Women in Business

BY Kelly Esposito

Talk about breaking through the glass ceiling! Our sixth annual Women in Business feature spotlights five passionate professional hard-working women who are raising the business bar day in and day out on the Azalea Coast. Fashion medicine design and law are the areas of expertise in which these women thrive. Though their success stories are different they share a point of view a sense of style and a certain sound that can only be described as a womans voice.

Cindy York

Attorney at Law

Fashion design or law school? Not a career fence you often find people straddling but Cindy York found herself in quite an atypical dilemma at the end of her undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating with a B.S. in industrial relations York decided to take a year off. She waited tables backpacked through Europe and worked for a large North Carolina law firm a job that helped her make the decision to go back to UNC and study law.

York started her law career as a litigator in Charlotte and moved to Wilmington in 2004. Her four-year-old private practice on Eastwood Road deals primarily with commercial and residential real estate a specialty that York says makes sense with her dual role as a single mom. “Its a lot better not having to run to the courthouse ” she says.

In fact Yorks children are important factors in many aspects of her business. The location is close to Wrightsville Beach Elementary School so York was never far away from her son Eli and her daughter Wyatt now 13 and 10 years old. She likes her solo practice as is she has no plans to take on partners and she doesnt work 80-hour weeks like some lawyers. “All single working moms feel like we dont do any of it as much or as well as wed like ” says York. “I just do my best to spend as much time as possible with the kids.”

York says her business has undergone changes in recent years especially with the housing boom earlier in the decade and subsequent slump the real estate market is now experiencing. She says everyone knows it will eventually recover “so we are just trying to hang in until the market turns again.”

Plunkett Dodge

Owner Island Passage

Just about any fashion-savvy woman who has ever been to the Cape Fear Coast knows about Island Passage. Plunkett Dodges boutiques in Wrightsville Beach Wilmington and Bald Head Island exemplify the fun laid-back and trendy coastal lifestyle we are privileged to enjoy. As it turns out they provide a window into getting to know Dodge herself.

Dodge began her career in the fashion world after graduating from a small art school in Boston the Butera School of Art designing and creating womens accessories which she then sold wholesale in the Northeast. She moved to Wilmington 25 years ago and her husband former Wilmington mayor Harper Peterson commissioned her to design T-shirts for a shop he owned in Bald Head Island. “So I thought Why dont we sell other cool stuff in addition to just T-shirts?” says Dodge. “And it grew from there.”

Fast forward to the present. Island Passage now has six boutiques including a store in Lumina Station that was the second to open after the original Bald Head Island location. Dodge manages 70 employees a task she says made easier by her ability to recognize talent in others and help them fulfill the role they are best suited to so they can ultimately make decisions themselves. “I strongly believe that employees should have as much ownership as possible ” she says. “I have nurtured a remarkable team.”

Dodge describes herself as “shot out of a cannon from birth.” It is this boundless energy she says that has allowed her to create a successful chain of stores raise five children and maintain an active lifestyle. She wants to ultimately nurture a team to take over the business for she feels there will come a time when she outgrows Island Passage. But for now that time hasnt come. “I want to continue to help people feel good about themselves help them enjoy life ” she says. “And think outside the box when it comes to fashion.”

Star Sosa

Jewelry Designer & Owner Spectrum Art and Jewelry

Star Sosa fell into the jewelry business by chance but lovers of unique custom pieces are glad she did. Sosa owns Spectrum Art and Jewelry a business she describes as “a jewelry store that sells art.”

Sosa has been a jewelry designer for more than 20 years and has a B.A. in American studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz a degree shes quick to say that doesnt have much to do with jewelry design. Shes equally quick to say however that the writing component of her education has been invaluable for the writing and marketing she does for her business.

Invaluable? Absolutely. Spectrum has been open for 11 years and is currently in its third location. Sosa started the business in Historic Downtown Wilmington before moving the store to the Forum and then relocating again in the same shopping center. “I knew the Military Cutoff area was going to be the financial hub of town ” she says. “And the location is perfect for my clientele.”

Sosa has firsthand experience with the changes the local business community has seen in the last decade. There have been growing pains but the result has been the emergence of a dynamic business climate in the Wrightsville Beach area. “The Military Cutoff Road expansion was tough ” she says. “But I knew it would be great for business when it was done.”

Sosa credits her success to the specific niche she has created for custom jewelry in town but she is careful not to forget her own niche outside of the business. She loves the outdoors swims in the ocean at Wrightsville Beach and rides her bike around the island in her free time. “I have a great lifestyle ” she says. “I work hard but I make time to swim and be outside.”

Dawn Moffitt

Yacht Interior Designer

Determination. Thats what yacht interior designer Dawn Moffitt attributes to her success both as a businesswoman and a creative artist. Yacht interior design seems like a specific niche but its one that she pursues with unmatched passion.

Moffitt graduated cum laude from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in Interior Design in 1978. Before she even graduated her enthusiasm and persistence were rewarded with a job as an interior designer for Hatteras Yachts the prestigious company she fell in love with during her last semester at UNC Greensboro.

A lot has changed since Moffitt graduated. But in a way much has remained the same. Now she designs under the umbrella of her own business Dawn Moffitt Design Inc. After living briefly in Florida Moffitt realized she wanted to live someplace where the marine industry looked as if it could be expanded. And she wanted to be close to her family living in North Carolina. Wrightsville Beach called out to her.

Moffitt plays an intricate role in the life cycle of each and every yacht interior she designs. From the construction process to the creation of furniture and fabrics for the vessels she is concerned that every aspect of her design be well implemented. Her success as a yacht interior designer has led her to try her hand at interior jet interior design as well. And sometimes clients like her work so much they invite her to revamp or design things for their homes.

Moffitt says shes learned that a successful project comes in large part from the clients you work with. “Ive been fortunate to work with fabulous people on fabulous projects.” Shes extremely grateful for the support coming from her daughters Laura and Elise and her husband Kermit. Moffitts husband acts as her business manager providing organization and structure for her creative designs. “Every business has a person working behind the scenes ” she says. “Im just lucky enough to be married to mine.” Emily Brown

Sara Collins


Sara Collins is living proof that life doesnt have to be mapped out in your early 20s. Her mantra is “everything works out ” and after entering medical school at the age of 36 and going on to start her own successful practice Coastline Gynecology one would be hard-pressed to disagree.

Collins graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a B.A. in English and had originally intended on becoming a teacher. But a few substitute teaching jobs didnt lead anywhere and she got a job working for an OB/GYN clinic in Chapel Hill. Her first job as a clerk led to a position as an administrative secretary for a doctor and from there her medical career blossomed by happenstance. “The doctor I worked for was like my mentor ” says Collins. “I learned a lot under his tutelage and his encouragement and my experience working for him were the reasons I decided to go into medicine.”

Collins attended medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did her residency in Charleston South Carolina and moved to the Wilmington area in 1992. She worked at Carolina OB/GYN for 10 years before opening her gynecology-only practice on Military Cutoff Road near Landfall in 2004. The business world around Wrightsville Beach has “grown up incredibly” in the four years she has practiced here she says with developments like Mayfaire providing a “great economic boon to people in this area.”

The business is an important part of Collins life but she is careful to make time for herself and her three sons the youngest was born during her second year of medical school. “It certainly helps if you enjoy what you do ” she says “But everyone has to recharge their batteries so you dont get overwhelmed with the tedium of running a business.”