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Greenville Business Magazine

Learning Pops Up In Greenville

Nov 01, 2017 01:33PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By AnnaMarie Koehler-Shepley

When Haley Bohon founded the pop-up learning company SkillPop, she did the best she could as a one-woman company to offer around 20 classes a month. Now, just celebrating its second anniversary, SkillPop employs a full-time team of about six people who are able to put on nearly 100 classes a month across three states.

“We’ve grown very fast in two years,” Bohon says. “It’s definitely a good challenge to have.”

For Bohon, a former mechanical engineer with a knack for problem solving, inaccessible in-person learning was a big problem, and SkillPop was her solution.

“Studying engineering makes you a really good problem solver and that’s a lot of what business and entrepreneurship is as well,” Bohon says. “[SkillPop] came out of looking at education and how it’s changing and how a lot of learning is just going online. I always learned much better in in-person settings, and that can just be hard to find.”

When Bohon didn’t find the education solution she craved, she created one. In the fall of 2015, Bohon founded SkillPop to make in-person learning both easier and more accessible. The company achieves this by organizing in-person pop-up classes with topics that run the gamut, from DIY crafts to business development, and keeping tuition around $30 a piece for most of its classes.

With locations in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greenville, and, just last month, Nashville, the company is actively growing. Greenville, the third city the company has expanded to, began hosting classes at the end of August.

Current class offerings in Greenville include topics like Backyard Gardening Basics (one of Bohon’s favorites), Handlettering Basics, and Personal Branding. They are held at community-favorite venues like The Community Tap and Reedy River Farms. Sign-ups are online, and the company also sends out a weekly newsletter with information on upcoming classes.

“I had a good feeling about Greenville because it’s such an engaged community right now,” Bohon says. “Just seeing how vibrant things are there felt like it could be a really good fit.”

To test out her hypothesis and to test the waters with a few other cities on her list, Bohon set out on a three-week six-city trip earlier this year.

“We very intentionally went to six different types of places, not just to figure out where to go next but to see which communities were right for SkillPop,” Bohon says. “Greenville was a really clear fit from the first class we did there.”

Greenville was the first stop on the tour, and the community was immediately receptive to the pop-up class concept.

“[From the first class], people were saying, ‘Can you bring this back? Will you bring this back? Can I work for you when you bring this back?” Bohon says.

Since its launch, Bohon says that the classes have been received very well, and as Greenville was the first experiment with out-of-state expansion, it’s been really exciting to hear such positive feedback.

The other city that stood out from Bohon’s city tour was Nashville, Tenn., the most recent city to join SkillPop’s network.

“Greenville set the bar high and Nashville ended it on a high note,” Bohon says. 

With each new city, Bohon says her strategy is to learn as much as possible from the process.

“When SkillPop came to Raleigh, it was, ‘Is expansion right for us?’ When we went to Greenville, it was, ‘How do we expand well?’ And now, in Nashville,” she says, “it’s, ‘How do we do it even better?’”

As for the rest of the year, Bohon says that time is dedicated to letting the dust settle from the recent expansion and beyond that, continuing to look into new communities for next year.

“We’re also starting to explore business partnerships,” Bohon says. “Can we also be an ally for businesses and help make their development needs easier with the network of teachers and resources we already have?”

Despite its rapid growth and exploration of new partnerships, Bohon says that the core of the company hasn’t changed.

“To a student, I think that if you’ve been coming to SkillPop classes for the last two years, you might not notice a difference—except that there are many more options and some things are cleaner and smoother,” Bohon says. “To me, it feels like a different company almost, but for people who have been around a long time and have watched us grow, it’s still the same company… We started with pop-up classes and we’re still doing pop-up classes.”