19 crisis and aims to have an impact locally, working with as many local companies as possible.

The firm maintained uninterrupted service to its customers, which are in several sectors including food, retail, government and textiles.

The firm earned several recognitions this year, including being on Inc.’s Best Workplaces of 2020 and the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S. The firm was also named a Top Freight Brokerage Firm in the U.S. by Transport Topics, as well as one of the Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America by Entrepreneur magazine.

Company reach: U.S., Mexico and Canada


Chris Newton

President and CEO, SportGait/LifeGait

Newton has been president and CEO of LifeGait, a company that develops health and safety-related products including SportGait, since 2015. In his role at SportGait, he leads the company through corporate and product strategy, operations, sales, marketing and more.

Why he's an innovator this year:
In 2020, LifeGait continued to grow its investment pool with two announcements of funds raised this year. 

In May, the company raised $170,000, which officials said at the time would be used for continuing sales expansion and research and development. 

In August, the company raised $200,000 out of a $1 million goal. Funding this year brings LifeGait to a total of more than $2 million raised. 

SportGait, which has a platform for managing concussion symptoms, became the enterprise-wide standard for concussion testing for a U.S. hospital system, Newton said. This year it has also continued to sign up new medical providers to its platform including EmergeOrtho and Trinity Wellness Center. It has also partnered with the N.C. Youth Soccer Association to provide education and safety programs including COVID-19 Return to Play. 

Current employees: 8 full-time, plus consultants and advisers 


Shaun Olsen

President and CEO, Cloudwyze

Shaun Olsen founded CloudWyze in 2020, a Wilmington company that provides internet service as well as business technology. Olsen, who combined the primary offerings of a few of his other startups to start CloudWyze, received a degree in business administration from UNCW. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
In 2018, CloudWyze developed its mission to help rural communities with access to reliable internet services. In 2020, under Olsen’s leadership, the company accomplished many milestones that go forward with that mission. 

That includes a partnership with New Hanover County in advancing its technology network, which would help with the distribution of public Wi-Fi, especially needed during work and schooling at home during the pandemic. 

This year the company also continued work at sites in Nash County, where the company received a $1.5 million government contract to deliver internet to underserved areas, completing phase two in September. 

It is also working on current projects in Harnett, Halifax, Martin, Edgecombe, Pitt and Duplin counties. In January, the company raised $650,000 of a $2 million goal. 

No. of counties served by Cloudwyze: 10 


David Reeser & Stan Trofimchuk

Founders, OpiAID

David Reeser and Stan Trofimchuk (pictured left) co-founded OpiAID in 2018 where Reeser serves as the CEO. Both entrepreneurs also co-founded IT Works in Wilmington, which provides cloud-based technology for security and compliance industries. 

Why they're innovators this year: OpiAID is a Wilmington startup that has created an innovative machine learning technology for managing substance abuse treatment. 

Under Reeser and Trofimchuk’s guidance, OpiAID has developed a platform that interprets behavioral and health data for Medication-Assisted Treatment rehab centers so they can provide a personalized plan for their patients. 

That includes a wearable device that would detect cravings and overdoses and deliver naloxone, a medication that can reverse overdose symptoms. This year, the startup won a $276,000 federal grant to support its technology development. 

The company also got its name out in the entrepreneurial ecosystem by participating in the 2020 FAST Cohort, being accepted in First Flight Venture Center’s “Lift Off” and the NC RIoT accelerator program.

Other 2020 recognitions: Top 10 Startup to Watch and finalist in Tech for Good by NC TECH Association 


Karl Ricanek

Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist, Lapetus Solutions Inc.

Karl Ricanek co-founded Lapetus Solutions, a company that creates tools and platforms that help model and predict aging, health and life expectancy, in 2015. The company has raised about $4.7 million in funding. He has also been a professor of computer science at UNCW since 2003.

Why he's an innovator this year:
This year Ricanek became a member of the newly formed N.C. Black Entrepreneurship Council, created by NC IDEA foundation to support North Carolina’s Black entrepreneurs. 

Ricanek said he grew up without seeing the example of a Black technologist, something he hopes to change for others.

“I want to share my learnings from the last three decades with a wider audience. I preach from the pulpit of the classroom at UNC Wilmington; now with NC IDEA and the NC BEC I can share my passion for entrepreneurship and AI-driven technology with a wider and more diverse audience,” he said. 

In 2020 Lapetus increased revenue growth, executed a global strategy for insurance, developed business relationships in South Africa, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India, refactored its cloud architecture and improved core AI algorithms.

No. of employees: 30


Yousry Sayed

President and CEO, Quality Chemical Laboratories

Yousry Sayed started Quality Chemical in 1998 and is leading the company’s 240 employees. He is a former professor and General College director at UNCW.

Why he's an innovator this year:
Sayed has actively played a role in building the local pharmaceutical workforce, hiring graduates coming out of area institutions. He plans to continue to build that pipeline and bring new company services to the area as he grows QCL with a new building, an expansion of its Wilmington operation that will double the firm’s footprint to 180,000 square feet by early 2022. 

Sayed plans to broaden QCL’s services to late-phase clinical and commercial GMP manufacturing for oral dosage forms, state-of-the-art sterile product manufacturing, innovative thin-film technology, as well as additional testing capacity. 

With the growth, Sayed plans to expand QCL’s employee base by up to 200 additional jobs. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, QCL maintained all of its jobs and provided full operating capacity to serve its biopharmaceutical customer base. It also produced hundreds of gallons of hand sanitizer to distribute for free to local health care facilities, schools and other essential businesses. 

QCL is actively supporting several federally funded programs under Operation Warp Speed. 

Another role: UNCW Board of Trustees member 


Daniel Summers

CEO, Electronic Lab Logs

With about 20 years of experience in software engineering, Daniel Summers along with Jeremy Sikorski became co-founders of Electronic Lab Logs, a company that started software development in 2017. The Wilmington startup provides a cloud-based platform for laboratory maintenance, replacing the use of paper logs, and launched its first product this year. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
In 2020, Summers helped Electronic Lab Logs catch the attention of the local and state startup ecosystem through applying for various grants and competitions. 

In May, Electronic Lab Logs was one of the recipients of a grant through the NC IDEA SEED program. The company was awarded $50,000, which Summers said the company would use to grow in adjacent markets. 

That same month, the startup received the third-place award in the inaugural NC BIONEER Venture Challenge. It was also chosen as the award winner in the Health Care category at the 2020 Coastal Entrepreneur Awards. 

Startup Support: UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 


George Taylor

Chairman, TRU Colors

George Taylor is founder, chairman and CEO of Wilmington-based TRU Colors, a business and social mission he started in 2017. He is also chairman of Wilmington-based National Speed and is the former chairman of Untappd. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
Taylor has focused work this year on preparing the TRU Colors team, business and social mission platform to scale nationally at launch, which he said would be in the spring. 

TRU Colors is a for-profit brewery with a social mission to stop street violence and unite communities, making gangs part of the solution. 

Preparing for its launch, TRU Colors has developed partnerships with blue-chip companies, national media and streaming platforms, and celebrity investors and influencers, company officials said. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Taylor continued to push plans forward, employing additional gang members and expanding ways to help the company connect through virtual activities and remote one-on-one talks between gang and community members, part of its TRU Conversations series. 

The company this year also moved into a 58,000-square-foot headquarters building at 715 Greenfield St., which will include a brewery, office space, gym and day care. 

Projected brewery capacity: 55,000 barrels per year 


Kurt Taylor

Founder, NextGlass

Kurt Taylor founded NextGlass, a Wilmington-based startup that develops software and creates experiences that connect consumers, retailers and producers in the alcohol beverage industry including its app Untappd, a company it acquired in 2016. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
After growing NextGlass since 2012, Taylor and other company officials were able to garner the interest of investors at a national scale, traveling and holding meetings with interested parties. 

This led to the company receiving a strategic investment this year from Boston-based Providence Strategic Growth that officials say will accelerate the Wilmington-based company’s growth. While Taylor did not disclose the amount of the transaction, he did say it was a “significant strategic investment.” 

During this time, Taylor also decided to step down as CEO but remains to influence the company as a member of the board of directors. In 2020, Taylor also became an advisor at TRU Colors, a local for-profit started by his father, George Taylor, that employs gang members as a way to combat street violence. 

Total app users: About 8 million 


Craig Wagner

Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer, Lower Cape Fear LifeCare

Craig Wagner has worked for Lower Cape Fear LifeCare since 2017, previously serving as president of the United Way of Onslow County. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
This year, Wagner led the organization – one of the largest nonprofits in the area and top hospice providers in the state – through a significant rebranding during its 40th anniversary. 

Not just a visual update, the effort reframed the agency’s image and name, from Lower Cape Fear Hospice to Lower Cape Fear LifeCare, to better reflect its range of services and support. 

Wagner also led the team and development of a million-dollar federal grant for dementia care wand caregiver support, making it one of 12 agencies across the country to receive the grant. 

He led the marketing and community awareness efforts ahead of winning the licenses to expand services in Onslow County as well as launching a home health service that will begin to grow across its service area. 

Pilot program: The agency is piloting a Dementia Friendly Organization Certification to raise awareness and better understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.


Gary Winstead

CEO, A.R.C. Transit

With a history in the logistics industry, Gary Winstead founded and has owned what is now A.R.C. Transit in 2006. He recently sold the company this year but will remain CEO of the firm. 

Why he's an innovator this year:
Winstead navigated the COVID-19 business climate and impacts on the overall logistics industry while completing the sale of A.R.C. Transit to Pennsylvania-based Evans Delivery Co. in September.

Now A.R.C. Transit’s sales teams and efforts are expanding to include the capacity available through Evans’ 400 agent locations and 8,000 drivers across the country. 

The firm services ports throughout the country but especially the Port of Wilmington and has worked with N.C. Ports to help its visibility and support. 

With the sale of A.R.C. Transit, Winstead transferred the terminal operations of its motor carrier company, Veterans Express, to a new company, Cape Fear Intermodal LLC, while maintaining an equity position in the international logistics marketplace with 23 employees and 190 drivers operating terminals in Norfolk, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Atlanta; Charlotte and Wilmington.

No. of employees: 25 


Amy Wright

President, Bitty & Beau's Coffee

Inspired by her two children, Bitty and Beau, Amy Wright opened Bitty & Beau’s Coffee in 2016 to advocate for the employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Why she's an innovator this year:
Wright found a way to address the large unemployment percentage rate among people with IDD by opening coffee shops that hire them and creating an inclusive environment in the community.

Bitty & Beau’s began offering franchises in the fall of 2020 and its first franchise is slated to open in Washington, D.C., with several more franchise announcements coming.

She visited the White House to advocate for people with disabilities joining the workforce.

Recent openings: The Wrights opened the fourth Bitty & Beau’s Coffee at PPD’s headquarters in Wilmington, a fifth shop in Annapolis, Maryland, and a sixth at nCino’s headquarters, also in Wilmington. The other locations are in Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah. 


Read more about the 2020 WilmingtonBiz 100 honorees by clicking here.

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