Community, partnership and the evolution of an idea: Meet Cruise Carts, Charlotte’s free ride service

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Officially launched in April, Cruise Carts is a Charlotte based free ride service courtesy of an eco-friendly, ad-driven golf cart shuttle. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with owner and creator, Dustin Adams, as well as marketing manager, Alana Allen, to get a better understanding of the business and the overall plan. Refreshingly, our discussion turned into one about the importance of community, partnership, thinking outside the box and the ability to evolve.

“Cruise Carts was a very well thought out idea,” Adams said. “I had my original idea to create and launch Cruise Carts in December 2013.”


Adams and Allen are a part of a network of friends that are entrepreneurial minded and experienced marketing professionals. One of these friends, Torrie Savage of #thesavageway, was working with a client with a rickshaw business, and that’s when Dustin first got his idea.  Realizing that he could reinvent the concept of the rickshaw rides, Adams began conceptualizing a business based on an advertising driven golf cart service.

“People thought we were insane, but it’s always been about giving back to others and that’s what our service is about,” Adams said.

The focus of the service is to provide free, green and safe rides around Charlotte. The rides are free due to sponsors that advertise on the carts. The carts are 100% electric and the 4 passenger carts adhere to 35 mph driving zones and are street-legal.

By May of 2014, the company could have launched and placed carts and drivers on the roads. Thanks to advisors, including #thesavageway, Adams decided to take a different approach.


“We decided to take the time to network and to build relationships within the community first,” Adams said. “Our obstacle is creating understanding of the concept behind what we are doing. Our community partners help us spread the word.”

Taking time to wait to bring their product to market has allowed for the evolution of Cruise Carts and their literal and figurative path. Wednesday through Sunday, the carts have set routes around the city and are easily visible during the weekends near areas with high nightlife traffic. Those were the original intended paths, but, as always, new needs and opportunities have arisen.

“Tourism and hospitality are becoming a priority,” Allen said. “Our training for drivers now includes more education on Charlotte. The hot spots, restaurants, areas and bars – we have many out of towners and we want them to know about our city.”

As Cruise Carts becomes more widely known, the focus now is on advertisement sales. Advertisers have the ability to get creative with the carts and thanks to the mobility of the carts, will reach a wider and more diverse audience. Without advertisers, the free ride concept is not possible. The first advertiser to embrace Cruise Carts unique “mobile billboard” concept is OrthoCarolina.

“People don’t buy products anymore, they buy experiences” Adams said. “We want our advertisers and those that use our service to have a positive experience and we hope to use that to build loyalty.”

As the business continues to evolve, the focus on the future still remains the same — to continue to build partnerships, relationships, build the brand and awareness of the brand, and finally to purchase more carts. Currently, the carts service the Plaza Midwood, SouthEnd, NoDa and the Elizabeth neighborhoods, but Adams, a UNC-Charlotte graduate, would like to see the service expand to the University area.


Cruise Carts is first and foremost a progressive Charlotte concept. From the founders to the drivers, this team, really more of a family, is comprised of people excited about the city.

“This city is so cool due to the unique local businesses here,” Allen said. “There is character to this town now that never existed here years ago.”

Cruise Carts can be seen around the city on their designated routes, but can also be contacted about working special events. Recently, the carts were used to transport runners for a local 5K race, and even assisted with a local prom.


Focused on building relationships, community support and getting all their ducks in a row, Cruise Carts is a great example of a Charlotte business thinking outside of the box to help others.

“We know where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we are going,” Adams said. “We want to create an experience and provide a service to help those in need. We focused on building relationships first and that’s why we are still here.”


You cannot call or email Cruise Carts to pick you up, but you can flag down a driver for a ride. Be sure to check out their Twitter and Facebook for updates about routes, or for additional information regarding advertising/sponsorship opportunities.

Connect with Cruise Carts

Photo Credit: Jacob Teer, Teer Drop Design

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