2016 Rising Star Award Winner:

Penny Benkeser, Owner and President, SERVPRO NW Charlotte
Penny helps people regain control of their property following a disaster so they can put their lives and businesses back together – Like it never even happened.® The idea to start a SERVPRO franchise was born when Penny experienced damage from a water intrusion in her own home and saw first hand the chaos it created – and the need to have someone help
restore calm.

Her company helps clean up property damage caused by fire, water or mold – and includes a construction company that helps put it all back together again. After opening in May 2012 as the smallest SERVPRO franchise in Charlotte and surrounding areas, she has since lead her team to become one of the fastest growing SERVPRO franchises across the U.S. with a 737% cumulative growth rate in her first 3 years of business.

Penny has been setting goals and smashing them since first grade. A favorite family story recounts Penny setting an eye-opening goal of reading 500 books for a first grade book reading contest. She finished by exceeding her goal having read 536 books. When her Mom had to verify with the principal that she had indeed read the books, she learned her first lesson in challenging pre-conceived expectations. It’s a lesson that remains with her today and has paid dividends throughout her life.

Penny believes that business success comes from creating a strong company culture. Prior to starting a business, Penny spent 20 years in the financial services industry building high performing teams by creating and defending a culture based on integrity, attitude, work ethic and teamwork. Those core values are present today in her SERVPRO team and serve as the basis for all hiring (and firing!) decisions.

A native of South Carolina, Penny earned a BS in Business Administration from the College of Charleston and embraces her southern heritage – especially the fried chicken and sweet tea. She is an avid book reader (still!), wine drinker and proud owner of two poorly trained dogs named Ike and Maverick. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and two daughters where the best family time is spent around the supper table.


Congratulations to our 2 Rising Star Award Finalists:

Crystal CliffCrystal Cliff, Phoenix Moon Acupuncture & Apothecary

Crystal received her Associates of Applied Science in Law Enforcement Technology from Central Piedmont Community College and began her service career as a police officer with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department where she proudly served in the David One and David Two districts. Additionally, she assisted in firearms instruction as a Range Safety Officer and was the Volunteer Unit Coordinator.  From 1993-2006 she was also an Emergency Medical Technician and served briefly as a member of Matthews Rescue and EMS.

In 2004, while completing of her Bachelor of Science in Biology from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Crystal attended Southeastern School of Neuromuscular and Massage Therapy. She was hired immediately upon graduation from Southeastern School as an Instructor in Anatomy and Physiology/Pathology, Swedish Massage, and Neuromuscular Therapy and was the Community Outreach Coordinator and a Student Clinic supervisor until 2010.  From 2005-2010 she was the CEO/Owner of WhyKnot Massage, a groundbreaking massage therapy company which provided seated chair massage and sports massage at various venues, offices and events in the Charlotte area, and was also the owner of CNC Massage Therapy, her private massage therapy practice specializing in endurance athletes and public service personnel. During this time, she gained tremendous experiential insight into the body and its natural healing abilities.

Crystal received her Masters of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in 2013 from Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts in Asheville, NC. Currently, she is a tutor in the BioWestern Sciences Department of Daoist Traditions, is part-time faculty at Isothermal Community College in Tryon, NC, and is a guest instructor at South Piedmont Community College, Southeastern Institute, and the NC School of Advanced Bodywork, all within the Charlotte area.

Crystal is the owner of Phoenix Moon Acupuncture & Apothecary located in the Chantilly neighborhood of Charlotte. Crystal is considered to be the leader in diverse, blending healing as evidenced through her 5 Elements of Wellness™ healing model, which she created from her vast educational and experiential wisdom. Although treating all general issues, Crystal’s specialties include auto-immune disorders, psycho-neurological disorders, and cardiovascular disorders (particularly post-chemotherapy and post-radiation cardiac anomalies). She is currently researching the effects of trauma in the creation of autoimmune disorders using Wave Theory, Biophysics, and Chinese Medicine. She has also developed a treatment theory to correlate these aspects and is working with physicist Marco Scipioni, PhD, in theory development, evidence-based research, and application.

Crystal, a native Charlottean, is an avid runner (trail and road), foodie, blues and bluegrass aficionado and enjoys performing vocally in the Charlotte area through the School of Rock.


Brandy Milazzo, Owner and Partner Milazzo Schaffer Webb Law, PLLC
As one of the firm’s principal owners, Brandy focuses her practice on the areas of mergers and acquisitions, technology, supply chain and outsourcing transactions, and other general corporate work, such as corporate organization or dissolution.  She represents numerous clients on the legality of online promotions and negotiates commercial contracts for large financial institutions and global media and entertainment companies. As a skilled negotiator, she has successfully conducted sales of a division of a concrete company, and a minor league sports team, as well as the acquisition of a software company.

During the last few years, Brandy has had the honor and privilege of being the recipient of numerous distinguished awards including the 2012 NC Bar and Girl Scouts Raising the Bar Award, the Girl Scouts Thanks Badge, being named one of the 50 Most Influential Women of 2013 by The Mecklenburg Times, a 2013 Distinguished Rotarian by the Rotary Club of Charlotte-Evening, a North Carolina Rising Star by Super Lawyers magazine, recipient of the 2015 Charlotte Business Journal’s “40 Under 40”, 2015 and 2016 Top Super Lawyers & Best Lawyers in North Carolina and 2016 Business North Carolina Legal Elite.

As for her academic background, she earned a J.D., cum laude, from the University of South Carolina, along with a M.I.B.S. from the Darla Moore School of Business. She also attended Campbell University, receiving a B.A., summa cum laude, in 1997 with a pre-law/government major and French minor.

During graduate school, Brandy lived in Paris and worked for a technology company for approximately one year, hence her fluency in French. After spending 12 years in the big law firms as a corporate lawyer, she ventured out in August, 2013, with two female colleagues from the big law firms to open Milazzo Schaffer Webb Law, PLLC. Since then, the firm has grown to include 13 attorneys and 6 staff members encompassing various legal practice areas. She’s very proud of the firm’s accomplishments in just a few short years.  As the firm continues to grow, she’s further committed to providing the exceptional service within the highest standards that their clients have come to expect.