People To Watch

By Jodi Werner Greenwald | Photos Little Nest Portraits Studio

Ballantyne is a community on the rise, and so are its people. Across industries, they have big plans and a vision for what comes next. With input from professionals in property management, journalism, social media, community relations, marketing and design, we have selected 12 people who represent to us the future of Ballantyne.


Greg Nivens

Age: 54

President and Founder, Drink Eat Relax Events

Yes, he responds to Phil Flash, too. Greg Nivens grew up in Charlotte and was in the band Phil Flash and the Trenchcoats. You may recognize him for wearing colorful, usually patterned suits.

He’s also known for throwing events that entertain more than 100,000 people annually. Four of his festivals — Beer, Bourbon & BBQ, Tacos ‘N Taps, Das Best Oktoberfest and Whiskey, Wine & Fire — will be held in Ballantyne’s Backyard this year. “The whole sense of neighborhood in Ballantyne . . .  is just great, especially for events like ours,” he says.

Jenn Andrews

Age: 37

Executive Director and Co-Founder, Move for Jenn Foundation

“Move Because You Can.”

In 2018, health and wellness coach Jenn Andrews said these words, pleading with friends and family via a Facebook Live video to do physical movement on March 12 in her honor. That was the day of her right foot amputation due to sarcoma. Since then, her request has led to a movement and the Move for Jenn Foundation.

“Regaining mobility after losing a limb to cancer was a huge priority for me,” she says.

Now, Andrews hosts events such as the Pajamas All Day road race in Blakeney and a golf tournament at TPC Piper Glen, raising money to help other amputees pay for prosthetics, which often are not covered by insurance.

“I pour my heart and soul into showing others that they can do and survive hard things,” she says.

She also walks the walk. Six months post-amputation, she ran a 5K race. One year afterward, she ran a 10K. “I have run farther in a running blade and one foot than I ever did on two feet!”

Natalie Allen

Age: 55

Founder and CEO, The Arts Empowerment Project

What gets Natalie Allen out of bed every morning is a drive to impact the lives of children and families. Her nonprofit, The Arts Empowerment Project, increases access to the visual and performing arts and culture as vehicles to spark opportunity, creativity, social justice, respect and resilience.

“Breaking the cycles of violence and trauma are more critical than most people realize. It’s not just underserved kids we need to reach, but all kids are vulnerable at one point or another. …

“The more we empower all of our kids with the tools they need to thrive — self-esteem, empathy and social-emotional learning skills — the brighter our collective futures will be,” she says.

A lawyer, artist and long-time Ballantyne resident, Allen says she is most excited about her community’s potential. “Smart, strategic growth is bound to spark enhanced cultural and innovative opportunities.”

She made history in July 2020 by becoming the first African American woman to chair the Mint Museum’s board of trustees, a post she holds through June 2022.

“Not too bad for a girl from Queens, NY, now living in the Queen City,” she says.

Dean Thevaos

Age: 43

Chief Technology Officer, CrossCountry Mortgage

Charlotte native Dean Thevaos is a rising talent in the financial technology market. He has lived in Ballantyne for 16 years and worked here the last 10.

Thevaos and his team create customer-facing technology and software. They recently opened a new technology hub in Ballantyne and continue to hire software developers.

“I’m motivated by helping customers meet their financial needs through technology, whether it’s a mortgage to buy their dream home or to better understand their credit situation and find options to meet their immediate short-term financial needs,” he says.

In the future, he thinks, “With Northwood’s redevelopment plan and the talent that exists here, we will see Ballantyne become increasingly attractive to businesses, whether they want to open a new tech hub or relocate their HQ.

“Keep an eye out for the next generation of founders and technology startups being drawn to the area or starting right here in our backyard,” he says.

Kenty Chung

Age: 29

Food and Beverage Photographer

South Charlotte resident Kenty Chung’s Instagram page will make your mouth water. That’s intentional. As CEO (chief eating officer) of @kenty_eats, his goal is to help local businesses by sharing beautiful photos of their food.

Right now, he also works as an operations supervisor at a distribution center, but his goal is to turn his photography business into a full-time gig. The community, and his future, serve as his motivations.

“As a native Charlottean, I have seen this city grow tremendously, and we’re just getting started.”

Food often surrounds him, so it’s a good thing one of his life’s mottos is “eat to train and train to eat.”

“As much as I love devouring food, I equally enjoy working out. I work out five to six days a week and do my best to get at least 10,000 steps a day,” he says.