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WNC Business

Local women in business celebrated at 2023 WomanUP Awards

Nov 05, 2023 02:22PM ● By Randee Brown

On November 3, 2023, more than 600 members of the Asheville business community gathered at the Omni Grove Park Inn to celebrate the eighth annual WomanUP Awards.

A program of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, WomanUP was created in 2016 with the help of Webb Investment Services President and Founder Laura Webb and her passion for supporting women in business, particularly those in male-dominated fields.

This year’s winners include: 

  • Woman Entrepreneur, Best in Business: Laura McCann, Founder and CEO of Adoratherapy
  • STEM Award: Christy Cheek, Executive Director of Buncombe County Schools Foundation
  • Outstanding Woman in Nonprofit Leadership: CiCi Weston, Executive Director of The Christine W. Avery Learning Center
  • Impact Award: Celeste Collins, Retired from On Track WNC
  • Woman Executive of the Year: Vicki Banks, Chief Human Resources Officer, The Biltmore Company
  • Rising Star Award: Adeline Wolfe, Real Estate Developer at Mountain Housing Opportunities
  • Suzanne DeFerie Lifetime Achievement Award: Lisa Payne, Nutrition Director at Buncombe County Schools

Laura Webb of Webb Investment Services shared her gratitude for the Asheville business community, and their celebration of women in business. Before the WomanUP program, Webb supported the Women in Business Award at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner, and has been advocating for the celebration of the area’s businesswomen for 20 years.

Webb presented the Woman Entrepreneur, Best in Business Award to Laura McCann, Founder and CEO of Adoratherapy. McCann shared her gratitude for the support of Asheville’s business ecosystem including the Western Women’s Business Center and Venture Asheville. She said Asheville is a great home for her wellness-focused business and its appreciation for inner beauty, and shared that entrepreneurship requires a level of compassion for oneself.

Patrick Blalock of TD Bank said the nominees for the Outstanding Woman in Nonprofit Leadership Award are all dedicated to nonprofit success in order to help create a better community. Blalock presented the Award to CiCi Weston, Executive Director of The Christine W. Avery Learning Center. Weston said she was “truly honored and at a loss for words” upon receiving the award. She gave thanks to her community, saying nonprofit careers require hard work and collaboration, and all the nominees onstage deserve honor for their work.

Cataldo Perrone of Pratt & Whitney presented the STEM Award to Christy Cheek, Executive Director of Buncombe County Schools Foundation, saying Cheek supports local teachers by enhancing STEM education in Buncombe County Schools. Cheek said she was thrilled to be the recipient of the very first STEM Award, and the support she received throughout her career helped her to achieve her accomplishments. She believes STEM provides significant educational value to students and to the entire community.

Lindsey Bnadad of Kudzu Brands presented the Impact Award to Celeste Collins who has retired from On Track WNC, saying the Impact Award recognizes a trailblazer making impacts through leadership and innovation, some of the attributes the woman-owned Kudzu Brand strives to embody. Collins said it felt amazing to receive this award and it is the honor of a lifetime. She encouraged attendees to remember the WomanUP tagline of Connect, Inspire, Support as women face challenges, and to “go out there and Woman UP!”

Anne McClintic of MAHEC presented the Woman Executive of the Year Award to Vicki Banks, Chief Human Resources Officer, The Biltmore Company, saying this award recognizes a woman who has distinguishes herself in her profession and fosters growth and development of women by sharing guidance and professional skills. Banks shared gratitude for the recognition of all the Award’s nominees and said it’s wonderful to be a part of that community. She said it is rewarding for all women and empowering to future leaders to empower women leaders in the community. She strives for equality in Biltmore’s employees, and ensures that women have a seat at the table and that their voice is heard.

Kevin Fraizer of Western Carolina University shared a story of and his pride for being the grandson of a feminist pioneer, saying women like his grandmother helped clear the way for others to follow, and women leadership transformed WNC and beyond. Fraizer presented the Rising Star Award to Adeline Wolfe, Real Estate Developer at Mountain Housing Opportunities who works to expand affordable housing in the region. Wolfe said there will never be enough time to thank everyone. Her mother and grandmother, in attendance, have been incredibly supportive for her and her coworkers continue to inspire and lift each other up. She said it is important and vital to allow young women to step into their power and their voices, and the passion of her own life so far has been to use her voice for something to serve the greater good of the community.

Emily Wheeler of First Bank presented the Suzanne DeFerie Lifetime Achievement Award to Lisa Payne, Nutrition Director at Buncombe County Schools, saying Payne’s work has positively impacted countless children in the community. Payne gave thanks to Suzanne DeFerie for blazing the trail that allowed these award recipients to be recognized, to the community, and to local farmers. She said she has advocated for free student breakfast and lunch her entire career, and she had not felt a prouder moment than when the school board voted to stop food insecurity in Buncombe County.