Haley Bohon of SkillPop made learning cool again by bringing in-person classes to Charlotte.
I’m a lifelong learner. I could make a really long list of the oodles of things I’d like to learn in my lifetime. How to knit and embroider like my mom. How to homebrew beer. How to use a 3D printer. How to garden without killing anything. The Internet is great and all, but there’s nothing like being in class with other people excited to learn the same thing.
When Haley Bohon founded SkillPop, a company that offers in-person classes on things like watercolor, social media and icing cookies, I knew I’d love it. So far I’ve taken two modern calligraphy courses, and I have my eye on an intro to gardening course. It’s been awesome to see how SkillPop has evolved in Charlotte in the last few months — most of their classes sell out within a day — and I’m so excited to see what’s next. Today I’m chatting with Haley about the idea behind SkillPop and the community that’s followed. // susannah
1. How would you describe SkillPop?
SkillPop is a new company in Charlotte focused on making in-person classes accessible. Teachers are talented, local professionals with skills to share, and classes are held pop-up style in interesting areas of the community. Our classes range from photography to marketing to calligraphy, all in small settings and all priced between $20 and $45. One of our most popular classes has been Hand Lettering — it always sells out quickly!
2. What were you doing before SkillPop? What inspired you to change paths?
I’ve been in Charlotte for the past three years, but I’ve been in North Carolina my whole life. I went to N.C. State and studied mechanical engineering, and moved here for work immediately after graduation. I worked in product development for a Fortune 500 company for almost two years, and then shifted directions to do project management for a local tech startup.
The idea for SkillPop came back in June of 2015. I’ve always been entrepreneurial and have had dreams of starting my own company one day, but when I got the idea for SkillPop it stuck more than any idea I’ve ever had. Even though online learning has been the trend for the last 5+ years, it just makes sense that you should be able to take classes in person with an actual teacher. So, that’s what we’re trying to make happen.
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
Oh, good question! I love to read and I’ve been working in the last year to be more intentional about reading — which is a lot of fun. I’m doing the #nancyraybookclub this year and I highly recommend it, and then I’m also in a small book club with some girlfriends.
When I’m really trying to think something through or solve a problem though, my simple secret is a big blank poster and a sharpie or two. I’m visual, so it just helps me to map things out!
4. Describe your workspace.
I have a home office that’s very much a work in progress, but I do love working there. It’s a nice calming grey with simple light wood furniture and a window that looks out into our (mostly dead) garden. On my to-do list this year is to add a chair & lamp in the corner, additional bookshelves along the wall, and put something on the walls besides those big posters with my sharpie scrawls all over them!
5. What have been your biggest successes and challenges for SkillPop?
Oh man! SkillPop has grown so much faster than I ever anticipated, which has felt just like one big celebration. We’ve had classes sell out again and again and have had such a positive response. The biggest joy for me by far, though, has been the number of people I’ve been able to meet with this job — students, teachers and some incredible partners. It’s been a blast!
I’d say the biggest challenge has been knowing how to pace things, and I’m still learning! Knowing the right number and combination of classes each month is a continuing learning process, and I think our type of business will constantly be evolving.
6. What are your dreams for SkillPop?
I don’t want to give away everything, but we do have some big things in the works. One of my goals this year is to expand to a second city towards the end of 2016, and I also see the number of classes on our calendar doubling (or maybe tripling!) over the next twelve months.
7. Who do you look up to?
I really admire women like Lara Casey — the way she balances business with her faith & family is such a great example to me, and I think she does a good job of intentionally prioritizing what’s truly important in her life. Really though, I could write you an essay on people I admire — Betsy Idilbi of Tech Talent South for dominating in the technology/startup space here in Charlotte, my neighbor Kalle for how down-to-earth-but-wise she is, my dear friend Brittany for the way she cares for people. That’s just a fraction of the list!
On another note, I answered this question sitting on the couch next to my husband and asked him, “Who do I look up to?” and he said, “Pretty much everyone. Because you’re barely 5’5!”
8. Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
I love a good road trip, and I’m equally partial to the mountains and the beach as far as weekend getaways go. Give me a good porch, a cup of coffee and a book on any given day though, and I’m set!
9. What resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
I don’t know that there’s a formula, but two things that have been really helpful for me have been networking — I had always heard that it was important, and it really is! — and my prior job experience. I’d really recommend to learn as much as you can where you are, whether you’re learning about what you do like in a job, what you don’t like, or just about what makes a great company.
A few other things that I love & recommend are The Lively Show (a great podcast for women entrepreneurs on a wide range of topics) and Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In (affiliate link). Both are great resources!
10. If you weren’t running SkillPop, what would be your dream job?
If I really get to pick anything, I’d say something that lets me travel around the world. International food blogger, maybe? One of those writers who has to take a year-long sabbatical to the Italian countryside to write their book? Something like that sounds pretty good to me 🙂