Thought Leaders

Meet our Thought Leaders! Experience the Power of Collective Knowledge at REBarcampRDU! Dive into immersive sessions where today’s real estate thought leaders generously volunteer their time and expertise. 

This Year’s Thought Leaders

REBarcampRDU is thrilled to welcome this year’s cohort of thought leaders! Every year, we’re amazed by the depth of knowledge and passion our speakers bring, and this year is no exception.  These professionals come together to share, inspire, and elevate the industry. Whether you’re new to the field or a seasoned expert, REBarcampRDU offers an unparalleled opportunity to learn, network, and grow.

Join us for a transformative experience as these industry visionaries share their insights, challenges, and vision for the future. We can’t wait to learn, grow, and be inspired together at REBarcampRDU!

Jennifer Jones

Broker, Real Properties / Keller Williams Preferred | REBarCampRDU Committee Member


My husband and I moved to Raleigh in 2006. We instantly fell in love with this wonderful city. Our Raleigh family means the world to us, and we are passionate about the relationships we have developed here.

I spend my free time with my husband and my two children. Traveling, lounging on the beach, and enjoying the Raleigh foodie scene are three of my favorite activities.

Sincerity and gratitude are at the heart of everything I do, I like being the resource for people who are making the largest financial decision of their lives. I see value in what I can bring to them and in how I can help them. Their appreciation means everything to me. That’s my whole world, in terms of work; being able to help someone.

started my career in real estate in 2008 after a broker friend of mine suggested I give it a try. I initially resisted, but her persistence prevailed. I joined her firm and have never looked back! After 6 years though, I decided I needed more.  I wanted to elevate the value we provide to the client.

In 2014, my partner and I opened our own boutique agency. We really market ourselves as a white-glove service company. We’re less about the numbers as far as hiring brokers, and much more about the quality of the service we provide.

I cherish the relationships that I form with clients and those relationships transcend the closing table. Keeping in touch with our past clients is paramount to me. Every holiday I send a card, and every week I’m writing thank you notes and birthday cards. Everything is highly personalized.

Nina Gervase

Luxury ICON Realtor @ eXp Realty LLC | REBarCampRDU Committee Member


Nina Gervase has been a realtor for over 6 years in the Triangle area. She is active on various social media platforms with coaching videos for clients. Nina is also a mentor and coach to other agents. She believes in empowering people through knowledge so that they build confidence to make bold moves!

Like many people in this area, Nina is a transplant from the north. “I have lived in Cary, North Carolina since 2010 and since then I have networked extensively with businesses and folks throughout the Triangle to help newcomers (& locals alike) have access to the best of everything they may need.

My mantra: Live local, shop local and help build a better local community! (It also helps reduce our carbon footprint! Super important if we want the Earth to exist for generations to come!)”

Vanessa Mouton

Realtor® | Marketer | Coach | REBarCampRDU Committee Member


With a 20-year career spanning Realtor®, Team Co-Founder, and Broker-In-Charge roles, Vanessa brings a deep understanding of the real estate landscape and an unwavering passion for helping others thrive in this dynamic industry.

She’s back in sales now with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices York Simpson Underwood Realty in Morrisville, NC and also coaches with Blue Wolf Coaching. Her mission is simple: find the joy in the work you do! Both with her sellers/buyers & her coaching clients. She achieves this by combining strategic marketing expertise, effective coaching, and a positive, solution-oriented approach.

Her core values include:

  • Making a difference.
  • Building a solid foundation.
  • Lifelong learning
  • Collaboration over competition
  • Having FUN!

Beyond REBarCamp RDU:

  • Vanessa actively contributes as a 2024 REBarCamp-RDU Committee Member (her second year now) co-creating a successful event focused on community learning.
  • Independently, she has a 2024 mission to “Shine” and is focused on spreading positivity and inspiration through a range of initiatives, including a podcast coming up for Agents.

Her Specialties: Real Estate, Coaching, Marketing, Personal Branding, Social Media.

Steve Thorne

REBarCampRDU Committee Member


I am privileged to work with my wife, Eleanor, at Advantage Lending, in an area we both love. When my family moved to Cary in 1968 the population was around 7600. Today, we are the seventh largest metropolitan area in the state with a population of over 180,000! Eleanor and I met at Cary High School, and we remember when Kildaire Farm Road had a couple of FARMS on it and the Cary Parkway was just a good idea.

We work together as a Team, and as such, I handle most of the logistics of buying a home for our clients. We know that for many people, it’s extremely hard to buy a house. Even though it is still one of the best ways to build generational wealth, it’s become, for some, very difficult to achieve.

We take a holistic approach when speaking with Buyers who are often moving here, with very little knowledge of the area. Simply put, we want to help others create the financial strategy that allows them to live life to the fullest. That requires that together we establish goals, define priorities and determine what’s most important to them.

On any given hour of a day, mortgage lending experiences subtle shifts that can create huge forces of change for our customers. We are dedicated to a life of continually educating ourselves in the broad areas of economics, politics and financial planning… and of course we stay on top of the Mortgage Industry News too!

Amy Shair

Licensed Realtor NC with Exp Realty | REBarCampRDU Committee Member


In addition to her duties as a Committee Leader of REBarcampRDU, Amy is also on the Board of Directors for Durham Regional Association of Realtors. She’s the Former Co-Chair and a current member of RRAR Top Producers Council, and believes in building a stronger Real Estate community for all.

“WIth over 25 years of Real Estate experience in the Triangle, Amy also recognizes the critical importance of marketing and is “tech-savvy to the core.” She uses social media, virtual live showings, video, and digital photography to help buyers and sellers get the most out of today’s real estate opportunities. For sellers, Amy’s marketing expertise will ensure your house will sell fast for top dollar. Most importantly, Amy’s reputation in the local Realtor community and her deep knowledge of the home selling process makes a difference to get your home from under contract to closed.”

Heather Gower

Realtor Coldwell Banker Advantage


Introducing Heather Gower, your friendly neighborhood REALTOR® and Broker extraordinaire! With her full concierge service, Heather doesn’t just sell houses—she creates real estate magic! Whether you’re diving into your first home purchase or ready to upgrade to your dream home, Heather’s got your back from start to finish and all the exciting bits in between.

But wait, there’s more! Heather isn’t just a pro at closing deals; she’s also your go-to real estate guru and educator. Need help deciphering the mysteries of the housing market? Heather’s got the inside scoop and is ready to spill the beans!

When it comes to negotiations, Heather is the queen of the table. With her savvy skills and charming demeanor, she’ll have you getting the best deal in town faster than you can say “sold!”

Outside of the real estate world, you’ll find Heather embracing her inner equestrian and soaking up the sunshine. After all, who needs stress when you’ve got horses?

As a Coldwell Banker Advantage REALTOR® and a member of the Coldwell Banker International Sterling Society, Heather is no stranger to success. Plus, as a Short Sale and Foreclosure Specialist, Home Partners of America agent, and certified Ninja Selling agent, she’s got all the tools to make your real estate dreams come true!

So, if you’re ready for a light-hearted, stress-free real estate journey with a touch of magic, Heather Gower is the REALTOR® for you!

Jessie Hrivnak

Real Estate Advisor | The Coley Group


Jessie entered her Real Estate career with a desire for connection and making a real impact on her clients. She quickly realized that the human element was key to success in this industry, and she has since used it to foster strong relationships with those who turn to her for help. Jessie’s ability to connect with people on an individual level is what sets her apart from other agents; she gets an understanding of each person’s goals before helping them reach them.

Through hard work and dedication, Jessie has closed over 400 transactions totaling at more than $100 million in sales – figures that speak volumes about the quality of service she provides. Her direct approach ensures every client understands what they need to do to achieve their desired outcome while also feeling supported throughout the process by someone who truly cares about their best interests. Jessie also serves as a Mentor and Team Leader for new agents entering into Real Estate. Jessie works diligently towards building confidence within these individuals so they can have long-term success in this field as well.

It goes without saying that when it comes down to buying or selling homes there are many factors involved – but at its core lies one single ingredient: trust between agent and client which is something Jessie takes very seriously no matter how big or small the transaction may be. With years of experience under her belt combined with genuine care for others’ needs, it should come as no surprise why so many people choose Jessie time after time when seeking assistance from a professional real estate agent.

Mackenzie Sottini

Realtor| Educator | Mentor


Mackenzie shares her passion, grit and kindness to help others reach their full potential. She started her real estate career as a transaction coordinator after a 20 year career in teaching.

In her first year of real estate as a full time agent she sold 50 homes on her team in Raleigh, NC. Using her education background and passion to mentor, instruct and coach, she helped grow the team from 12 to 60 agents in 2 years with $378 million in sales volume in 2022.

Fast forward to 2023, Mackenzie is spearheading the expansion of Capital to Coast Realty brokered by eXp Realty alongside her partner, Pam Saxman. Their mission? Cultivate a team of servant leaders and community advocates while providing top-tier service to real estate clients.

Mackenzie’s goal is to show everyone they have the power to create the life they want. It is her goal to share stories, videos and people who will help anyone BELIEVE in themselves and take small daily actions to create BIG results.

Duane Cotton

Builder | Author | Speaker | Podcaster


After growing his HVAC business from one truck and 1 employee, (himself) to an 18-truck, 21 employee multimillion dollar busines, he ventured into the real estate industry, specializing in house flipping.

He found success in the area of house flipping and eventually sold his HVAC Company in 2007 and started building career just in time for the housing crash.

In 2010 he was asked to participate in the television show, Extreme Makeover Home Edition in the Virginia Beach Area. As a business owner himself, and with his experience throughout the trades industry, Duane understands the obstacles small businesses face and is passionate to offer other businesses growth solutions.

He does this in a variety of ways by using his gifts and experiences. Moreover, he continues to invest in real estate and build/renovate a variety of properties, including houses and commercial buildings.

Phil Stringer

A.I. Efficiency Coach | International Speaker⁣⁣ | Real Estate COO


COO at Jason Bramblett Real Estate, Phil Stringer, Hit Amazon Best-Seller List with Six-Figure Agent. Phil Stringer, along with a select group of gifted agents and other leading Real Estate professionals from around the world.

On the day of release, Six-Figure Agent climbed the ranks of the Amazon best-seller charts, securing an impressive #7 in the competitive Buying and Selling Homes category. Not stopping there, it also triumphed in two additional esteemed categories: Marketing and Entrepreneurship, solidifying its place as a multi-faceted best-seller.

Phil Stringer’s chapter, “The Seven Baby Steps To Productivity,” has helped the book reach optimal best-seller placement and will help readers gain similar success in their endeavors.

About Phil

Phil Stringer’s career started when he moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, needing to care for himself and his expenses at a young age. He founded one of the first online arbitrage businesses, buying and selling products through a nationwide network he created. At 17, he was generating six figures with what he had taught himself about sales and marketing.

At 18, Phil started his formal sales career with General Electric. He was named the Top Sales Agent worldwide by the end of his first full year with the company.

Over the last 15 years, Phil has honed his sales, team building, coaching, and business skills, being hired as the COO at one of North Carolina’s most successful real estate brokerages. Phil coaches agents across the nation, helping them to achieve their goals by becoming better salespeople.

Phil recently created a study program called “How Do I Pass?” that helps North Carolina real estate students pass the national and state exam easily on the first try. Phil has created a network of agents to coach and support; this system is expanding, with real estate schools all over the country looking to partner with his brand.

Jay Kinder, Top 10 Revenue Share Earner at eXp Realty, and Former #2 Agent Worldwide at Coldwell Banker, had this to say of him: “Phil exploded onto the real estate scene and quickly established himself as one of the most influential resources in the game. He possesses the vision and skills needed to take agents to the next level…”

Phil has a passion for music. Singing and leading worship at local churches is one of the things he cherishes most, but his greatest joy is being a father to his three kids, Nora, Hudson, and Mila.

Paul Kane

Executive Vice President/CEO at Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County


Experienced Executive Vice President with a demonstrated history of working in the construction industry. Skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Land Development, Negotiation, Budgeting, and Government. Strong business development professional with a Doctor of Law (J.D.) focused in Law from University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Prior to coming to the Raleigh Homebuilders Association almost 9 years ago, Paul served as teh Executive Vice President and CEO of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Home Builders Association.

When not at the HBA, Paul loves spending time with his wife and three children. His favorite hobby is woodworking. In fact, he built the very cribs his children slept in as infants.

Valerie Garcia

Speaker Consultant Encourager


It’s been said that learning is 5% information and 95% encouragement. I agree.

I am an international speaker and consultant who works with entrepreneurs and businesses to help them grow and improve.

Focusing on the importance of leading with joy, marketing like a human, and growth in the midst of change, I am known for delivering encouragement and truth with my signature straightforward style and sense of humor.

I have worked with brands such as RE/MAX, Sotheby’s, Century 21, and Berkshire Hathaway, led leadership workshops for Duke University, Carnegie, and Rotary International, and consulted with clients in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia. With over 20 years of experience inspiring, motivating, and educating sales and marketing professionals, my audiences are challenged to question the traditional methods of marketing and find new ways to connect with their customers.

I love helping risk-takers and doers create things that matter.

MeiLani Hock

Author Speaker and Coach


MeiLani left the 9-5 life and created Hock Homes, a real estate investment company. For years they focused on flipping houses and new construction

along with building their long term rental portfolio. They saw the future of hospitality and real estate merging and hopped on board and opened 4

Airbnbs in four months and were hooked! They have continued to add, evaluate, shut down Airbnbs ever since.

MeiLani now coaches others on how to Start and Scale their Airbnb business using their property or others, to add a different stream of income to anyone’s lifestyle.

In addition to real estate, MeiLani is passionate about living life intentionally so you have time for the things that matter most in your life. She is a strong advocate

That in order to get the lifestyle you want, you have to be efficient with your time.

MeiLani also runs the podcast “Why NOT Me? Academy,” which focuses on inspiring people to stop talking about their dreams and actually take action to DO them

Sean Carpenter

Speaker Coach Realtor


Originally licensed as a REALTOR® in 1998, Sean Carpenter is the former Agent Development Director for the Ohio NRT companies. He jumped back into a sales role with Coldwell Banker serving buyers and sellers throughout Central Ohio. He founded Sean Speaks in 2018 to expand his speaking, consulting, and facilitation opportunities. His most popular sessions focus on creating memorable customer experiences, maximizing social and digital media, as well as business planning, leadership and sales.

Previously recognized by Inman News as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Leaders in Real Estate, Sean was named as one of the “Top 20 Most Influential People in Social Media for the real estate industry” by The Swanepoel Report for the third year in a row. Sean is a former recipient of the Joseph McKinnon Award from the Columbus Realtors, given annually to the Instructor of the Year. Sean’s mission is to “teach with passion and enthusiasm instilling confidence and excitement in his students,” and he lives by his philosophy – build relationships, solve problems and have fun.

Jeremy Blanton

Realtor Youtuber Myrtle Beach


Jeremy Blanton lives in the Myrtle Beach, SC area and graduated from Coastal Carolina University with a degree in Business Management, focusing on resort tourism. Shortly after, he obtained his real estate license in 2001 to join his father’s successful team in Myrtle Beach. Together, they became one of the top real estate teams.

Jeremy then transitioned to ActiveRain as a community builder in 2009, where he significantly contributed to its growth, helping to grow the community to over 200,000 members worldwide.As his time at ActiveRain came to an end, he founded 210 Consulting- Social Media Advisors, specializing in teaching real estate agents the benefits of social media and online marketing. He has become a renowned social media speaker, working with major corporations and real estate associations across the country.

After his father’s passing in 2014, Jeremy returned to the real estate business full time in Myrtle Beach, committed to maintaining high service standards and leveraging his online marketing expertise to assist clients. As a full-time, full-service REALTOR®, Jeremy focuses on various property types and has earned recognition as a Top Producer in his area by leveraging his YouTube channel effectively, which now accounts for over 75% of his current business.

Besides his professional life, Jeremy enjoys golfing, spending time with his family, and continues to be a valuable resource for those looking to buy or sell homes in the Myrtle Beach area.

Joe Prillaman

Realtor, Real Estate Investor, Short Term Property Specialist


Joe started investing in Short Term Property Listings in 2017. He’s located in Carolina Beach, and has properties all over the State. His personal holdings include Short term, long term and mid term rentals at Carolina Beach, Fayetteville, Chapel Hill, Winston Salem and Banner Elk.

He’s mentored others, openly encouraging young entreprenuers to aggressively live life as Real Estate Investors, and manages short term Properties. With over 25 properties in his portfolio, Joe and his wife Michelle have a clear picture for their future, with plans to expand into other States and Markets.

Shawn Gerald

Lifestyle International Realty , State President NC/SC


Shawn Gerald, a dedicated Charlotte native whose path of service and sales began when I proudly served in the United States Marine Corps from 1989 until 1993. After my service, I embarked on a career that would leverage my commitment to excellence, ultimately leading me into the real estate industry in 2017. In January 2022, I founded Queen City House Hunters, channeling my passion and experience into creating a firm that stands out in our vibrant community. Today, as a Broker Owner and Managing Partner of one of the largest minority-owned brokerages in North and South Carolina, Lifestyle International Realty, I partner in four dynamic offices with an incredible team of over 100 agents and growing. As the state president for North and South Carolina for Lifestyle International Realty, I am committed to shaping a promising future for real estate in our region, setting new standards of excellence, growth and client satisfaction. My journey has been driven by a dedication to serving my clients and community with integrity and professionalism. I strive to deliver value and exceptional service, making the dreams of Homeownership and investment a reality for many. Let’s embark on your real estate journey together. Whether you’re buying, selling, or investing, I’m here to ensure your experience is informed, seamless and exceeds your expectations

Sir Ashley Harrison

Owner and Managing Partner of Lifestyle International Realty


Born and raised in Rochester, NY, Sir Ashley Harrison has charted a remarkable path that blends service, advocacy, and entrepreneurial spirit. A proud alumnus of Georgetown University and the North Carolina Central University School of Law, Harrison always harbored a profound desire to serve and advocate for others. His legal career, primarily focused on criminal law in the Charlotte area, laid the foundation for his future endeavors. However, it was his venture into real estate and real estate investing that unveiled his true calling.

By the year 2017, Sir Ashley had successfully obtained his real estate license. His passion for education and empowerment led him to focus intensely on educating the public about real estate, personal finance, and the nuances of life in the Carolinas via his YouTube channel. Presently, he takes pride in a vibrant community of over 44,000 subscribers spread across multiple channels, a testament to his commitment to spreading knowledge and empowering others.

As an owner and managing partner of Lifestyle International Realty, one of the largest minority-owned brokerages in North and South Carolina, Sir Ashley helps lead a remarkable team of leaders and agents. Together, they are dedicated to assisting clients in buying, selling, and investing in real estate. More than just facilitating transactions, However, Sir Ashley’s commitment extends beyond transactional assistance, he is deeply invested in the personal and professional growth of his agents, guiding them towards achieving financial independence and success by emphasizing the importance of self-improvement and real estate investing. This mentorship ensures a brighter future for them and their families, reflecting his holistic approach to leadership. 

Moreover, Sir Ashley champions the notion that professionalism, respect, leadership, and success are not confined to traditional paradigms. He ardently believes in breaking stereotypes and serving as a living example that dreams are attainable, irrespective of one’s background or upbringing. Through his actions and achievements, Sir Ashley motivates others to transcend societal constraints and pursue their aspirations with confidence and integrity.

Dana Mayberry

VP, Sales & Marketing | Raleigh Division Taylor Morrison


Born and raised in Raleigh, NC and have been in homebuilding for over 20 years! NC State alumni and huge Wolfpack supporter. Recently joined Taylor Morrison, who is a top 5 national homebuilder and the only national builder to earn “Most Trusted Builder” nine years in a row from Lifestory Research. Love my industry and my city!

Proud Mom of 2 sons who keep me busy. One plays travel hockey and one races motocross. They are my why.

April Stephens

Broker / Owner The April Stephens Team


As a Triangle native, I am very educated about our local area. I served in the Army National Guard for 8 years as a Combat Medic, and in 2006 decided to pursue Real Estate sales as another way to help people, while staying close to home and my family. I treat every client by the golden rule and provide outstanding customer service. I appreciate every opportunity and look forward to working with every client. Whether it be buying or selling a home or commercial property, I am committed to helping you meet your needs.

Angie Cole

Owner at A Cole Realty & Turnkey Property Management


Angie was born in Portland, Maine, and moved to North Carolina in 1989. After attending Cape Fear Christian Academy, she went on to Campbell College to study Biology. In 2007, she received her Real Estate License and began working as an onsite representative for builders in the area. After gaining valuable experience in the real estate field, Angie began working in Raleigh as a general broker for a local real estate firm.

In October 2013, Angie started her own company, A Cole Realty, and began providing exceptional service for buyers and sellers alike in the Triangle area. A Cole Realty has quickly grown and has had the pleasure of assisting thousands of happy families.

With over 14 years of experience in real estate, her success has been proven with being named one of the Top “30 Under 30 Realtors in the country by Realtor® Magazine in 2013, featured on HGTV House Hunters, Midtown Magazine’s 2018 & 2019 Top Realtor in Raleigh, Indy Weekly 2018 Top Realtor in Wake County, and now the Top 5 Teams in the Triangle.

Jim Allen

President at The Jim Allen Group


In Jim Allen’s world, his client is the most important person and he has built this organization, The Jim Allen Group, on that premise.
The Jim Allen Group is leading the real estate industry and is currently recognized as
#1 Team in Units in North America | Coldwell Banker
#2 Team in AGCI in North America | Coldwell Banker
#1 Team in North Carolina | Coldwell Banker
#1 Real Estate Team in the Triangle since 1996 | Triangle Business Journal
#1 Large Team in North Carolina for Volume | Real Treads
#2 Large Team in North Carolina for Transaction Sides | Real Treads
#5 Large Team in the United States for Transaction Sides | Real Trends
#8 Large Team in the United States for Volume | Real Treads
A degree in Engineering has been especially beneficial in his real estate success story. The first real estate position was with a firm very strong in new construction as well as resale homes. Working with the finest custom home builders in the Triangle, the knowledge he has acquired is unequaled. His first year was one of great strides and he soon became a sales leader in the firm.
Several years later the firm was sold and Jim decided to join Prudential Carolinas Realty primarily because of their nationally prestigious reputation and well-respected relocation department. Former clients were very loyal and showed much approval by quickly starting to refer their co-workers and friends. During his time working at Prudential, Jim continued the upward spiral to top sales and has remained the #1 ranked Real Estate Team in the Triangle by the Triangle Business Journal since 1996. His trademark talent is finding solutions to clients’ concerns quickly.
In January 2009, Jim transitioned his business to Coldwell Banker Howard Perry and Walston. During his first few months, he won numerous awards, including the International President’s Premier Award. This prestigious award is the highest honor a Coldwell Banker agent can receive and is presented to less than one percent of sales associates globally. Jim has also been honored with the following awards during his time with Coldwell Banker: Mega Listing Team of the Year, Mega Volume Leader Team of the Year, Mega Sales Team of the Year, and Mega Team of the Year.
Jim attributes his success to a continuing commitment to the marketing and selling of new construction and the dedication of his support team – all personally selected and trained by Jim.
The real estate business affords all the challenges needed to hold Jim’s interest.