9 of the coolest Charlotte side hustles—from a ranch hand to a pole-vaulting coach. 

Rob Johnson. Photo courtesy of Tyler Avery.

What do you do when you’re not working? C5 readers submitted nominations for some of the most interesting side gigs around. Here are 9 of the coolest Charlotte side hustles.

(1) Pole-vaulting coach

Vica Bondurant, 30, is a pole-vaulting coach on the side when she is not working as a director of marketing with Charlotte Center City Partners. It’s a year-round pursuit that involves training athletes in sprinting, endurance, jumping, gymnastics, strength, and other pieces of the vault. Bondurant is an assistant coach at Providence Day School and she coaches other Charlotte-area athletes as well.

“Some days,” said Bondurant, who pole vaulted as a student at Weddington High School and University of South Carolina, “my PD athletes jump with non-PD athletes and it teaches them both teamwork and competition.”

Her motivation: “My motivation is two-fold,” she said. “One, to stay involved in the sport I loved for so long and two, to help athletes love the sport like I did, and continue to do. My dream is to help each of my athletes set and exceed their goals for each season whether it be obtaining a certain height or just doing better than last year. Some of them just want to have fun with their friends and others want to pole vault in college.

“My other motivation is to help the athletes grow in their lives. Pole vaulting is a really challenging sport both physically and mentally. Every vaulter I knew in college has taken what they learned and applied it to their profession and personal lives. Not being afraid of failure, working through obstacles and celebrating wins is exactly what life is about and you learn that through pole vaulting.”

Courtesy of Vica Bondurant

(2) Ranch hand

Matthew Krenz, 32, is the executive chef and culinary director at the Asbury full-time, while his side hustle is working as a ranch hand at Krenz Ranch in New Salem, NC. Krenz Ranch is owned by the Krenz family, who have been in the ranching business for generations, and Chef Krenz helps with meat deliveries, moving cattle and filling in as needed. His dad and brother are in charge of day-to-day operations.

His motivation: Krenz’s dream is to continue his family’s ranch tradition and to be an ongoing part of a sustainable Charlotte food chain. The Asbury is actually one of the beef clients of the ranch.

“Those animals — they are our babies,” he said. “It’s a boutique cow and calf operation, and no animal is treated better than ours.”

Matthew Krenz. Photo by Michael Hernandez.

(3) Leadership development guide and surf instructor

Brian Formato, 47, works his day job as a human capital consultant. As a side gig, he focuses on his role as a leadership development guide and surf instructor with LeaderSurf. Formato founded the organization two years ago when he decided that classroom-based leadership development training was failing to improve leadership capability. LeaderSurf blends his passions for international travel, humanitarian aid, leadership development and surfing by offering (three times a year) a retreat that is five nights and six days and is centered on leadership development.

His motivation: Formato has a strong passion for helping others, developing leaders, and exposing people to new learnings and new geographies. By teaching leaders how to surf, he seeks to push people outside their comfort zones and enhance their self awareness and leadership skills. His goal is to disrupt traditional classroom-based leadership development programs and to make LeaderSurf an industry leader in the field of experiential leadership development.

LeaderSurf. Photo courtesy of Brian Formato.

(4) Co-owner and co-manager of a Budokon studio

Irene King, 39, is an owner and family lawyer at King Collaborative Family Law by day, and the co-owner and co-manager of Budokon Academy Charlotte on the side.

“Each day, like superwoman, after I finish lawyering, I change out of my lawyer gear and into my yoga pants and BDK Academy gear and head into the Academy to manage the studio and assist classes,” King said. “By way of history, I have practiced law for almost 14 years and yoga for over 10 years. As a yoga student and 200 RYT who has enjoyed every type of yoga our city offers, I have always wanted something more — something with a community of practitioners who strive together for the growth, the strength and the challenge of transforming themselves as individuals to become an even better community.”

Her motivation: “Along with my husband, Andres Pico, I found Budokon,” she said. “It’s an internationally renowned mixed movement arts system that not only trains your body in movements founded on the principles of martial arts, but it also trains your mind on six pillars that emphasize community, relationships, movement, emotions, thoughts, and the environment. My husband and I wanted to create a community in Charlotte where we honor these principles and have a space for people to balance the warrior and the yogi in their minds and bodies.”

Irene King. Photo courtesy of Irene King.

(5) Bootcamp fitness leader

Rob Johnson, 31, is a manager for Morris Jenkins. Extracurricularly, he is committed to his work with The Forge, a fitness activist group that meets every Saturday morning to work out and collaborate on various topics, like community volunteer work. Johnson created the bootcamp-style, weekly conditioning class as a way for a few friends of his to stay in shape, and has grown it into a fitness community that meets in different parts of the city.

His motivation: “I believe that each person has an immense amount of power that is untouched, untapped and waiting to be unlocked,” Johnson said on his website. “I love seeing people find that raw power, channel it and destroy their limiting beliefs. This brings my life fulfillment. Once you have that mental breakthrough, you’re free. You can do anything. You are truly limitless.”

Rob Johnson. Photo courtesy of Tyler Avery.

(6) Executive director of a professional theatre company

Becky Schultz, 34, works as VP of product and partnership marketing for a global payments company. When she’s not doing that, she’s hustling as executive director of Three Bone Theatre, a local professional theatre company that focuses on producing the best of adult contemporary theatre and using theatre as a tool to engage the Charlotte community in challenging conversations.

Schultz joined the leadership team five years ago after performing as an actress in their first Charlotte production. She now juggles donor management, finances, Board recruitment and oversight, marketing, grant writing and production work.

Her motivation: “I firmly believe in the power of theatre to act as a catalyst for conversation and change in our community,” she said. “The stories we choose to tell are timely, relevant, and challenging. Nothing feels better than seeing the audience leave a show and you know that they are going to spend the next week thinking about and discussing what they saw. I also love being able to create opportunities for local artists to challenge themselves and grow in their craft.”

Becky Schultz. Photo courtesy of Becky Schultz.

(7) Retail festival coordinator

Jordan Dollard, 26, works as the shop owner of Elsa Fine by day, and as the coordinator of Front Porch Sundays by weekend. She creates the monthly retail festival in South End on the Rail Trail at 2151 Hawkins St. on the first Sunday of the month from April through November, excluding July. The event, originally started by Charlotte Center City Partners at the invitation of property owner Shook Kelley Inc., features 70 small businesses.

Dollard does everything from communicating with the vendors, to setting up the festival, to handling the marketing and logistics for the five-hour festivals. Dollard has also helped with Art and Soul of South End, South End Small Business Saturday and Charlotte Ballet’s retail efforts.

Her motivation: Dollard loves doing something that brings people together to create a great experience for small businesses and shoppers. As a small business owner in retail herself, Dollard seeks to support other entrepreneurs while giving them a platform to test their products.

“There’s a certain joy in standing in the middle of an event that you’ve worked your tail off for, and seeing businesses and festival-goers connect, laugh and support each other,” Dollard said.

Jordan Dollard. Photo by Catherine Williams.

(8) Co-founders of a wedding flea market

Kacie Johnson, 31, and Sara Kay Mooney, 30, both work at a local education non-profit. Johnson is the managing director of statewide impact and public affairs and Mooney is the manager of corps member matriculation and onboarding. On the side, the two co-founded CLT Wedding Flea, a flea market that allows newlyweds to sell their wedding items to newly engaged couples. The first market was in June 2017 and the duo is planning their third sale on June 2. More than 1,200 brides have shopped at the first two markets, according to the co-founders.

Their motivation: Johnson and Mooney want to disrupt the wedding industry by allowing brides to achieve their vision for their weddings on a budget. Both former brides on a budget themselves, these two women are passionate about connecting brides directly with one another and bi-passing the wedding industry, which they believe often doesn’t put brides at the center of their work.

CLT Wedding Flea. Photo courtesy of Kacie Johnson.

(9) Dog walker and wedding handler

Sam Lagana, 24, works until the late hours of the night as a server at local restaurant The Fig Tree. But during the day, she gets to hang out outside and walk or run dogs around various Charlotte neighborhoods, making sure they get plenty of attention while their owners are at work. She established The Dog Dasher last year to offer her clients pet services including walks, runs, cat care, overnight stays, transportation and wedding care. If you’re getting married and your furry friend is part of your ceremony, Lagana will do everything from transporting your dog in her Jeep, to holding it during the ceremony, to watching it during wedding photography.

Her motivation: “I’m motivated to side hustle for more personal freedom,” she said. “And my love for dogs and being outside. And I want my clients to feel like (they) and their dogs are part of my family rather than just clients.”

Sam Lagana. Photo courtesy of Sam Lagana.


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