Meggie joins John for her second appearance to talk about pivoting during a pandemic and having to dig deep. She also talks about the various stages of fundraising as the company has matured. She also discusses growth strategy as we come out of lockdown.
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John E: Hello folks. I had a Maggie Williams from skip town in the studio for this episode. This is the second time I’ve interviewed her. I feel like, uh, I really enjoyed the first one. It was actually my second interview that I did in the entire series. And she was a great guest. Um, despite the fact that I was very new and did not know really what I was doing, uh, this one, I think we, I did a better job of getting her story out.
Um, so I really hope you enjoy this one. They, they pivoted pretty heavily. Uh, she had a lot of really good information on getting through a pivot, uh, getting through a crisis. Um, just the. The sheer story about just her recognizing what was happening as it was happening and realizing that she had to do something about it.
It’s not only interesting and inspiring, but really it’s very instructive. And hopefully you take a lot from that, as you think about how you respond to, uh, curve balls that are thrown your way. Cause it’s very rare. I think that any business is going to get thrown the kind of curve ball that, that we all did, but especially Maggie’s, which is a dog walking service for busy professionals who are at the office.
And obviously when everybody goes home, it’s a very different. Calculation, but the good news is she’s there. They’re thriving now and doing very well. So I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed recording it. Thank you.
Hello folks. And thanks for listening. I have a great guest today. Maggie Williams is the founder of skip town. She was my second guest on the podcast, very graciously. Uh, I’ve recently been re interviewing my guests who have pivoted their business due to COVID. Uh, her story is great in general, but I think the reaction to the COVID pandemic and lockdowns makes the story even more interesting and instructive.
Maggie. Thanks for joining me. It’s
Meggie W: great to be here. I hope that these podcasts aren’t indicative of just like a post traumatic event globally. I hope that’s not the theme.
John E: Maybe it’s maybe the theme is it’s just after a name change because you’re on your third name now.
Meggie W: Yeah, that’s true. We do rebrand.
John E: Hey, you’re getting good at it. So can you tell the listeners what the original vision and strategy for skipper was? And I believe before that it was waggle
Meggie W: even absolutely the wild company and then skipper and then skip town. Um, in the beginning, the origin of the company was really to solve a need.
Um, for, for people with dogs, looking for quality controlled, um, dog walking services by people that they trusted. Um, so we started the company in 2016. I was the first dog Walker. Um, I have two dogs, my husband and I have two dogs and really couldn’t find an option, um, in the market that really. Satisfied our needs.
So we started this company
John E: shout out to Seb. He just had a birthday.
Meggie W: Didn’t he? Birthday? SAB. Yep. 33.
John E: I just poured you an Angel’s envy rye whiskey. It’s delicious whiskey, by the way. No pressure. I see. You’ve got to be right. Yeah. I
Meggie W: have two hands. So this works,
John E: so, um, Yeah. So the, the original vision is to do a dog walking service, digitally enabled.
Um, you’ve got a path, the scalability inherently, um, just for the listeners who don’t know. Cause I think it’s a very interesting story. You raised around a funding that by any measure was, was, was a, a great round of funding. Um, it’s that mythical, I believe $750,000 round that nobody seems to be able to raise.
Is that roughly right with, with what the first round was? Yeah,
Meggie W: it was then we oversubscribed and took a 900. Yeah.
John E: More entrepreneur would be entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs. Tell me that they’re going to raise 750,000 for their first round and almost nobody ever does so kudos, but it was an interesting occurrence right after that.
How long was it before SoftBank announces their announcement and why?
Meggie W: Right before we were raising our second round. Yeah, we get that note and you know, it’s funny when I saw it, I was like, yeah, This is great, this validates the market, um, and for anybody listening. So, uh, wag, which was a marketplace model still exists, I think kind of, we’re not sure wag, uh, raised $300 million from SoftBank.
John E: 750,000, even if it’s oversubscribed. Yeah.
Meggie W: They gave me that little one 50 bucks, but yes. Yeah, I remember that day. Um, you know, it’s funny though, we, we, we never, we always had clarity into that. Um, because we were obviously very intimately involved with a business that relied on going into people’s homes and.
We said from day one that we really sold trust that’s who we were like outside of dog-walking and having technology and we were selling trust. And that’s what mattered. And when you look at other models that don’t, that aren’t intrinsically built to, to provide that kind of trustworthiness, I mean, it’s a critical and fatal flaw.
Um, and, and at least in our minds. And so when we saw that we were like, this is not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to do something very different. Um, and you know, we believe in the kind of core assumptions of our business, which is that quality control that’s selling trust that investing in a team, um, she can invest in your clients and, um, it, that has carried us through to this day and is, you know, why we’ve.
You know, figured out how to launch the concept of skip town and why we, I believe we’ve gotten as much traction as we have. And why we’re prepped now to scale, um, has been on that, on those, that ethos, which is trust. Yeah.
John E: I had Alex and Dan in here last week, and I understand you guys went out and had drinks afterwards.
Um, but, but they from two you laundry and they, they were pretty adamant at some point that they can’t be the Uber of, cause there was a time when every pitch was where the Uber of XYZ industry. But I think both of you understood pretty early on that this isn’t an Uber model. And especially in your case, I’m coming into your house.
Um, walking your dogs for most people, maybe kids are a little bit more, uh, necessary, you know, necessitate the trust factor, but people love their dogs. And I think that that’s a pretty unique insight that you can’t do it that way. So you’re saying that wag was, were they more of the Uber model?
Meggie W: Um, yeah. So in the sense that it would, it was a convenience driven model, um, and, and not, but not necessarily have the infrastructure to support the quality control, which, you know, your tolerance is pretty low when it comes to somebody taking care of your home and taking care of your dogs, you have to get that.
Right. Um, but it takes a lot to get that right. And it takes a lot, not just to get that right. Once it takes a lot more to get that right. Five days a week, if that’s how often you’re coming into someone’s home. And so having those quality control checks, doing the training, selecting the right pet care providers, you know, Quip, equipping them and supporting the team.
So they know what success looks like, and they can achieve all of that mattered. And, you know, it’s very S op you know, and then you see that this happened a lot where it’s, it’s growth over everything. Um, but not at the expense of quality when it comes to this, when it comes to what we’re trying to do.
And, and that’s, you know, we were never willing to sacrifice quality. Um, so 750 K was definitely what, you know, uh, pale in comparison to the 300 million. But I’ll tell you, I think, I think we’ve used it better.
John E: Well, that’s been a consistent theme with all of the SoftBank blow ups is that they pushed people to grow at any cost often at the expense of.
Some common sense decisions, some quality assurance things, and it’s, it’s, it’s easy to beat them up. Hindsight is 2020, um, and they’ve definitely had some big wins as well, but it seems to be a fairly consistent theme. And maybe it’s instructive for entrepreneurs who are thinking about raising money that, Hey, just because you have an investor who’s pushing you hard, who’s offering more money than you think you need.
I think everybody should raise more than they need, but I don’t think you raised 300 million into, uh, you know, what was an unproven service at that point, there may be a point where you need to hyperscale this thing, but raising 300 million. That early in any company generally seems like a recipe for some bad, bad habits to
Meggie W: form.
I think that what you just said nailed it. I think it’s the, it was the unproven part of it. And it’s not just wag, it’s any company that doesn’t truly have product market fit. And we felt proud of that too. I mean, we pivoted for, uh, for reasons that made more sense because of the pervasiveness of the need, the willingness to pay, um, the urgency, like all of that, that, that in my mind defines what product market fit is.
We had to, it took time to learn what that was. And if I had put $300 million toward a dog walking company, when we started, it would probably wouldn’t have been successful because we just hadn’t had that, learning that growth, that learning curve, that necessitates time and experience. So I think you’re completely right.
I think it, it, you know, you’re handing somebody $300 million at the wrong time is, um, is disastrous and knowing that right time is the hardest. It’s the hardest thing
John E: to do. Absolutely. So I want to talk Q1 20, 20. I think I spoke on a panel with you as member in 20, 2020. What was your progress and what did you think 2020 was going to look
Meggie W: like?
So Q1 2020, we had just signed the lease for our first location, our first subscription location. So we were very excited, um, to be officially moving forward in, on construction. In a couple of months, we were finishing up raising, um, the, the financing round for that, for that skip town. So we had, you know, had investors and we had had most of it committed.
And so we were at confident, right? Cause we, you know, we saw where this was going. We had a premier spot in one of the most dense urban areas in Charlotte. Um, and then our dog walking was doing really well. We were at about 240 walks a day. So we were at about a million dollar run rate, you know, and we were anticipating growing twofold that year, um, just in dog walking alone.
And that was going to parlay really nicely as part of the service lines that we were then going to offer at skip town. You know, we had a core group of team members who were trained that we were also excited to flex into our skip town space to train them on, on, on the other service lines that we were going to offer.
So it was just, it was all just gearing up to make this, this transition. And, and of course, having the revenue to support the investment that we were making, um, in HQ to be able to pivot from a dog walking company, to a daycare boarding and bar, um, with retail retail and, you know, brick and mortar at its core.
Um, yeah, we were making decisions to invest, to, to support that growth is how we were thinking about.
John E: So do you have an exact moment that you said, Oh shit, this is going to be a big deal for me. It was like so much of America. The night the NBA canceled at season March madness was canceled for me. It was personal because I do an annual pilgrimage to Vegas for the March madness.
And two weeks before they canceled it, someone asked me, are you going? And I was like, hell yeah. And even after they canceled it, I was like, well, I may still go to Vegas. So that’s what an idiot. I wasn’t how much I had my head in the sand, by the way. That’s good. Whiskey is really good. So it’s after you’re done with that, I’m going to give you the same brand Angel’s envy, but the bourbon and see which one you like better.
All right. So, so, uh, is there an exact moment where you said, Oh shit like, God, this is maybe a bigger deal than I thought it was, or I’m going to have to shift gears a little bit. I mean, it sounds like you already were underway with a. Pivot and had already realized that you needed to, um, take a different approach to going to market, but was there, so it isn’t like you had to change your business model and rip it up, but was there a moment where you said I’m going to have to really, really pay attention to
Meggie W: this?
Yeah. So it sounds like are moments were this happening at the same time? Because I was in California when the NBA shut down, I was there for a conference that was related to work and I flown out there and I’m supposed to spend a couple days and it was my first day there and the NBA got canceled and I come out of the conference and everybody’s kind of like, you can tell, it’s just like, Oh, awesome.
This doesn’t feel good. And I remember in the span of an hour, I had gotten, I got calls from three of my three investors that were caring about a half of the round that had committed. We were going to close in the next 10 days. It had just been like formality, why we hadn’t closed, but it was, you know, For 10 days out to fully close everything.
And I got calls within an hour from three of my major investors who said, who had international deals so that their, their professional business was tied to the international markets. And they all called and said, you know, separate from each other. Shit’s on fire. We can’t commit to this round anymore. We don’t know what’s going, I don’t know what’s going on.
We’re not gonna be able, I’m not gonna be able to pull to, to come into this round right now. And that was the, that was the moment where mostly, cause I mean the final, we just bought the financing bottomed out and you know, it was, I was also in California and I had this, you know, instinctually. I was like, I gotta get home.
I gotta get back to the team. And so I booked a red eye flight that night and I flew all night. Was this San Francisco? Yeah. San Francisco. Okay. So I came back, um, and I, I showed up, I was like, I think I landed at like five 30 in the morning and I texted the leadership team and I was like, come into the office as soon as you can.
We have some, we have some things to talk about. And so I think they all came in around like six, six 30, but it was like, what the fuck? And I just, we sat down and I said, the world is changing. Anything that we were, we no longer are. And we have to figure out who we’re going to be, and that’s going to be dramatically different than what we thought and let’s get to work and figure this out.
And it was that, I think it was that moment. It was that whole red eye flight where I couldn’t sleep. And I’m just like, like just staring at the back of the, of the, of the chair in front of me thinking like, what does it mean to be in a war time scenario? Like, what is this going to take? And I think over the next couple months, and, you know, especially initially in, and then as it’s kind of is written out.
It’s become very apparent to me how important, like defining a goal and, and get it and rallying everybody around, whatever that goal is at that time. And w I’ve see the, that, you know, NBA closing down as like the pivot point between us being in more like a peacetime scenario and then moving to a war type scenario.
And in a peacetime scenario, you can be, you need to be creative and you can take broad brush strokes with how you go to market and do all these experiments. And, and then when you go to war time, it’s like, There is an existential, there’s a threat in front of you and nothing else and nothing else matters, but getting around that threat and through that threat.
And at that moment, it became about like the goal was we are going to cut costs. We’re going to stop the hemorrhaging. We are going to hone in on critical path work and we are going to disregard everything else. And that’s, and that’s what we did. And that’s what we did really up until we launched skipped town.
John E: But it’s interesting that you word it that way because I just think back to, or not think back. But I think about, um, in our stress response systems as humans, we’ve evolved systems that if a lion is chasing you, you shut down your reproductive system, you shut down your digestive system. You literally shut down everything that isn’t core to getting away from that fucking lie and as fast as you can.
Right. And it’s that, that’s what you did. And I do wonder, um, With, with a lot of these types of scenarios. Cause most of the companies I’ve talked to that have done well. They went and they did cost cutting that. I suspect if you ask them, they would say, we probably should have been doing this anyway, but we weren’t forced to do it.
And so a lot of companies have actually thrived because of the fact that they were forced to shut down those other systems and pay attention to that survival instinct. So it is, I think it’s something that hopefully, you know, years from now, when all of this is behind us, we recall, Hey, maybe I should look at cost-cutting.
Maybe I should really focus on what Mark and I’m going after. Um, do you think you’ll take those, those types of lessons forward with you or do you think it’s just such an, uh, an extreme, uh, event that it’s, Hey, we’re going to do this one time and then we’re going to get back to the way we used to
Meggie W: be. No, I, I agree.
I think it’s conditioning. And we were like, we were scrappy like that in the very beginning. I remember when we, before we raised our first round, I mean, we got an SBA loan the first time around which our houses leaned on. Like, I remember we put all like all the personal chips in the basket to get this financing.
We were two weeks away from like, not being able to make payroll. And I remember feeling that way at that point. Like what can we do to draw this out, to give us more time? So, and then, you know, things get lighter and it’s like, you have more cash in the bank and it’s, it can very easily just, you become a little bit more lax.
And it’s one of the reasons that our, um, it’s one of the reasons that one of our core values is ride the scooter in the rain. And it is it’s, it’s one of our core values because from the very beginning, my husband and I shared a car, one car, and he was. Yeah, he needed it for work. And I took the scooter to go do dog walks.
And so there were times when it would rain and I’d get caught in the rain. And I was like, well, this sucks because I’m on a scooter in the rain. And it was just this reminder that like, this is what it takes, like being scrappy, like doing what it takes to kind of get to an end point. And that’s the core value because we still, you know, and even through the pandemic, and it’s always good to have that reminder of like, why you looking at your time and your money as your, your finite resources and taking advantage of them and doing right by them and being very intentional with how you use them, um, is everything.
And I think the pandemic was a wake up call on how to, um, remember that and remember what matters and realize how creative you can be within a bind and how much you can do on a lot less. Um, and the credit to the team. Like they stood up to that challenge immediately. Um, I remember cutting things, cutting costs where it’s like any subscription that we like didn’t use.
I mean, it was just like ruthless mostly. And because I wanted to save as many jobs as I could. So the first thing we cut, which is any miscellaneous expense, you know, anything mattered, like even if it was nothing it mattered. Um, and everybody just really kind of locked arms in, in, uh, in bulletin, agreeing to that and, and kind of, um, you know, doing their part to help us figure out how we could, how we could, you know.
John E: no, I think that’s a great core value not to put you on the spot, but do you, what, what are the other core values?
Meggie W: Shall we a couple of other ones? Um, so ha one of my favorite ones is head to weather and it’s a nautical term and it means kind of aligning your ship with the external variables in mind that you kind of help the boat go in the right direction, using the tide and the, and the weather and the sun.
And, um, and we think about that all the time. And like during the pandemic heading to weather was kind of who we became all like every day it was like, are we doing what we need to be doing? At this moment in time to stay alive and given all these external circumstances that were happening. Um, and so that’s a big, that’s a big one.
Um, one of our other ones is, um, uh, it’s it’s, um, integrity above all. So going back to the idea of selling trust, you know, being worthy of the trust that you seek. Um, going into people’s homes like that, being such a core part of our, of, of who we are and why we exist. Um, rooted in quality is another one I can, we don’t cut corners.
We’ve invested in our team from the very beginning. We hired them as W2, as opposed to contractors, which was a very, uh, atypical thing to do in a space like ours. Um, because it’s more expensive to hire employees as opposed to contractors, but we wanted to be able to train them and, you know, and, you know, really set our team up for success.
And we didn’t see how we could do that legally with contractors. Um, one of our other core values is created venture from the inside out. And we started that because, you know, sometimes we, we were always looking for adventure, always looking to spot color and new places because we would be doing dog walks.
And sometimes it was a 15 minute dog walk that would go around the apartment building. And we would do that, you know, Five times a week. So how do you, how do you create adventure from that? If you’re doing your own sidewalk in the same sidewalk, and it was always about find the adventure, like spot the new colors, figure out a way to like, what’s the, what’s the adventure behind us.
There’s always something fun to do find and new and exciting to talk about. And that was a part of how we, you know, really messaged our message to our clients and created the experience for the dogs. Um, Yeah, that’s
John E: those are great. I recommend anybody. Who’s starting a company define your core values before they define you.
Um, because I do think if you can find a way to articulate core values that are actually core to who you are as a company. It helps people to understand how, how they should behave. It helps it’s a great guiding light. And I think it just really, when times do get tough, you can come back to those core values and say, you know what?
This is, this is who we are, and we’re going to embody these. And if you can get that right, it’s just a very powerful tool to have in the long run. For sure. So did you set those up on day one or was that something that you got to a certain size and realized, Oh shit, we need core values.
Meggie W: No, it was, it was no, at the time I did not think riding a scooter was very noble, so I don’t, I don’t think that no, not at the time, but yeah, when we were early on, though, I would say when we 2017, you know, I remember doing it with, um, you know, our, our now head of operations and she was our head of HR at the time.
And we sat down there and we had, we kind of crafted what we thought it could be. And we had pulled the team to figure out, you know, what, like, can you, how do you define it was the wild company at the time. How do you define us? And what do you think makes us different and unique and where do we stand out?
And we got a lot of buy-in and. So, yeah, it was, it was over a long period of time, um, after we had kind of gotten our base. Hmm.
John E: All right. So I want to talk about skip town. You’ve already kind of alluded to it. Um, just talk about what it is when and why you created the concept. And did you view it as a pivot or as an evolutionary step?
Meggie W: Yeah. Um, so I like to think of skip town as being on a mission to make it easier and even more fun for pets and their people to live their best lives. And the way that we’re doing that is an all in one ecosystem that, um, offers the first ever tech enabled quality control services for dogs and for the people who love them.
And we do that through, um, a 24,000 square foot facility, um, that has, uh, a daycare boarding experience for dogs and then a, uh, dog park. That, um, people can come to and hang out with their dogs and their friends. Um, and it’s we say it’s kind of wrapped in this bow of, uh, kind of like a country club, like a dog social club.
So we say it’s, it’s very, it’s higher end. It’s white glove. It’s meant to make you feel at home and relaxed. Um, it’s like a backyard Oasis for people coming to hang out with their dogs who get to run around off leash. You feel comfortable, you know, who can really be who they want to be, whether they’re like, you know, the life of the party, or if they prefer more to like watch the other dogs play, you know, that everybody can kind of be who they want to be in a social setting.
Um, and then on the pet care side, we just have this incredible team and we’ve really invested in the infrastructure to support a really quality experience for the dogs. And then for the clients are our mobile app supports all of these services. And so our clients, um, can book services through our mobile app.
Um, they pay through a mobile app, they get the visit reports through a mobile app. So the technology is really a really key underpinning to everything that we do, which makes it not just convenient, but also scalable from a business standpoint. Um, and what a lot of people don’t know is that we’ve built a lot of technology for our team members too.
So our team actually operates and is able to, uh, execute on each dog’s individual routine, whether it’s daycare or boarding or dog walking, because the technology really prompts them and supports them and being able to do that. And so that’s a big part of how we’re able to execute our services and, and really deliver that high end quality service.
John E: much did you have to modify the original technology for the dog walking service to support the mission at skip town?
Meggie W: Yeah, so, um, you know, tremendously, I would say just like anything else in a company like your processes, your systems, your techs should also be constantly being evolved and iterated.
Um, and I w you know, and code being rewritten and rethought and built. Um, and so when we were a dog walking company, we had a very strong foundation. Um, both. We had the client app and we had the team member app already, and that was a solid foundation plus a GPS routing system that we focus really heavily on because we were at that time really focused on, um, we routing our team members, so routing 80 people a day and doing that efficiently and effectively in real time, when people would book a visit, adding that to our person’s schedule, who’s already in the area.
John E: That’s a very tough challenge to solve without technology, by the way we,
Meggie W: Oh my gosh. We used to stay up. We used to have somebody do a night shift to do it because it would take that many man hours. Uh, I’m
John E: guessing, I’m guessing they had to just model every single scenario and pick the best
Meggie W: one, put it in Google maps.
So we would put all the addresses in Google maps and then we would. We would route we would do the routes based on what the Google map, what Google maps would show. Cause it would overlay all the addresses and then we would go through and then 30% of it would change the next morning because we, you know, same day scheduling.
It would all change it around again. So yeah, it was, it was, um, it was something. So yeah, we had to change her pretty significantly. And that’s what we spent a lot of time, our product and our tech team, you know, when we were not doing dog-walking, we were really focused when COVID hit from March to August on the tech, which we were going to do it.
John E: I want to highlight how difficult this is, and maybe I’m missing the point, but like you just lost half your investors because you’re building there. They’re backing out of a building that you’re trying to build, where you’re making changes and you’re having to invest massive amounts of money into the technology infrastructure to go to where, you know, you need to go.
I mean, can you talk a little bit about how you justify that. In your head. Do you have board members that you talk to, do you have mentors advisors? Like how do you, how do you get through that? Because that seems really fucking hard to me.
Meggie W: I mean, we did so, or our team, so in order to keep, so we had to, we, I mean, ultimately we had to cut costs.
We had to, when we lost all the dog-walking revenue, um, and we had to do a reset on what, what, what are we going to need? And I remember having our first, I remember calling an emergency board meeting. It was like that week that the NBA shut down and I flew back and it was like, we need to have like a come to Jesus on what’s going on.
And we had modeled out these different scenarios because nobody had any idea. It was like one scenario dog-walking doesn’t, you know, Doug Wilson comes back in two months, skip town is delayed launching two months. Dog-walking doesn’t come back for four months, skip town’s delayed two months. Like it was all these scenarios and it was really hindered on like, do we have revenue?
Yes or no. And when, and is skip town delayed? Yes or no. Or how and how long. And that decided everything because we were, you know, obviously once we opened skipped and then if skip town open, where are we even going to be able to, like, we’re going to bring in any cap, like cashflow is it are people allowed to go even allowed to open?
So it was just, it was just this big question. And so we had all these snares modded out and it was more like, what
John E: be the point? I just want to point out, because I think you, you made the point, but people who aren’t from Charlotte won’t understand this as much, but the people from Charlotte will get it South end.
You’re in the South end neighborhood, which is not a cheap, it’s not cheap rent either. So what kind of lease where you were, did you sign at this point?
Meggie W: There’s a 24,000 square foot lease, um, in South Bay. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, sometimes you just ha and like we did, we laughed a lot because you just have to, like, you just have to like, come out of it for a second.
Cause it can get really dark and deep, too much where you just have to just say, okay, it’s all gonna be all right. We’re gonna figure this out. But the good thing about having a very expensive lease in South end is that you’re teed up for success with the target demographic. You’re you’re really trying to cater to.
So yeah. Yeah.
John E: Apparently it doesn’t care about COVID as I’ve seen for the last six months.
Meggie W: Some words of it, we’ve tried hard to care. Yeah. You’re taking it a little bit residents don’t yeah, I don’t, I don’t know. We, we felt lucky that we had so much square footage on our side that we’ve been able to operate with social socially distanced, you know, protocols.
But, um, man, it’s been tough for everybody. It’s been tough for businesses and you know, I’m sure people who are trying to do their best, do the best with the information they have. Um, I forgot the question. No,
John E: no, you answered it. So you’re a maniac in a good way about measuring KPIs and customer behavior.
What has surprised you the most about skip town now that you’ve been operating? How long have you been operating
Meggie W: it? Start we open in August. Okay. It’s about six months. Um, Oh yeah, we are, we are maniacal about data. Um, we do a daily standup every day and we look at like 300 data points and we have a leadership team.
We go through it and we it’s great. It’s a pulse check and it’s all, it’s all it is. It’s a pulse check. And then when we look at that really heavily and the learnings that have come out of that are just, I can’t even tell you how game-changing they’ve been. So, you know, we were obviously really interested to see how opening in a pandemic would affect people’s frequency of usage of the services.
And we’re still very interested to know how being in a post COVID world affects people’s usage of the services, specifically cross usage and this frequency in general. And so we’re a membership based model. And so we look really closely at. You know, what people take advantage of what services they use and how frequently.
And I think to two things that really surprised me, um, we had anticipated people would come to the bar and park about four times a month. So once a week is what we thought was safe and, you know, we were kind of evaluating it based on. Okay. Bunch of times a week, sorry, four times a month, one time a week.
Did I say that I’m not
John E: surprised to hear four times a week? Cause I talked to Britton McCorkle from All-American pub and that’s, they’ve built 15 restaurants on that idea of our same people come four times a week. Okay.
Meggie W: No, no. Right. So four times a month, one time a week is what we had anticipated. But then what we saw was that people were coming more like one and a half to two times a week.
So tapping, so food trucks. Yeah. We have trucks. Um, so like eight times a month, it was double what we thought. And we were blown away. We were so excited by that because that was the whole concept. It was like, make this, your neighborhood, your local, like it feels at home. Right. Um, so really excited by that and, and really thinking about the membership model and what community means because of the frequency and how that is playing out.
And then you can use looking at the cross usage of services, which is really important to us because it validates the co-located services. So if you’re using daycare and you’re using barn park, how many people are doing that? Plus dog walking, or just one of all of them. And so we’ve watched that over time and, um, the cross usage from barn park users to daycare and over and back.
Has been really fascinating to see and is really helping us inform how we grow, because there’s use cases where we grow the hub model, which is what we call the skip town CLT location, which has all the co-located services in one place. And then there are, um, con other additional options to grow, which kind of are smaller footprints that lean more heavily into one service.
John E: this would be in like a Winston Salem.
Meggie W: Yeah. We, we like, we like ourselves top golf and top golf. It construction like costs range between eight and $80 million. So it’s a cute differences in like the, in the scale and the scope of what they built. And we think that there’s an opportunity in a Winston sale or in an, in another kind of, if it’s not super urban it’s, if it’s more suburban that it’s a different, it’s a little, it’s a different layout.
It caters to a different group, but it maybe leans more heavily into one service line or the other. And we’re figuring that out by really tracking the usage across different service lines with our core location. And that’s been, that’s been really. Fascinating to see, and we’re excited to see how that plays out after COVID, because we anticipate there will be a change in behavior once people are back to work, which, you know, no major employer has gone back to office work.
So we anticipate a pretty big increase in demand once all of those people who are still at home and all the people who were at home without dogs before COVID, but now have a dog come back out into the workforce and, you know, and you know, and are no longer, you know, working from home.
John E: That’s really interesting.
Yeah. I recently had, um, stew Brower on who owns urban movement and a couple of gym related businesses. And he said that he was very fortunate because he was very proactive, um, in, in, in the pandemic about finding ways to create, uh, online content that people could use. He would lend you out his equipment and he ended up only losing 3% of his, his, uh, subscribers, if you will.
Um, as a result of that, But then when they were able to reopen the demand, the demand was just double what it was before, because everybody was ready to get back. So I think that there are going to be a lot of businesses who find that people are ready, ready to get out there and do it. I, I mentioned to you before, when we were talking before this interview, I’m getting married in May 29th then.
And our wedding planner was like, well, you know, normally you would expect this many people with COVID. It could bounce one direction, which is that there’s less people who show up because they’re afraid of the disease. It could be that you’re getting near the end of COVID and people can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
And we just want to get out there and party like it’s 1999.
right. On the point of where I, my head goes, I don’t know about my fiance
so, um, so I had Alex and Dan from, to you won recently, who, by the way, you introduced me to, um, so thank you for that. Um, they really viewed the bricks and mortar retail experience and customer is very distinct from the digital delivery customer. How would you compare and contrast your views on how the two work together for, for skip town?
Cause you, you have, uh, I don’t want to, it’s not too similar, but you do have a digital experience and you do have the skip town. Are they, did they overlap? Is the Venn diagram very different than Alex and Dan’s cause theirs is two completely different circles. Well,
Meggie W: I’ll tell you how they compare and they compare two key reasons.
The first is it’s still very heavily service-based right? So whether it’s a service inside your home or a service inside our facility, very heavily, you know, quality controlled services, trained professionals, um, a big emphasis on, on a large, you know, work, a large team. Um, so in that aspect is very similar.
And then I would also say the way we’ve designed it, technology is even more, you know, a play. If not, it’s not, it’s the same. If not even more. When it, as it was for dog walking. Um, so the, the technology kind of underpinnings and the
John E: integration of our app. Yeah. And to your point, they both said that the in store experience doesn’t rely heavily on the app.
There’s just not a lot of crossover in their case, but in your case, it sounds it’s
Meggie W: the same, if not more, because there’s more services and now integrating all those services inside of our app, that makes it easy for people to, to move back and forth between them. Yeah. So technology is even more of a forefront now than it even was, but mostly just because we’re upping, like we went from one service business to like a five service business.
Um, and then I would say the way the contrast is, uh, Skip town, the Quinn, the cool thing about skip town and the concept of skip town is that it really doubles down on community. And that’s something that we had digitally, right. For dog walking, but you didn’t have the shared, you know, experiences from being in the shared places that skip town does and that community, both the human community.
So the people coming to hang out with their friends and the dog communities or the people coming with their dogs, so their dogs can hang out with their friends is like one of the coolest parts. And I think one of the reasons that it’s just we’ve found really strong growth and traction, because I think people really resonate with that.
And because I think community matters so much more when you’re in the same place at the same time. Um, and that’s what skip town is
John E: very cool. So knowing what you know now about the pandemic, would you do anything differently in 2018, 2019? I mean, you were already on your way to skip town as a model, but are there things that you would have done differently?
Meggie W: know, that’s always a funny question, cause I never know how to answer that because I, part of me always thinks like, You need the time and the experience to learn the things you learn to make decisions you make to get to where you are. And so part of me thinks like if we had tried to rush any of that kind of like your $300 million investment example, you would blow up.
Cause you just, like, hadn’t had the time to really like piece it together. And the learnings that are required from that time. And like, we wouldn’t have known that dog-walking could scale. And the, and the hard parts about scaling dog-walking is we were in three markets. By the time we realized we should pivot to skip town, or we wouldn’t have figured out that like apartments where, you know, the focus and how to, when we built three facilities and apartments, before we opened to skip town, that like, kind of led us to what, uh, what, what a brick and mortar concept could be and how we could be impactful there.
So part of me thinks we really need that time. I will say that like, I mean, it’s, you know, now it’s, it’s true and it’s in my mind all the time. And I, it took me time to really get that it get, this was how important finding the right team is, like finding your, a players, finding the people that are going to, you know, be able to, to, to, you know, come and build this company with you and take it to the next level.
And I think having clarity on the role that you need and who is the best who would fit that role and how to find them like all day. Right. I think about how far we’ve come. And I think about the, the people that are involved in this venture, um, on the team specifically that have really like, have gotten us here.
And I just can’t, I, you know, not finding them would have been such a mistake and finding them sooner probably would have been better. Like, and I just think about how important the team is at all times. And so whenever I think now about future roles, it’s always goes back to how important. Having those people on the team are.
And then conversely, on the other side of the coin, making sure that if people aren’t a fit, that they, you know, that you, you recognize that quickly and that, that you, you kind of, you know, you, you make, you make sure that the people on the team are meant to be on the team and R and R and really providing, you know, a critical function to what you’re trying to do.
John E: that’s the hardest part for me, because you want people to succeed. You want to think, okay, they’re not working out. It’s my fault. What do I change? And then you change three different things and then you’ve pissed everybody else off because they’re like, why is this person still on the team? And it’s, it’s hard at anybody.
Who’s never had to fire somebody. It it’s just one of the hardest things in the world, but it’s. It it’s, it’s harder not to fire them and to look the other people in the eye and say, I want to hold you to this standard, but not these other people. Was that something that came natural for you?
Meggie W: I mean, I think what comes natural to me is, is asking a lot of questions to people who are smarter and have done, have done more things and then listening to them.
And I think, you know, I’ve learned from a lot of great mentors and investors and people who have shared those lessons and have said, this is how you get somebody. This is how you communicate effectively. This is what, you know, having an open communication channel means and being transparent and also setting up standards and saying, Hey, we’re not hitting the Mark here.
Let’s give ourselves, do you agree? What is it going to look like to fix it? And let’s give ourselves a 30, 45 day window and it doesn’t get better than this. Isn’t going to be a right fit. And like, yeah. You know, putting like that string of, of actions together was something that like, you know, you think about over time and maybe it becomes more naturally because the more times you do it, that’s kind of like, okay, well, the, the nervousness of like, not knowing what you’re doing, um, goes away and just gets funneled to something else.
You’re just constantly throwing those like nervous bubbles of, I don’t know what I’m doing to the next thing.
John E: Totally agree with that. So what were the biggest lessons you’ve taken from 2020?
Meggie W: Um,
um, being, being goal oriented, making sure the team knows what you’re trying to do and making sure they know what success looks like for them to get to those goals. Um, data being, just having a pulse on the data and learning from it. And not thinking of failure as failure. Um, I have, uh, you know, I love, I love when things don’t work out the way that they’re, that we thought they would, because it’s like, well, good.
That’s where we learn.
John E: Yeah. Right. Failure is information.
Meggie W: Yes. Failure is information and it’s like an opportunity to do you just do something different or learn from something you thought you learned from something. Um, and we just did it, you know, and yeah. When you do it enough, you’re like, well, whatever, I guess we’re like still here.
So it couldn’t be that bad. Um, and yeah, and I like having, having the right team in place and just like attitude is everything and everything is attitude. And I think so much of things that we approach personally and professionally is like how we view it and how we decide, like, how we decide to view it.
And so just making that conscious choice to just decide how I’m going to feel is like a big part of how it’s, it’s just, I, I, somebody said this recently and it stuck with me, it was like, Nervousness and anger and excitement. It’s all just energy, right? And if you think of it as just energy, you have the agency to redirect that energy in any way you want.
And if you can, and if you, if you want to, you can learn how to redirect energy from a feeling that maybe isn’t productive or doesn’t make you. Isn’t good for you into a feeling that is. And that like conscious choice is something that I just personally feel is, is very, um, validating. And it makes me feel like, again, like no matter what, like no matter what happens, it’s going to be okay.
Like the worst case scenario is never that bad. It’s like a seven. I say that all the time when I was like, let’s lean our house on this skip town loan. And like, that’s like, let’s do it. And you’re like, because what’s the worst kids, right? Like it doesn’t work out and we lose everything and that’s okay.
But we at least would know that we tried something and it wasn’t the right thing to right. It’s like it, you know, it’s all the way. It’s all the way you look at it.
John E: No, I think w I would call what you’re talking about reframing, and I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books about reframing and about how do you manage stress and how do you manage happiness?
And I think that reframing is one of the most important things. And one of the things I admire about Victoria, my fiance is that she meditates every morning when she wakes up, no matter what, it doesn’t matter what kind of day she’s got planned. It doesn’t matter what kind of night she had the night before every morning starts with 10 to 20 minutes of meditation.
And I, and I think that that meditation is one technique for doing that reframing where you just start to realize my hopes. My fears, my dreams, my aspirations, my stress, they’re all created in my head and they’re not good or bad. They’re just something that I can observe and I can move on from it. I understand how important that is, but I still, I don’t meditate every day.
Let’s just put it that way. Have you found things like that that helped you out with dealing with these types of things or?
Meggie W: Yeah, for me, it’s just being outside. Like I just have this, like, I just love to be outside. Like, it just gives me like a media calm just to like see the sky and like, just like hear outside noises, um, during a bird chirp or dude it’s like, it just puts me in a happy place, which is funny because like going through the whole pandemic and we’re all stuck at home.
Like we have this patio on the back of our house and like that’s where I worked. And it was just kind of a running joke. Cause like my office was the patio every day. Thank goodness. That one silver lining of the pandemic was that it happened in the spring when we could like, you know, be outside as at least there was that,
John E: that was my coping mechanism.
I lived in Dilworth at the time and I could like walk to three different parks, freedom, freedom park, uh, Sedgefield park. And uh, there’s one on park road. I don’t latter park. It was Latta park. Exactly. And, um, and it was just wonderful. It was there’s no, there’s nothing that happens to you from a stress perspective that can’t be solved by more outdoor time for me personally.
Now that that’s great. So I think you’ve hit on this a little bit, but can you maybe talk about how scalability and growth strategy change with, with skip town?
Meggie W: Yeah. Um, I think in, in a ton of exciting ways, we are now like diving head first into a brick and mortar concept that has, you know, retail it’s retail expansion it’s, um, it’s, location-based, you know, the financing structure and strategy is totally different from what we were doing.
Um, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity. Um, we are really kind of rounding out what we think is makes a skip town viable from like a physical location standpoint. And because we consider ourselves destination retail, you know, and, and the kind of demographic that we attract is, is very, uh, creative is very valuable to a lot of the other tenants and landlords who are in our areas and in the kind of area we’re in.
There’s a lot of coal synergies and there’s a lot of new partnerships that open up because of what we do. Um, and so it’s been alert. It’s been a really steep learning curve. Um, we’ve, we’ve had a blast, like learning about how this works and bringing in, you know, having a really strong, external team that can help guide us in which we do.
Um, and that’s been, and that’s been great and then seeing opportunities and, and really kind of figuring out and, and seeing physical spaces and what, and like imagining what they could be. And if they could be a skip town, um, has been, you know, a big change in, in kind of what we, what we had been doing.
Are we on to number two? I’m so glad you saw that. Cause I was like, should I interrupt him and be like, I don’t have more whiskey. So
John E: for those watching on YouTube, first of all, how dare you? There’s more than audio, but I will tell you that I just poured the Angel’s envy, uh, bourbon. And I had do you know Bobby Robinson?
Okay. Bobby is a, an attorney shout out to Bobby. Um, we, we acquired a technology for him that he’d developed for a law firm that he owned. And, um, I let him taste both of these and he thought one was better than the other. Okay. And then he changed his mind later. So, but, um, so I’m giving you a taste test.
You’re now tasting the Angel’s envy bourbon. They call it Angel’s envy because. They, they make bourbon. They, they cure it in, um, in, in these Oak barrels, the Oak barrels expand and contract. When they expand, when they contract, you’ll lose a little bit to evaporation and that’s called the angel share. So this brand calls, the Angel’s envy.
This is the part that the humans get, that the angels don’t get, but you first taste
Meggie W: and the other one was what, what was the other one?
John E: Okay. The Angel’s envy, but you tasted the rye and this is the bourbon and that is a gigantic pour. So if you need it, yeah,
Meggie W: I have to call my like DD later.
Hey Sam. I told you I was doing that podcast. I’m drawing.
John E: Sorry. Or maybe you’re welcome, sir.
Meggie W: Okay. I’m gonna try it.
John E: That aren’t done done. Now we get the real answer. It’s going to take a second. I don’t know if you remember what it tasted like. So that was Bobby’s original answer.
Meggie W: Well, I don’t know if I feel how Bobby feels. I think I’m no, this was good. This was, it was smooth. I feel like this
John E: one is definitely smoother. The other one is a little bit spicier, which is, I think w I think that’s what Bobby latched on to eventually. He was like, but he tasted it in the other direction and he was like, definitely the bourbon’s better.
But then he came up with the ride. How long did it take
Meggie W: him to change his mind? It
John E: him a good five or 10 minutes. That’s all
Meggie W: right. All right. I’ll sit on it.
John E: And again, I apologize for the three finger poor there.
Meggie W: Shut up skin, carry
John E: me out. So. I’m curious how hard it was going from managing a software platform and a network of dog walkers to adding, managing a construction project, because those are very different skill sets.
Can you maybe comment on how you adapt it and you, you, you obviously planned on this before the pandemic, so, so you thought a lot about it, but what, what, what was going through your mind as you, as you took on this new and again, managing a construction project is nothing for, for, uh, nothing for the MIG to undertake, right?
Meggie W: I mean, they’re definitely, they’re definitely very different. Um, they’re very different scopes, but at the same time, they’re very used their user experience based. Or it’s like with, with technology platforms similar to like physical spaces. It’s how is the user going to experience this and why are they going to get out of it?
And how can you make it easier for them to get what you want out of it? Um, and we, so we, we took the same approach, um, And, uh, Nikki, my head of product is, you know, credibly, uh, talented in being able to envision both how technology can, can be brought to life, to support a user experience and the same way that she is talented and being able to see him physical spaces can come to life to support the user experience.
And so with her leadership, um, and with the support of our incredible external team of which there were many, including a project manager, a local architect, we had a GC, we had, um, civil engineers and zoning consultants and this whole group of people who could help us, you know, fill in the gaps because there’s a lot of things we’re like, well, this would be the idea of what to do it.
And then you’d be like you can’t because of the slope. Goes, this w this much down, and that is not ADA compliant, so you can’t do that way. So there was a lot of like things we wanted to do and then fitting that into the world of, of, of, uh, legal and, um, able to do, which was great. It was like a big puzzle.
Um, and I, I now have so much appreciation for like every building. I see. It’s like how those get off the ground, just knowing all the things that we kind of came up against. And I’m like, Oh my God, is this going to be the thing that’s going to sink us? Like, you know, as the, the water line from the back of the building to the front of the building and it being a two inch pipe versus a one and a half inch pipe, like, is that going to be the end one of us?
And there was conversations for Likud could be like, there’s things that happen that seemingly minimal that derail an entire project, and don’t even really stop it from continuing. Um, so that was exciting. That also
John E: happening
Meggie W: exciting is like, well, if the global pandemic wasn’t enough, like let’s couple like us going through this for the first time.
And like, um, but you know, like it CA it got, we got it through and we have in, I credit that to having the right people, to like help Marshall it through and an idea at the end of the day that everybody was passionate about, you know, getting launched. Um, but it has made us very sensitive and aware of what it’s going to take going forward.
And we took a lot of copious notes on that. So we learned a lot from this experience at skip down CLT and we’ve taken, and we’ve done the learnings and the application of those learnings gal going into our second and third location, which we’re anticipating now. Um, I can just see, I can see it growing and I can see the opportunity in the future where like, we just like.
Catch everything as it comes. And it’s just, I’m sure, you know, there’s always stuff you can’t anticipate and that sure keeps it spicy, but kind of like your other whiskey. But for now I feel very good about where we are and very confident about what we know and also confident in what we don’t know and how we figure out, um, how do we, how we find the information to,
John E: so you mentioned the second and third location.
I don’t want to, I don’t want you to reveal anything cause I’m sure there were negotiations going on, but maybe it’s, I’m not asking what cities are you going to, but how do you think about the second and the third city compared to Charlotte? Are they similar to Charlotte or are they different cities?
Meggie W: We are so excited to expand because we see being able to provide a bigger impact.
Nationally. We see ourselves being the front, the, the pioneer in this concept, that’s tech enabled that, you know, co-located all these services that makes it with convenient and qual and delivers a quality experience for, for people and for their dogs. And we just are very excited about the opportunity to grow it and to, to, you know, be a meaningful part of more people’s lives.
And when we look at where we’re going, we look back at product market fit and the core assumptions behind what we’ve done. And we recognize we’ve only done one we’ve learned from that one. We are almost one where
John E: you live in the city and you know, they live
Meggie W: in the city and I, right. So when we’ve had home team advantage, right, because we built a company and build some brand equity here, But, you know, then I look back and say, well, we also did it in a pandemic and we pre-sold memberships for only a month.
And you know, that we’ll have a longer lead time going into a new market. And hopefully we won’t be in a pandemic. So like, that’ll change things, but we, but even universally, like despite, you know, growing up in Charlotte and having our foothold in Charlotte, there is a need for this. And I think that’s what kind of like burns the fire for the whole team is like, we see the opportunity, we see the demand, especially coming out of COVID where all these people adopted dogs and the need for like, and w even when I, in 2016 had two dogs and was like, why is this so hard to find services that can like, do, do the job I want them to do, I want it to do, it’s still, there’s still not a market supply to meet that demand and where we’re coming after it.
And so scaling looks like a couple of things. It looks like replicating what we’ve done in Charlotte. Um, because we have confidence in that. And then it looks like, um, you know, being really smart about the locations we go to and doing it. Fast where we want to get out there, but not too fast where like the wheels come off the bus.
And that is a very special balance that like you only know, like in hindsight, so we’re trying to make very difficult for them to
John E: lean over the skis.
Meggie W: Yeah. Kind of like by nature, I think, but then you’d be able to like rein you in, um, I’m guessing, uh, or at least I do
John E: or kick me out
Meggie W: just let that lie.
John E: So talk to me about your communications during the pandemic. You’ve already kind of hinted at it, but there’s, there’s talking to your investors, they’re talking to, um, your, your employees, there’s talking to your leadership team. Um, how did the various stakeholders handle the at times grim news that you were bringing to them?
Meggie W: Well, it was grim news that was happening to everybody. So I think there was kind of shared empathy there. Um, and we, and to my credit, but also to a little bit to my, probably a lot to my credit, but also, you know, because of, of I’m sure natural forces, we have gotten a great group of supporters, both investors, mentors, people who are in decision-making roles around and in the company that just are very understanding and like want, you know, we have mutual, we are mutually aligned and, um, our, you know, our success is their success.
And so when this kind of initially happened and we, you know, when I called the board meeting, it was trying to figure out like, well, what do we do? Where do we go from here? It was only solutions. It was like, let’s get into solution mode, whatever we can all do to make this easier. And I think about all the people who were involved, you know, we, we ended up getting the financing, right.
So I found the investors to fill the gap. Our landlord is great. There’s a whole thing. Sauna was fantastic and made it much, it made it easier to, to succeed. In ways that they didn’t have to do, you know, and they did, they came to the table and they said, let’s figure out how this is going to work for you and let you know again, because our success is their success.
So they really shared in that. And we were just partially lucky and partially by design, you know, as much as it could be, we had to have a really strong and supportive group of people that in times of strife, um, really showed up for us. And that made all the difference.
John E: That’s awesome. I think having that, you didn’t call it a tribe, but I think of that as your tribe, having that, it sounds cliche, but like that makes all the difference in the world when you’re in, in shitty times, um, the people around you, it’s easy for them to be good to you when times are good.
It’s, it’s hard for them to be. Good. But like you said, when everybody’s in this boat together, like you just have to figure it out. Right. It’s there’s no other, no other way. Are there lessons to learn on communications in general as you go through a crisis? Cause do you think that your communication mode changed in the crisis or maybe it was the same, but are there things that you’ll change as you come out of crisis mode and out of war mode and back into peace mode from lessons learned in war mode?
Meggie W: Yeah. I mean, I think I’ve always really, you know, I think you can be empathetic, but also direct. And that’s always been my kind of Mo but I, I think the way it changes, I definitely my communication style became more urgent, right. There was a time sensitivity to everything. Um, and there was an overall sensitivity cause you know what I was doing too, it’s just like, I mean, we furloughed a third of our back office team.
We let go of 70 additional team members, dog walkers. And I mean, it was like. It was like hard persons, like personal stuff. Like it was personal. And I remember just being beaten down by it and being like, this is the decision I’m making, because it’s the best thing for the company. And that’s what I’m here to do.
And then also just like reeling from the fact that like, it was just, it was just such a difficult thing to like go do as a human. Um, so, you know, when you try to do that in, in you try to do that in the most respectful and the best way possible. Um, yeah, the timeline. Yeah. No, I mean, there’s like, there’s ways to do it and there are better ways than others, but you’re right.
Like, it’s, it sucks. It sucks. It’s just like flat outside. Um, um, yeah. And, and you can like justify it and, but it is, it’s just like, it’s part, it’s part of the game and it’s just, uh, sucks. Yeah. Um, but yeah, I would say, you know, communication style, like if anything, I think there, there was a lot of, you know, kind of like the relationship building that happens in a time that.
You know, formative for everybody. I kind of think about what we call it. Right. I think that’s why you have like really strong friends from college. Cause you kind of go through this formative experience together that like, you know, you’re living with them and you’re like going, you’re kind of doing all of these things for the first time and you are with this group of people.
And I think the military is the same way. Like I get that. I’ve never been in the military, but I’ve
John E: heard, but I certainly my friends share that
Meggie W: experience. Right. And I think this was kind of like that this was one of those formative experiences that when we went through together, we came out of it and we’re like, wow.
Like we get to see people when their vulnerabilities are exposed. And like the things that prop them up are, are taken away and it’s like, you can be there for each other and you can kind of, you know, exist through that. And that means something. Um, and I felt that for sure. And I think the team does too.
So yeah, I think if anything, you know, it’s just, we’ve gotten better through this, but you know, it’s always kind of, I’ve always been a big believer in transparency, as much as you can and you know, direct feedback as much as you can and, and. Acknowledging positive things as much as you can, you know, like I’m, you know, I believe in, I believe in talking as
John E: I pick it up. So do I, as you can probably guess by the podcast,
Meggie W: it’s like John’s chance to talk. Yeah, yeah,
John E: no, that, that, that’s great. For sure. And I think the point about vulnerability is one of those things that we, I don’t think that we appreciate how important it is to show your vulnerabilities because it comes across as weakness often.
But I think that it makes communication so much easier for people, but it’s just, it’s just one of those hard things as a human to communicate vulnerability. So I think that’s a very powerful insight. Um, what a, what a 2021 and a 2022 look like for skip town.
Meggie W: Um, well, growth mode. We are excited to hopefully, you know, and I say this as my mother and my grandmother have, you know, both gotten their COVID vaccines.
So, you know, as we kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel and we start to see what, what is the world gonna look like? Um, when we kind of come out of this and how is skipped town going to, how are we going to position skip town in a way to support people coming out of COVID who need our services?
Um, it’s very exciting and it looks like growth. And that’s what we’re kind of in the mindset for now where you are, um, looking to launch two new, two new locations by the middle of next year. So middle of 2022, um, we have several sites, you know, that we’re targeting, um, and cities that we’re looking at.
And, um, you know, it’s just, it’s it’s growth mode, right? It’s like taking something that was a proof of concept that’s worked, you know, um, in a Petri dish and figuring out how to make it work. Outside of that dish and that’s the next, uh, that’s the next challenge.
John E: Awesome. So it’s geographic growth. There’s no new, there’s no third rail or not third rail,
Meggie W: but there’s no podcast.
John E: Sorry folks. There’s no third. There’s no third. Uh, not even pivot cause this isn’t really a pivot, but there’s, there’s no third delivery model. It’s really like let’s, let’s rinse and repeat in other geographies.
Meggie W: It’s refinement of this model. I mean, it’s definitely additional services being incorporated.
It’s like slight tweaks and nuances, but I would say that. Focus of an ecosystem of a high-end experience-based model that, you know, that focuses on a location and has technology that supports it is the concept. And that’s, you know, after five years is like, we were honing in on that. We believe in that, um, we have product market fit and, and endeavor and data to show that, and we are like fearlessly moving forward in the world to, to expand that.
John E: Awesome. So you’ve mentioned the capital raises you’ve done. I think I heard there were two equity raises and then the debt round for building skip town. How different were those experiences and were there others that I’m glossing over here? Yeah, they were
Meggie W: different because we were in a different stage of the company.
It was, it was like every new name. It was like a different round. Um, But it was, you know, a lot of every new name. That’s the thing. It’s like we new name, new, new financing round. Um, we had a lot of shared investors that are consented work across those different financing rounds. So that was cool. So there was consistency across that, which I think also is a Testament to show that even, you know, starting as something wildly different than where we are, we have still, you know, an investor base that has come in every round.
Right. So, um, being able to rally people around around that and knowing that, Hey, we’re going to figure it out. We’re going to get there. Um, the rounds, you know, I don’t know if they’ve got, I feel like they’ve gotten, I don’t want to say easier because that diminishes the work, but there’s more familiar territory and it’s kind of more of a, this is what I need to do to be successful and a comfort level with having that knowledge and confidence.
That when I was first, like, ah, actually it was Alex and Dan who came over. I remember I’d be like, how do you raise money? And then they’re like, well, you need a pitch deck. Like, okay, what does that look like? And I remember we, like, they came over to hookah and like, we like workshopped it and they were great probably, but they raised funding.
John E: not surprised. I don’t doubt that those guys can do anything that they want to do. But it’s just funny that at that
Meggie W: age, yeah, it was, I was probably 26. So it was like, eh, whatever. No, they were, yeah, they, they had just done it. And I remember like, you know, still admire them. And I have, you know, admired like everybody in this entrepreneurial ecosystem that I’ve am close with and very much supportive of, and it’s fun to rally for them and get excited for the, their accomplishments and see everybody see everybody.
John E: at that round, and that’s great. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cut you off, but a debt round has to be completely different because now you’re talking to more of a banker. Then a than a dice roller, right? Like a river.
Meggie W: It’s funny because the debt round. Yes. The equity, the debt round was somewhat actually of a Saint of a similar group who wanted equity, but we okay.
So it was like a, yeah. And it was, was excitement for the concept. Like I think it was just like, Oh, I see, I see what you’re doing. I see what you’re I see where you’re going so we could raise debt. Um, and we wanted to, because we, we knew we could support it and, you know, we did. And that was good. That felt good.
That feels great. To be able to be like, yeah, we carried this load in, in this interest and we can absolutely cover it. Um, so it wasn’t a super different group. I would say. It, you know, it was, I didn’t realize how, like our investors do debt on other, in other deals. Now, some were like, no, I only do equity, but there was a good number of them that were like, yeah, I’ve done a deal before.
If that’s what you’re offering, I would definitely take a look. And, um, so I think it was, yeah, so it worked out. Um, and then of course we got an SBA loan, which was, um, which was, you know, the crux to the whole thing. And so
John E: any P P P money, or we
Meggie W: did get PPP money, um, any loan, forgiveness, guidance, full loan forgiveness on the first round.
Um, yeah, which was great. And that went directly to our team, you know, to support our, our, um, labor costs. So are
John E: you allowed to use what you don’t have any, um, 10 99 though. So it doesn’t matter. Cause it’s all full time. That’s when that decision pays off.
Meggie W: Yeah, we had all, we have all full-time team members.
John E: So are there ongoing or shortly plan capital raises that you care to talk about or not?
Meggie W: Yeah, I mean, it’s, yeah, we are about to open another round, um, to support the next three to five locations. So we will be finalizing details soon around that as I had a board meeting today and that was partially to discuss it.
So yeah, we are excited about the opportunity to grow and realize that we have to figure out the rights to financing strategy to get there. And, you know, we have a good base to start with and then we’ll, we’ll go from there, but it’s exciting to continue to like drive this company forward and see where it can go.
And, and just constantly just be reinvigorated about what we’re doing and the need that we’re filling and know that there is something really special here that if we execute well, we can, we could really, we could really make a big difference to a lot of people.
John E: And I think the people who have been around you can sense that it’s, that’s why it’s awesome to have you in here in the studio.
Um, before I let you go, just one more question. You mentioned Sev, I know he helped you start the business. What the fuck is Sam up to these days and how do I get him on the podcast?
Meggie W: Sam would love to come on the podcast. So seven is kind of like the Renaissance man of, of, on like entrepreneurship because after he transitioned off of, out of our company, He went to, um, grow and support a fire and water restoration company, which is what he does now, um, for a company called Sasser.
So he, um, is a partner at that company. And then in addition to that, he runs a food truck called hula whip. Okay. What type of food? Dole whip. It is a soft serve ice cream, um, made from pineapple. And we got our big launch in the summer of 2019, and then quickly had a damper on the, on the, on the growth of a hula whip when COVID hit.
But we are coming back into the world. subs, baby. Um, is
John E: it cooking or is he driving
Meggie W: or what? Well, he’s both. Yeah. I mean, I guess technically he’s both he’s yeah. He’s, he’s serving, he’s driving he’s um, yeah, it’s really fun. It’s it’s at hula whip on Instagram and, um, yeah, if you want an event and if you want like a Dole whip treat.
Um, and then you can bring your own realm, which is what I always recommend because that stuff is a lot better topped off.
John E: I love the interview. Sabot, it’s, it’s always been interesting that the dynamic between the two of you, because you’re obviously the more outgoing face of this organization, but I think that stopping there underestimates what somebody like SAB brings to an organization, the operational capabilities, the, okay.
I can, I can, I can really analyze what’s happening and figure out the right way to go. Some sh I’m sure that that was a challenge for you, um, in some ways sad, moving on, but it was also probably in the long run. It’s really hard to build a scalable business that has a husband and wife combination. Did you run into that at all?
I know we talked about this on the first podcast, but.
Meggie W: Yeah. I mean, I felt like I lost my lifeline at work, but, um, you know, I still had my lifeline at home, so he was still there. I didn’t, and you know, a lot of ways he’s still very involved, um, and probably in a better way cause he can kind of be involved without it, like, you know, at him feeling like it, you know, he has to be fully involved, you know?
Um, he hangs out the office all the time. He’s known for kind of getting snacks. And, um, but the team loves him and yeah, I think he’s like, he’s obviously like a big value to any group. And I am very lucky to get to call him my life partner. And I’m excited to see what other stuff that we do together professionally.
Um, because it it’s a blast to work with him.
John E: Well, please tell him to call me. I’d love to have him on. I feel bad. We get to have all the fun drinking the bourbon.
Meggie W: That’s why y’all let him know. I’ll be like, you missed out on like the whiskey tasting. Maybe you’ll John will do it for you. I’m not sure you might
John E: not get Angel’s envy.
I mean, if
Meggie W: you’re not seeing, if your bottles are all empty
John E: and those aren’t empty because we were alcoholics today, I just didn’t stock up properly today. So I brought some beer.
Meggie W: Yeah. That’s great. Look at all the alcohol and chess.
John E: Exactly. And to shout out to making things Charlotte, I mean, have you seen that Instagram account?
There’s there’s a gentleman who bought a 3d printer and he, he decided to start 3d printing things that look like Charlotte. And he came up with the chest. That was his first offering, but he’s he, he made, he probably would. I guarantee you, if you DM slide in his DM making things CLT.
Meggie W: Okay. I like searching now.
John E: Awesome. Well, look, Maggie. This has been great. Thank you so much for joining me. Keep up the great work and I can’t wait for the third, um, the third interview for sure. Yeah,
Meggie W: it’ll be blast. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it, John. Cheers.