Kimberly Wilkinson was always going to be her own boss. “When friends and family would ask what I wanted to do after graduation, I would say, ‘I just want to work for myself,’” reminisces Wilkinson, the owner of Member’s Only, Charlotte’s new cocktail bar.
Wilkinson’s grandfather, a pharmacist, always had a side hustle on his docket. He owned a pool hall and a few commercial rental properties. Every month, he passed through his properties to collect rent, often with Wilkinson in tow. She admired the way her grandfather made a living for himself. For her, that’s what success looked like and it was precisely what she aspired to.
Next Generation Entrepreneur
So when Wilkinson graduated from Johnson C. Smith with a Bachelors in Business, she set to work making her aspirations her reality. Within a year, she opened a boutique in NoDa called Vivan B. After six years, she transformed the business and space to Juice Box, which now attracts a regular clientele of health-conscious juicers and smoothie sippers.
Her newest entrepreneurial venture is a cocktail bar and social lounge called Members Only. From the street, Members Only is unassuming. A modest, one-story brick building, a swinging door, and neon sign proclaiming “Members Only” bid hello to neighborhood craft cocktail enthusiasts.
Step inside, and you’ll find a comfortable social space serving cocktails, wine, and beer. Wilkinson intends the space to be both casual and stylish—somewhere to visit for a low-key evening with friends or to bring a date you want to impress. Signature drinks include The Members Only, a carefree flute of Luc Belaire champagne topped with cotton candy, and Sand in the Queen City, a fruity concoction of Hennessey, Blue Curacao, pineapple, and cranberry.
What sets Members Only apart from other cocktail bars is that it’s, well, members only. Entrance requires a membership card that has two tiers with differing prices and perks. The membership requirement conjures the sensation that to be inside Members Only is to be part of something exclusive, surrounded by familiar faces who are also “in the know.”
The Entrepreneurial Lifestyle
For Wilkinson, Members Only is another manifestation of her entrepreneurial drive. She basks in the knowledge that, as a business owner, she is the only thing standing between herself and success. “It’s all on you to reach the top and achieve your goals,” explains Wilkinson.
If Wilkinson isn’t at Members Only when you visit, it’s either because she’s spending time with her daughter, or she’s hustling between her businesses, moving and shaking and making things happen.
She appreciates that every minute of hard work she pours into her businesses comes right back to her. Rather than working hard for someone else’s business and seeing only a small percentage of a company’s revenue, Wilkinson wants to know that her efforts are for her, not for a faraway CEO.
Entrepreneurship for me is a level of freedom
“Entrepreneurship for me is a level of freedom,” says Wilkinson.
For other aspiring entrepreneurs, Wilkinson has these parting words of advice: “Just do it! Yes, do your research, but at some point, you have to just step out on faith and bust a move!”