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Ignite Conference Speakers

Opening Speaker

Rebecca Heiss

Rebecca HeissRebecca knows fear. As an evolutionary biologist and stress expert, Dr. Rebecca Heiss is dedicated to helping us become self-aware and overcome our instinctual limitations – the ancient, often subconscious fears that hold us back from our optimal performance and our happiest lives. Her research has been designated “transformative” by the National Science
Foundation and it is waking up audiences around the world.

As an author of the newly acclaimed book Instinct, founder and CEO of the leadership 360-review mobile application, icueity, and highly sought-after professional speaker, Rebecca has found her calling in helping others recognize the power of biological applications in their lives. A former educator, Dr. Heiss spent much of her earlier career in the classroom at both the high school and college levels and was recruited to be a founding member of an innovative charter school with a focus on entrepreneurial thinking and impact-based learning. Today she shares her work from stages around the world as a full-time speaker and facilitator of her Fearless Accelerator program and Year of Happy – an experience that delivers programming and physical subscription boxes with challenges and community to move otherwise successful people from a state of languishing in “meh” to finally finding HAPPY.

Rebecca’s “fearless” message inspires hope and actionable insights to train our brains to work for us, rather than against us in times of uncertainty. With surprising humor and palpable energy, no matter if Dr. Heiss is delivering virtually or on stage, she wins over her audiences with interactive, inspiring, and timely takeaways.

Rebecca lives in South Carolina with her spoiled rotten dogs named Guinness & Murphy and every day tries to live her life motto: “spread happy.”

Breakout Speakers

Barbara Jo Blain-Bellamy

Mayor Barbara Jo Blain-Bellamy

Holding the office of Mayor of Conway (SC) is among my greatest blessings.  I grew up in poverty and with restrictions placed on me in the ‘Jim Crow’, pre-Civil Rights South, so the likelihood of my becoming a professional anything, a community leader or a contributor to my city’s progress was almost nil.  But, God gave me strong parents and a grandmother who insisted I be my best self and be an independent thinker.  Human angels were placed in my path to teach me crucial life lessons and to encourage and sometimes push me along the way.  The plan was not mine, but I somehow always knew to follow the road that required discipline, duty and risk. 

My undergraduate work was in Sociology and I later earned a graduate degree in Education, entered law school as the least likely student to be admitted or to find success, but I was compelled by barriers to the uneducated and financially challenged in seeking fair relief through the courts.  My education was obtained at the University of South Carolina and the USC School of Law.  I have grown through a twenty year plus career in social work, eighteen years as a lawyer, and always being acutely aware of the plight of others.  I have been a member of the Conway City Council since 1993, and easily accepted responsibility to help make Conway the best it can be for all its people. 

I am not a saint, but I love the Lord- forever crediting Him with everything that ultimately brought me to be with you today.  I love His people, and am proud to describe my life as one of service.  I am married to a very handsome, doting man, and through ours and former marriages, claim parenthood of six children and eight grandchildren.  The youngest and first to grow up in Conway is four-year-old Kennedy, my mini-me, who holds a large portion of my heart.  I love family time, travel, reading, writing, Sudoku puzzles and dancing… and oh yeah, swimming, a skill I gained after my sixtieth birthday.  Enough said!

Brenda Bethune

Mayor Brenda BethuneMayor Brenda Bethune is a native of Myrtle Beach who has always had a sincere passion to serve her community. She owns BJ Investments, a property investment, development and rental company, as well as Magnolia Row Shopping Centre and The Little White Dress Bridal Boutique. She is also the majority owner of Better Brands, Inc. Brenda Bethune offers more than 39 years of business development and management experience. She is a graduate of the Riley Mayors’ Design Fellowship through Clemson University and she serves on the Board of Directors of the Municipal Association of South Carolina. Mayor Bethune has served on many local Boards and is honored to have received the Distinguished Citizens Award from the Pee Dee Council of Boy Scouts of America, the Special Operations Wounded Warriors’ Tip of the Sword Award and the Horry-Georgetown Early Care and Teacher Education’s Champions for Children Award. Bethune was given an award from the Palmetto Leadership Council in recognition of her contributions to South Carolina. Brenda Bethune was first elected in 2017 and was the first female Mayor of Myrtle Beach.

Dr. Julia Brogdon

Dr. Julia Brogdon Dr. Julia Brogdon completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pittsburgh and earned her medical degree from the Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine. She is junior chief resident of the 2023 class of the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency Program in Myrtle Beach.






Dr. Eileen Conaway

Dr. Eileen Conaway Dr. Eileen Conaway earned her medical degree at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her integrated family medicine/neuromusculoskeletal residency at Florida Hospital. Dr. Conaway practices medicine at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road and is associate program director of the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency Program in Myrtle Beach.


Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette

Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette

Pamela Sue Evette of Travelers Rest was elected as the 93rd Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina on November 6, 2018.

Prior to her election as the first female republican lieutenant governor of South Carolina, Evette founded Quality Business Solutions, Inc. (QBS), a payroll, human resources, and benefits services firm headquartered in Travelers Rest. Under her leadership as President and CEO, QBS has grown exponentially, going from start-up to earning a spot on the Inc. 5000 listing of the nation’s fastest growing small businesses. Her company has also been repeatedly honored among the fastest growing and best places to work in the State of South Carolina. 

Evette has been the recipient of numerous business and professional accolades, including the ATHENA Leadership Award®, which honors individuals who assist women in reaching their full leadership potential and provide community service; the Women’s Presidents Organization/American Express 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies Award; and being honored as a member of the Impact 50, an annual ranking of the most powerful women leaders of Inc. 5000 companies. She is also a sought-after public speaker and nationally published author.

A trained accountant and former CFO, with many years serving in a financial capacity at a wide range of organizations, Evette has demonstrated a keen focus on driving customer growth and a deep understanding of the regulatory issues and challenges facing small and medium sized businesses.

Based on her years of experience in handling small business compliance, Evette was appointed to serve as a member of South Carolina’s Small Business Regulatory Review Committee, which is charged with reviewing and supporting or challenging proposed regulations that might impact small businesses’ ability to start-up, operate effectively or grow within the state.

Evette has always been passionate about and focused on improving educational performance in the community, assisting the elderly and the young – especially those facing illness, and helping small- and women-owned businesses. She serves on the boards of directors of the St Francis Foundation (affiliated with Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital) and the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), where she is also an emeritus member of the state legislative committee.

A native of Ohio, Evette is the granddaughter of Polish immigrants. Her parents, Jennie and Emil Gajoch, were first generation Americans who taught her the value of hard work and the importance of civic duty and giving back. Evette holds a Bachelors of Business Administration in accounting from Cleveland State University.

Evette and her husband David, COO of QBS, attend Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Taylors. The Evettes have three children, Amanda, 22, Joseph, 20, and Jackson, 11.

Dr. Jessica Greene

Dr. Jessica Greene

Dr. Jessica Greene is a private practice clinician on the Grand Strand. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in general psychology from Northcentral University where she defended her dissertation entitled, "Lived Experiences of Black College Women and Their Use of Support Services on Campus."  

She is a member of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, chair of Leadership Grand Strand, and vice chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. In addition, she is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and Junior League of the Grand Strand and was honored as a 2021 ChangeMakers in the Grand Strand by Multiplying Good (the parent organization of the Jefferson Award). Dr. Greene works with clients of all ages and specializes in mental health, anxiety, and depression using the approaches ranging from cognitive behavioral therapy to faith-based counseling.  

Alex Husner

Alex Husner Alex has led the strategic marketing and business development efforts for Condo-World since 2009. She manages a team that has grown the company from a local vacation rental management business based in the Myrtle Beach area into a nationally recognized condo marketing and technology enterprise. Alex has a passion for developing strategies that drive sales overnight and brand over time, connecting all aspects of digital, social and traditional marketing to keep Condo-World at the forefront of their highly competitive market.  

Alex is actively involved with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB, currently serving as Chair of the Board of Directors and previously as a Board Member since 2016. She also served as Board Member for Destination North Myrtle Beach from 2013 – 2018.

Alex also co-hosts Alex & Annie: The Real Women of Vacation Rentals podcast with Annie Holcombe. Awarded to the “Top 30 Hospitality Podcasts” by the Global Hospitality Institute, Alex & Annie are frequently asked to speak at vacation and short-term rental events across the country. 

Amanda Masterpaul 

Amanda Masterpaul With more than 20 years’ experience in academia, nonprofit work, and business development, Amanda Masterpaul is a synergist and changemaker dedicated to co-creating visions and solutions embedded in community well-being, equity, and radical imagination. As an artist-activist-educator, she has organized community-centered partnerships and civic engagement efforts addressing areas such as gender equity, LGBTQ+ia equality, racial justice, and housing security. Amanda is co-founder of the Passion for the Possible Professional + Leadership Development team and is a Lecturer in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Coastal Carolina University. She currently serves on the Human Rights Commission for the City of Myrtle Beach and is on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council for the MBACC.



Alfreda Small

Alfreda Small

Alfreda Small is a Myrtle Beach, SC native who is known for her service to both her country and her community. After receiving her bachelor's degree in social science from Charleston Southern University, Alfreda joined the South Carolina National Guard. While in the military, she completed her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Webster University. Alfreda began her career as a licensed professional counselor while completing her 6-year term as a sergeant in the military. 

She worked for S.C. Dept. of Mental Health, and in 2020 she launched Small Counseling and Wellness, LLC in Conway, SC. At her practice, Alfreda is certified complex trauma professional and is committed to supporting adolescents and adults who are struggling with both the emotional and psychological effects of trauma. 

Alfreda believes that each person is an individual with struggles and triumphs no one can understand but themselves. She values diversity and adheres to her mission and core values. She believes that each and every human being is capable of creating a life worth celebrating. She strives to provide a safe, compassion-centered home for healing and growth, and she is dedicated to living this mission in all that she does. 




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Webster University wins nonprofit of the month
August 12, 2022

Webster University Named August Nonprofit Of The Month

Meet our August Nonprofit of the Month sponsored by South Atlantic Bank.

Congratulations LGS Class XLIII
August 11, 2022

The 43rd Class Of Leadership Grand Strand Graduates

Leadership Grand Strand (LGS) will hold a graduation ceremony for its 43nd program class and bestow 33 Grand Strand residents with a coveted LGS diploma.