Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Alumnae Reshape Their Bodies, Careers and Communities

When alumnae Katelyn Lippert '08 and Brook Nash '03 discovered that they could combine their love of dancing with physical fitness, they knew they had to bring Pure Barre franchises to their cities.

Pure Barre is a total body workout using the ballet bar. Students use isometric movements to quickly and safely reshape the body, creating, long lean muscles. The workout is known to lift your seat, tone your thighs, and burn fat impressively fast, all to great music.

Brook, who worked in public health, discovered the workout after the birth of her children. “I needed to shed the baby weight. I was no longer able to jog [due to a knee injury] and needed something low impact,” she said. From her first workout, she fell in love with Pure Barre, “nothing has transformed my body as much as Pure Barre,” she said.

Katelyn Lippert '08 with her sister, Alex,
at their Pure Barre in Wilmington, NC
Katelyn, a recruiter with a human resources background, was introduced to Pure Barre by her sister and business partner, Alexandra O'Rourke. “We both danced for most of our lives, and the workout was addicting,” said Katelyn. “We quickly fell in love and thought Wilmington would be the perfect location for a Pure Barre.”

Both Brook and Katelyn took leaps into becoming small business owners and opened their own Pure Barre locations in Savannah, GA and Wilmington, NC, respectively. “I saw a gap in the Savannah fitness community and thought the women here would really appreciate the workout,” said Brook.

“Opening your own business is a huge venture, it will consume your life but if you have a strong plan and good support you will be successful,” said Katelyn.

Brook Nash '03 in front of her Pure Barre
in Savannah, GA
“First, make sure you love it,” said Brook. “As an owner, even with the help of many, it is totally consuming, but the passion you have for your business or product will get you through the 14 hour days.”

Brook and Katelyn also carried many lessons and experiences from UNCW through their journey to become entrepreneurs. Katelyn ’08 used the Cameron School of Business’s annual Business Week to practice her networking skills and give back to the university. “I enjoy coming back to Cameron and speaking with the students about life after the classroom," she said. "I actually received my first job as a result of Business Week.”

Brook had a mentor, UNCW professor Dr. Michael Perko, whose lessons translated well into her efforts as new business woman. “What I learned from him is more of a life lesson on overcoming perfectionism. No one’s perfect and as long as you try your hardest that is all anyone can ask for,” she said.

UNCW Alumni Relations/Shannon Rodenheiser '11

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Alumni Come Together to Honor a Friend's Memory Through Service

In May of 2004 a group of UNCW alumni lost a dear friend, Peyton Degray, to her battle with cancer. Though the loss was crushing, they knew they had to find a way to celebrate their friends memory, and thus, Love is Bald was born.

“After she passed away, we all decided that we would get together each year and celebrate her life the way Peyton would have wanted us to,” said Brandon Hillis '02, who helped start Love Is Bald. The friends spent several years reuniting in May to celebrate and remember Peyton, but did not formally establish Love is Bald, an organization dedicated to raising both awareness of the disease and money for cancer patients and their families, until 2010.

“It took us a while to get our heads and hearts wrapped around the idea of losing Peyton, but we knew we had to start something to keep her memory and spirit alive,” said Kelli Russell '01, who co-founded Love is Bald with Allen Williford.

Even in its name, the organization is rooted in memories. “When Peyton began losing her hair, [during treatment] she decided to just shave it off. Soon after a lot of our guy friends did the same thing. We all quickly realized that hair is just hair...we loved one another no matter what,” said Kelli.

Love is Bald relies on both the Wilmington and UNCW communities to host successful events and raise money.  “This town and community is very supportive in sharing knowledge and lending a helping hand to make Love is Bald the great success it has become,” said RJ Russell '02, another member who helped start the organization.

By planning numerous events in the community, from volleyball tournaments to chili cook-offs, Love is Bald does everything it can to raise funds to support cancer patients, as well as their family and friends. “We always have three goals when planning events; first, to keep Peyton’s spirit alive, second, to never take life, family or friends for granted, and to always “Pey” it forward,” said Kelli who promotes these initiatives on the group's blog. To date, the organization has raised over $80,000.

The group applied lessons they learned during their time at UNCW to establish the organization. “You see some colleges that are very cliquish, with athletes only hanging with athletes and Greeks only hanging out with Greeks, but UNCW never seemed like that,” said Brandon. “Everyone always rallied around each other, from a sporting event to a tragedy.”

Alison Eagen ’03, fellow alumna and a member of the Love is Bald Board of Directors, has big goals for the organization. “My goal is to assist in growing our support base by engaging the community in successful, enjoyable events,” said Allison. “We believe there is no such thing as too many volunteers.”

UNCW Alumni Relations/Shannon Rodenheiser '11

Monday, November 19, 2012

Discipline and Integrity: Skills from the Ball Field Aid Business Success

How many people do you know that can include teaching actors, Freddie Prince Jr. and Mathew Lilliard, how to play baseball as part of their college experience? If you do know someone, it's likely to be a ball player from UNCW, our camera-friendly university that keeps a lively pulse in the film community.

Former student athlete, Lee Grant '00, can accept this claim to fame, but after the tremendously successful decade he just had, this would be near the bottom of his list of bragging rights.

The grueling schedule of Lee's student years, between practice and classes, taught him discipline and time management. The organization and work ethic, as well as the integrity he infused in every aspect of his business, led Lee to gain fiscal success in his company, Coastal Chemical & Paper.

As owner and president of one of the fastest-growing distribution companies in the Carolinas, he built his business Steve Jobs-style, straight out of his garage. Now with two distribution centers, a sales team and fleet of delivery trucks, Lee sees nothing but growth in the future.

"My goals are to continue on the track I'm on," Lee shared, "adding products and growing until the market dictates otherwise. We're adding two new salespeople in 2013."

Lee, 2010 Young Alumnus of the Year
award recipient and his wife, Sommer 
Beside Lee from the beginning, is his wife Sommer, a 2001 Information Systems graduate who he met at UNCW while they were in their teens. Not only do they work as a team for the business, but they as strive to be role models for their three daughters.

"We know that our kids are watching every thing that we do and say," Lee said. "So we try to show them a good example."

As loyal supporters of numerous community organizations, such as Welcome Home Angel, the Landfall Foundation and the Andy's Foundation, they are role models for more than just their little ones. Lee is currently a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and chairs the Awards & Scholarships Committee. His passion for helping UNCW develop student athletes into professionals fuels his on-going support for the Seahawk Club. "The journey of being a student athlete, competing at a very high level and the lessons learned through that journey is something I really believe in," he said.

UNCW's track record of professional training is what led Lee to commit to being a Seahawk, turning down scholarships offers from UNCG, ECU, Elon and Campbell. However, one thing he'll never forget is how much better he ate while acting as a ball player on screen for "Summer Catch," versus their victory feasts while on the road with UNCW.

"If we lost, we got Wendy's, and if we won, Coach Scalf would splurge and take us to Golden Corral," Lee said. "I think that is still the status quo with him to this day."

UNCW Alumni Relations/Crystal George

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In a Time of Thanks, We Salute Our Seahawks

This time of year, when the thermostat begins its daily dance and the the sun has already clocked-out before your drive home, we begin thinking about the festive holiday events approaching.

Students digging in at the Wagsgiving feast
 UNCW/Erin Bailey
Remember when you were a student and would spend today recovering from over-eating at Wagsgiving and would count down the days to school break? What kind of holiday traditions have you began since your last stroll down Chancellor's Walk?

Each year, at this time, we take the opportunity to share about alumni who are daring to soar; alumni who don't settle for average and are willing to create a path for themselves and foster opportunities for others. We invite you to meet them in the blog posts through November.

Thanksgiving is about more than filling yourself with turkey and trimmings and fighting the ambush of holiday music that fills the airwaves, inevitably too early. It's about sharing what you are thankful for, and for us, we're thankful for our 60,000 Seahawks around the globe.