Winners Announced: 5th Annual Boone Area Chamber of Commerce 4 Under 40 Awards

Posted By: David Jackson Chamber News,

Emerging community leaders honored during live ceremony at the Appalachian Theatre 

Four emerging leaders and a 30-year retail veteran were honored during the 5th annual Boone Area Chamber of Commerce 4 Under 40 Awards ceremony. The event was hosted Tuesday evening in front of a live, socially distant audience at the Appalachian Theatre in Downtown Boone. The 4 Under 40 awards are presented annually by Appalachian Commercial Real Estate. 

Nearly 50 nominations were submitted by local community members and 16 finalists were recognized during the event. Nominees were sought in the categories of business owner, education professional, non-profit business professional, and rising star. A biography of each award winner is listed below: 

Business Owner: Matt Vincent, VPC Builders 

Matt Vincent was born and raised in Boone and considers the High Country of North Carolina his home. He holds a Bachelor’s in Business from Appalachian State University, with a concentration in Finance & Banking. Vincent is an Unlimited Licensed General Contractor with the state of North Carolina and South Carolina and holds a Master Builder and Accredited Builder Designation through North Carolina’s Builders Institute. 

Vincent has also earned a Renewable Energies and Green Building Diploma from the North Carolina Solar Center. He is LEED AP certified and participates in the NC Healthy Built Home ProgramCurrently Vincent holds the Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS), Certified Graduate Associate (CGA), and Certified Green Professional (CGP) designations with the National Association of Home Builders and is certified by the Building Performance Institute as a Building Analyst.  

Vincent is an active participant in High-Country community causes and activities. He is currently the board chairman for the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority (WCTDA).  He has not only contributed to the local community through serving on the board he continues to look for ways to support local non-profits and organizations financially. VPC Builders is heavily involved with the High-Country Chapter of Purple Heart Homes serving our local veterans and Wine to Water.  

Additional Finalists: Charlotte Baxter, Shear Shakti; Elise Sigmon, Sole Impact Studios; Jessica Stansberry, Hey Jessica! 

Education ProfessionalDr. Alex Howard, Appalachian State University Student Affairs 

Dr. Alex Howard currently serves as the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at Appalachian State University.  Within this role, Dr. Howard provides leadership to the departments of Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services, University Recreation, as well as Wellness and Prevention Services.  In his efforts to enhance the holistic functioning of all students, Dr. Howard is deeply involved in the process of educating and engaging a variety of stakeholders, such as the University’s Board of Trustees and members of the broader Watauga County community.  During his time at Appalachian State University Dr. Howard has developed a variety of student support services, assisted with the modification of university policies, managed various research projects, and maintained his love for teaching in the classroom by serving as an instructor in the Beaver College of Health Sciences.  

Prior to his work at Appalachian State University, Dr. Howard served as faculty and the undergraduate program director within the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky.  Alex, a native of Sampson County, NC, received both his Doctorate and Masters of Public Health from the University of Kentucky.  In addition, he also earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Athletic Training from High Point University. In February of 2021, Dr. Howard was honored by Appalachian State University with a Staff Excellence Award. 

Additional Finalists: Brian Bettis, Bethel School; Amanda Combs, Watauga County Schools; Jason Marshburn, Appalachian State University Environmental Health, Safety, and Emergency Management. 

Non-Profit Business ProfessionalMollie Furman, The Mediation & Restorative Justice Center 

Mollie Furman is a social worker with the Mediation and Restorative Justice Center and serves as the Program Coordinator for the Watauga County Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program and the Watauga Detention Recovery on the Inside Program.  

Since 2018, Furman has worked with hundreds of people who are incarcerated or who are at risk of incarceration take steps towards recovery and freedom from addiction to end the cycle of incarceration. She has succeeded in creating opportunities for change, both for individuals and for the community as a whole, by solidifying crucial partnerships between law enforcement, namely the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and Boone Police Department, and local human service agencies. Equally important, Furman has harnessed the transformative power of her own story of triumph over addiction and uses her platform to give the same opportunity to others whose stories may have gone unheard.   

Furman received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Appalachian State University in 2019 and since beginning this work, she and her team have secured over $1,000,000 in state and federal funding to support Watauga County’s justice involved population.  

Furman is a Watauga County native, and lives in Bethel with her partner Tom and their six children. 

Additional Finalists: Jenn Bass, Hunger & Health Coalition; Emily Neff, W.A.M.Y. Community Action; Ashley Yepez, Watauga Humane Society. 

Rising StarRichard Campbell, Boone Rent-All & Parties Too 

Richard Campbell is a Boone native and serves as the Operations Manager and Director of Marketing for Boone Rent-All & Parties Too.  

Since joining the company, Campbell has made substantial improvements in processes and procedures resulting in higher utilization rates for equipment and less equipment downtime. He has also modified the company’s inventory mix to effectively meet changing customer needs, while also enhancing margins and profitability. Campbell has implemented new training programs for the entire staff geared toward improved product knowledge, a better understanding of the sales process, and a more effective customer service approach.  

As Marketing Director, Campbell has implemented a marketing effectiveness tracking system and improved our scores and outreach in every category of social media and marketing. The company’s marketing efforts now reaches enhanced target markets both geographically and demographically. This has led to increased sales revenue and a much improved economic impact for their investment in marketing dollars. 

Campbell sets a professional example for the company and represents Boone Rent-All & Parties Too in numerous professional organizationsHe was instrumental in helping the company navigate the unpredictable COVID-19 economic factors that hit their event-based business, and helped stabilize market share, profits, and grow the company’s non-impacted lines to better support the organization throughout 2020. 

Additional Finalists: Amber Batemen, Watauga Arts Council; Neil Brunson, Mountain Lumber Company; Spencer Hodges, Boone Drug, Inc. 

Respect Your Elder Award: Lou Ella South, Owner, South’s Specialty Clothiers 

Lou Ella South has been a fixture in the Boone retail community for nearly four decades, owning South’s Specialty Clothiers in Boone Mall since 1981. South's has been a community leader in providing exceptional customer service. The business received the 2009 Outstanding Customer Service Award from the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. South's has also been named "Store of the Year" twice by Retail Logic.   

With roots that reach back to a background in education, Lou Ella South has been a consistent source of encouragement, ideation, and technical knowledge for those attempting a career in retail sales. She regularly attends business and finance continuing education workshops and is always willing to share any of the material she has learned with other local retailers. During COVID-19, South stayed on top of changing operational guidelines and government loan programs, and shared knowledge and experience with other businesses in the mall community, to help get retailers back to business quickly. 

South sets and expectation for customer service that many businesses in the area have sought to follow. Her loyal customer base transcends generations and has helped South’s Specialty Clothiers attain recognition as one of the top retail outlets of its type in the region. While maintaining a business like this for 30+ years takes an incredible amount of work, South never lets an opportunity to talk business with a fellow, or budding professional. She is an advocate for doing business in Boone and the High Country and her counsel is responsible for many of the retail success stories we enjoy today. 

"This year’s group of finalists and winners speaks to the depth of leadership skillsets we have here in the High Country," said David Jackson, President of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce.We see quick risers in their industry, those that are philanthropically motivated, and people who are great with taking ideas and turning them into successes represented within this group. Diversity in skills and impact is critically important when thinking about today’s blueprint for community leadership. For Boone and the High Country to continue to grow and evolve, we seek leaders that bring new ideas and abilities that also see the value in building off the successes of what has been achieved here for decades. We are eager to welcome these 16 leaders into more conversations about where we go next as a community.” 

As part of the celebration of the 5th year of the 4 Under 40 Awards, 11 past award winners returned to the stage and were recognized during the ceremony. Anthony Brumfield (Rising Star, 2017), Dr. Jim Street (Respect Your Elder, 2018) Jennifer Warren (Non-Profit Professional, 2017) addressed the audience on the values of a leadership mindset in today’s world. 

Additional support for the event was provided by BB&T, now Truist, Beech Mountain Resort, and Mast General Store. Wayne Sumner and Yosef Media combined to offer streaming services to a virtual audience of attendees 

If you have questions, please contact the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce at 828-264-2225 or email