Ted Williams, owner/founder of Charlotte Agenda, has been changing the face of local digital media in Charlotte for the past couple years. The young entrepreneur took a leap of faith in his career, and it seems to be paying off well as his venture continues to grow.
We sat down with Ted to learn about Charlotte Agenda and where it’s going, as well as a little bit about the man himself.
Q: How would you describe Charlotte Agenda for our readers who may not be familiar with it?
A: We think of ourselves as the user’s guide to Charlotte. We focus on doing useful news content told in a conversational voice.
Q: In what ways do you think Charlotte Agenda has benefited the city of Charlotte and it’s locals?
A: We hear from a lot of readers who are new to the area. Charlotte is obviously a growing city. There are people looking to connect with leaders, find things to do, and really how to just experience Charlotte. I believe one of the problems that we’ve solved is helping people connect deeper with their own city. Cities are becoming more important in the U.S., and I think that Charlotte feels fresher and not quite as established. That’s why I think our product is important. It helps new transplants as well as people who are born and raised here discover their city, connect with each other, and just enjoy more fun activities. We also help raise better policy for the city.
Q: What made you want to start Charlotte Agenda?
A: I worked in media for about ten years and felt like tomorrow’s media companies were being born then and there. I was actually at the Charlotte Observer, and we created a lot of strategic PowerPoint plans – which is much less fun than creating what the future of media can look like. At a certain point you want to see if you and your team are good enough to create what a local media company can look like. After talking with my wife back and forth for a couple of months I decided to leave a job that I loved and start The Agenda.
Q: Are you a Charlotte native and if not what brought you here?
A: No, actually I grew up in South Florida in a town named Vero Beach. I went to school in Virginia and then lived in D.C. where I worked for a start up and a digital media company. My then girlfriend, now wife, was moving down to Charlotte. I thought “oh no”, as I didn’t necessarily think of Charlotte as the capital of digital media and marketing, as opposed to the northeast or west coast. The girl was more important than my career options, so I moved down here about seven or eight years ago.
Q: What have you found are some your favorite things about Charlotte?
A: Like I touched on before, I feel like Charlotte is a little more merit based than some other established cities. It feels like there’s an opportunity to be involved, to lead, and to create new ventures that you may not see in other cities of our size. I love the people, I love the growth, and I love that it feels more like a blank slate as opposed to an already defined city.
Q: Do you have a favorite news piece that Charlotte Agenda has covered?
A: We cover things to do, food and drink, and other topics. I would say that our journalism and news coverage has really developed since Andrew Dunn joined the organization. I think he is the best local media journalist in the U.S. Some of his work about gentrification in Charlotte has been amazing. Then I think from a different perspective, that our coverage of the dating scene around Charlotte has been some especially good journalism. Those are really from two opposite ends of the spectrum, but I think that’s what is really great about our product. We have that range. We can laugh and joke, but we can also get serious.
Q: Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs wanting to put their own stamp on the world?
A: My advice is to do what you know. I knew media sales, marketing, and advertising better than others, so I was confident in my skills there. You make less money running a local digital media company versus starting a mobile payment company or some type of healthcare tech company, but that’s what I know. The successful entrepreneurs that I have seen generally know their stuff cold. They enter their field because they’re drawn to it, not because they necessarily have a wonderful business plan or because they have analyzed the market. I’m a big believer in doing what you know, that’s kind of a core tenet for starting a business.
Q: At the end of the day, what would you say is your driving motivation?
A: Our mission is to make Charlotte a smarter city and a more human city. I believe we do that through media.
Q: Are there any charities or organizations that you are passionate about or contribute to?
A: Locally, we are involved with The Knight Foundation. I also love an organization called Heart Meter led by a man named Andrew Jenkins. They supply video games to children’s hospitals. I just love what he’s done and the simplicity of the project, so I’ve been a supporter of his.
Q: What do you hope for the future of Charlotte Agenda?
A: Media is a pretty unpredictable field. We are going to focus over the next year and a half to two years on providing more useful information to Charlotte and creating deeper relationships with our audience. We also want to continue defining what a local media company looks like. We are a driven group, so I want us to always be growing. We know that there is a lot of room for growth in Charlotte from an audience perspective and an advertising perspective. As the media environment continues to rapidly change, there will be more opportunity for smart teams that understand the dynamics of media to grow quickly.
Q: I understand that you’re a father. So, do you find it difficult to juggle family and running a business?
A: My son is almost 3 and my daughter is about four months old, and so the answer is YES! I think anyone that says otherwise is lying. Honestly, you just become a little less of a good entrepreneur. I know that sounds a bit cutthroat, but in life you just need to prioritize things. Your business may suffer slightly, but sometimes we have to make trade-offs round family and life versus a growing business. Fatherhood and family are important to me, and managing that through a growing business is challenging. I’d have to say for me personally it’s more fun than working an investment banking job or a consulting job where are you not in control of your schedule. When you are in control of your time, you can figure out the right balance. I would say though, that you also learn some things.
Q: Finally, in celebration of Charlotte Wine & Tapas Week, I was wondering if you have a favorite wine and/or tapas that you would like to share with the readers?
A: I think that Malabar is Charlotte’s go to place for tapas. In terms of wine, I am probably a most frequent visitor to Foxcroft Wine. I enjoy speaking with the staff about different types of wine. I would have to say one interesting thing, and it’s probably not new but new to me, is wine flights. They are available in numerous places throughout town, and it’s a great way to try a bunch of different types of wines and can be a great date night.
We want to thank Ted again for taking the time to speak with us and, we will continue to watch as Charlotte Agenda grows and gains success.