(Editor’s Note: Garrett Tichy founded #weloveclt in 2014. What began as a speaker event grew quickly into a website, newsletter, Instagram handle and more, as you’ll read below.)
This is officially the last letter you will receive from #weloveclt.
I hope you’ll take a couple minutes to read this. It’s important to me that everyone understands what the last year has been like for me: the good, the bad, the ugly and why I’m taking things in this new direction.
It’s been incredible and in most cases I wouldn’t change a thing. I hope by the end of this you’re just as pumped as I am for 2016.
Back in November 2014 when I started working on #weloveclt, I really had no clue what it would become.
When I asked Blair Primis to be my first speaker, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had zero expectation of growth, engagement and impact.
To be honest, I didn’t care how big it became. I created #weloveclt for myself. If no one showed up, I’d still get to hear someone awesome share an honest and personal story. That was enough for me. In the end that made it even more special when others started to appreciate it.
Was I onto something? Is the promise of meeting awesome new people enough?
100+ people plus 60-100 on the waitlist showed up each and every month, open to meeting new people and having a conversation. It was incredible.
I started getting thank-you letters and messages from people saying they have never connected with so many people. Nothing beats the feels you get from something like that. People loved the casual and genuine conversation that steered clear of the “what do you do?” BS of typical networking. Make the bar low. Come in, be human, that’s all.
I myself have met more people in the last year than any other point in my entire life — people that have become close and trusted friends of mine. That’s not something I would ever give back. I wish I could name them all here.
I know for a fact this is true for other people. I think about Cece Stronach, Ashley Bennett, Tony Santoro, Ali Washburn, Andy Goh and more that have found and built relationships because of these events. I hung #weloveclt’s hat on this one thing. It works. I love it.
#weloveclt grew fast. It got big and with that came this pressure to deliver bigger, better and more awesome things. It was pressure I put on myself. Instead of making stuff better, or asking people to help, I created more things that I had to do all on my own: articles, podcasts, takeovers, daily newsletters.
I definitely went a little insane (think drinking heavily at 1 p.m. type of breakdown.) I was in a bad place. When this happens you ignore the most important things in your life (see: The Ugly).
Working alone on a project is well, lonely.
100 or so people would show up to each event, have an awesome time and then leave. It was just me in a big room by myself, no one to celebrate with. In most cases I’d go sit at Rhino Market by myself, have a beer and decompress. I’d sift through hundreds of tweets, favoriting and retweeting. I was okay with being alone, but I’d bet it would have been awesome to be able to share that with someone.
It was my choice. I had to own it all. Partners equal red tape, right? I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s just about finding the right partners. I have those moving forward. More on that soon.
Let’s talk about criticism.
Holy crap, I was not ready to take any of that on. “How can anyone hate on #weloveclt?” was always how I thought. “It’s a passion project that’s all about awesome people, makes me no money and takes up a whole lot of my time.”
It didn’t happen often, but I’d get an occasional email with some feedback. In most cases, it wasn’t constructive and in some cases it was downright hateful. I wasn’t ready for this.
The first one put me out of commission for a solid day and a half, but I gradually opened myself up.
I don’t think there’s any justification for hateful comments, but I now understand if I want to continue creating things here in Charlotte, I need to develop thicker skin and be ready for unsolicited feedback.
While 2015 was easily the best year of my life, it also includes my biggest failure. Right as #weloveclt kicked off the speaker series, my wife Jennie and I welcomed our daughter, Olivia, into the world.
Jennie went on maternity leave for the next three months. During this time she developed a pretty serious case of postpartum depression. It was something I was completely ignorant to.
I was off riding the high of #weloveclt, meeting new people and having a blast. All the while Jennie was home, struggling and dealing with it all on her own. I really had no clue how serious this could be. If I could go back, it’s the one thing I would change.
She stood by my side and supported me every single day. I should have been better. I should have put my family first. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again here: I’m sorry, Jennie.
So what’s next for #weloveclt?
#weloveclt was built on a core idea, the idea that we should all be willing and open to meeting someone new. People came to appreciate it for its positive messaging and support for everything in Charlotte. It had no biases. It believed that every single person here in Charlotte is awesome in one way or another.
This is where I hit a roadblock on taking #weloveclt to the next level. What happens when there are huge opportunities in Charlotte that require us as Charlotteans to be critical of the city and how it’s moving forward? How does a platform built on positive everything have incredibly tough conversations? It can’t. It didn’t feel right. I couldn’t even spin the “tough love” angle.
That is when we decided that #weloveclt would only continue as Instagram takeovers. The speaker series, podcasts, have you mets and weekly newsletter will no longer happen.
Sam and I aren’t interested in doing the same thing for another 10 months.
How do we take it to the next level? We’re pumped to introduce Charlotte Agenda Live. We’re taking the foundation I built over the last year, partnering with Charlotte Agenda and turning it into something bigger and better.
What happens when we invite all walks of Charlotte life and start a very intentional dialogue?
Let’s talk identity, education, philanthropy, economic inequality, social justice and more. All of the themes that we’ll touch on this year have huge areas of opportunity. We’re going to have some difficult conversations. We’ll start them, foster them by giving everyone a platform and then give people ways to take action. It’s essential that this year is the year of less talk, more action. Can we push this forward? I know we can.
I’m no longer alone in this. It’s not just about me anymore. I have Sam (more from her shortly), Ted, Katie, Andrew and Cristina. I couldn’t be more excited to work closely with this crew and take Charlotte to all new heights.
Meet Sam White
“Well, hello there! It truly is a pleasure to meet you. I am Sam White and am completely flattered to be a part of this unique Charlotte movement. If you don’t know me, please introduce yourself, seriously! Until then, here is an brief intro: I am from Montana, am an art director by day, calligrapher by day and night, aspiring yogi, adventurer and I sincerely love talking with people. So, please introduce yourself.
Enough about me. Over several discussions and moving pieces, as Garrett mentioned above we are thrilled to say that we will be joining forces with the Charlotte Agenda! You, as a community have proven to be very invested in what this city is and can become. Our goal this year, is to create the largest impact possible with intentional dialogue around topics central to the QC.
Having a bit of a nomadic past, I ended up in Charlotte on a whim. Three and half years later, I never expected to still be here, let alone, in love with this city. I have a deep rooted respect and expectation for Charlotte. Since moving here and joining the conversations that drive this city, it has become clear that the people here want this city to be the best it can be. They want to be part of the dialogue and influence positive change.”
#weloveclt now, caLive, exists for this reason. Own it. Help us build it. Charlotte is awesome, but it can be better with your help. Here is to 2016. Let’s do this.
Go here to grab a $5 ticket to our first event. Thursday, February 18. Limited supply of tickets.
Cover photo courtesy of Stephen Graddick