Tony Santoro


Justin Cross

Katie Toussaint

Kathryn Godwin

Johnny Wakefield

How do we take the connections and conversations #WeLoveCLT is starting to the next level? How do we add depth to our IRL meetings? These are the questions I had rolling around my head. I blame one person.

Have you met Johnny Wakefield? He’s one of the few people that have given my honest, critical feedback of #WeLoveCLT. It was refreshing and I needed to hear it. The best part? His criticisms were followed with a solution. Not a solution that I have to execute. Nope. He’s going to take action. I love this. Less talk, more getting stuff done. You’ll see if you’re coming to Andrew Jenkin’s talk on August 20. #WeLoveCLT and the team at the League of Creative Interventionists (another project he’s heading up in CLT) are collaborating for something awesome.

You may also recognize him from recently being awarded a grant through the K880 Emerging City Champions program. He’s making a difference and connecting people one block at a time. The project is Small Town CLT.

He’s also a stay at home dad which I think is bad ass. Ask him about his family… and then watch him gush. It’s awesome.

I asked him 6 questions.

What are you most passionate about?

Building personal connections, for sure. People need other people in their lives, and not just long-distance people either. I’ve had some stages of my life as a “overly-mobile millennial” where I didn’t really know anyone within a thousand miles or more, and that’s not a good way to live. I also have a little background/experience with psychotherapy, and the bonds from really knowing and encountering other people deeply are just so important. So, now that I have an awesome family and a good group of people in my life, I’m really passionate about trying to connect other people to each other, mainly so they’re not as lonely and disconnected as I once was. Also, guacamole.

What frustrates you?

Gatekeepers. 🙂 Jeff Jackson said it extremely well at my first WeLoveCLT event back in May and it’s stuck with me ever since: “Don’t let the gatekeepers tell you it can’t be done.” Really, anyone who instantly says no to any idea frustrates me… at least give things a chance. And dream big! I love the concept that anything is possible, even bringing MLB and MLS to Charlotte. Haha. The important things.

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

Loosen up. I think the last ten years have taught me that nothing goes according to plan, ever, and that’s actually ok. There’s no way on Earth I could’ve or would’ve planned the last ten years as they happened, and I’m pretty happy with where I’ve landed. Also, stop stressing about girls.

What is missing from Charlotte?

Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball! Also the NHL, if I’m being greedy. Also a solid bike system with safe, separated lanes and trails. Also more walkable retail and food areas in Uptown. Also more civic pride merchandise and recognizable photo-friendly locations. Also… I should probably stop. We love it here, I promise. Oh, and a waterfront! Can we bring the ocean here?

If you could instantly improve any area of your life what would it be?

My weight. Is that ok to say? I’m eating berry pie as I type this, so…. But I’d like to be healthier and live longer and not be as tired and not subsist on Panda Express and Which Wich (#teamted). Seriously, the Charlotte Agenda articles lately about everyone being more fit are inspiring/guilt-inducing. And that 24 Hours of Booty thing. Yeah, my weight.

How do you take your coffee?

Black, pour over. Iced coffee from Not Just Coffee is answer 1b. I was a no-caffeine sort of guy even while working at coffee shops in Seattle… and then I became a dad. Now I drink 1-3 cups a day (and it’s not enough) to keep up with our two-year-old girl.

If you could learn to cook and perfect one meal what would it be?

Something Mexican, with guacamole and queso everywhere. Probably the perfect enchilada or chimichanga. Mexican food is my wife’s favorite, so I’d love to be able to cook that up for her whenever she’s in the mood. Sabor, Three Amigos, and Vida Vida would take less of our income too, and that would be nice. If I could perfect a good Mexican meal, we’d be fat and happy and I’d be in desperate need of more help with question five.

There’s almost a guarantee that you’ll find Johnny at 7th Street Market on any day. Otherwise follow him on Twitter @FirstWardJohnny.

Sam White

Hi! Meet Sam. I’m doing this intro for a couple reasons. One, Sam is one of the most bad ass designers here in Charlotte. Everything I’ve ever seen that she’s had a hand in is incredibly thoughtful and unique. Have you seen the OrthoCarolina broken billboard campaign? Yup, that’s Sam and the team at Adams Outdoor Advertising spreading all the awesome around Charlotte.

The other reason for the intro is Sam and I are kicking off an awesome new collaboration as a part of #WeLoveCLT. Have you seen the new main image on our homepage? See below.


Awesome, right? Sam did that. See, I told ya! Awesome. This is the first of many why do you love Charlotte quotes by Charlotteans. If you’re interested in participating go here and tell us in 3-5 words why you love Charlotte. Each week we will showcase one Charlottean and the reason they love CLT on our awesomely handwritten homepage.

Let’s get to it. I asked Sam six questions. Here’s what she had to say.

What are you most passionate about?

That’s a big question. A lot of things. I’m going to say learning. This is probably why I am so eager to meet people. Everyone has something interesting to talk about, a story to tell or something to learn from. I love teaching myself new things, like calligraphy, or reading about ideas and theories, trying new workouts. You name it, I probably want to learn more about it.

What is your greatest indulgence?

Wine? I indulge everyday if that’s the case.

If you could go back in time 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

Don’t pretend like you know everything and always ask more questions. This has only benefitted me. It is an amazing way to meet anyone, just ask them about themselves. No one really gains anything from pretending like they know everything, that’s just no fun. Ask how things work, ask why people do what they do, ask how you can help. More times than not, this will lead to something “awesome.”

Who do you look up to and why? admire?

I love this quote :”Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known” -Chuck Palahnuik

There is absolute truth in that. Surround yourself with incredible people. There are so many people I look up to.

Momma takes the cake on this one though. She taught me to be confident, bold and to work my ass off but to be humble and caring in the process. She defines grace. I hope that one day I can be a fraction of the woman she is. If you ever have the chance to meet my mom, don’t miss it. She’s the real deal.

If you had ear a public official in Charlotte, what would have them change?

I don’t know that I have would have them change anything immediately. I’m very nomadic and yet have no plans of leaving Charlotte. I love this city and the progress it is making. However, I would say that CLT is attracting a lot of young, ambitious talented people and this city needs to have a plan to keep them here. Through investing both with money and human resources, in the innovative spirit that many of these young people embody, this city has the potential to become a viable destination and home for startups and entrepreneurs.

What is your favorite story behind a bruise or scar on your body?

I am one of the most accident prone people you will meet, seriously. At any given time I have some sort of new bruise or scar. One of the most recent came from me flipping over the handle bars of my bike after hitting a pot hole on Queens (be careful out there). Ironically, I had just finished a designing a billboard campaign in which OrthoCarolina helped fix a bunch of orange broken billboards. I had the great opportunity of being a live case study. OrthoCarolina really will fix you.

Ally wants to know if you had to be a Disney Princess, who would you be and why?

Ariel. No Question. She’s got spunk.

You can find Sam on Twitter @iamsamwhite or check out here portfolio here.

Hannah Levinson

Meet Hannah. First of all, if you don’t already know Hannah, I’m not even sure how you’ve made it this far without knowing her. Second, I literally cannot say enough positive things about this amazing woman.

I met Hannah at 7th Street Market (Not Just Coffee, of course) while having coffee with the lovely Katie Toussaint. Katie said, “Hannah!” and so Hannah joined us. I’d recognized her from Twitter, and knew she was very well liked. It didn’t take long for me to discover why.

Within the first 3 minutes of conversation with her, I already felt like one of Hannah’s good friends. She asked about my role at Queen City Forward, if I was enjoying it, and genuinely seemed to want to know. And that’s Hannah—she genuinely cares.

I’ve since spent quite a bit of time with her at Packard Place, and gotten to enjoy coffee with her once or twice. Each time I leave an interaction with Hannah, I am a more positive person. She has a way of uplifting and inspiring people, with such humility that I can’t quite explain. There’s no such thing as small talk with her. Every conversation is real, meaningful, and genuine. I tweeted once that ‘time spent with Hannah is good for the soul,’ and I couldn’t be more sincere in saying that. Hannah is good for the soul. Not to mention, she rocks red lipstick like no one you’ve ever met in your life. Don’t tell her I’m giving away her secret, but she says it’s all about the liner.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to call Hannah a friend, and I hope you will, too.

Hannah’s passion for social change and involvement in the entrepreneurial community made her the perfect candidate of the 2015 ImpactU Demo Day MC. Come see Hannah in action August 5, and say ‘Hello.’

What is your passion

My driving passion? I have many. But I would say the primary passion of mine is economic equity and education for women and girls. That’s been growing in me for years now and will be a life-long motivator. My experience as a woman is a defining feature of my life and livelihood, and I’ve worked in service of several different groups and populations over the years, but this passion has grown in me with more fervor with each passing year. It’s a motivation and underpinning of everything I do and the way that I see the world.

What’s your greatest indulgence?

It’s definitely craft coffee. I’m probably one of the Queen City’s greatest aficionados of The Daily Press. I also love Not Just Coffee and am also a big fan of Central Coffee–they have this absolutely amazing cold brew that will change your life. These Pure Intentions nitro taps that are popping up at area restaurants and breweries all ’round town are also game changers. That’s something that I’ll chase down in every city I travel to–trying to find the best cup of coffee on god’s green earth.

What is your least favorite trait about yourself?

I think it’s my aversion to making big decisions. Part of this is my background as a philosopher; you’re trained to look at things from multiple angles, not overvaluing one option over another, and critically investigate every sub-point of a thing you encounter. What that leads to on the bad side is…having a difficulty of deciding between two, three, several different options because you see merit in each of them and don’t want to close off the possibility or potentiality in any.

What’s missing from Charlotte?

At this juncture, I’d say sustaining capital for all of the entrepreneurs or entrepreneurially-minded people that are living, working in and considering moving to our city. I don’t think this will be the case forever, but we’re in this limbo season where there’s more interest in growing businesses than there is capital to sustain them. I’m curious to see how our really unmitigated growth affects that and is affected by that in the coming years.

Steven Radney asked what did you learn from your best team experience?

Gosh, that’s a great question! I learned that leadership is learned and not innate. My best team experience to date was a few years ago in a small team I worked with during graduate school. It was just me, the director of the program, a graphic designer, and one other person, and we worked together seamlessly. One of the primary reasons for that was because we had a leader who was at once hands on and hands off; she was supportive, she gave structure, didn’t micro-manage, and encouraged us in this fluid way that was so natural, I almost didn’t notice it was happening. The only reason I realized later that the experience was different was because I hadn’t had that unity in a team before, and I recognized it was because of her leadership and ability to recognize and draw out everyone’s strengths, and uplift everyone around their weaknesses or their growth areas. And she had studied for that. She had spent time building those skills in her portfolio, it hadn’t just happened overnight. She evolved into a leader by deciding to become one.

Ally Gartner asked if you had to get a tattoo, what would you get, and where would you get it?

That’s easy. I have one already—it’s a big tattoo down my spine in Hebrew of all my siblings’ names, a kind of family tree. That was the perfect tattoo, the only one I really wanted, and I sat on it for years before I finally got it done, knowing that if the idea stayed with me that long it would be something I was perfectly confident in keeping. The only other tattoo idea that I’ve had that’s stuck with me is a replica of a steam engine, and here’s why: my grandfather grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and worked for steel mills for 50+ years, but was also a steam engine conductor. He worked on railroads for decades of his life, and then in retirement spends his days traveling the world, taking pictures of steam trains. He’s literally gone to multiple countries every year of his life since probably his early-mid fifties or so–China seven times, all of the Eastern European bloc countries, several countries in South America…it’s just an obsession with trains. To me, though, trains embody travel, mystery, adventure, romance…and obviously an homage to family, which is very important to me.

What is your favorite picture of yourself?

(Laughing) It’s the one that’s everywhere. You can give James Stewart credit for it. What I love about it most is–James and most people know this–there are hardly any pictures of me that exist. I don’t have a lot of pictures of myself, and I don’t take very many pictures of myself or just generally. I really love looking at and experiencing other peoples’ photo-documentation of their and their friends’ lives, yet find myself struggling with the concept of taking pictures in a situation where I’m having a wonderful experience and want to stay conscious and present, not dilute whatever emotional weight it carries by putting a screen in front of it and taking a pause. I love that picture the most because James was taking pictures of this event at the Spoke Easy, wandering around with his camera snapping shots, and he walked up to me and said something like “I have to take a picture of you,” and I said “no, please don’t, I hate pictures.” He said “well, why don’t you just pretend to be having fun,” or something or other, and I laughed awkwardly and he took this picture–and it was really good!

{see her favorite picture below}


You can find Hannah on Twitter at @djhannimal.

Pat’s Place