Move over old businessmen. Meet the 2 women in their early 30s who are defining Charlotte culture

Move over old businessmen. Meet the 2 women in their early 30s who are defining Charlotte culture
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Charlotte’s culture has long been defined by old businessmen who have put their wealth, tastes and energy into our city. These men have been incredibly generous and I’m thankful for their leadership.

But Charlotte is changing.

A new class of leaders is emerging and defining our city’s culture. This doesn’t happen overnight, but make no mistake, it’s happening.

The two emerging leaders having the biggest impact on Charlotte are women in their early 30s.

Mary Ellen Player, 33, is our Google Fiber city manager. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and has her MBA from Stanford. She’s worked at Google for over six years and leads the Google Fiber initiative in Charlotte.

Sarah Taylor Brigham, 32, is a founder/owner of Sycamore Brewing. The brewery has experienced unbelievable success and with Sarah’s leadership, the brewery pivoted to a taproom strategy early in its existence and has become the go-to place for young Charlotte.

Both of these young women lead large, complex organizations.

They also manage physical spaces that have become cultural centers of our city.

sycamore anniversary

Food Truck Friday at Sycamore Brewing

It’s important for Charlotte to understand the tastes and passions of both Mary Ellen and Sarah.


Because these women are shaping the way that thousands of young, smart, energetic Charlotteans experience their city.

Who Mary Ellen and Sarah are as people matters. It’s people that drive cities forward, not cranes.

10 questions with Mary Ellen Player


Mary Ellen Player with her former boss from Google’s NYC Marketing office. via Instagram

Favorite outside space? Tie: First Ward Park and McGill Rose Garden.

Local leader that inspires you? Jess George. I get to see up close how her passion for equity and justice brings Charlotteans from every reach of our city to the tables from which they have been excluded.

Political party? Democratic.

Local issue you’re passionate about? Access! — to the internet, to rooms where decisions are made, to capital, to resources, to mentors and sponsors.

Business issue you’re most passionate about? Diversity in the leadership of our corporations, our non-profits, and our civic organizations is incredibly important to me. It just doesn’t happen magically.

Underrated restaurant? 7th Street Public Market in general. Super fantastic coffee and great food. It’s practically my second home.

Church? Caldwell Presbyterian.

What do you look for when you hire? In the age of Googling, there is no excuse for lack of preparation and no such thing as over-preparation. Research and be smart on the role, the industry and the company.

What’s the biggest barrier to Charlotte becoming a world class city? Great cities are true melting pots, where every race, creed and class interacts with each other in every aspect of life — at work, at home, at school and at play.

Advice? Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not pushing hard enough.

10 questions with Sarah Taylor Brigham


Sarah Taylor Brigham with her husband Justin.

Favorite outside space? Freedom Park.

Another local leader that inspires you? Corri Smith, she’s got the drive to get anything done.

Your neighborhood? Sedgefield.

Political party? Independent.

Local issue you’re most passionate about? Improving the quality of our schools is the single best long-term investment we can possibly make in our city.

Business strategy you think about the most? Marketing to potential customers effectively and retaining our existing customers, this is the life blood of any business.

Most underrated Charlotte restaurant? The Asbury.

Roadtrip? Blowing Rock.

What do you look for when you hire? Resilience.

What’s the biggest barrier to Charlotte becoming a world class city? Walkability and access to public transit. We’re getting there in a few neighborhoods but there is more work to be done.

Charlotte is in need of the next generation leadership and whether they mean to or not, it’s exciting to see Mary Ellen and Sarah fill the void.

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