If you’re lacking a skill or seeking a new hobby, it’s easy to tap an app or pull up Pinterest or YouTube and simply search “How to take better pictures on my iPhone,” or “How to create a cool floral design.”
If left to our digital devices, we can become more knowledgeable for sure, but as much as we are moving toward technology, there is evidence all around that people are looking for more ways to connect in real life. Meet-ups, festivals and fitness clubs at breweries are all trending, evidenced by tribes being formed all over town.
Haley Bohon, a 20-something mechanical engineer who transferred to the tech space, saw something that others missed — a gap in the market for in-person, group education. There are a lot of health-related and social options, like run clubs and canvas painting, but nothing offering education on a variety of subjects and topics.
“In-person education was lost and not affordable,” Haley says. “It’s a great way to bring people together, learn something new and walk away with a skill – and maybe even a new friend or two.”
Haley spent the summer of 2015 writing a business plan to support this notion. Why not hold pop-up classes that are easy to find, less intimidating and more affordable? she thought.
She bought the domain for SkillPop in the fall of 2015 and quit her job at Passport, an app for the transportation industry, to test the concept. She offered a handlettering class at no charge that filled a room and gave a lot of positive feedback.
“Then we did a second class two weeks later, and that was equally as popular,” adds Haley. With a mission to make learning more accessible, she formed the foundation of something that was missing in the Queen City. “You shouldn’t have to spend huge amounts of time or money just to try something new or to build a skill, so we decided to make it simpler.”
SkillPop went on to conduct 12 classes before the end of 2015 with offerings very similar to the mix you’ll find today.
Ready, Set – POP!
Just browsing the options of upcoming classes makes you want to try something new. Watercolor Basics – why not? Podcasting Essentials? Sign me up! Teachers on board are established, vetted, local experts looking to share their skill sets. Take podcasting for example. It’s taught by Andy Goh, host of “Final Round Radio” and a podcasting expert. The objective of the class is to learn how to build a podcast from the ground up – from content planning, essential hardware and publishing it across multiple platforms. All for $30 bucks.
That handlettering class that launched SkillPop is still offered today and is one of the more popular pop-ups. It’s even taught by the original instructor, freelance calligrapher Kaley Olson.
Haley says that she’s witnessed businesses being formed, book clubs started and best friends made. While most classes are filled with millennial women, she claims that all depends on the class. “We had a dad bring his 7-year-old to a CrossFit class, and grandparents come with grandkids to learn things like cookie decorating all the time.”
So how does SkillPop keep things poppin’? Haley says they listen and are not afraid to take a risk on a new class. With some time under their teaching hat, a lot of inbound requests pop up from people who have a skill to share. “We were approached to offer a class to teach how to be an Airbnb host, and I thought, Is that a niche people would be interested in? It’s taught by a successful property portfolio owner in Charlotte — so successful in fact that he quit his job as a lawyer to offer short-term housing for the long-term. The class ended up being very popular, so you never know, and that’s why we try.”
The newest offering on the SkillPop roster is called Capsule Wardrobe, which helps the clotheshorse pare down to a small curated collection of clothing to mix and match from the wardrobe you already own. A local fashion blogger teaches how to whittle a closet down to about 30 pieces.
SkillPop mostly holds classes at Hygge Coworking (pronounced hoo-gah, a Danish word meaning a mental state of well-being), but many classes are in a setting endemic to the topic. “We have classes on farms, in kitchens and some that even take place throughout the city.”
Road Show to Grow
In the span of only eight months, SkillPop had grown from one to four full-time employees, along with five part-timers. Haley ensures there’s an employee at every class to assist the instructor and observe.
“The growth was amazing, but I still felt stuck,” Haley says. So she took her start-up on a road show in search of a second city. She wasn’t sure how to do it until her friend stated the obvious. “Just try another city — isn’t that what you guys do? Just … pop-up?”
So off she went, with her marketing manager, Hannah Maschoff, and took their in-person learning concept on tour. Social media is such a huge marketing tool for the brand, so it’s no surprise that fans followed along on Instagram. Six southern cities, 1,700 miles and three weeks later, they found that, although cultures vary (yes, Charleston and Nashville are very different, y’all), learning is universal.
“We’re a community-based company, so it was really fun to visit different communities to test and learn,” says Haley. “In the end we chose Raleigh — close enough to share resources, and I went to school there, so I have lots of community knowledge and plenty of friends still there.”
Classes are now available in the capital city on topics similar or the same in Charlotte — from Branding Your Business to How to Buy a House, and of course the ever-popular handlettering, the one that launched this successful start-up.
Despite its success, the SkillPop crew is not resting on their class roster in any way. They are already in search of their third city, so stay tuned. They hope to be up and running, wherever it is, by the end of the year.
Here’s all you need to know:
- Most classes are 1.5 to 2 hours long and are held at Hygge Coworking.
- Average cost is $20 to $40.
- Average class size is 15-25 students.
- Visit the website and add a class (or classes) to your cart.
- You’ll get a confirmation email, a reminder the day before and a survey to rate and review the class after.
New classes are posted Tuesday mornings at 8 a.m., and popular ones get quick clicks. Pssst! If you want a leg-up, sign-up for the SkillPop newsletter and be the first to know.
All photos courtesy of SkillPop.
Keep up with the best of Charlotte — subscribe to StyleBlueprint to get the best local shopping, food, events and more in your inbox every day!