About Us

StartCharlotte’s mission is to connect the Charlotte startup community and to be the one-stop-shop for startup information. We do this by shining a spotlight on local entrepreneurship and acting as the local startup megaphone – telling the stories behind Charlotte founders and entrepreneurs. Throughout the year we’ll host events to connect our community of founders, funders, volunteers, and advisors.


Each week, we will profile a different company or founder and share their stories of success, failure, and other lessons learned. We also aggregate weekly startup news from various sources and share upcoming events.


Our signature events include the monthly Intro to the Startup Community, Founders & Funders Happy Hour, and StartCharlotte LIVE, our annual startup community awards.


As we build out the site, we will share resources for startups including a calendar of events, funding sources, service providers, co-working spaces, a job board, and more.

The Team

Juan Garzon – Founder & Editor

Juan Garzon is the Founder and Editor of StartCharlotte. He is also the Executive Director of PitchBreakfast and a messaging strategist with his firm, the Garzon Company, where he helps entrepreneurs and organizations grow through the power of story.

David Stunja – Director of Outreach

Passionate about turning innovative ideas into products and connecting like-minded people. Constantly DIYing, supporting Penn State and Chelsea football, and advocating for tequila.

Mary Johnson – Editor

Mary Johnson is the founder of Brave New Word, a content marketing agency based in Charlotte. She works with a range of clients, including nonprofits, women-led startups and media organizations. Mary launched her company after leading all digital marketing efforts for uBack, a women-led fintech startup. Prior to that, Mary spent 12 years in journalism. Most recently, she was the editor of Bizwomen, a national news website for women in business. She has also worked for The Economist, Columbia Law School Magazine, NJBIZ and DNAinfo.com, a local news startup in New York City. She graduated with honors from both the University of Florida and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Outside of work, Mary is a wife, mother of two and owner of one enormous dog.

Paige Haddy – Events Coordinator

Paige is an event management professional, based in Charlotte, NC. Paige graduated Magna Cum Laude from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island with her degree in Sports, Entertainment and Event Management and with concentrations in Meeting Management, Sales, and Psychology. In addition to her degree, Paige was awarded the Johnson & Wales Trustees Award for community service and impact in 2011.
Paige has since worked for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts in Youth Group Programs, Group Sales, and Catering and Convention Services. Following her time at the happiest place on earth, Paige was a Conference Manager for a publishing company and planned international corporate meetings for groups of 25-1200. Paige earned her CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) designation in 2016.
Outside of the office, Paige can be found volunteering with local organizations including Hands on Charlotte, StartCharlotte and The Alzheimer’s Association. In her free time, Paige enjoys baking gluten-free goods and catching a sunrise.

Laura Smailes – Community Ambassador

Laura Smailes is the Assistant Director at Ventureprise at UNC Charlotte, a hands-on strategic effort to help startups, early-stage companies, and innovation-based entrepreneurship in the Charlotte community. Laura’s passion for the entrepreneurial community began after she graduated from UNC Charlotte with her Master’s Degree in Communication Studies. She formed a startup (SAROS Desalination) with two engineers.  As Operations Manager of the venture, she immersed herself into the local entrepreneurial community, connecting with and learning about the programs and resources that are available to Charlotte entrepreneurs.
Over the past four years, Laura has participated in several entrepreneurial programs, including the CLT Joules and Venture Launch program at Ventureprise, and is currently serving as the Communications Manager for PitchBreakfast. Laura is eager to use her experience to assist and support other entrepreneurs in the community.


Contribute a guest post or volunteer at an event.

StartCharlotte would not exist if not for the support of individuals who are committed to seeing the Charlotte entrepreneurial ecosystem grow. We are open to featuring guest posts and freelance contributions that fit our audience, specifically ones that offer helpful information or news for startups and entrepreneurs.

Please contact us along with a paragraph description, phone number, and email address for possible guest posts.

Other opportunities include helping with events, social media, promotion, and community building.

Fill out this form to signup for other volunteer opportunities.