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Trailblazers Among Us: 6 Charlotteans You Should Know

From reporting the stories our communities need to hear to helping others establish their own lanes, meet 6 Charlotteans who know how to make things happen...

Sarafina Wright via

Sarafina Wright

Historic West End Reporter, QCMetro

Sarafina Wright is the voice of the West side. A native of Charlotte’s West side, Sarafina has experienced the city’s growth first-hand over the last 20+ years. After graduating with a degree in journalism from Howard University and writing for a local newspaper there as well as being editor for the paper’s millennial-focused magazine, she returned to the Queen City and is now reporting the stories that matter the most about the community she grew up in. Sarafina’s dedication to the community she calls home and being able to tell stories from that unique perspective is part of what makes her work so special.

Photo by Alvin C. Jacobs

Larry Swayne

Owner, Wingzza Mambo Sauce | Director, CPCC’s Small Business Center

Larry Swayne, local legend in the art of wings, personifies impact. Larry’s Wingzza Mambo Sauce- a popular dipping/topping/everything sauce in the Maryland/DC area- helped solidify his success in Charlotte. Larry and his wife, Robyn, the popular food truck that featured the only available taste of “mambo wings” in the city at that time. The sauce- sweet, flavorful, with just a bit of tang- became the star attraction at the Wingzza food truck and ultimately led Larry to break into the food industry in another way- bottling and selling the sauce itself. His career in marketing and journey as an entrepreneur helped him learn the not-so-easy process of having his products sold in stores for both consumers and other food businesses. Today, Wingzaa Mambo Sauce can be found at several restaurants throughout Charlotte and on the shelves at US Foods’ Chef Store locations in both North and South Carolina. Currently, in addition to managing the Wingzaa company, Larry serves as the Director of the Small Business Center at Central Piedmont Community College. There, he supports and designs programs/initiatives that help create and strengthen other entrepreneurs.

Photo Courtesy of Anthony Smith

Anthony Smith

Owner & Head Chef, Chef’s Kitchen Restaurants & Catering

Anthony Smith began as a dishwasher; now he’s a restaurateur. Commonly called “Chef Anthony”, the now head chef and multiple restaurant owner began his career in the food industry more than 15 years ago as a dishwasher. After growing his skills, cooking for family and friends, and then eventually catering, Chef Anthony says he took the leap to open a food commissary, where he and his partner, Taylor Bishop, created their catering hub and sold pre-ordered food. In 2020, he took an even bigger leap and opened Chef’s Kitchen, a restaurant, in the Lake Wylie area and then his second location in Pineville in 2021. The Chef now has a growing team, a large community of supporters, and has plans for more expansion in the coming years.

Photo courtesy of Amaya Woodley

Amaya Woodley

Deputy Editor, Blavity News

Amaya Woodley tells the stories “the culture” wants to hear. A graduate of Phillip O. Berry High School, Amaya’s journey in media has led her back home to Charlotte, NC. After graduating with a Masters degree in Journalism and working in Washington D.C. for some time, she returned to Charlotte where she worked as a producer in local news, focusing on breaking stories that impacted the Queen City community. She then transitioned to Blavity, Inc, an international publication dedicated to engaging communities of color. In Amaya’s current role, she helps lead and support a team of writers who entertain, educate and amplify the Black community. At Blavity, Amaya has written more than 300 contributions that shape and move the culture. She credits her work to the pride she has in being a storyteller and voice for her community.

Photo courtesy of Desmond Wiggan

Desmond A. Wiggan

CEO & Co-Founder, Battery Xchange

Desmond Wiggan owns a tech company, but isn’t “a tech guy”. Desmond’s journey to beginning a growing tech company with a college friend isn't exactly how most tech companies begin. Considered “unicorns” in their industry, neither founder planned to get into the technology world. After spending time overseas and working in business management, Desmond and Co-Founder, Aubrey Yeboah, created Battery Xchange, a mobile battery source to help millennials “live life charged”. Desmond accredits the company’s creation to continuous research, having a growth strategy, and creating community. Since the company’s beginning, the tech guy who didn’t major in tech (along with his team), has secured significant grant, investment, and formal partnership funding for Battery Xchange.

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Wintons

Jasmine Wintons

Owner & Lead Stylist, The Pretty Lounge

Jasmine Wintons is making the world a “prettier” place. A native Charlottean and hair stylist turned entrepreneur, Jasmine Wintons opened the salon, The Pretty Lounge, as a safe haven for women wanting to experience affordable luxury, professionalism, and healthy hair. After attending school in Greensboro, Jasmine obtained her cosmetology license and then ventured to open a salon suite in Charlotte. As her clientele grew, Jasmine found herself needing more space and flexibility. In April 2021, Jasmine opened her first full-service salon, The Pretty Lounge, and has since employed, trained, and mentored several new hair stylists in Charlotte. .....


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