It required 15 years of slow and steady growth, but eventually Stacy Schmidt faced an enviable dilemma: Her Wisconsin-based business, Studio 21 Dance, was servicing more than 2,000 students, many enrolled in multiple classes at a trio of locations. Yet despite implementing an auto-debit system to collect tuition every month, Schmidt still found she was spending more time managing a database than teaching people how to dance.
“We were using a combination of Excel spreadsheets, billing software and a variety of hard copy forms that then needed to be filed and stored,” Schmidt recalls. “My biggest fears were the lack of security, as well as the worry of our computer crashing and taking all of our data with it.”
Her concerns steered Schmidt to Jackrabbit Technologies, a web-based class management and accounts receivable software program co-founded in 2005 by Terry MIS grad Mark Mahoney (BBA ’83). Mahoney was a Gym Dawg during his time in Athens, and he eventually followed his passion by designing Jackrabbit’s system specifically for gymnastics and music schools, dance and martial arts studios — but it’s applicable anywhere classes are delivered for tuition.
Mahoney knew business owners like Schmidt would be attracted to his company’s product because at heart, he was one of them. “Owners know other owners,” he says. “They love the sport, but they don’t like the business parts, like doing data entry.”
Schmidt says Jackrabbit’s system proved so intuitive that it not only alleviated her fears about security and copious amounts of customer data stored on in-house computers, it also allowed her customers to perform tasks like logging in simultaneously from all three studio locations, “rather than waiting for one person to input them into our old, archaic system.”
In addition, through mobile applications, Jackrabbit enables today’s “cell phone moms,” as Mahoney describes them, to register their children for classes while sitting in their parked car at the school pick-up line — or at home, at night, when 65 percent of registrations occur after 9 p.m.
“It’s technology, but it’s still a people business,” says Mahoney. “Younger owners don’t need to be sold — it’s the studio or gym owner who is in his or her 50s and doesn’t possess any great knowledge of technology. But they still have to compete and offer the best service. We are able to give those owners a tool so they can more safely and easily get more complete information. We’ve groomed an awesome customer base.”
With Jackrabbit’s solutions provided in the “SaaS” model (Software as a Service), Mahoney and his partner, Michael Carper, were able to grow the company rapidly by partnering with leading service providers in its market sectors such as Sam Beckford, Kindermusik, Abrakadoodle, and Softerware. Jackrabbit more than doubled its revenue each of its first five years, helping propel the company to No. 5 on this year’s Bulldog 100 List, which honors the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni.
The Bulldog 100 was one of several recognitions for growth received by Jackrabbit, which has never taken funding nor ever been in debt. The company recently entered the child-care market, which Mahoney expects in five to seven years will take his company from a $3 million business to $10 million.
“We weren’t on the leading edge, we were on the bleeding edge,” Mahoney says of Jackrabbit’s early days. “The key with SaaS is…can you last until the customers come? After the customers come, it becomes an annuity and each customer you add becomes 80 percent profit.”
If ever a principal personified a company, it is Mahoney, who has maintained the gymnast metabolism that first brought him to Athens from Stone Mountain in 1979, fueled by an internal motor that seemingly never slows. Employees say he often e-mails them during the middle of the night, just hours before greeting them with a start-of-the-day conference call.
Mahoney describes Jackrabbit as a lifestyle business. “It isn’t ‘brick and mortar,’” he says: “It’s click and mortar.” Typically, Mahoney is hard at work — waterfront and totally virtual — aboard his MasterCraft that he docks at his home on Lake Norman in suburban Charlotte, N.C., using only his iPad with wireless keyboard and mouse to communicate with clients and staff.
Mahoney says Jackrabbit not only is 100 percent web based; it is a totally paperless business that was recently named one of “Charlotte’s Best Places to Work” — which interesting since all of Mahoney’s employees work from home.
Mahoney celebrated his 50th birthday the same way he celebrated the Big 4-0 — by competing in an Ironman Triathlon. At his birthday soiree, he partied through the evening with friends while sporting his favorite birthday gift: A No. 50 UGA football jersey that matched the design on his birthday cake.
“Mark is like the energizer bunny,” said one employee. “He never stops.