In 2014, when Garrett Tichy reached the seven-year mark of living in Charlotte, “I wanted to get outside my circle and meet new people.”
Still, he wanted to create a free and simple way to connect people to each other and the city they lived in.
That idea became the #weloveclt campaign, which Tichy describes as “a celebration of people in Charlotte.”
At its centerpiece: a monthly speaker series, and daily “Instagram takeovers” where people, nonprofits and businesses used the photo-centric social media platform to introduce people, places and moments to Charlotte.
The Instagram account boomed to nearly 16,000 followers. But Tichy says the fast growth of the campaign wasn’t totally a good thing.
After a several-week hiatus to regroup, Tichy plans to relaunch #weloveclt on Jan. 1, with improvements. A key one is recently naming a partner in the effort – Sam White, an art director with Adams Outdoor Advertising.
Their plan is to be more intentional in the campaign – from setting expectations for participants in the Instagram takeovers to possibly creating themes for the speaker series.
“If we really love Charlotte,” Tichy says, “we should probably do some things about it.”
Meet a chef, and a yarnbomber
To Tichy, what makes Charlotte great is its people. “Things like restaurants, they’re going to come and go, but your best friend and those very important people in your life, they are irreplaceable.
“So I just started (the campaign) in hoping that people would focus a little more on that.”
He planned an inaugural speaking event for mid-January, featuring Blair Primis, vice president of marketing at OrthoCarolina.
Tichy never heard Primis’ talk on “Being passionate and pushing the line” because his daughter, Olivia, was born the night it was delivered. But with a full house of attendees, “It was so successful without me having to be there.”
He turned it into a monthly series. Some of the speakers included Amy Herman of Vintage Charlotte; writer Jeff Jackson, who founded the NoDa Film Festival; chef Alyssa Gorelick; and Charlotte Assistant City Manager Hyong Yi.
To keep people engaged beyond the events, Tichy maintained a weloveclt website to include podcasts, e-newsletters and people profiles on the website. He didn’t do much with the Instagram account until he asked Miller Yoho, who runs the Belk Bowl’s Twitter account, to take it over for a day.
Soon, Tichy started getting takeover requests – enough to form a waiting list.
Many became some of Tichy’s favorites: Grizzly Cookware showcasing its cast-iron wares, artist Amy Reader installing yarn art along the light-rail line, a day at Pineville Ice House.
With few rules, some business takeovers became an odd fit for the people-centric format, Tichy says. In November, he put the takeovers on hold.
Reset in 2016
He also found that the audience draw for the events needed retooling.
By holding speaker events in spaces in and near uptown, Tichy said the reach wasn’t as inclusive as it could be, with mainly white, millennial, tech-savvy audiences.
“We’re still struggling to figure out how to reach people that aren’t sitting on Twitter all day, or Facebook.” What may fix that in 2016, he says, is moving some of the speaker events to surrounding neighborhoods.
Still, the audience for the last speaker of the year, Assistant City Manager Yi, reflected the type of draw Tichy has in mind, says Tyler Ford, who hosted the talk at his Industry Coworking space at the NC Music Factory.
Ford describes it as the young professional crowd mixed with the “established professional community ... a young T-shirt designer all the way up to someone doing big business,” Ford says. “It was really exciting.”
Attendees shared an interest in hearing about the city’s growth and what they could do to make Charlotte better – which is at the core of the #weloveclt campaign.
“Garrett is ... a charismatic guy who naturally builds relationships,” Ford says. “His relationships, the way he communicates with people, his network, gave it a real launching pad.”
Time in Charlotte: 8 years
Occupation: Co-founder of Ready at 7 digital marketing company and Hygge Coworking.
Family: Wife Jennie, daughter Olivia
Background: From Bayport, N.Y.
Why he’ll make news: “Our goal this year is to create intentional dialogue that makes this city better,” says Sam White, 26, who is partnering with Garrett Tichy on the #weloveclt campaign. “We’re really excited to be where people take us.”
About the series: The Observer is highlighting Charlotteans who are poised to make news in 2016.