When I was in the third grade I hid my piano books in a plastic bag at the top of the closet and told my mother I lost them, and that was the end of my short-lived piano career. Now I’m a 26-year-old who wishes she could play a musical instrument, but where do I begin?
YouTube videos? I’d never follow through with that. Piano lessons? Too expensive.
North Carolina native Haley Bohon is seeking to remedy this dilemma with new community driven, in-person, hands-on learning start-up, SkillPop.
Bohon moved to Charlotte three years ago after graduating from N.C. State University with a degree in engineering. After being in the minority as a woman studying in a male-dominated field, Haley knows what she’s getting herself into by dipping her toes into the start up world.
“My classes in college averaged 90/10 men to women, and every team I’ve worked in since has been heavily male-dominated,” she said. “You learn to hold your own and you learn to work with people who are different than you. It’s prepared me well to do what I’m doing now because I’m not easily intimidated.”
You have to admire Bohon’s entrepreneurial spirit. She isn’t just flirting with the idea of starting a new buisness, she’s got all hands on deck. After working in product development for a Fortune 500 company, and then shifting directions to project management for a local tech startup, Bohon recently quit her full time job to focus more of her time and resources on growing SkillPop.
So, what exactly is SkillPop?
In founder Haley Bohon’s words, SkillPop is a “community-driven way for people to access in-person classes on a variety of subjects.” The teachers are local professionals with skills they want to share, and classes pop up around town.
I attended SkillPop’s first beta class, “Handlettering,” with local freelance calligrapher, Kaley Olson. I’m an introvert through and through, so I view walking into a room with a bunch of strangers as a mild form of torture, but I’ve also vowed to make more of an effort to grow my community in Charlotte. SkillPop seemed like a great place to start, allowing me to meet new people and learn a new skill.
Third Ward co-working space, @809, hosted the class and was an ideal venue for the evening. SkillPop will host classes at various locations throughout the city, giving participants a chance to get to know local buisnesses.
Bohon says that so far SkillPop has worked with some incredible coworking spaces (like @809, Hygge, and Advent Coworking), but she’d love to see the list of venues grow to include coffeshops and even breweries.
“For hosts, it’s a great way to open your doors up and expose your building or business to a new group of people. It works well when there are low-traffic times for hosts that mesh with the times that we like to hold classes (weekday evenings, some weekend mornings/afternoons). We really promote the venue that’s hosting us while we’re promoting our classes – we want these partnerships to be strong and mutually beneficial.”
Teachers stand to benefit from a SkillPop partnership as well. Haley says she believes in the model because it’s deeply community driven. “Our teachers are incredibly talented people with their own businesses, Etsy shops, etc., so a major benefit of teaching is to network and reach a new group of people than they have before. It’s a great way to grow your following and your brand in a very real, personal way. We also try to make teaching an extremely smooth experience by handling all of the logistics, and we compensate monetarily by sharing a cut of the student fees.”
Classes range from $20 to $45 each. The goal is for the classes to be accessible, allowing people to take a class or two every month. Bohon says that she was inspired by the accessibility of fitness classes in the city. “People in Charlotte like to try new things and also see the importance of investing in themselves, so it makes sense that you should be able to take classes in things like photography or calligraphy just as easily as you can take a fitness class.”
What does the future hold?
Will there be an app? Will SkillPop expand to other cities? Haley said, “I can’t promise an app, but I can tell you that I’m talking to some developers right now about what that would look like. It’s certainly early, but I could see it on the horizon for 2016. We’re open to expanding to other cities depending on what demand looks like, but we’re really excited to be starting in Charlotte first. Charlotte has the right buzz and energy for this type of thing to really work, and there’s incredible community and people here to partner with.”
The next class is this coming Saturday – Photography with Erick Hodge – with a full class and a long waitlist. To be the first to know when new classes are announced and stay up to date with SkillPop’s growth, be sure to follow them on Instagram and Twitter, and sign up for their newsletter. You can also see the upcoming classes on SkillPop’s website, but those three places (newsletter, twitter, instagram) are where they’ll announce new classes as they pop up.
If you’ve got a talent you’re passionate about teaching others or a community space you’d like to share, you can email Haley Bohon directly at email@example.com.
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