A first visit to CreativeMornings feels a bit like a festival and way better than an any early wake-up conference call. That is, IF you can score a spot. All 250 tickets were snapped up online within 10 minutes for the May meeting themed “Serendipity,” which also happens to be a metaphor for Matt Olin’s a-ha moment and how the Charlotte chapter of CreativeMornings came about in 2015.

Image: CreativeMornings Charlotte

Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt was the April speaker at CreativeMornings Charlotte, which drew a tremendous crowd of more than 600! Image: CreativeMornings Charlotte

Who’s Creative?

When freelance copywriter and longtime Charlottean Matt Olin was soul-searching for his next creative challenge, CreativeMornings moved into his direct field of vision. In case you’re not familiar, it’s a global movement to bring creative people together, centered around one morning each month with a theme and a bottomless cup of coffee — executed differently by each of the 169 chapters worldwide.

“I just want to gather creative people together,” Matt shares. He wasn’t sure how to do that, but CreativeMornings kept creeping into his inbox and popping up online. Then lightning struck. “This is how to do it! So I reached out to the Mother Ship and started the process to apply for a Charlotte chapter,” he adds. The application requires a bit of creativity all its own, asking for a video to answer the simply complex question, “Why is Charlotte creative?”

Charlotte really IS creative.

Matt worked with production company Charlotte Star Room to create a video plea to open a chapter, allowing Matt to “host” a morning each month that not only fulfills his creative purpose, but gathers a cross section of self-described creative people — from musicians and media influencers, artists to architects.

“In two minutes we demonstrated the arts, culture, creative professions and energy that come with being the second fastest-growing city in America,” says Matt. They managed to showcase the many ways that creativity manifests in the Queen City and received an enthusiastic thumbs-up to start the 123rd chapter and begin connecting creative types.

To kick off the January meeting, founder Tina Roth-Eisenberg even made a surprise appearance to begin the year in Charlotte with a bang. She was so impressed with the energy and engagement in Charlotte that she had to see it for herself.

Early Morning Electricity

CreativeMornings Charlotte runs on volunteer fuel, where a dedicated group, including Matt, give their time and talents to produce an event that even skeptics will agree is the best use of a Friday morning. Sponsors support everything from coffee and breakfast to the live music stage that matches the vibe with the energy in the renovated warehouse that serves as a church during the other days of the week.

“We want to create something that we would get up in the morning and go to,” says Matt. The hour-long meet-up involves live musicians, 30-second pitches, the Queen City Quiz Show and a well-vetted guest speaker to talk from experience to the monthly theme.

The 30-second pitch is a chance for an audience member to share their story – a business, a start-up or an event that is timely and interesting. And the Queen City Quiz Show, well, that’s part game show (complete with themed music), part knowledge of Charlotte happenings. They change it up, but let’s just say you need to be versed in the Charlotte vibe — or at least be funny and charming.

“We are encouraged to build a gathering that’s right for our city. There is no national template – only a one-word theme each month,” says Matt. There’s always a wait list of over 100 people, but Matt likes the idea of keeping a balance between intimacy and accessibility.

When CreativeMornings changed their venue in April to an off-site location, which opened unlimited space, guest speaker, celebrated architect and former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt drew a crowd of more than 600 at Camp North End. It was validation that they could double their size, but should they?

“Our total attendance ends up around 300-350 each month, and we always have a wait list of over a hundred people,” says Matt. He is quick to say, “We never want it to feel like a cattle call because we want to keep it intimate.”

To ensure that CreativeMornings Charlotte is attracting new energy, they review the wait list name by name to see if someone has attempted to get tickets before and failed. Those people are then promoted for admission.

Creativity comes in all forms at CreativeMornings Charlotte. Image: CreativeMornings Charlotte

Creativity comes in all forms at CreativeMornings Charlotte. Image: CreativeMornings Charlotte

Creativity Connector

Amazing conversations have cartwheeled around town that originated at CreativeMornings Charlotte. It’s not the typical in-your-face, trade a business card and “hit me up on LinkedIn” meeting, but rather a genuine belief in lifting up others who are doing creative work around town.

“I know people are making great connections that fuel great work to benefit our city,” says Matt. He often bumps into it or hears secondhand about the partnerships being formed.

“One morning I walked into Seventh Street Station and saw the director of the McColl Center’s Innovation Institute and the head of Google Fiber having coffee,” says Matt. “They called me over and said ‘Hey, we met at CreativeMornings last month,’ — and I thought Man, is that cool or what?

Want to go?

Visit CharlotteisCreative.com to reserve a ticket on the Monday prior to the Friday Meeting. Your next shot is June 2 (reserve your ticket on May 29 at 9 a.m.) where the theme is “Survival,” and the guest speaker is Charlotte artist Davita Galloway.

Psst … Here’s a BIG heads-up! You’ll want to mark your calendar for July 7, when CreativeMornings Charlotte welcomes their youngest speaker to date, 19-year-old Abby Corrigan. She’s speaking on the theme of Equality, which is supported by her role in the national tour of the celebrated Broadway musical, Fun Home. She’s a Charlotte native and happens to be in town and off that week. Serendipity? Tickets will be available Monday, July 3 at 9 a.m.

Psst, psst … double bonus! Queen City Quiz Show began its summer series on Thursday, May 18 at Eastland Mall. The series invites different communities and neighborhoods to vie for the coveted championship title and big dollars for the charity of their choice. If you missed the first one, pin June 24 at St. Martin’s Church (built in 1911!) and visit qcquizshow.com for more information.

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