Columbia Metropolitan Magazine’s Capital Young Professional Awards honors local professionals age 35 and under who work toward making Columbia a strong, thriving community.
As in years past, our readers nominated such an array of excellent contenders that the task of choosing just one winner was nearly insurmountable. After an extensive evaluation and interview process in which we considered each nominee’s success in their career, philanthropic passion and service, and commitment to community leadership, we finally determined the Top 10 Finalists included in this feature.
We heartily congratulate these 10 individuals, not only for their selection into this elite group but also for the unique and inspiring ways they apply their gifts, talents, and hard work to make this community a better place for everyone.
We are pleased and proud to honor the 2023 Top 10 CYP Finalists and to announce the CMM 2023 Capital Young Professional of the Year — Tyra McBride.
The 2023 Capital Young Professional of the Year: Tyra McBride
Growing up in a single-parent family in one of the most educationally underserved regions of the state of South Carolina, Tyra McBride beat the odds to become a shining star in her profession. A woman of deep faith and strong family bonds, Tyra credits her mother and extended family in her hometown of Salters, South Carolina, for creating a loving and supportive atmosphere in which she could grow and thrive, despite difficult external circumstances. “Statistically speaking, I should not be where I am today,” says Tyra. “My mother suffered from chronic illnesses, and we lived below the poverty line. Yet, despite those circumstances my mom taught me to press forward and always to give my best in everything I do.”
Born and raised in a region of the state often described as the “Corridor of Shame,” Tyra overcame challenges both at home and at school. “My senior year, we had a class with a textbook shortage, so we could not take our books home to study. Oftentimes, I would get to school early and go to the library so I could review the textbook for my exams. Attending a school that lacked the resources I now know so many schools have readily available, I want people to understand that although you are born into certain circumstances, you are not your circumstances,” says Tyra.
“If you think about the statistical odds that were against me, I can’t see any way I could have made my way out of poverty and the emotional and mental issues that poverty brings without God. Any achievements or success I have in my life is because of Him. I have a deep belief that although God places us in hard situations, He knows us and has a plan for us. He wants us to go through those challenges to carve us and mold us into the people He wants us to be. So, even though your circumstances may slow you down, in the end you can overcome them.”
A Shining Star
By any measure, this young attorney just five years out of law school is well on her way to becoming the woman God designed her to be in all facets of her life.
As a successful and well-regarded attorney at Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A., in Columbia, Tyra represents buyers, sellers, and lenders in the field of commercial real estate. Earning her Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2018, Tyra earned the role of associate editor-in-chief of the South Carolina Law Review and served as judicial law clerk to the Hon. George James, Jr., with the South Carolina Supreme Court.
“As an attorney, Tyra McBride is simply outstanding. She has the respect of her co-workers, her peers, and her clients. What makes Tyra particularly special is that she is not only successful in her work, but she also makes a meaningful impact in the community,” says attorney William Johnson, chair of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd’s economic development team. “In South Carolina, obtaining a South Carolina Supreme Court clerkship is the ultimate badge of honor for a young lawyer. Tyra’s selection to that position reflects just how exemplary her law school career was. She is widely recognized as the standard bearer for the next generation of lawyers in South Carolina.”
South Carolina Supreme Court Justice George James, Jr., concurs, remembering, “I first met Tyra when she was my intern during the summer of her first year of law school. After one week, I told Tyra I would hold a clerkship job open for her when she graduated. She was a great clerk and is a wonderful person.”
This rising standard bearer’s accolades are too numerous to list in full. In law school, she was a member of both the Order of the Coif and the Order of Wig and Robe, and in seven different classes she was the CALI Award recipient, presented to the highest scoring student. She was a vital part of both the Women in Law Organization as well as the Black Law Students Association, and she graduated magna cum laude. She has since served as a Black Law Students Association mentor, mentoring one to two law students during their years at University of South Carolina Law. As an associate attorney at Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, she was named to the 2020 National Black Lawyers “Top 40 Under 40;” to the “Legal Elite of the Midlands 2020-21” by Columbia Business Monthly; and in 2023 to “Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch” in both commercial litigation and real estate law.
South Carolina State Sen. Ronnie Sabb says, “As my former paralegal, Tyra’s daily commitment to excellence was exceptional in serving all our clients. Whether volunteering in our local food pantry or mentoring young girls who aspire to be lawyers, Tyra sacrifices her time to help others. Having watched her grow up in rural Salters with limited public education facilities, I know Tyra has a special passion to improve the lives of young girls, particularly those raised in single-parent families. I directly observed Tyra as she excelled in her education and watched her develop deep personal roots within her community. Tyra has defied many odds in her life to become a strong, compassionate, and servant-hearted role model for our community.”
A Legacy of Resilience
Reflecting on her childhood, Tyra says, “My resiliency comes from seeing my mom’s resilience throughout her illnesses. She hasn’t let her chronic conditions keep her down, and she taught me how to overcome any challenge. She always went over and above for me in any way that she could. Even though it wasn’t easy, she always showed up for me, despite her health, and never missed any of my performances at school or awards ceremonies. She would push herself even though she wasn’t feeling well, and she has always been present, supporting me in any way she could. She has always encouraged me to climb higher and dream bigger. My mother contributed so much to my success.”
Tyra shares that her mother’s decision not to pursue a college education, instead joining the workforce right out high school, is her biggest regret. Because of that, she instilled in Tyra a strong work ethic and taught her the importance of a good education and the change it would bring not only for her but for generations to come. “I don’t think I would be an attorney if it weren’t for my mom pushing me,” says Tyra. “She pushed me as hard as she did because she saw my potential. That’s one of the biggest reasons I’m here today.”
When Tyra considers her mother’s legacy in her life, she notes that giving back to the community was a high priority. “My mom has always tried to help in the community in any way she could. She helped the elderly, even with her limited resources. Anything she could do, she always did. She rarely said no. That’s the type of mother I have,” says Tyra.
Her mother’s example is one that Tyra closely follows, as evidenced by her own commitment to giving back to the community. She is a board member and regular volunteer with Girls on the Run Columbia, a youth development program designed to develop and enhance girls’ social, psychological, and physical well-being. She also volunteers her time with various charitable organizations through the Junior League of Columbia, and she is a member of the Leadership Columbia Class of 2023, enthusiastically working on the current class project, a collaboration with Homeless No More. She also volunteers with the Union Missionary Baptist Church Senior Citizens Committee.
“From a young age until now, Tyra’s determination to reach her goals and climb higher has never wavered, even in adversity,” says Elizabeth McBride, Tyra’s mother. “She is loving, generous toward those in need, and comforts those who are hurt. Tyra consistently says she never wants to disappoint me, a concern she need not have because I have always admired, and will continue to admire, the remarkable and strong person I have the honor of calling my daughter.”
Looking back on her formative years in Salters, even with the many adversities she faced, Tyra remembers the sweetness of her childhood memories. “My extended family also played a great role in my life. Any time my mom was hospitalized because of her illnesses, my mother’s siblings who live in the area surrounding my grandmother’s house would take me in. So even though I missed my mom, my aunts, uncles, and grandmother knew my daily routine and would take care of me seamlessly,” says Tyra. “I have so many sweet memories of being at my grandmother’s house and singing songs with her before bed. And I have wonderful memories of all the time I spent playing outside with my cousins. My uncles also stepped in and were father figures. So it wasn’t just my mom raising me — we really had a village.”
There is Only One You
As she considers the impact of her hard work in overcoming adversity and achieving personal and professional success, Tyra’s greatest desire is to help raise up young people.
“My passion is helping children, particularly girls. I believe that many times, God puts us through challenges so that we can empathize and be compassionate with others. Growing up, I lacked so much confidence, and I’m still working on that to this day. Any time I have an opportunity to help children understand that their uniqueness is valuable, that they should not hide their uniqueness or try to fit into the mold, I tell them, ‘You were made differently for a reason.’ Oftentimes we believe our differences are what make us ‘less than.’ But your greatest value lies in your differences. I try to instill that into the girls I meet, telling them, ‘There is only one you.’”
As this remarkable young professional continues to defy the odds, Tyra McBride is not just a standard bearer for the next generation of lawyers in South Carolina, but also a hopeful glimpse to a future in which every young person knows and values their own worth, no matter their life circumstances.
Margaret Deans Fawcett Grantz — CYP Runner-Up
Margaret Deans has always had a passion for giving back to the community, involving herself from a young age in projects to benefit others. In 2018, inspired by 11-year-old Cole Sawyer who passed away from cancer, she and Kelsey Sawyer Carter, Cole’s sister, founded Camp Cole. A camp and retreat center for children, teens, and adults with disabilities, illnesses, and other life challenges, Camp Cole is a safe and accessible facility where groups can come together to connect, share, and encourage.
“Margaret Deans is fearless in the pursuit of her dreams,” says Kelsey. “She is an unstoppable force who demonstrates resilience during the most difficult of times. Margaret Deans does not sit and wallow in sadness; she springs to action. As the glue that holds the Camp Cole team together, she shows up to serve campers with complete selflessness and seeks no recognition in return. She embodies the philosophy of servant leadership and has been described as a beacon of light to many.”
Margaret Deans’ professional experience, which began with her degree from Wofford College as well as her sociology and psychology coursework at Columbia College, has well prepared her to create this legacy. From community outreach and volunteer coordinator at Transitions Homeless Center in 2016 to marketing and events coordinator at Ronald McDonald House of Columbia in 2017 to co-founder and director of development for Camp Cole since 2018, Margaret Deans’ professional roles have steadily built her skills and experience as a person who contributes to her community in a meaningful way.
“Margaret Deans’ biggest legacy so far is Camp Cole,” says her husband, Derrick Grantz. That and her growing family of two children with number three on the way. Her ability to lead such an important nonprofit while also juggling the many duties and logistics of a young mother and wife is a testament to her sincere love of serving others.
“Her strongest quality is her ability never to give up despite obstacles that arise throughout the journey,” says Kelsey.
Among her many professional honors, Margaret Deans was part of the Leadership Columbia Class of 2018, was named Outstanding Rising Star in 2019 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Central S.C., and received Wofford College’s 2021 Rising Star Award. She is a member of the Hammond School Alumni Board, where she is also a cheerleading coach. She is additionally an active member of Eastminster Presbyterian Church, where she serves as a Sunday School teacher for preschool-aged children.
Her fundraising mentor Kim Bowman, who owns K. Hope Creative, says of Margaret Deans, “She’s a marketing professional at her core, as well as a fundraising professional. But she’s also a founder and an entrepreneur who is proof that doing good for others is the epitome of success. Nothing slows her down or gets in the way of her blazing a trail of support and relief for those who need it. Margaret Deans is a rare and beautiful person and a respected professional.”
Reflecting on her and Kelsey’s success in starting Camp Cole, Margaret Deans says, “We had so many people look at us and say, ‘You’re just two 26-year-old women — how did you ever raise $10 million?’ The fact that the community came together and helped us build something so important definitely speaks volumes about Columbia.”
James Williams — CYP Runner-Up
With inspiring young professionals like James Williams in the world, the future is bright. The president of Sullivan Management — a restaurant ownership and management group that operates 16 restaurant locations, including Carolina Ale House, Takosushi, and Crave Artisan Market — James embodies hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit.
James launched himself into the business world while still an undergraduate at Washington & Lee University by starting a company named “udu” out of Nairobi, Kenya, employing women and men living in poverty to make hoodies, a product he cleverly dubbed “Livelyhoods.”
“I wanted to connect a cool product with economic opportunity for a village. As the saying goes, ‘Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.’ I wanted to teach a man to fish,” says James.
Following two years in Washington, D.C., working for a nonprofit, serving a stint in Costa Rica with the Peace Corps, and then obtaining his MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, James enjoyed a successful career in investment banking and private equity in New York and Raleigh before returning to his hometown and putting his entrepreneurial know-how and global mindedness to good use. “I missed living in the City of Dreams,” James says. “Sometimes people who aren’t from Columbia laugh when I call it that, but I truly believe there is some validity to that name. Being from Columbia, we know we have to dream big if we want to do something big.”
Chris Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Management, agrees, saying, “James is the epitome of a young mover and shaker who loves this city and is trying to make it a better place. He is passionate about Columbia, where he was born and raised and now calls home again. He, like so many others, loves today’s Columbia and sees what it could be tomorrow. The difference is he has the drive and ambition to do something about it.”
In addition to building Columbia’s restaurant scene through Sullivan Management, James also works hard to give back to the community. James recently joined the board of directors at Transitions Homeless Center, having spent substantial time volunteering hands-on. He is also a board member of the Columbia Music Festival Association and indirectly supports several nonprofit organizations through his role as a member of the Hospitality Tax Committee for the City of Columbia. In addition, James volunteers at the Columbia Greek Festival every year, putting his restaurant skills to work for one of the city’s most popular annual events.
“When he returned to Columbia, James immediately began to seek out ways he could participate to make Columbia one of the most important and livable cities in the region,” says John Whitehead, executive director for the CMFA. “He is working to ensure that the CMFA continues as an arts incubator and leader in outreach and arts professional development.”
At just 31 years old, James is on a mission not only to build Sullivan Management into one of the premier restaurant companies in the Southeast, but he also has a vision and a heart for public service. Whether it’s bringing the Southwest-Asian fusion flavors of Takosushi to Columbia’s Main Street or helping to make sure Columbia’s arts and events scene is thriving, James is putting his stamp on the City of Dreams.
“I love Columbia,” says James. “I think it is the most wonderful place on Earth. The people here are so hardworking and really driven. There’s so much room to grow here, and since I’ve returned, I can see this city is taking steps in the right direction. We will all enjoy the fruits of that.”
Sara Middleton Styles — CYP Runner-Up
Continually offering her expertise, time, and financial support to the Midlands, one of the most visible ways Sara Middleton Styles has made her impact on the community is through her involvement in the revitalization of Columbia’s Historic Main Street District.
Sara earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Winthrop University, her certification in bioethics from Yale University’s Sherwin B. Nuland Institute, and her Juris Doctorate from USC’s School of Law. Even more impressive than her curriculum vitae is her professional experience. Sara is an entrepreneur, business owner, and both a residential and commercial property developer with a focus on historic revitalization and reuse. As such, she is the founder and owner of Smoked restaurant and Peak Drift Brewing Company and co-proprietor of SC House Calls, Main Street Physicians Group, and various property development groups.
Sara grew up the daughter of two Methodist ministers who later founded a multitude of senior health care organizations throughout the state. Over the years, Sara and her brother, Greg Middleton, discovered a mutual passion for property development and the revitalization of historic buildings. One such historic building is now home to her restaurant, Smoked, located in the heart of Columbia’s Main Street District. Smoked is an upscale restaurant that uses the highest quality ingredients in every dish and drink, featuring signature items from local oysters to house-smoked meats. The restaurant includes an oyster bar, on-site smoker, elegant outdoor patio, and a microbrewery for Peak Drift Brewing Company.
“Sara is bright, energetic, positive, full of life and light. She brings passion and energy to every creative idea she envisions,” says Jimmie Williamson, former president of the North Carolina and South Carolina technical college systems. “She has immersed herself in a nonprofit work by volunteering her time and resources while bringing a business-minded approach to each organization. She has invested her own resources in entrepreneurial projects that benefit the greater Columbia area. She is passionate about making life better for those around her.”
Aditi Bussells, Columbia City Council member at-large, says, “Sara is a thoughtful, bold businesswoman who is passionate about making Columbia a better place. A proud millennial, Sara is always challenging the status quo and dreaming big about our city’s future. And she does all of this with class, style, and poise. Whether it’s supporting the arts or contributing to finding solutions to make our downtown more vibrant, Sara is not only generous with her contributions financially, but with her time and energy as well.”
Sara is an active member of the community, including serving as a board member of the North Columbia Business Association and president of the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association. She is also a board member of the Columbia City Ballet, City Center Partnership, United Way of the Midlands, and Women in Leadership.
Sara’s historic preservation work has been recognized with the 2022 South Carolina Historic Preservation Award, the Columbia Impact Award, the Golden Nail Award in 2022, and the Historic Columbia 2022 Preservation Award.
“Sara is using her law degree, personal skills, connections, family resources, and her focused mindset to help build up Columbia in so many ways,” says Drew Stevens of G3 Wealth Advisors.
“Over the course of my life, I’ve made this decision to surround myself with people who want to do good, be good, and create good,” says Sara. “Having a team of people behind you who do good makes all the difference in allowing you to be successful in life and to make a positive impact on the world.”
Justin King — CYP Runner-Up
Emmy Award winner Justin King knows how to captivate Gamecock fans. A proud University of South Carolina graduate, Justin returned to his alma mater as associate athletics director for New and Creative Media in February 2017. In this role, Justin develops, coordinates, and manages the production of all graphic and video content used in athletics recruiting as well as manages the messaging on all Gamecock football social media platforms.
“It’s about capturing memories. It’s about the moment when 80,000 people throw their hands up in celebration and, even if it’s only for a brief moment, everyone is united, everyone is family,” he says.
Justin’s Gamecock videos, some with more than 100,000 views, continue to push his career forward. “Every day I’m surrounded by talented, passionate people, and every day I’m thankful for the opportunity to come home to a place I love.”
In addition to game day highlight packages and behind-the-scenes footage, USC’s New and Creative Media team puts together team intro videos and scoreboard packages. Engaging fans of both the Gamecocks and all of college athletics, Justin has a remarkable social media following, with rival schools and non-football fans alike appreciating his visual effects and creative genius. For Justin, making Gamecock videos started as a hobby shortly after he graduated in 2010 with a degree in arts. But those videos soon landed him a job working with ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Justin returned to USC after serving as senior managing producer at the Alabama Media Group in Birmingham starting in 2015, focusing on social media and video production. In this role, he was in charge of art direction, video production, social strategy, and story development for the website’s sports coverage. Under Justin’s direction, the social audience for AL.com grew from around 20,000 to more than 325,000 people in one year. Before his role at AL.com, Justin was a marketing strategist with Rackspace Hosting and director of social media at Global Evangelism. In 2017, Justin’s impressive career resulted in an Emmy win as well as being named to 247Sports “30Under30,” which is a list of 30 “rising stars” in college football under the age of 30.
As a leader, Justin is all about empowering people and helping members of his staff. “An effective leader inspires the people around them to be their best; it is a person who wants others to succeed and gets excited for their success.”
Among others, a charity that receives a lot of Justin’s attention is Harvest Hope as well as Prisma Health Children’s Hospital. He and his creative team volunteer together on projects, both as a way to make a positive contribution to the community and as a team-building opportunity.
As he reflects on what makes Columbia such a special city, Justin says, “Columbia’s strength is its people. I love this city. It’s a big enough city where you can have and do anything but small enough that you can make change and really get to know people.”
Braden Shockley is known for his fast-paced work ethic, attention to detail, and tenacity. Braden is a senior broker for Trinity Partners, a full-service commercial real estate firm. A native of Columbia, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Clemson University in 2017. Prior to joining Trinity Partners, Braden worked as a real estate broker for NAI Avant and Advance Land and Timber. Constantly looking for ways to engage with and serve his community, Braden is actively involved in Camp Cole. He currently serves as the chair of one of the camp’s largest fundraising events, the Happy Campers Oyster Roast, which helps send children, teens, and adults with illnesses, disabilities, and life challenges to camp. In 2020, Braden graduated from the Columbia Chamber’s Leadership Columbia Class, and he is involved in multiple leadership and service groups in the community. Braden describes a great leader as someone who is willing to go above and beyond and is selfless, caring, and hardworking — all traits Braden strives to embody.
Lindsay Medlin is a senior manager at Bauknight, Pietras & Stormer accounting firm in Columbia. Lindsay considers her greatest achievement to be her work helping entrepreneurs, not-for-profit organizations, and small business owners through her accounting expertise. She shines with an unparalleled passion for her accounting work, going above and beyond to help small business owners find success. Routinely volunteering at various events through local organizations in Columbia, Lindsay is always seeking new ways to become involved and to make the Midlands a great place to live, work, and play. She has given back to the community through her leadership roles in many organizations and currently serves as treasurer for One Columbia for Arts and Culture, a nonprofit organization formed to advise, amplify, and advocate for the unified arts and culture community in Columbia. Lindsay is also a member of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Finance Committee as well as the Leadership Columbia Alumni Association Advisory Board, and she is the treasurer-elect for the Midlands chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women.
Cole McCarter, a Cardinal Newman alumnus and the winningest wrestler in school history, returned to his alma mater in 2018 to serve as varsity wrestling coach. While running a wrestling program with more than 35 athletes and serving on the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame board of directors, Cole also wears the hat of vice president of sales and business development at Defender Services, which offers janitorial, grounds, and building maintenance, as well as security services to businesses across the country. A 2016 Clemson University graduate, Cole’s personal mission is to make a difference in his community by giving back to charities such as South Carolina Hunters for the Hungry, Columbia East Rotary Club, and The Therapy Place, as well as clubs, fundraisers, and locally owned businesses. He continually talks about the importance of living a life of giving and helping, often quoting his father and mentor, who preaches the importance of “putting more in the pot than you take out.”
Jeremy Powers founded Powers Insurance Experts in 2020 after building a successful career managing multiple Allstate agencies. Jeremy’s vision to create a culture of education, personalization, and fun has earned him numerous awards while also generating a better way for him to serve both his clients and employees. Described as having the heart of a servant, Jeremy persevered to overcome the statistical odds of someone growing up in a single-parent, unstable home in various trailer parks and is dedicated to helping people, not only in business but in life. He is the cofounder and cohost of Purpose Over Profits podcast, showing how local members of the business community follow their purpose over chasing profits. In addition, Jeremy is a leader in his church as well as a volunteer with the Unumb Center for Neurodevelopment, a center-based Applied Behavior Analysis program that helps individuals with autism reach their full potential by providing comprehensive, evidence-based services and collaborative solutions.