For many Charlotte-area entrepreneurs, the Democratic National Convention is more about fruitful business opportunities than it is about the presidential nomination. Perhaps that’s why hundreds of local businesses signed up on the official vendor list as soon as residents learned that the DNC would be held in Charlotte. Although many of those businesses did not ultimately win a contract, there are plenty of local businesses that can look forward to both a coveted DNC contract as well as an elevated business status once the convention has left town. Below, hear from three such lucky entrepreneurs.
Kelly Koeppel of k2forma
Perhaps you don’t know Kelly Koeppel by name, but you’ve definitely seen her work. Koeppel’s design and marketing agency, k2forma, helped create the Democratic National Convention logo, which has served as a focal point for the convention. In the logo, words that represent the Queen City and its people make up the Charlotte city skyline. Woven throughout the image is this message: “Charlotte is a beautiful, clean city with a high quality of life where you’ll find both the expected comforts of Southern hospitality and exciting evidence of a forward-thinking, can-do Southern culture. The Charlotte region boasts the amenities and economic opportunities of a major urban center for both large corporations and aspiring entrepreneurs, but retains the friendly culture of a close-knit community where people, organizations and institutions work together to build its future. These public-private partnerships in Charlotte have moved this community toward new opportunities in truly unique and remarkable ways." Koeppel also worked with the host committee and Mayor Foxx help create the convention’s tagline, which is “We make it possible.” “The challenge of creating something that really embodies the entire community is a tall order,” she says. “The tagline allows people to leave their fingerprint on what the city is. It’s intended to be flexible enough so that people of the city can own it and make it their own.” Koeppel earned the contracts for creating both the logo and the tagline after responding to a request for proposal for creative services. From dozens of applicants, Koeppel made it to the top six. Ultimately, k2forma and Wray Ward – both owned by women – won the contract. “We basically helped create the brand identity for the entire DNC event,” says Koeppel. “January and February were really, really intense.” It’s certainly a high profile contract for Koeppel’s company, which was founded in 2007 and has just four core employees. Although the company has done branding work for such high-end national chains as Talbots, Caterpillar and Ralph Lauren, this is the company’s first contract of this magnitude and visibility. “It’s been a very difficult but thrilling and fun and exhilarating experience,” says Koeppel. “It’s not every day you get to help create something that will be seen by so many people and have such widespread impact on the community.” Koeppel says she hopes her involvement with the convention will help boast her NoDa-based company’s reputation among future possible national and international clients. “It certainly helps build trust in the eyes of future clients when you can add the Charlotte in 2012 Host Committee to your list of clients that you successfully serviced,” says Koeppel. “I think it will have a positive impact. The work we’ve done for the host committee is work that we can be very proud of.”
Rhonda Caldwell at The Main Event
When Rhonda Caldwell heard about the convention coming to town, her first thought was, “What are we going to have to do to be able to be a part of this?” Caldwell owns The Main Event, an event planning service based in Charlotte. “I was elated when I heard the DNC was coming,” she says. “I was just real excited because I knew it was our time.” Like many entrepreneurs, Caldwell’s ultimate goal is to become a global business. She saw the convention as a way to get there. Thus, when the host committee sought event planners for the 12 delegate parties, Caldwell signed up right away. After submitting a 52-page proposal, she received the news she’d hoped for: the host committee was hiring her to plan the Rosedale Plantation party for delegates from Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. The three-story plantation home was originally built in 1815 and was later occupied by Charlotte doctor D. T. Caldwell and his family in the 1830s. Immediately, Caldwell set to work to learn about the history of the plantation and to create a distinctive party for the delegates. “I’m such a history buff, and I wanted to take the history behind Rosedale Plantation and incorporate it in every detail,” she says. “I wanted to make the guests feel like they were back in time.” Consequently, during this month’s party, delegates will have an opportunity to enjoy corn on the cob and rotisserie chicken at a plantation picnic table, drink Southern tea in the garden and even enjoy some homemade ice cream. Docents dressed in period attire will lead tours of the plantation throughout the event as well. While the planning has been challenging at times (“When I first saw the house I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is going to be a designer’s challenge just because of the layout of the property”), Caldwell believes that delegates will thoroughly enjoy the party. “We want them to experience North Carolina and enjoy something that they may not necessarily be used to,” says Caldwell. “We wanted to share the Southern hospitality that we have here in the Carolinas.” And despite the fact that Caldwell has hosted event much larger than the 600 guests expected at the Rosedale Plantation party, she’s hoping her involvement with the DNC will lift her to professional levels she’s never reached before. “We’re hoping this can help us get on the global stage,” she said. “I’m hoping this event will give us that exposure.”
The Home Collection
For Charlotte entrepreneurs Jim Hock and James Funderburk, timing was everything when it came to securing a contract with the DNC. The two men, who have rented unfurnished residences for years, had recently started a furnished rental businesses. Through The Home Collection, the pair owns, operates and manages more than a dozen furnished residences in prime, in-town locations, renting them out anywhere from three nights to a year. “Immediately we knew that (the convention) would give our newly-formed company a huge boost,” says Hock. So as soon as they could, they added their company’s name to the DNC vendor directory. Within a week, a large media company based in Washington, D.C., contacted the pair to secure all of their furnished residences for the company’s journalists and guests. A week later, the company had rented all of The Home Collection’s furnished units for eight nights since the company’s employees will be reporting before the convention starts and some will stay an extra day or so to wrap up the coverage. “We’ll have all hands on deck to make sure things go smoothly and will be on call 24-7 during the convention,” says Hock. To celebrate the patriotic spirit of the convention, the pair plans to hang red, white and blue bunting from their buildings. And thanks to their DNC-related contract, Hock said the pair has been able to invest the profits from the rentals into purchasing other properties to expand the business. “The cash infusion has helped us grow much more quickly than we would otherwise have been able to, so the DNC has already had a huge beneficial impact for us,” says Hock. Hock adds that the company is thrilled to be a part of such a historic event, saying, “I think most people still don't understand the global reach the convention will have, and how Charlotte will be seen throughout the world.”
For up-to-date information on DNC events, visit www.charlottein2012.com.
The Main Event
The Home Collection