Have you met Garrett Tichy?
Believer in people.
Meet Garrett. He’s (wait for it…) awesome. For starters, if you’re familiar with WeLoveCLT and haven’t heard of or don’t know Garrett, you must be living under a rock. Either that, or the friend who introduced you to WeLoveCLT lives under a rock, in which case, you should probably take them apartment hunting.
Garrett (along with his business partner and also awesome person, Kayla Dugger) runs a marketing firm called Ready at 7, and just launched a brand new coworking space in Charlotte called Hygge. And oh yeah, he runs WeLoveCLT. In short, Garrett is the man behind this ‘madness.’ (I mean that in a good way.) He’s the reason you’ve been attending monthly gatherings to experience incredible speakers and crowds that create a tangible, inspiring energy. He’s the reason you’ve met so many wonderful new people in this city. In fact— he’s the reason you’re reading this right now. What’s interesting though is, if were up it Garrett, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. He probably also wouldn’t appreciate that I potentially accused you or your friend of living under a rock. (But, seriously.)
I approached Garrett shortly after the ‘Have You Met?’ series began and asked when we’d get to ‘meet’ Garrett, and he firmly told me, “never.” Again, a few months ago I brought it up, this time with the argument that as the person behind all of this, it would be cool for everyone to ‘meet’ him, and I was again told no, and “I want WeLoveCLT to be less of me, and more of everyone else.” But, upon the end of the September speaker event, after Garrett had announced WeLoveCLT would be going into hibernation for the winter (speaking of hibernation, as me about the time Garrett referred to himself as a beaver) I asked once again if I could introduce him, and I finally got a “YES!” (Not really, I got a sigh, and an “okay.”)
Garrett doesn’t want the focus to be on him. He’s created something so special and inspiring with WeLoveCLT. But why? He doesn’t do all of this for recognition. He doesn’t want to be the center of attention. He does it for the people. He does it for all of us. His vision has been to connect—to bring people together, for them to experience new things, and to be inspired. And would you say he’s succeeded? I sure as hell would. But another interesting thing about Garrett? I don’t know that he’d say the same. He wouldn’t want us to focus on him for what he’s done, but rather on all of the connections that have been made, and the energy that’s cultivated.
Garrett is one of the most real people I have ever met. He’s someone you can go to with anything, be it an idea, a problem, or just a ‘hey, how’s it going?’ and he’ll tell you what he thinks, he’ll tell you what he’d do, and he’ll tell you how it’s going. It’s a trait I admire so much about him, and something I wish I saw in more people. He will openly admit and discuss things he sees as failures or faults, he’ll share his opinion with you, and he’ll even cry in front of 150 of his closest friends. (No really, I think I’ve seen him cry at more WeLoveCLT events than I’ve seen him dry-eyed.) But what more could you ask for to verify someone’s authenticity? He’s so freaking genuine in his mission to connect people, he’s not afraid to show ‘the feels’ he gets when he sees 150 people standing in a room, experiencing the awesomeness.
Probably the coolest thing about Garrett? He believes in people. He believes that people are capable, and that they can make things happen. And I don’t think anyone would deny the need for more of that attitude (except maybe those of you who, you guessed it, live under a rock.)
I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed the conversation with Garrett for this interview. I can’t find the right word or adjective to use, other than, once again ‘real’. It was such a real conversation. I only hope reading his answers does the actual conversation even the slightest bit of justice. And I am positive this intro will not do him justice, so please, PLEASE, if you don’t know Garrett, get to know him. I promise you won’t regret it.
In conclusion: Garrett is awesome. He’s awesome for everything that he’s done through WeLoveCLT, for all of the people he’s brought together. He’s awesome for his unwavering support of people, and of organizations/groups making Charlotte better. And he’s awesome because he’s awesome. I am SO proud to call Garrett a friend.
I asked him six questions. His answers are below his picture.
What are you passionate about?
Oh boy. I feel like the obvious answer would be people, and connecting them. It’s kind of the whole point of WeLoveCLT, and everything that I’m doing at the moment. When I think about Ready at 7 as a digital marketing company connecting people to businesses, people to people, when I think about WeLoveCLT, it’s about people being open to a conversation and connecting, when I think about Hygge and the new coworking space and the living room, powered by OrthoCarolina. I’d say connecting and people is definitely my passion, but that seems pretty obvious.
If I had to pick something else, and maybe something people don’t know about me, and maybe it’s not a passion, but something I spend a lot of time thinking about is kind of like self-happiness or doing things that are self-fulfilling. I’ve said this a lot, and sometimes it catches people off-guard, but I’m a pretty selfish person—like one of the most selfish people. I believe in being selfish. Everyone associates selfish with being negative, it’s like a negative term. But I believe that in life, you should always be number one. The second we forget to take care of ourselves is the second we’re destined for failure. The moment you take a backseat, the moment things start to slip and you start to become unhappy…it’s very easy to affect people around you so I try very hard to focus on myself and making myself happy. That’s something I’m incredibly passionate about and something I preach to a lot of people, especially people who ask how I do all of these things. Everything I do, I do for myself. But I do it for myself because that makes me a better friend, and a better husband, and a better father—I’m happy. I’m happy all day, then I get to go home and be happy with my family. I’ve never understood people working fulltime jobs they DON’T enjoy, and they have to go home to escape. I don’t have escape because I’m happy in almost every aspect of my life. I wish other people would think about it more.
What advice would you give yourself 10-15 years ago?
This question gets asked a lot—I love it. It’s one of my favorite. People love to say ‘I wouldn’t change a thing! This was meant to be!’ And I think that’s a load of crap, for the most part. So I worked in retail, and if I could go back and not work retail for as long as I did, and not get trapped in that cycle of feeling comfortable, or if I could tell myself as a 20 year that old making $60K a year isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, or tell myself things don’t matter—physical things. I do like my things, I like having a big tv, I like having all my video game systems, there are things I like, but I wish I could go back and tell myself it’s not that important to have everything I wanted. But I made good money working retail so I’d put up with the retail crap. I didn’t go to school, I wasn’t a productive member of society, it was just easy.
Also if I could go back, I’d tell myself I don’t believe in second chances anymore. I would tell myself to not be as willing to give people second chances as I was, and I think that would drastically change my life. That’s everything from friendships to relationships, and I think on the flip side, I wish people didn’t give me nearly as many second chances. I think I would’ve been forced to be a better person quicker. I wasn’t a good kid, I was doing drugs and whatever I wanted to with no regard for anybody. It was just what Garrett wanted, Garrett did. It was truly selfish, it wasn’t making me happy, just me being an angst-y, selfish prick. I wish my parents would’ve kicked me out sooner, or didn’t give me that little bit of money when I asked for it. So, I’d tell myself not to work retail as long as I did, don’t get caught in that cycle, and don’t be so willing to give people second chances, on both sides.
What frustrates you?
Let’s say inaction. I’ve met so many people through WeLoveCLT. I’ve met so many people that have great ideas and so many people with great ideas that they don’t want to execute. They want to talk about them, then they want to hand them off. They’ll literally tell me about something and then ask me to do it. Like, you just delivered this excited, passionate speech about what you want to do, and now you want me to do it? People will talk. WeLoveCLT and everything it stands for is about meeting new people, connection, taking chances, trying new things, all sorts of themes, and the message ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ I really believe that, and inaction frustrates me. Just too much talk, not enough action.
Something else that frustrates me is the outcry for the saving of places. Like Common Market and Food Truck Friday. Who gives a damn? They go away, so what? People will just go somewhere else. Something I’ve realized, I don’t really care about Charlotte as a city. I care about the people. I wish people wouldn’t be so upset about places going away, because they can just be replaced. People can not. If you found a connection with the human, as opposed to the place, those people will continue on. Yes, it’s sad Food Truck Friday is going away from South End, but people will just congregate somewhere else. Look at the Charlotte Living Room this weekend. I thought it was just so cool the amount of people, and it wasn’t about the space necessarily—it was promoted as a place to come together and meet people. I think it’s short lived timeframe was an important representation of the way I feel. I met awesome people there. Yes, the Living Room is gone but those relationships live on. I want people to be willing to act on their thoughts and ideas and not be so scared, and I want people to get less attached to places and things and more attached to people. People will live on, places will go away.
Where would you like to see Charlotte in 5 years?
So I’ve been here 8 years and I feel like it’s changed a lot. And I think—and I don’t have any grounds to stand on here, I don’t feel particularly connected or knowledgeable enough to speak about where it could actually be— I think it’s growing at an alarming rate, population growth, and infrastructure isn’t following, but that’s anywhere. 5 years will be here before we know it and we’re still going to be talking about a lot of the same things. If we push it further out, I’d like to see Charlotte be more inclusive. And I haven’t done a particularly good job of this with WeLoveCLT because I don’t know how, but we’re still a pretty segregated community. People love WeLoveCLT, but it’s a pretty poor sampling of Charlotte as a whole. It doesn’t do a good job of reflecting every type of person, black, white, Hispanic—it just doesn’t. So for me, I refuse to market to the different demographics, but I think I would like to see any and everything more inclusive, and maybe it’s grossly marketed, which I’m okay with. That’s what I’d like to see, but that’s also a product of me, it’s the one thing I feel like WeLoveCLT failed at, is being a good representation of Charlotte, from a people standpoint. There’s large groups of people missing, and I don’t know what to do about it.
What are some of the challenges facing Charlotte?
I think Charlotte is in this really awesome place. Going back to talking about inaction—there’s also a TON of action. People are feeling inspired, the creatives are booming at the moment. I think there’s a lot of overlapping effort in every sector. Arts, nonprofit, tech, startup, marketing, there are a lot of people trying to do the same thing. Especially on the community level. There are little things here and there I see and I wish people would’ve reached out to me to partner, as opposed to feeling the need to create the same thing. Like what’s the point? It’s a desire to own what you create, which I totally appreciate—it’s the reason WeLoveCLT exists. I was originally looking into starting Creative Mornings, but I thought why not do WeLoveCLT and have it be my own, and not have to answer to anybody? So I totally respect people wanting that, but I wish there was more partnership. And I see people move here and they see opportunity, and I think people can be successful here, where in NYC or something, they may be overs-shadowed. Someone could start ILoveCLT next week and in a year grow it to the same size, if not bigger, than WeLoveCLT. I really do. But why? What would be the point if it’s the same thing? So that’s a challenge, and I see it a lot. When you start cannibalizing the audience, that’s not good. You’ve got 20 people over there and 20 people over there, but you could have 40 people here. That’s why WeLoveCLT is going to support things like Creative Mornings, There is a good synergy of this speaker series and bringing people together. I think the core group of us that are running these type of events are doing a good job of supporting one another, but there’s a lot of people out there feeling like it’s all competition.
Why do you love Charlotte?
I love the people that I’ve met. I have, over the last year…I don’t want to say worked hard, but I’ve worked hard to keep up with those people and develop relationships. It goes back to my comment earlier, take or leave the city, if I took all of my friends and moved to New York, I’d love New York just as much. Or to Hawaii, or to some random town in Wisconsin, I’d have the thing that makes me happy. It’s not the city. The city is just this and that—it’s just buildings and restaurants. I moved from New York, I don’t miss anything except my friends. That’s why I love Charlotte.
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