0 Cart
Added to Cart
    You have items in your cart
    You have 1 item in your cart
    Check Out Continue Shopping

    The Porch — interview



    The first time I met Wyatt Cantrell, I immediately knew there was something special about him. He was so self-confident and sure of his surroundings while being completely curious and enthusiastic about life. We met Wyatt in early spring of 2016 at Sola Pop-Up Market. He was set up a few booths down from us selling artwork accompanied by his mother Meredith and father Ian, so we figured it was their show and he was just along for the ride. We would soon come to find that these interesting multi layered paintings were all made by a six year old. We could hardly see him behind the booth but he came around smiling, full of energy and introduced us to his work. Over the next few months we got to know him and his family, and we decided to sit down with this young hustler and entrepreneur for our latest installment of Raleigh Hustles Hard.

    Wyatt, who turns seven on Friday, has been a hustler since birth. He grew up watching his mother run a small business, and has always idolized Raleigh artists and entrepreneurs, like Adam Peele. When he was four, he had his eyes set on a $300+ Ewok Village Lego Set, so his first thought was to start a business. He began with an idea to make refurbished toys and masks from salvaged items, which proved too labor-intensive. After spotting a Star Wars decal on the back of a car one day, he and his mom decided stenciling and painting might be the best way to bring his ideas to life. At 4 years old, Wyatt taught himself how to paint. After his mother Meredith creates and cuts stencils, Wyatt goes to work painting and layering the piece with an array of colors, textures, and patterns. When I asked how he learned his skills, his answer was refreshingly simple. "Well, this was the job I chose so I just started painting." An answer only a six year old with no concept of failure or doubt could provide. Wyatt started gaining traction at local markets and events, and 100 paintings later, the Ewok Village belonged to him.

    Wyatt estimates that he’s sold close to 1,000 paintings. At first glance, that number seems high for such a young kid, but if you catch him in action, you’ll become a believer. Wyatt is full of positivity, interest, and passion. His infectious attitude and energy radiate across the booth and is visible in each customer. It’s rare to see them leave empty handed. He operates with a blind confidence. He's clear in his goals, and for now that's hustling art to buy toys. His business is fully functional and self funded. He purchases all of his own equipment and supplies exclusively from Jerry's Artarama.  He loves that store.

    Wyatt’s process is intense. He batches a few paintings at a time, working on the porch because of the mess. He uses acrylic and then draws using a paint marker or oil pastel.  Then he repeatedly layers spray and splatter paints, then stencil.  He and his mom have spent the last two years experimenting with this system of layering, the basis being the stencil ideas Wyatt comes up with like “Storm Trooper Eating a Popsicle” or “Hedgehog Riding A Skate Board”. Wyatt hustles hard and you can find him working almost every weekend around the triangle. He’s commissioned pieces for countless individuals and locals businesses like Citizen Pops and Gringo A Go Go.

    It’s easy to forget that he’s currently an elementary school student. I jokingly asked if he was in the 4th grade, and he answered, "If I was in 4th grade I probably wouldn't be doing this because I'd have all the money.” He quickly checks himself and adds, "Well, no I probably still will do it when I'm in 4th grade." True wisdom and hustle. Wyatt loves to toy hunt at the Flea Market and especially at the Lego store. "I have 102 Lego sets at home." Meredith nods behind him with a smiling sigh. What’s even better than the Lego’s is that much like myself and most 80’s babies, he absolutely loves He-Man. I’m talking favorite movie, TV show, and toy. "I like He-Man so much I have a He-Man Skeletor,” he said leaning forward, eyes bulging. We talked about the Skeletor toy for the next four minutes straight. Much like Porch Fly's own Jay Blevins, you'll rarely find Wyatt anywhere without at least one toy. When I ask Wyatt what other essentials he keeps on him at all times, he said “I like to make sure I bring at least 4 quarters with me just in case I run into a quarter machine.” God, I miss being 6...

    Obviously, at such a young age no amount of talent and drive equals success without support. Wyatt’s parents, Meredith and Ian not only make it possible, but work hard to encourage and provide an environment for the entrepreneurial spirit to grow. While they are fully supportive of his endeavors, Meredith stresses that his path remains his own. “It's better to learn tough business lessons now when he's a little guy and has the largest safety net of all than to learn them when he's grown and the net is much smaller. It could be great, a disaster, or simply fade away, but he'll be the one that determines all of that.” I have a feeling Wyatt is just getting started.

    Learn more about Wyatt and where to find his art as well as a few of his favorite places to visit in the area:

    Wyatt is done with events for 2016, but you can keep up with his future shows and view his currently available pieces at his Facebook Page HERE

    To order artwork, email:

    Thanks for stopping by the porch!

    - Joshua




    I first met Daniel in the fall of 2015 while walking through my neighborhood, on Person Street. He wasn’t yet a familiar face (at least to me) on the block, but something told me that the guy carrying loads of fresh produce into the newly opened The Pharmacy Café (TPC) was going to be a great addition to the neighborhood. Founded in 1910, Person Street Pharmacy & Café has been a landmark in Raleigh for as long as anyone living can remember. Known for its staples like the 10-cent popcorn machine and full service soda fountain, this was more than a pharmacy, it was a place of congregation. Since the beginning, the pharmacy consistently provided a sense of community for its family of customers. But like anything, change is inevitable. People move on, the neighborhood landscape shifts, and a new generation comes in to carry the torch. Daniel Whittaker, owner of TPC is now holding the torch with a strict understanding of the past and a bright vision for the future. We sat down with him for our latest installment of Raleigh Hustles Hard, to find out more about how The Pharmacy Café became home.

    Daniel took over TPC in November of 2015. As a self-proclaimed “Navy brat”, he spent most of his childhood moving around without a real sense of community. He moved to North Carolina in the early 2000’s working for a while as a franchise developer for Rum Runners as well as at a series of restaurant jobs. As random as Daniel makes these jobs seem, I quickly understood their value in leading up to the present. As well as the owner of TPC, Daniel sits at the helm of Green Planet Catering, an award winning, sustainably run catering company he founded in 2007.

    The Pharmacy Café reopened in June of 2015, under pharmacist and new owner, Trey Waters. Partnering with Chef Chad McIntyre from Market Restaurant, the new café promised to fill a much-needed void in the neighborhood, breakfast and lunch fare. Unfortunately, an unclear vision and lack of execution caused almost immediate problems for the café. Trey approached his friend Daniel to quickly come in and right the ship.

    After a venture designing the Market Restaurant (now Standard Foods) didn’t materialize, Daniel was left waiting for his opening. TPC was just the opportunity. “The community wasn’t perceiving a problem yet, but they weren’t enticed or super stoked to come over. We wanted to change that with a little bit of marketing and a great menu.” Daniel’s first move was bringing in Patrick Cowden, who he first met working at Michael Jordan’s restaurant in Chapel Hill nearly fourteen years ago. “I flew in chefs from all over the country, but always knew the right choice was just a few miles away. Everyone who worked in the kitchen under Patrick went on to be a head chef, private chef, or head of hospitality. He is an educator as much as an amazing chef. The fact that he holds an accounting degree doesn’t hurt either.” At the same time, Daniel was also looking for a full-time executive chef for Green Planet Catering, so the timing and opportunity proved serendipitous.

    After a complete overhaul to the menu and a re-imagining of the space, the café was quickly off and running. Daniel brought in a community table, new signage, and tabletop toys for the family. “We paid attention to our customers on what they would like to see, what was missing, and what we could do better.” With healthy and substantial breakfast offerings like “Pedro”, the Café Burrito and an assortment of fresh breads, jellies, and jams (made in house!), TPC became a neighborhood staple virtually overnight. Undeniably, the key to the café is the lunch specials. Every single day, that small chalkboard next to the register is displaying some uniquely and newly crafted creation. In over a year, I’ve literally never been disappointed!

    As a small business owner, Daniel views himself as much a facilitator as anything else. “I’m passionate about providing jobs for excellent people. People who are better than me.” Daniel, who is constantly looking for his next project, is a firm believer in “manager-managed” companies. “I always have the intention of putting stronger people than me in leadership positions so I can step back. That doesn’t always work out, but we have very little turnover.” Instead of employing an ever-shifting number of part-time restaurant workers, Daniel empowers his small staff by providing full time dedicated positions as well as the opportunity for additional hours at Green Planet Catering. With much of the staff splitting time, and the repurposing of excess ingredients, both GPC and TPC are able to run with very minimal waste and overhead.

    For Daniel, it all comes back to sustainability. “Everything is composted or recycled. No plastics except for food wrap. We are completely committed to waste reducing programs.” In 2007, he started farming with NC State Agriculture education farm, producing primarily for GPC. “For nearly 7-years, we had a private partnership with the NCSU agriculture school. We had a 6-acre spot near Yates Mill Pond where I spent 40 hours a week farming for GPC. At the same time, we developed a partnership with Pete Pagano of Tir Na Nog, running GPC from their kitchens.” Daniel and his team even began using the fryer oil from Tir Na Nog to make bio-fuel for GPC trucks. Between sustainably growing and harvesting their own produce and converting spent oils in bio-fuel, GPC began to win awards for sustainability. Today, the 65-person staff works out of a large production facility in Cary, providing everyday drop offs, boxed lunches, and hot buffets for corporate clients.

    Currently, Daniel isn’t doing much farming, except for at home, where he grows and supplies most of the fresh herbs for GPC and TPC. I learned pretty quickly that a few things are very important to him. Community empowerment, sustainability, adventure, and reflection seem to guide his path. “I need a place to ponder. I make better decisions on a surfboard on the water than I do behind the counter.” He’s known to peel off for Wrightsville at a moments notice to surf but you can typically catch him around downtown on his one-wheel. Daniel, who loves going back country camping stepped off the Appalachian Trail in June after hiking 100 miles. He’s worked out at Crossfit Invoke for the last 11 years and fought MMA for seven. “I injure myself a lot, because activities requiring a lot of intensity help me. I have to be so focused on maintaining myself that it really allows me to clear my head.”

    On the question of Hustle, Talent, or Luck, Daniel immediately interrupted me with, “Hustle”. “There are talented and lucky people all over place, but less people willing to put their head down and put in what it takes to be an entrepreneur." Besides hustle, Daniel gives due credit to the City of Oaks. “I have really strong feelings about Raleigh. That’s why I’m here. It’s the best place to run a business. As a water and adventure enthusiast, Raleigh doesn’t make much sense but damn what a vibe, what a buzz.” Like most business owners in Raleigh, Daniel has benefited greatly from the depth of staffing because of the quality of higher education in the area. “In today’s market, it can be hard for young people to get a job, so I have a lot of talented, educated people to reach out to for these projects. As a navy brat I’ve never had a sense of community. Now in this neighborhood I have a stage. Not to preach, but to listen and interact with everybody. I’ve never been anywhere this long. It feels really cool.”

    Learn more about The Pharmacy Café and Green Planet Catering as well as a few of Daniel’s favorite small businesses in the area below:

    For Private Events or Catering: 919-977-3405

    For Careers at TPC or Green Planet Catering:

    Check out the TPC Breakfast / Lunch Menu HERE



    The first time I visited HQ Raleigh in early 2014, I knew it was providing something special for Raleigh’s entrepreneurs and start-ups. Immediately upon walking in, I could feel the energy. People were racing through the halls, some congregating and sharing ideas near the bar, and scores of teams working together diligently behind glass offices. Everyone seemed inspired and with purpose. I knew this wasn’t an ordinary workspace. While there, I would continuously hear about WedPics and their CEO / Co-Founder, Justin Miller. As the head of the fastest growing crowd sourced wedding app on the market, Justin and his team are helping to define Raleigh’s startup boom. We sat down with local hustler and successful entrepreneur, Justin Miller, for our latest installment of Raleigh Hustle’s Hard.

    From a networking perspective, HQ Raleigh was a huge boost to WedPics. “We didn’t know anybody at the time because we spent 18 hours a day in my basement building the app.” However, the road there wasn’t always clear. Justin graduated from the NCSU School of Design with a major in graphic design. And like many graduates in Raleigh before this current culture of entrepreneurship took hold, Justin accepted a corporate design job at IBM. At the time, Justin was intrigued with what was happening in social media and curated content online. His experience with large-scale marketing events at IBM presented a chance to capitalize on what he saw as a wasted opportunity. “There was a major fault on the marketing side where IBM would spend millions of dollars on these large scale events, and after the fact there was no way for them to easily gather the photos from all the participants.”

    Founded in 2011 in Justin’s basement, Deja Mi was conceived around concerts and other live events, to provide a location-based platform for event-goers to share experiences and form a connection socially. This was pre-hashtag days so aggregating that experience in a concise way without social connections was difficult. “Early on we had some friends and family that believed in the idea and were willing to cut us checks. We got really lucky. We were basically working for peanuts so I extended equity where possible, which provided much needed incentive and drive.” Most of the people who started at Deja Mi in the beginning are still working together today. After merging with a Durham startup at the end of 2011, the company doubled to twelve people.

    Upon merging, the first build of Deja Mi was scrapped and rebuilt from scratch. “We rolled out the new version, Apple featured it in 90 countries as a new and noteworthy app and Deja Mi started getting 6k+ downloads a day with no marketing.” Unfortunately, when Apple stopped pushing the app, momentum quickly fizzled. In early 2012, with funding waning and no clear vision ahead, they began exploring other use cases for the idea. After a great response to the app at a local bridal event, they began looking hard at the $50bn wedding market. “It just made sense. In this space, we could provide a real solution to a problem that actually existed.” With WedPics, they could replace the need for disposable cameras at weddings and provide a tool to aggregate all of the content from guests, who may or may not know each other, but can still share collectively in the experience.

    By the time WedPics launched in 2012, they had received some great press locally, and nationally from most of the major tech companies. Unfortunately, not all press was good press - at least not at first. After an N&O article featured Justin and the team, they were quickly served with an eviction notice from Justin’s basement or they would face fines in excess of $500 per day. Again, Justin used social media as a solution. He shared his ordeal and was immediately flooded with not only offers for working space, but also $25k in funding from a local angel investor. The team ultimately landed at HQ Raleigh. This was the perfect springboard for partnerships with other companies and outside funding. “It was just a really good connector”, said Justin.

    WedPics didn’t start as the robust platform it is today. Ultimately, Justin sees simplicity as a reason for WedPics early and continued success. “When you come up with an idea, there is a tendency to want to put every piece of functionality in it, so it’s as big and powerful as possible. That is where you think the bar is set, but that’s absolutely wrong.” Justin and his team stripped WedPics down to the bare minimum. “We had giant whiteboards on the wall of my basement where we’d list every feature we wanted in the app, then each day would come in and erase multiple features.” They were left with only the functionality necessary to make the app work. After the launch, Justin and his team carefully monitored the backend analytics to understand how people were using the app and what kind of feedback they provided. Coupled with constant competitor analysis, they took that insight to evolve the product and scale the capabilities of the platform. “Luckily, in our market we had a huge advantage, because brides love to provide feedback, whether good or bad. Listening to our audience was key.”

    Fast-forward to 2016, WedPics has received over $12M in outside funding and has grown into the #1 wedding app on the market. Operating in every country and with over 5 million dedicated users, the thirty-person team has made an undeniable impact in the wedding industry. Over 1 million photos are shared from the 10k+ weddings hosted on the app each week. While the app has triumphed significantly from an acquisition perspective, WedPics began moving from an acquisition-based model to a revenue-based model in January. Along with its app invite cards and hi-res printed photos, which account for most of the current revenue, they’ve diversified their revenue models by bringing in non-traditional advertising. “We sell dedicated email lists, as well as offering impressions for hand selected retailers inside of the app.” WedPics now also provides an opt-in opportunity where retailers can offer exclusive deals and connect with its customers directly. “We’ve taken a different approach to advertising and are currently testing this model to understand it’s scalability and how it resonates with our audience.” He says that so far it’s been well adopted.

    Justin has become an unofficial ambassador for Raleigh, even accompanying Mayor Nancy McFarlane to speak at SXSW. He credits both the city and the continuously deep talent pool for much of its recent success. “Now that we’re getting a larger footprint of small business and tech, options for graduates have expanded to much more than just corporate opportunities. This makes Raleigh much more attractive for an early stage entrepreneur. The cost of living and creating a business is so low in Raleigh, it really provides the opportunity to operate with much lower risk.”

    While Justin agrees that Raleigh can be a nourishing environment for entrepreneurs, he recognizes the challenges of evolving from the old way of doing things. Bureaucracy and lack of innovative, solution-focused thinking sometimes presents a real challenge to helping new ideas materialize. “Things aren’t as complicated as they are sometimes made to be. Instead of always going by the book or saying no when an idea reaches uncharted territory, I’d like to see the city think bigger picture and be a partner in developing innovative solutions.” Justin has been trying to launch his side project, El Taco Cartel since early 2015, but has run into challenges bringing it to market because Raleigh hasn’t decided how to classify his food cart. He’s working with city and county officials to build out a mobile food and beverage guide to provide a framework for not only him, but to pave the way for future entrepreneurs in the same space.


    When asked whether he would rather be blessed with luck, talent, or hustle, Justin answered emphatically, “Hustle, 100%. Luck runs out. Talent is not necessary. With hustle, you’ll always figure out a way to get it done.

    What more needs to be said?

    Learn more about WedPics as well as a few of Justin’s favorite small businesses in the area below:


    It seems like every week there’s a new brewery popping up in Raleigh. Of course, nobody is complaining. The economic impact of the beer industry across North Carolina is undeniable. In 2014, it brought nearly $8 billion into the states economy, while creating over 26k jobs and over $213 million in state and local taxes (National Beer Wholesalers Association). One of the most recent and exciting breweries to call Raleigh home, is Neuse River Brewing Company (NRBC). Owners, Ryan Kolarov and David Powell, both NC natives, moved back to Raleigh in 2012 from Northern California to be a part of the movement. We sat down with David and Ryan for our latest installment of Raleigh Hustles Hard, to learn more about how they went from home brewers with a dream to a couple of Raleigh’s coolest new small business owners.

    David and Ryan have been home brewing for as long as they can remember. David’s passion began while living in Brooklyn, NY, working in the film industry. At the time, Ryan was brewing his own beer at home, over 1,600 miles away in St. Thomas. As fate would have it, life brought them unknowingly, six miles from each other in Northern California. By complete chance, they reconnected in 2009 and almost immediately starting brewing. “We both had such unique styles that complimented each other”, said Ryan. In early 2010, they began brewing in Ryan’s garage. Ryan was working in the brewery and winery industry at the time, so they were blessed with a lot of resources and great ingredients to pull from. “We just started experimenting and playing around with non-traditional ideas, and it turned out well”, said David. They were focused from the beginning. “From the moment we started brewing together, everything we created was working towards the dream of opening our brewery.”

    David and Ryan made the move back to Raleigh in 2012. With two growing families and Raleigh’s growing market, they saw a great opportunity in coming back home. “We grew up here. Raleigh is home for us. We have an awesome beer, food, and art culture that’s been emerging for the last ten years. It’s created a great atmosphere for this market.” Once back, they hit the ground the running. David began working at World Of Beer, getting a crash course in cost analysis and purchasing, as well as gaining invaluable insight into the current market value and consumer habits. “It really helped us understand the kind of beer and even particular flavors that the client was after.” While David was learning at World of Beer, Ryan began market research, scouting locations, and building the business plan for the brewery. Even with the years of experimenting and planning, opening NRBC did not come without huge risk. Both Ryan and David, along with their families, made significant sacrifices, even at a point moving back in with their parents and cashing out retirement accounts to purchase the necessary equipment. But with a lot of hustle, some help, and a bit of luck, Ryan and David broke ground at 518 Pershing Road, the eventual home of Neuse River Brewing Co., on July 1st, 2014.

    We were lucky enough to see this piece of property transform from a relic of a building into one of the coolest brewery / taprooms in Raleigh. It was truly a family effort. Ryan's wife Jennifer, who is also NRBC's Director of Sales & Marketing, was instrumental in the overall design of the taproom. David, Ryan, and his stepfather, Bob, built literally everything from the 30-foot concrete slab bar, to the 15+ picnic style and high top tables around the room. The real centerpiece is the industrial size fan that looks like it belongs in an airplane hanger. Even in the middle of the summer with no air conditioning, it’s still the coolest spot in town. The taproom shares an indoor and outdoor area separated by two large garage doors. On most days, you can find one of the Triangle’s many amazing food trucks, parked outside. NRBC is kid-friendly, and even has a kiddy table with toys and books.

    Neuse River Brewing Co. officially opened on July 31st, 2015. Right now, they offer three beers on tap; a 9% Neusiok Imperial Saison, a 7.8% Caleb’s High Noon Imperial IPA, and a 10.5% Affluent Tripel. “The Neusiok had a running start as soon as it was sampled. Everyone wanted it. So for the open, we focused on adding some other beers to give people something they weren’t expecting”, said David. The high gravity beers on tap are delicious. “Sometimes a high gravity beer is really nice because you can take your time with it and really enjoy the beer, your friends, and your surroundings.” However, don’t expect only high gravity beer at NRBC. “Soon, we’ll be a little more well balanced than how we came out of the gate. We wanted to come out with a bang, but you can expect many more exceptional beers at the 4.5 to 5% level.” With 10 open taps, and seven new beers on deck, expect that sooner than later. “We’re really excited about our next release, the Riverkeeper’s Wit”, said David. This special 4.8% Belgian style wheat beer will be a cornerstone of NRBC and go far beyond the stomachs of those who drink it. For every beer sold, 5% of the revenue will be donated to the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, which restores and preserves the Neuse River basin through education, advocacy, and enforcement. “We grew up stomping and playing on the Neuse River. It’s been a huge part of both of our lives. Because of that, it’s really important for us to give back.” Ryan and David’s hope is that eventually, others carrying the beer will contribute to the conservation by matching or adding to the donations.

    Ryan and David believe their focus on authenticity will help distinguish them from the rest. In addition to a strict yeast management program, which they said was the real worker bee in all their beers, Ryan stressed the importance of the water profile being unique for each beer they make. “Our goal is to mimic the origin of where these beers really come from. We take a lot of pride in that. For example, when we make a Saison, we work hard to make sure our water profile is the same as Wallonia, Belgium. Water chemistry changes the whole flavor profile of the beer.” Ryan and David have put the entirety of themselves into NRBC and it shows. “There’s a lot of pride that goes into your work. When you’re a small business owner, every inch of what you accomplished has a meaning within your life. Every time I see a piece of wood that I cut, I remember that day, and what we were working towards.” Very soon, you’ll start seeing a lot more of these guys around town. “We’re about 60 days away from distribution. We want to make sure that we don’t run out of beer for our customers! Look out for NRBC on tap at World of Beer and Bottle Revolution (Lake Boone Trail location) in the coming months. In 2016, NRBC will begin bottling and distributing to local bottle shops and bars. “We’re excited for the future, and look forward to creating something that people really enjoy.”


    Ryan’s favorite Beer: Consecration – Russian River Brewing Company

    David’s favorite Beer: Avec Les Bons Voeux - Brasserie Dupont sprl


    Learn more about NRBC, and some of Ryan and David’s favorite small businesses in the area below:

    Thanks for stopping by the porch,

    Porch Fly Clothing


    Kai Kaapro, owner of Trolley Pub, first had the idea for a pedal powered party machine in 2010 after seeing a similar vehicle while traveling in Amsterdam. At the time, an eco-friendly, pub-crawling trolley was a novelty. After returning to the states, Kai contacted his old fraternity brother, and soon to be business partner with a great new idea. Fast-forward to 2015, Trolley Pub operates pedal powered booze cruises in five locations across the country. We sat down recently with Kai for our latest installment of Raleigh Hustles Hard to learn more about how Raleigh’s favorite mobile party came to be.

    Kai, who was attending law school at the time, said he never had an entrepreneurial spirit. “This wasn’t planned. I never expected to be anything but an attorney. We really just wanted to build the first one out of curiosity. We thought it was a really cool idea and wanted to see what would happen.” After painstaking research, they finally found a manufacturer in Bend, Oregon willing and able to build the first Trolley Pub prototype.

    In 2011, Kai and his business partner founded Trolley Pub, LLC and opened the first location in Tucson, AZ. “I tried to run it while I was still in law school in Pennsylvania. It didn’t work out very well, if you can imagine. Eventually, a large streetcar project caused the Tucson location to lose viability. “Luckily, I had a good friend in Jeff Murison, the president of the Hillsborough Street Association in Raleigh. I was discussing my situation with him at a conference and he immediately suggested Raleigh as a perfect location.” Trolley Pub Raleigh opened in the spring of 2012. “The environment in Raleigh is perfect. After visiting, I quit every obligation I had and moved out here. I met my wife the first week I was here, on the Trolley Pub! Raleigh has been so good to me.”

    It was hard for us to categorize Trolley Pub. Is it a transportation service, a downtown Raleigh tour operator, a mobile bar? Technically, it’s all of the above, but Kai assures me it’s much simpler than that. “People are renting it out for a fun group experience, while getting to know the area better better. At the end of the day, Trolley Pub is just entertainment.”

    While it’s all entertainment for the customers, owning Trolley Pub is not easy. There is a lot of moving parts and liability when it comes to operating a mobile BYOB bar for 14 people. However, Kai admits that the biggest challenges were the legal hurdles when launching. “Between both the city and state regulations, licenses for motor carriers, alcohol licenses and laws, the hardest part was being granted the right to legally operate.” He says he was a bit naïve in the beginning, which helped him to jump right in. “I had never been out of college in the real world so I was very over confident thinking this would be easy.” There have been numerous obstacles unique to each location, but Raleigh was an outlier in terms of the launch process. “In 2012, Raleigh basically just said OK. They wanted to work with us from the beginning and we’ve still never really had an issue with this city.” Unfortunately, that’s not been the case elsewhere for Trolley Pub. Opening in Arlington, VA was much more difficult given its proximity to Washington, DC. “We had to take our case up to the state level, and eventually try to have a bill passed for our business to operate.” Even with all the regulatory hurdles, Trolley Pub Arlington opened in 2013. In 2014, the Madison (WI) and Houston (TX) locations were born. Most recently, Trolley Pub opened a location in Charlotte and has plans to expand into the Virgin Islands in November. Kai has a vision for further expansion, focusing on emerging markets like Wilmington (NC) and Detroit.

    On a more local level, Kai’s vision for Trolley Pub Raleigh is focused on transforming the warehouse at 323 W Davie Street, which is currently the trolley take-off point, into a hang out spot. “We’re still in the preliminary planning stage, but our ultimate goal is to build out a gift shop / bottle shop in the front of the store selling local merchandise and have a sandwich bar style restaurant in the back connecting to a rooftop bar.”

    Even with all the positive forward motion, Trolley Pub has had its fair share of detractors. Some downtown Raleigh residents have called it loud and obnoxious, while others have had issue with the vehicles slowing down traffic. Kai tells me, even though he was a bit thin skinned at first, it was important to him to be attentive to feedback and open to criticism while maintaining his vision and goals for the customer experience. “It hurt my feelings at first because I’ve thrown everything into this but ultimately it’s more important to me to be a good neighbor to the folks who live and work downtown. If someone has an issue, we try our best to be extremely responsive. If someone doesn’t want us near his or her house, we’ll change the route. We’ve even changed hours of operation to be more accommodating, late night. We’ve also spent a lot of time training our staff to be responsive and enforce the rules strictly."

    Although Kai had no plans to be a small business owner, he finds that this lifestyle suits him better than he expected. “Once I dipped my toes in, I enjoyed being a business owner so much that I stuck with it. My favorite part is finding ways to please the customer and making sure they are happy with the money they’ve spent. Selfishly, I love the time management, control, and creative freedom it allows me, but more importantly I love seeing people walk away happy.”

    Learn more about Trolley Pub and some of Kai’s favorite small businesses in the area below:

    Thanks for stopping by the porch,

    Porch Fly Clothing