Company: EatWorkPlay CLT
Position: Chief Business Development Officer
WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Landstuhl, West Germany on an American Military Base. My father was in the Air Force.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN CHARLOTTE AREA?
TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOU?
In summary, my 3 biggest passions in life are 1) connecting with people, 2) connecting people with each other, and 3) connecting people to the community. That is what I naturally love to do, what I have done since my first day coming to Charlotte, and what ultimately brought me to EatWorkPlay.
As far as my personality: any of my friends can attest I am one of the biggest extroverts you will ever meet. I thrive in crowds and absolutely love being around people. It’s almost like a drug how energizing it is for me. I love putting on events and parties for this reason, and ultimately, I really love connecting with people. For me, there’s nothing more special than that magic moment when you connect with another human being by finding those points of commonality and understanding.
My entire life is so people-centric because I think that life is simply meaningless without good people in it. It’s literally everything for me. I believe it’s wired into our biological systems to be social, pack-minded animals. And lastly, while I love witty banter and the art of the playful back-and-forth, what most people don’t know is I’m also one of the warmest, most sensitive people you’ll ever meet. As one of my best friends Chris Barber once fondly called me, I’m just a “big ol’ teddy bear.” Haha, thanks Chris.
DURING YOUR TIME VOLUNTEERING FOR A COMMUNITY ACTIVITY OR PROJECT, WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORIAL MOMENT?
That’s a really tough one. There have been so many great moments. I realized how much I truly love putting on YP events when I looked back and saw that I have lead or helped organize over 50 Young Professional Events in just the 3 years I’ve been in Charlotte! It’s been a busy 3 years! My 3 favorite moments:
1. The entire CIAA experience, write-up, and resulting press for EatWorkPlay was a huge highlight. After a lot of controversial press surrounding CIAA this year (including allegations of white people being racist for avoiding the tournament), I decided to do an investigative journalism piece for the tournament in February 2016. I, a white person, immersed myself in the CIAA weekend in order to gain a better perspective of the event and to be able to constructively add to the discussion. The entire weekend doing “research” was an incredible, personal growth experience. As a result of writing my follow-up article, the EWP website received over 100,000 page views in a weekend, the piece was featured in 2 different written publications, and I was interviewed on local television on both WCCB and WBTV. All of the press and attention it got afterwards was really humbling. I was really happy I could add a far-reaching, positive message to the discussion.
2. In October 2015, I co-organized (along with Farai Gwata: a 2016 40 under 40 of the Charlotte Business Journal) the first Charlotte YP Mixer hosted by the Young Affiliates of the Mint (YAM). We successfully brought together every single institutional YP organization in town (22 total) for one big mixer, putting on a truly city-wide event.
3. For the Young Affiliates of the Mint Fall Ball Gala: Moulin Mint in November 2015, I coordinated getting the Duke Energy Building, 525 N. Tryon, and the VUE to all light up the color mint in honor of the Mint Museum.
IN YOUR OPINION, HOW DO YOU CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMMUNITY?
I realized early on that I absolutely love connecting people to each other and the community. It’s legitimately a type of high for me. In everything I do, this is my mission, and one of the reasons I’ve planned so many events and made so many connections.
1. I am the Chief Business Development Officer and a Partner at EatWorkPlay, Charlotte’s Lifestyle Guide. The entire company mission is to connect people with each other, the city of Charlotte, and phenomenal local businesses. I write articles, lead business development, and lead up our Membership Program.
2. I serve on the Board of the Young Affiliates of the Mint, and am currently serving the end of my 2nd year as Co-Social Chair. In that time, I co-lead, along with my close friend Farai, 20 different YAM Events where we had a combined attendance of 2,000 people and raised over $4,000.
3. I serve on the Board of the Charlotte City Club Young Professionals, and our mission is connecting the Young Professionals of the City Club with each other and great local organizations. I’ve been on the Board as we have put on over 20 YP Events and launched our Annual Young Professionals Awards Dinner in 2013.
4. I was the Founder and CEO of the nightlife entertainment company LIME Entertainment in 2015. Our mission was helping people live the eponymous motto of Living In the Moment Everyday: LIME. We put on several awesome events, and the 200+ person capacity NYE party was a huge highlight.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES OR INTEREST?
• After years as a competitive runner, I am now a big lifting enthusiast.
• Attending and planning the best events in Charlotte
• Exploring the best hidden gems of Charlotte
• The art of mixology
• Thought-provoking Films
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE THAT YOU STAND BY?
My number one life motto is “Carpe Diem: Seize the Day.” Life is way too short not to enjoy every single moment, cherish the good in this world, and to never hesitate in pursuing your dreams. I realize it’s a cliché motto to live by, but it’s better than YOLO…right?? Haha.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 5 YEARS?
Honestly, I’ve stopped trying to predict the future. Five years ago, I was an engineering major at Georgia Tech, and I thought I would be a Mechanical Engineer at an Aerospace company like Boeing. Fast forward 5 years after changing majors to Economics, working in banking, doing a consulting gig, and starting my own nightlife entertainment company, I’m now a Writer and Business Development Officer at a Startup Lifestyle Guide. I could have never predicted that.
I don’t know where I’ll be, but I do know I’m never going to stop pursuing my passion of connecting with people and connecting them to the community. I also very much feel at home in the Entrepreneurial Community.
CAN YOUR SHARE ONE THING THAT IS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
I’ve always wanted to go on an epic road trip of the U.S. with a friend while still relatively young, and explore the different parts and cultures of the United States. I’ve heard from other people that it’s an invaluable experience less so because of the traveling, but more so because of the powerful friendship bonding on such a journey.
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU USED YOUR PASSPORT?
This past November I surprised my mother (who currently lives in Spain) for Thanksgiving. It was a lovely trip where I got to see a lot of family, and even crashed my cousin’s wedding.
WHAT IS A FUN FACT ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NO ONE KNOWS?
There’s actually quite a lot. Most people in Charlotte just know Charlotte Derek, the involved YP.
• I was a MASSIVE NERD in high school. I was not, in any sense of the word, a “cool kid.”
o I was President of Orchestra, President of Latin Club, and a member of Math Club, Beta Club, and National Honor Society.
o I carried around a Rubik’s Cube to class around my peers my senior year of high school (I know…I still cringe thinking about it).
o Partially because I grew up in a conservative household where dating was very discouraged, I was horrible at talking with women until after college. My first kiss was at age 18.
o My cool point factor in High School was only slightly elevated since I was an athlete and Captain of the State-Winning Cross Country Team and Captain of the Track Team. But it was a drop in the very empty cool bucket, haha.
• I ran Division 1 Track and Field at Georgia Tech. I was an 800m runner.
• My mother is from Spain and I am fluent in Spanish.
• Despite my love for and talent for sales, networking, and connecting with people, it was a skill I didn’t really develop or realize until after college.
• I’m a massive softy
WHO IS YOUR HERO?
I look up to my mother tremendously and simply don’t give her enough credit. Despite the fact that I didn’t grow up in an affluent household and my mom cleaned houses for a living, she was truly an incredible parent who was there for me every single day, cheering and supporting me in all of my endeavors. My father passed away when I was in high school, and she kept the family unit together. I was able to go out-of-state to Georgia Tech, and with the help of an almost free-ride, graduate debt-free. She was also integral in developing my habit of often times unrealistically high expectations, but expectations that constantly push me to reach higher.
And most importantly, I credit my mother with instilling in me a really strong moral code of honesty, honor, and kindness. She always told me she didn’t care what I “grew up to be”, so long as I “grew up to become a good person.” Akin to the story about John Lennon, when I was in 3rd grade and had my mini profile up as part of Student of the Week, my answer for what I wanted to be as an adult was “a good person.” In large part because of the teachings of my mother, I believe that there is nothing more important in this world than simply being loving and respectful to our fellow human beings
WHAT WAS THE LAST BOOK YOU READ?
The Truth by Neil Strauss. It’s an extremely entertaining read about a renowned pickup artist’s journey to find the ideal type of romantic relationship as he questions and challenges social norms of monogamy. Ultimately, he searches for how he can find love and happiness in his life after his many years as a pickup artist. I found it not only entertaining, but extremely meaningful and insightful.
WHAT WAS THE LAST MOVIE YOU SAW?
Crash. I own it on Blu Ray, and it is my all-time favorite film about different stories converging together as the film explores racial stereotypes, the morality of the film’s protagonists, and competing notions of what it means to be a “good person.”
WHAT WAS THE LAST CONCERT YOU SAW?
Radiojacks at Tin Roof!! They’re an amazing band based out of Charlotte, and the only band in the U.S. that exclusively play top 40 radio hits. The extremely talented band members are all close friends of mine.