International Business Person of the Year: Michelle Wang
Michelle Wang was born in Shanghai, China. She came to the Unites States in 1991 as a transfer student to Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. After earning a degree in Mass Communications, Michelle moved to New York and worked in a variety of jobs including restaurant hostess. She moved to Columbia in 1994 with her first husband who worked at the University of South Carolina’s School of Music.
Through the years, Michelle developed a passion for food. In 1996, she opened the first Miyo’s restaurant at 922 South Main Street near the South Carolina Statehouse and the University of South Carolina’s Columbia campus. The restaurant’s concept was to serve fine Asian cuisine while providing an extraordinary dining experience. The menu was derived from regional Shanghai and Szechuan cuisine. Columbia restaurant goers instantly fell in love with this new, fresh twist on Asian cuisine. In the beginning, Michelle worked tirelessly at the restaurant to gain a loyal customer base.
As Miyo’s added locations in Columbia, the menu evolved to include a mixture of Chinese-, Korean-, Vietnamese- and Thai-influenced dishes. Also, a focus on healthy food choices and sophisticated decor was the hallmark of the Miyo’s restaurant experience.
Over the next nineteen years, Michelle became one of the preeminent restaurateurs in the Midlands and has employed hundreds of people in her restaurants. At one point, Michelle owned and operated nine locations.
In 2003, Michelle married Rui Cao, an engineer with Siemens Corporation in Columbia. They have three sons, Franklin, Benjamin and Raymond. Michelle and Rui are members of First Baptist Church of Columbia. They currently own and operate seven restaurants in the Midlands – including their newest concept restaurant, M Grille, in the Vista.
Business Proffesional of the Year: Alejandro García-Lemos
Alejandro García Lemos is a Colombian-American entrepreneur who came to Columbia in 2002 to start Comunicar Spanish language services. He holds a MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Florida International University in Miami, and a BA in Graphic Design from the School of Arts at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia.
Based in Columbia, SC since 2002, Comunicar has been a leader in the interpreting and translation industry in South Carolina. Over the last ten years, Comunicar has successfully partnered with Palmetto Health to provide face-to-face interpreting and translation services for the ever-growing Latino community in the state. Alejandro is a certified Healthcare and Judicial interpreter.
After attending a major Latino Arts Conference in San Antonio, Texas in 2008, Alejandro realized the need to create a space for the new generation of Latinos moving to and being born in South Carolina. With that in mind Alejandro founded Palmetto LUNA a non-profit organization promoting Latino Arts and Cultures in South Carolina. Alejandro is also known for his work as a visual artist and curator, participating in several grass roots arts projects and currently serves in the ONE Columbia Public Art Committee.
Community Ambassador of the Year: Dorothy Buchanan Henninger
Dorothy Buchanan Henninger was born in 1951. In 1969, she and her husband moved to Panama, Central America. She learned Spanish in the next 5 ½ years. She also learned to love the Spanish and Kuna people. She enjoyed traveling and meeting different people. She developed an appreciation for Panamanian culture, art and food. She returned to the states in 1975 and moved to Upper Michigan. While in Michigan, she worked with the Native American people. She enjoyed getting to know the people and became knowledgeable about Chippewa culture. In 1979, she and her family relocated to South Carolina and lived in Rosewood. Using her gift of hospitality, she began inviting international students into her home. Many people from diverse cultures visited her home and became family. The dinner table was always multi-cultural experience. She developed friendships with people from the Philippines, Japan, India, Korean and many other Ethnic groups. However, most of her ministry was with the Spanish people. For many years, she had a bible study for Spanish women in her home. She speaks Spanish fluently. She was a founding member of the International Sunday school at Columbia Evangelical Church. This Sunday school class was where the vision of a Ministry for International students began. When IFM began, Dorothy helped cook the first Friday night dinner for international students. Over the years, she has cooked many Thanksgiving meals for Internationals. She has been involved with IFM in many different capacities over the years. Dorothy graduated the University of South Carolina in 1997. Her degree is in Latin American studies. Dorothy loves all international people and all cultures. She also loves parties and events. In 2000, she got a job working for the best party and most diverse event in town, the Columbia International Festival. She quickly turned this job into a career. She has become an integral part of the great team, CIF Committee, that puts on the International Festival each year. She is thankful to Dr. Aluri for the opportunity to help with this amazing festival. She is the director of Hospitality at the festival. She loves the Columbia International Festival and the spotlight is shines on the many cultures that make Columbia beautiful place to live and raise a family. She is honored to be named the Community Ambassador of the Year.