Young Entrepreneur Turned Philanthropist
Just 15 years ago, Jennifer Mayer, Class of ‘04, was a struggling high school dropout who couldn’t read or write. Today, she’s a UNC Asheville graduate, philanthropist and co-owner of Charlotte Street Computers in downtown Asheville. Clearly, this great American rags-to-riches story is just getting started.
But the story’s beginning was a challenge. Without the kindness of a stranger, Mayer might never have been able to get her high school diploma and later her degree from UNC Asheville. Now, as she looks back on the struggle, Mayer reflects, “I want people to know that I made it out, and I want to thank everyone who helped along the way.”
One way that Mayer is saying thank you is by giving back to her alma mater and to the community that has supported her.
During Mayer’s childhood in Asheville, her mother struggled with addiction, which kept Mayer from attending school regularly. By age 14, she quit school and moved out on her own. She couldn’t read or write, but she had a drive to be successful. Working at a local Huddle House, she was eventually able to buy a car and a run-down trailer. One day at work, she crossed paths with Judy Elliston, a restaurant patron, who decided to help Mayer in her goal to achieve a better life.
Elliston encouraged Mayer to earn her General Education Diploma (GED), and later to attend A-B Technical College and then to transfer to UNC Asheville, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Jennifer Mayer (left) and Chancellor Ponder at
the computer lab naming ceremony
By the time she was 25, Mayer met and married Greg Mayer, who had recently opened Charlotte Street Computers, and she went to work promoting and expanding the company with great success. In 2008, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce awarded her “Business Leader of the Year.” Charlotte Street Computers is the four-time recipient of the Chamber’s “Sky High Growth Award” and also has been voted “Best Computer Repair” by the readers of the Mountain Xpress for seven years running. Perhaps most impressive is Apple’s Service Excellence Award, which places the Asheville company in the top five percent of Apple Authorized Service Providers and Specialists in North America.
But it wasn’t all about the business for Mayer. She also wanted to help the community. She founded the non-profit organization E-Cycle Me, which provides refurbished computers to charities and housing projects. Another non-profit called Power On Community raises money for other non-profits by selling tickets to local theater productions. Mayer and her husband Greg also were recently honored recently by UNC Asheville for their $25,000 donation to the school’s academic programs.
UNC Asheville named a Multimedia Arts and Sciences computer lab in honor of the Mayeres. The lab, located on the second floor of Zeis Hall, is marked with a plaque that was unveiled in a ceremony attended by a host of alumni on campus for Homecoming Weekend in February.
Mayer says that she hopes her struggles for success will inspire others. She said her philanthropy is her way of saying thank you to everyone who helped her along the way.
Charlotte Street Computers
UNC Asheville Psychology Department
UNC Asheville Multimedia Arts & Sciences Department