Meet The Influencers

To get the inside scoop, follow these local Instagram sensations. 

Text and Photography by Mick Schulte

    If the Triangle had an official welcoming committee, these “influencers” would be our top recruits. With huge followings on Instagram, they bolster the community by promoting local businesses and showcasing all the Triangle has to offer while sharing their passions. Molly Stillman (@stillbeingmolly), Linda Nguyen (@lindaeatsworld), Marche Robinson (@marcherobinson), John Huisman (@triangleexplorer), and Chana Lynn (@raleighwhatsup) use social media in a way that inspires connection—and they are just as friendly in person as they are online. 

Each of them shared a little about their life as an influencer, what motivates them to keep posting,
and their special connections to the Triangle.

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Molly Stillman // @stillbeingmolly

Even with her following of almost 20,000 people on Instagram, Molly Stillman remains down-to-earth about her online presence. “It’s funny because I don’t feel like an influencer,” Molly says. “That term seems to elevate some people, but I’m really no different than anybody else.”

After graduating in 2007 with a degree in creative writing, Molly started a blog with a goal of writing satire, similar to The Onion. Eventually her content shifted and she started to share more about her life and passions. “People responded to my posts about what was going on in my life more than anything, and it grew from there,” she notes. 

Her audience watched as she matured from a recent graduate to a mother, and, most recently, an advocate for social justice. She focuses on issues like ethical fashion and human trafficking, using her social media platform to show how there is power in purchasing. Molly hosts a podcast called Business with Purpose, where she highlights ethically minded companies, like one of her favorites—The Flourish Market in downtown Raleigh. “I always say if I wouldn’t write about it for free, then I wouldn’t write about it,” Molly says. She is adamant about sticking to her values and staying true to her online community. “Valuing the community I’ve built over the past 12 years is my No. 1 priority. I’m never going to lie to them or lead them astray.”

This perseverance has reaped some major rewards for Molly. In 2017, she was approached by Elegantees,an ethical fashion brand manufactured in Nepal by women who have overcome human trafficking. They asked Molly to design a line of clothing and, because of its success, Elegantees was able to bring on an additional artisan. “A woman was given an opportunity for sustainable employment, all thanks to the support from my online platform,” Molly says. “That was a banner moment for me and my community.”

Molly lives with her husband and two small children in Durham.

What would you suggest to do around the Triangle?

“I would say get out and explore! You can go to the beach at Jordan Lake, or walk the city streets in downtown Raleigh and hop in and out of some of the most amazing restaurants. (Appetizers at The District are so good!) You can go to the Eno River and play in nature, drive over to Hillsborough and hike Occoneechee Mountain, or watch top-notch performers at DPAC or The Carolina Theater. There’s literally something for EVERYONE. My family and I love exploring our area and just finding new gems and trying new places!” 

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Linda Nguyen // @lindaeatsworld

“I’ve had an online presence since I was 15, and that was in 1998!

Before the age of Facebook, before ‘blogging’ was a word, and way before Instagram,” says Linda Nguyen, who shares her culinary adventures through her account @lindaeatsworld. “It’s a compulsion. I never thought I could make a living creatively; I just showed up for fun.”

More than 10,000 people have showed up, too. Linda’s popular account features thousands of food photos from places in the Triangle and beyond. And even though she is making part of her living from her influencer role, she admits it’s not easy. “I don’t feel successful in my day-to-day. I’m constantly running around trying to create content, most of which is unpaid content creation. And then positioning myself for prospective partnerships to help pay for life,” Linda says. 

Despite the challenges, Linda loves leaning into her creative passions. Other than her food-focused account, she also works as a professional photographer, capturing families, engagements, weddings, and food images for restaurants. She highlights her photography work on the account @curiousnotionsphoto.

She believes her focus on connection with her audience, and a certain amount of grit, is what has helped her accounts grow. “To get to this point took a combination of consistency, learning photography, showing my audience that I appreciate them, and trying to curate content and captions that are heartfelt,” Linda explains. “I can’t be heartfelt with every single Instagram post—sometimes a taco is just a taco. But when I can, I try to prioritize human connection.”

Sometimes her personal sharing and content creation transcends the virtual relationship. “Some of my followers have become lifelong friends. They’ve followed along through college, breakups, new relationships, and now they’ve followed along as I write about losing my dad this past January,” Linda says. 

Nurturing these connections, both online and in real life, is what matters most to her. “Integrity and taking the time to get to know my audience are two of my highest priorities when it comes to blogging and ‘influencing.’ If you lose your audience, you lose this job.”

Linda lives in the Carrboro/Chapel Hill area with her fiancé, who works at UNC. They travel for dates throughout the Triangle to cover the ever-expanding food scene.

What would you suggest to do around the Triangle?

“The places that are not food-related where I love taking out-of-town visitors are Duke Gardens, the NC Museum of Art, and to see the sunflowers at Dorothea Dix Park in the summer. As for food, Brewery Bhavana in Raleigh, High Tea at Fearrington House in Pittsboro, Lula’s in Chapel Hill, Pizza Mercato in Carrboro, and M Sushi in Durham are just some of my favorites.”

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John Huisman // @triangleexplorer

By day he’s a full-time environmental specialist for the state of North Carolina, focusing on water quality issues and protecting the state’s lakes and streams. However, outside of work, John Huisman is known to many as @triangleexplorer, an Instagram influencer who shares his explorations of the Triangle with more than 22,000 followers. “Honestly I was not trying to become an influencer when I first started. I just really like exploring the area, discovering new things, and sharing about it with others,” John explains. “Most of the time I am simply sharing about the stuff I normally do.” 

John’s friends and family noticed his knack for photography and local recommendations when he started sharing photos on his Facebook page 10 years ago. Thanks to their encouragement, he launched a blog—The Triangle Explorer—and his social media platforms were an outgrowth of its success. Eventually local businesses started asking him to promote their food and products on his blog and Instagram account.

“I think the shift to ‘influencer’ status happened about four to five years ago for me,” John says. “I started getting invited to restaurant openings and events, which has offered some really fun opportunities along the way.”

One of his favorite local collaborations is with the Durham Performing Arts Center. John attends their shows, usually with his wife, and then writes a review of the performance and posts a picture of the experience. His authenticity and curiosity shine through in his posts, which is partly why he thinks he’s had success. “I try not to focus so much on being the first to share about something, and instead focus on what truly interests me,” John notes. “I think keeping it
authentic appeals to people.”

He also emphasizes the connections he makes through his online platforms. “I think it’s important to keep the ‘social’ in social media,” John adds. “Sharing should be interactive, and I enjoy having a dialogue with the people who follow me.” 

John lives in North Raleigh with his wife, where they enjoy many local beers and cups of coffee together.

What would you suggest to do around the Triangle?

“One of the places I always recommend checking out is the Capital Area Greenway.It stretches all the way from Falls Lake in North Raleigh down to Clayton and it is a great place to walk along the river, go for a run, or just enjoy being outside in nature. If you need a place to relax and grab a cold beer, my go-to place is Trophy Brewing in Raleigh. They brew some of the best local beers and have great pizza, too. I also highly recommend people get over to Durham to
explore the Bull City.”

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Marche Robinson // @marcherobinson

“I’ve always been that person who shares things with people,” describes Marche Robinson, a local influencer who focuses on style, beauty, and travel. “If someone walking down the street says they like my dress, I’ll make sure to stop and tell them where I got it, how much it was, and why I love it.” 

With nearly 40,000 followers on her Instagram account, she has no shortage of people to share with. Marche got her start online after graduating from law school in 2010.

“I couldn’t find a job because the market was terrible, so I’d spend my downtime sending my mom and aunt pictures of clothes and interior decorating ideas,” Marche says. “My mom eventually suggested I start a blog, which I think was her way of saying: ‘Stop sending me all this stuff!’” 

Eventually Marche did find a job as an attorney in Raleigh; she now works in contract law and balances her day job with blogging and posting on Instagram. “I used to write a blog post every day, for the first five to six years. I was writing all the time,” she says. “But now it’s evolved to where I don’t post just to post. I focus on sharing things that I love, and on collaborating with brands I already like.”

Many of those brands are big names like Lou & Grey clothing and Laneige beauty products. And, thanks to the beautiful photographs on Marche’s feed that are mostly taken by her fiancé, she has received attention from national magazines, including Elle, Ebony, and In Style. “The minute I took it seriously was when I realized I could leave my job and do this for a living,” Marche says. However, she admitted that she loves having both her attorney work and the online platforms.

“My day job doesn’t really allow me to be creative, but I love the work. I use one side of my brain for that and the other creative side for blogging and Instagram.”

Marche seems genuinely surprised that all the work she puts into her posts has allowed her to live the life of an influencer.“It’s crazy; sometimes I’ll turn to my fiancé and be like, ‘How do I get paid for this?’” 

Marche and her fiancé, Michael Newell, live and work as attorneys in Raleigh. They are getting married at the Merrimon-Wynne house in October.

What would you suggest to do around the Triangle?

“The Triangle has so many great restaurants! My favorites are Dame’s Chicken & Waffles, Jack Tar & The Colonel’s Daughter, Capital Club 16, and Poole’s Diner. One of my favorite things about living in the Triangle is all the cool new fitness classes and gyms opening in the area. I try a new class every month. I love the trampoline classes at Mega Raleigh, boxing at Knuckle Up, and Strength Hip Hop Explicit at Midtown Yoga.”

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Chana Lynn // @raleighwhatsup

Moving back to the States after living in Sydney, Australia for three years, Chana Lynn and her husband were searching for a place to call home. They had previously lived in the D.C. area, but the big city scene didn’t fit the goals of their new family, so they decided Raleigh was a better choice. Fast-forward 20 years and some might argue that Chana knows more about her adopted town than native long-timers.

She goes by @raleighwhatsup on Instagram and shares “all things Raleigh” on her account, which has almost 20,000 followers. “It was less focused in the beginning, but as Raleigh really started to grow, I started sharing more about Raleigh specifically,” Lynn says. “I quickly realized my interest was to share about local places, and encourage friends and followers to visit them.”

As more people started to follow along, Chana started receiving invites to local restaurant and retail openings, dinners, and media events. Outside of her @raleighwhatsup account, Chana works as a website designer and social media consultant, with clients such as Tabletop Media Group and Booth Amphitheatre. 

In addition to the opportunities within those consulting jobs, Chana has worked with national brands that want to tap into the Raleigh market. In 2017, after Alaska Airlines started flying out of RDU, they invited her to share on the Alaska Air Instagram account. She was chosen to be a “Local Wanderer” in Raleigh. “They trusted me to share what I love about Raleigh and spotlight the Triangle as a destination,” Chana explains. “It was an amazing opportunity, and one of my most exciting moments as an influencer.” 

Chana Lynn lives in North Raleigh with her husband and two teenage daughters, and they all enjoy traveling and exploring new places together. They also take part in many of Chana’s influencing adventures.

What would you suggest to do around the Triangle?

“If you are new to Raleigh,I would highly recommend visiting the NC Museum of Art and its stunning exhibits, museum spaces, and outdoor park and events. We are members, and it’s probably my favorite thing to do in Raleigh. The Warehouse District is one of my favorite parts of the city—there is plenty to explore in that area, including CAM, which is a fantastic contemporary art museum. I love the new Transfer Food Hall on East Davie Street, or grabbing pizza with the family at Oakwood Pizza Box on Person Street. Moore Square Park just reopened and will be a great place to relax and enjoy city life, with seasonal farmers markets and lots of great restaurants and shops within walking distance.”