MEET THE JUDGES

Meet our esteemed panel of judges for the Build-Up Berkeley competition! These distinguished individuals come from various sectors of the business world, bringing a wealth of diverse expertise and unique insights to the table. Each judge understands the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship firsthand. Their discerning eyes will evaluate each business plan and pitch with precision, searching for innovation, feasibility, and potential for impact. Their role is pivotal in ensuring the integrity of the competition and selecting the deserving winners. Their commitment to fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Berkeley County is truly commendable. 

Diego Losada

Sharmika Brooks

J.C. Henson

Mary Beth Blair

Michael Whalton

*Backup Judge* Randy Lewis

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Prior to that, Mr. Losada was Vice President for Analytics at Fannie Mae where he worked for almost 20 years developing commercial and residential real estate insights to advance the national mortgage industry. Mr. Losada has a Masters of Arts in Economics from the Johns Hopkins University and a Masters in Science in Finance from the George Washington University. He is a father of three and enjoys golfing and outdoor adventures in the weekends.

Chief Operating Officer, VEMTECH As the Chief Operating Officer of VEMTECH, Sharmika brings a wealth of experience and a strategic vision to the company, driving operational excellence and fostering innovation. With over 5 years of experience in the tech industry, Sharmika has a proven track record of leading high-performing teams and implementing effective operational strategies that align with VEMTECH's mission and goals. Born and raised in Washington, DC, Sharmika developed an early interest in technology and business. This passion led to obtaining a degree in Business Administration from Blue Ridge Community College. Throughout [her career, Sharmika has held various leadership positions in companies, where she consistently demonstrated an ability to streamline processes, enhance productivity, and drive sustainable growth. At VEMTECH, Sharmika is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations, ensuring that the company’s projects are executed efficiently and effectively. She works closely with the CEO and team members to develop and implement strategic initiatives that support VEMTECH's long-term vision. Her hands-on approach and dedication to excellence have been instrumental in fostering a collaborative and innovative work environment at VEMTECH. Beyond her professional achievements, Sharmika is deeply committed to personal growth and continuous learning. She is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace and actively mentor aspiring leaders in the tech community. In her spare time, Sharmika enjoys spending time with family and friends, which provide a balanced perspective and inspiration for her work at VEMTECH. Sharmika’s leadership philosophy is centered on the belief that success is built on a foundation of strong relationships, transparent communication, and a shared commitment to innovation and excellence. This approach has not only driven VEMTECH’s operational success but has also cultivated a company culture that values collaboration, integrity, and a relentless pursuit of improvement. As VEMTECH continues to expand its footprint in the tech industry, Sharmika remains dedicated to guiding the company toward new heights, leveraging her extensive experience and passion for technology to ensure VEMTECH’s continued growth and success. Contact Information: • Email: sbrooks@vemtech.net • LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/bsharmika

JC was born and raised in Berkeley County. He is a co-owner of the Oakwood BBQ Company, which won the Build Up Berkeley competition in 2023. He is also the manager of Tri-County Rental, a local business celebrating their 50th year of operation. He began working for Tri-County Rental in 2009. Since then, he has worked himself into a position to purchase the business in the near future. In 2018, along with his friends Cody Sheppard and Zack Walburn, Oakwood began operating. Transforming from mobile “popup” style events to a brick mortar establishment in 2023 located at 11 Shooting Star Ln Martinsburg, WV. Oakwood is steadily working towards their end goal of a full time “culinary destination” located here in Berkeley County. When he isn't busy with rentals or BBQ he enjoys spending time hunting, fishing, and golfing.

Mary Beth Blair is the owner of Kisner Communications. Born and raised in Berkeley County and a graduate of Martinsburg High School, Mary Beth is a 1990 graduate of Marshall University’s School of Journalism, where she was awarded the Public Relations Student Society of America Gold Key Award, the WV Public Relations Society of America’s Most Promising PR Undergraduate and was an Academic Honor Student. Mary Beth didn't waste any time after graduating to start her own company at a very young age, which 33 years later is still going strong! Drawing inspiration from her father Shug Kisner’s civic and entrepreneurial example, Kisner Communications was born July 1, 1991. Kisner Communications is an award winning, full-service advertising, graphic design, and marketing firm serving a broad range of clientele from healthcare, banking, tourism, non-profit and small business industries. Not only has she lead the company successfully over three decades, but also raised a family of three with her husband Rob and is extremely passionate about serving the community. Mary Beth specifically serves as a Writer, Graphic Designer, Public Relations Specialist, Account Manager, and Digital Content Creator for the company. Mary Beth has a passion for serving her community. She is actively involved with many organizations, donating much of her professional and personal time to non-profits and local schools. Currently, she serves on the boards of the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival and Semper Liberi. She was a member of the board 2021 - 2023 for the Martinsburg Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce, serving on the Executive Committee. For her ongoing support in providing pro-bono services, she was recognized as an Outstanding Volunteer in Berkeley County Schools, Outstanding Community Service Award from the Miss Berkeley County Scholarship organization and earlier this year received an "In-Kind Award" for 13 years of pro-bono marketing services for the Berkeley County Backpack program. Mary Beth and her husband, Sheriff Rob Blair, are Ministry Leaders and founding members of Airborne Church, where she also serves as the Community Liaison. Mary Beth and Rob, who celebrate 30 years of marriage in August, reside in Martinsburg and have three grown children, two daughter-n-laws and two grandchildren. One of her favorite past times is spending time with family and friends at WVU football games.

Michael Whalton is originally from Key West, Florida where, in the 1980s, he was the general manager of Sloppy Joe’s Bar and the founder of the Hemingway Days Festival. He and his wife Susan moved to Hedgesville, in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in 1994 and have lived quietly on a 54-acre farm ever since. Over the past 32 years the Whalton’s have adopted two children, rescued dozens of dogs and cats, and renovated several semi-historic properties. Michael served on the board of the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation for 10 years and worked as part-time executive director of the Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia, from 2005 until 2011. He earned his RBA from Shepherd University in 2005 and his MBA in 2008. In April 2012, Michael was chosen to succeed Amy Owen as executive director of the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation. After leading the organization for the past 12 years, he stepped down from the Community Foundation on April 30, 2024. He is currently learning how to play pickleball.

Randy Lewis is a native of Martinsburg, WV. Randy is a graduate of Martinsburg High School. He attended West Virginia University He began working as an operational manager for a retail established in Boston, MA. From 1988-1993. In 1993 he decided to open his men’s business in Downtown Martinsburg called R. Lewis Clothier and was successful in the men’s apparel business until 2006. In 2006, he became the Executive Director of Main Street Martinsburg until he retired in 2021 He has actively participated in numerous community organizations over the years including past president and now current board of directors, Sunrise Rotary Club of Martinsburg, past board member Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival, past board member of the Chamber of Commerce and Berkeley County’s 250th Steering Committee, past board member of Faith Christian Academy. Randy has set on varies committees in the community, such as Martinsburg’s Farmers Market, United Way, Healthy Berkeley, The Art’s Center and Boarman Art Center. Randy has worked on securing multiple grants for revitalization efforts in downtown Martinsburg. He has been married to his wife, Kay, for 36 years. They have four children, Sarah (Michael), Kalynn (Frye), Collin and Carter and 11 Grandchildren (7) Granddaughters and (4) grandsons, who are the loves of his life.