48, president and CEO,
UNC Chapel Hill, B.A.
When Ashburn first asked her father, Oscar Wong, for a job at his brewery, he turned her down, citing lack of experience. She figured out how the business world worked, then joined the family company in 2011 and became president four years later. She has kept the state’s largest craft-brewer, now topping 40,000 barrels a year, on a steady expansion path amid exploding competition. Ashburn, who has a journalism degree from UNC Chapel Hill, was a semi-finalist for the coveted James Beard Foundation brewer award last year.
What is North Carolina’s key challenge?
Education. Can we carry through from K-12 to fill current and emerging employment needs from trade to tech? And how can we best inspire and prepare future generations to tackle climate, agriculture and health?
Share an insight about your community.
Ashevillians share a pursuit for quality of life. The Asheville community pulled through decades of debt from the Great Depression and rebuilt itself into a thriving city that offers natural wonders and deep connections to craft —– in art, music, food and beverage.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I jumped out of an airplane once, and I’ve played dozens of volleyball tournaments from Michigan to New York to Florida. Three of them were in mud.
Key 2018 accomplishment?
Highland’s brand refresh, launched in February, aligned our brand with our beer and ignited our team to continue creating a path in N.C. brewing. We’re celebrating our first 25 years this year.
What advice do you offer newcomers?
I ensure that we share our 10 core attributes, which our management team developed and believes in. As a small, family-owned company, alignment in values is more important here than at a large corporation because we see each other daily, and we can feel the effects of each person’s work.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I most enjoy seeing our beer bring people together — whether to celebrate or
commiserate, great beer makes it easier.