Charlotte: Skill set
By Cameron Walker
While learning something new can be as easy as clicking on a YouTube video, SkillPop founder Haley Bohon is building a Charlotte-based business on the premise that people want to learn in person, in a cool space surrounded by others with similar interests.
“I had this idea — I could not shake it — that there should be a better way to learn things,” says Bohon, a Greensboro native and N.C. State University alumna.
The idea of a pop-up learning community came about last June during a late-night conversation with her husband. By September, she had conducted market research, surveyed city residents, created a business plan and hosted her first event — a hand lettering class taught by a local calligrapher. The class was full, reviews were positive and the next day, she quit her full-time job as a project manager with Charlotte-based Passport, a software developer that makes an app for parking.
During the last year, more than 2,000 students have taken lessons in cross-stitch, photography, investing, artisan bread making, social media and more. The idea of adult enrichment classes is not new, but SkillPop presents an alternative to more time-consuming courses offered by community colleges and municipal arts departments. (A two-hour SkillPop class costs about $30, while a 10-week basic art class at a community college runs about $200, not including books or supplies.) It’s also become a way for young professionals to connect socially.
“Part of my hope with building SkillPop is that it’s something interesting to do besides going to the gym and watching Netflix after work,” says Bohon.
Bohon, 26, relies on networking to discover an ever-growing stable of SkillPop teachers like Corri Smith, owner of Charlotte-based marketing company Black Wednesday Social Co., and photographer Erick Hodge. Instead of an hourly wage, instructors earn a percentage of the evening’s profits.
Classes are held at co-working spaces such as Charlotte’s Hygge; in cafes, parks and studios; and even on a farm.
SkillPop advertises through a combination of social media posts (it has about 5,500 followers on Instagram alone) and Tuesday morning emails to subscribers. Students and teachers help get the word out, too, as they show off their crafts and new skills on social media.
While Bohon declines to share financial specifics, she says the company hit initial end-of-year targets before the close of the second quarter and saw 150% revenue growth from January through June.
SkillPop expanded to Raleigh in August, starting with a hand lettering basics class that sold out in 24 hours. If all goes as planned, Bohon has a short list of cities in which she would like the company to “pop up” in 2017.
Family-owned S&D Coffee is being acquired for $355 million by Cott, a publicly traded beverage distribution company based in Tampa, Fla., and Canada. Started in 1927 by J. Roy Davis Sr. and Lawrence Switzer, Concord-based S&D has become the largest U.S. custom coffee roaster, supplying beans for retailers including McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Revenue for 2016 is expected to top $550 million. Cott’s products include private-label carbonated soft drinks, bottled water, juices and teas. The company employs more than 12,500 people worldwide and had revenue of $2.9 billion in 2015. Ron Hinson will remain CEO of S&D, which will operate as a Cott subsidiary.
MATTHEWS — Dollar Tree will lay off about 255 workers at the former Family Dollar Stores headquarters. The cuts are a result of the Chesapeake, Va.-based company’s $9.1 billion acquisition of the discount retailer last year. In all, 370 positions will be eliminated, though many of the jobs are vacant.
CLAREMONT — Dynamic Air Engineering will move its corporate operations from Santa Ana, Calif., creating 46 jobs with an average annual salary of at least $66,931. The company designs and makes components for the aerospace and defense industries and will invest more than $6.8 million in the Catawba County location over the next three years.
CHARLOTTE — Goldman Sachs Asset Management paid $69.5 million for the 237,000-square-foot South Tryon Square, a 15-story downtown office building. The seller was American Realty Advisors. Tenants include CIT Group, U.S. Bank and retailer Dean & DeLuca.