It seems Charlotte is always topping some sort of list—“The best place for millennials,” “The best place for business,” etc.—and there’s a good reason. Yes, our weather is great. Yes, we have great barbecue and biscuits. But we also have a business climate that makes it easy to start and grow a successful company. In fact, in 2016 alone, hundreds of new businesses popped up in Mecklenburg County.
Here, we take a closer look at some of Charlotte’s most successful small business owners to see just how these game changers made it all happen.
Scott Wooten was born and raised in Charlotte and could never understand why the city didn’t have any sort of clothing that would help people show their hometown pride. Despite zero design experience, Wooten came up with a logo and started selling T-shirts with Charlotte themes emblazoned across the chests. With some help from the Carolina Panthers’ 2016 Super Bowl appearance and microblogs touting their limited edition T-shirts, hats and gear, the 704 shop has now found it’s stride in the Queen City.
Native Charlottean Charlie Mulligan left his job at the bank to create Brewpublik, a custom-tailored craft beer delivery service. Similar to Pandora music service, a beergorithm (an algorithm developed using questions about beer) figures out what you might like to try – and then the company delivers it to your doorstep. Mulligan says he got the idea after seeing people standing in front of the beer section at the grocery store struggling to choose one. In January 2016, Brewpublik became the first Charlotte-based company to be accepted into 500 Startups, a global venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator based in Silicon Valley.
Joanne de la Rionda says she didn’t know what to get her husband, Randall, for Christmas in 2009, so she got creative. On a whim, knowing that he loved gardening, she bought him a single beehive. Now the husband and wife duo own 50 hives and sell more than 17 different flavors in 500 stores nationwide.Here in Charlotte, you can find the honey everywhere from the shelves of The Fresh Market to Reid’s Fine Foods. And while North Carolina has more beekeepers than any other state, the duo says they realized no one was doing flavored honey; the Queen City was the perfect launching pad
Jon Luther calls himself the head hot dog maker at JJ’s Red Hots (named for his kids Jack and Jessie) and says he got the idea for the popular Dilworth restaurant from a place in Buffalo, New York, where he grew up eating the American classic. JJ’s Red Hots became so popular that they opened one location (Dilworth) and then another (Ballantyne) in under a year. The in-demand premium hot dog joint lets customers customize a dog or pick from a menu of regionalized specialties.
Address: 1514 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203
The premium outdoor clothing brand notched its first sale with a pair of pants online in November 2004. Eight months later, Mountain Khakis had shipped products to 75 retailers. Now, their goods are sold in more than a thousand shops across the country, including Jesse Brown’s Outdoors in South Park—their very first client. While product development happens in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the remainder of Mountain Khakis’ business operations and its 34 employees are based here in Charlotte.
Address: 13321 Carowinds Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28273
Sisters Elizabeth Stafford White and Jacquelyn Stafford Buckner call their ever-popular jewelry business a happy accident. The fashion-forward siblings were searching for a statement necklace that wasn’t big and bedazzled and was comfortable to wear. When they couldn’t find it, they made their own by using a suede strap and natural materials.Everything is still handmade, but now the busy moms have an office space, an online store that stocks additional products and a celebrity following. Their creations can be found in 150 shops across the country and around the world. The sisters describe their line as “earthy and organic elegance.”
Written by Michelle Boudin for Charlotte Happenings Dec. 2016/Jan. 2017 issue. Updates by Ryan Wixted.