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Gymnastics-centered Jackrabbit bounces with steady growth

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Mark Mahoney has turned his love for gymnastics into a thriving business serving other devotees of the sport.

He and Mike Carper formed JackRabbit Technologies in 2004. The class-management software company now serves more than 6,000 clients in all 50 states and 28 countries who operate 12,000 schools for gymnastics, dance, cheer, swimming and other endeavors. Revenue topped $15 million last year. A growth channel now is day care centers, which Mahoney says are five or 10 years behind the youth sports’ industry in their use of technology for billing and interacting with parents.

The Peach State native was on the University of Georgia’s men’s gymnastics team as a freshman until he suffered an injury that stalled his career. He also developed a love for software and was working as a consultant in Charlotte when he concluded the Queen City had a better quality of life than Atlanta.

“When we started our business, Mike and I were working at home, at nights, because we had real jobs. We did that for four years because this is what we love to do: gymnastics and software.” They took on no debt in starting the business and have never relied on outside equity.

The business’ mission was to help gym owners’ connect their Quickbooks accounting systems with billing functions. “The owners need the software to manage their classes and allow parents to log in and pay their bills.”

Once they started the business, however, the duo opted for an unconventional strategy. “Neither of us wanted to commute so we decided we’re not going to do this office thing.”

Now, Jackrabbit’s employees all work from homes in 12 different states; about three-fourths are female. Mahoney lives in Cornelius on a home adjacent to Lake Norman. The company has been ranked in Business North Carolina’s Best Employers program and was 4,221 in this year’s Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing U.S. companies.

Quarterly meetings are conducted to foster a strong company culture. The result has been virtually no turnover during the last five years, giving the company a competitive advantage, Mahoney says. “My buddies used to make fun of me, asking  `When are you going to get an office,’” he notes. “But lately when they’ve had trouble attracting talent, they have asked me, `Mahoney, how do you do this remote thing?’”

Mahoney and Carper have no desire to retire or exit the business; instead Mahoney says he’s considering potential purchases of a few of the 52 competitors offering similar products. “Someone who wants to build a piece of software can do it in their bonus room. But we are the leader in our market and we’ve had great success.”

Learn more about Jackrabbit’s history in this Business North Carolina podcast.

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