Speaker Spotlight: Leah Knepper

Leah Knepper, Vice President of French West Vaughn, has a remarkable 12 years of experience in the many areas of public relations, marketing, advertising and social media, travel and tourism, banking and financing, food and beverage, and non- profit organizations. Therefore, the Lovely Leah is a great candidate for any authoritative job position, considering the fact that she has endless experience. With that being said, Leah Knepper was indeed a fantastic choice of speaker for the Charlotte Tastemaker Summit, and she definitely delivered a wonderful presentation on the day of the event.

Leah Knepper, VP of French West Vaughn, in the middle chair among the panelists, waiting to speak.
Leah Knepper, VP of French West Vaughn, in the middle chair among the panelists, waiting to speak (Photo creds: Michelle Flowers Photography).

1. Tell a compelling story. Consumers prefer brands they can relate to and identify with, brands that have personalities.

2. Become a trusted resource. Provide your customers valuable information, even it isn’t directly related to your product or service. Today’s consumers don’t want to feel like they are constantly being sold to.

3. Reach your customers and prospects when and where they want it. This means finding them and engaging with them where they are in their daily lives.

4. Identify your audience’s influencers. Today’s influencers can be celebrities and other well known figures, mainstream media, local bloggers, and mom groups… or a combination of all these people.

5. Collaborate with complementary businesses and brands. Figure out nontraditional ways to work together that are a win-win for both of you.

Designing Southern Interior

Being a female business owner, an idea that was once rare, is now a growing career that many women are conquering with style, sass, and intellect. With that being said, I would like to introduce to you, Cheryl Luckett. Cheryl Luckett, born and raised in South Mississippi [ a true Black Southern Belle], has a core belief that “everyone deserves to dwell in a place that they absolutely love,” and her business, Dwell by Cheryl Interiors (launched in 2012) makes this belief very affordable and approachable for her clients. Cheryl’s southern soul allows her to see the potential of any space and bring out its charm, all while making it very much functional.

Cheryl received a head-start on design fundamentals, earning a Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Science from Tennessee State University; but interior designer Cheryl Luckett did not stop there. Continuing her education, Cheryl became a Registered Dietitian with her credentials up to date, and she is currently in the process of furthering her education to soon receive her Residential Interior Design Diploma.

Along with her rigorous schedule of running a business and completing her studies, Cheryl also works a daytime job as a Human Resources professional at a Fortune 500 company in Charlotte, North Carolina. With the rapid growth of Dwell by Cheryl Interiors, Cheryl Luckett is a four time recipient of the annual Best of Houzz Award for Design and Customer Satisfaction, and not to mention, having the honor of being amongst the Top 15 Interior Designers in Charlotte by Build Direct in 2015. Cheryl’s work is recognized by features in publications locally and nationally, making an upcoming appearance in the fall in Hoffman Media’s book entitled Southern Spaces: For Beautiful Living.

To wrap up the many achievements that Cheryl Luckett has received and those that she has yet to accomplish, her clients all speak highly of her gift to create a beautiful space on a budget, her professionalism, and her sharpness when it comes to detail.

Self-made Success in North Carolina: Lashawnda Beacoats

You know those inspirational blogs and magazines that make you wonder and increases your curiosity about subjects that you probably never even thought about? Those high-end, top of the line, juicy features online and in print media? Well, this is a force that always has been and always will be around. While some women have careers in the business world as store owners and having great brands, others like to elaborate upon those ideas. But don’t get me wrong, because those behind the scenes business women contribute a huge amount to our outlook on certain things.

The topic of elaboration brings me to the introduction of self-made Lashawnda Beacoats. Lashawnda has been editor-in-chief of Pride magazine of Charlotte, N.C. since the year of 2014; however, she has been empowering women as a certified life coach for years. Lashawnda lives to teach and believe that you should live life for a living, therefore she finds time to pursue her passions of traveling and food throughout her busy schedule. Despite all of her accomplishments, Lashawnda Beacoats can be considered as down to earth because of the way that she connects with people and her community.

As a career startup, Lashawnda enjoyed working with people in the community who needed to be connected with the D&C to share their stories while working as an editorial assistant at The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y.. From there, she spent 11 years as a graphic designer in the Charlotte Observer’s prepress department, but soon realized that she was made for the newsroom.  ALthough her company of business changed, she stayed in the Charlotte region while being a style editor for qcitymetro.com, a news site that was directed a little more towards the African- American community, in the year of 2009.

    In 2011, Lashawnda Beacoats left a significant mark by being so creative, and was named Charlotte editor for Uptown Magazine based in New York City. During her time at Uptown, she exposed to people different geographics that allowed them them to experience something new. Soon after Uptown, legendary Lashawnda moved up as editor-in-chief of Pride magazine in 2014 and have continued to share with her readers mind blowing experiences only at the expense of turning one page at a time.

Lowcountry Floral Frenzy with Stephanie Gibbs

Flowers are used as representations for many things. They are a symbol of beauty, a symbol of life, a symbol of feminism, and so on. Different flowers can have their own significant meanings to different cultures as well. Take the lotus flower for example. The lotus flower is associated with many different cultures from Asia, to Africa, to Europe with different symbolism ranging from association with creation, the afterlife, enlightenment, fertility and sensuality, purity, and health. With flowers having such a huge impact on people and cultures, it is important that these people have access to the flowers that they admire when there is an event, special occasion, or just a gift.




Without further ado, we would like to introduce to you: Stephanie Gibbs, owner of floral event and design business, Stephanie Gibbs Events based in Charleston, South Carolina. Stephanie Gibbs is well-known for her ability to beautify whatever events her clients come to her about  throughout the coast of South Carolina including Charleston areas (where her business is based), Florence, Myrtle Beach, and so on. Stephanie Gibbs Events, formerly Sweet Grass Events, started in 2006 and was recently renamed to its current name in 2015. Even though the name of the company changed, the services have not had a dramatic change [except the fact that they no longer do wedding planning, but can offer referrals]. Stephanie GIbbs has a great history of servicing people through her business and her past job as a hospitality specialist for NOAA Coastal Services Center through the years 2003- 2004.

Image by Sean Money and Elizabeth Fay
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Image by Aneris Photography


Having a green thumb in the garden of glamour, Stephanie Gibbs’ resume is stuffed with experiences from catering, wedding planning, sales and marketing, event planning, decor, and floral design. These aspects allow her to run her business successfully, having been featured on The Wedding Row and a recent feature on Style Me Pretty in 2015. Along with all of this experience, Stephanie received her fundamentals by achieving her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from the University of South Carolina in 2003. From there, Spectacular Stephanie went straight into the workforce, utilizing her degree and building herself to where she is currently.

Stephanie Gibbs insists that, “from planning small private dinner parties for 20ppl with a professional chef to planning large weddings up to 400ppl, I can do it!” (LinkedIn), and by her experience, features, and swift success, it is evident that she certainly can.


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Image by Lyndi J Photography