The Jackrabbit Story
Around 2001, a young Mark Mahoney was bouncing an idea around in his head…
Mark Mahoney had long been a gymnast, reaching the culmination of his experience competing as a Gym Dawg at the University of Georgia. After college, where he had graduated with an MIS degree, Mark took a full-time job with Broadway and Seymour, Inc. providing financial services institutions with systems integration, consulting, and technology-based products. Needless to say, Mark knew a lot about technology. But Mark’s passion for gymnastics kept him interested in the sport. He developed a scoring system that he sold. But this only piqued his interest in combining his technology skills and his gymnastics passion. It is evident later that this interest would never be squelched!
Mark competed on the rings in his glory days at UGA
Mark and Mike collaborate on their young business
Mark also dabbled in gym ownership, buying a gym with a business partner. As he matured into his technology career and began to travel and move around for it, gym ownership became difficult to manage so he sold his portion of the gym. But still, he was highly-interest in the gymnastics industry.
There were a few facts that gnawed at Mark.
- He thought technology could provide gym owners with better ways of doing things by automating tedious processes.
- Inaccuracies plagued existing processes for enrollment and payment tracking and technology could help improve that.
- He might have been able to maintain ownership in his gym if online software had been available so he could still stay engaged and up-to-date – and get work done without being in the gym.
- He thought it was possible to create such a solution and that continued to mature within him.
Mark shares the benefits of the software at one of the many industry trade shows Jackrabbit attends
Mike and Mark host the kick dinner of
a recent Jackrabbit team retreat
Just a Crazy Idea
A few years passed when Mark became acquainted with Mike Carper. The two were having lunch one day when Mark told Mike about this crazy online software idea. Mike didn’t think it was so crazy. Over lunch the two started a company, but neither could quit their job and bank role a company. They agreed to remain gainfully employed and spend nights and weekends working on the “online class management software” in Mark’s bonus room.
As the two reached the point that they felt a product had emerged, the two thought that testing it out with those who might be clients would be a good idea. Mark demonstrated the software with some people he knew who also happened to be gym owners. It was pretty disappointing to Mark that most owners didn’t think everyone would want to use the Internet for doing business and thought his idea for gym owners to use “online” software to manage their gyms was a little to daring. Undeterred, Mark went back to Mike with his strong conviction that this was going to be “the next great thing” for gym owners – and the two forward-thinking entrepreneurs agreed to start development of their software – regardless of the somewhat close-minded opinions of the gym owners who were polled.
“Mark went back to Mike with his strong conviction that this was going to be the ‘next great thing’ for gym owners.”
What about a company name? Potential purchasers of the software work with children so perhaps the name and logo should be fun. A mascot would be fun especially if it were an animal that kids would find appealing and remember. The mascot must be non-threatening- maybe even cute – but not silly. And – of course – it couldn’t be in use.
Their software would be speedy and agile. What animals does this describe? All sorts of wild cats, hyenas, hawks, hmmm. These aren’t quite the non-threatening type mascot they had in mind. Wait – Jackrabbits are speedy. They are agile. And they are non-threatening. After all, rabbits are furry and fun! Mark brought in the graphic arts skills of his sister who created a fun Jackrabbit mascot image. Jackrabbit Technologies was becoming a “for real” company.
This was 2004. Mark and Mike had a basic form of the software created but needed a real-life tester. A fellow software guy, who co-owned a gym with his wife, was interested in trying the brand new Jackrabbit software to manage their gym. The first beta test was in place. And so the relationship with Scott and Rachel Davis was born! Scott gave Mark and Mike improvement suggestions for making the software better for their processes. Soon they all felt the software was ready to be “released.”
“This was 2004. Mark and mike had a basic form of the software created but needed a real-life tester.”
Mark and Mike are proof that perseverance pays off.
They believe in what Jackrabbit can do for clients.
For Real Company & Software
That first gym was North Raleigh Gymnastics. Scott and Rachel Davis still use Jackrabbit and love it. You could say that they have enjoyed watching Jackrabbit grow up. The true online nature of Jackrabbit came to life in a rather interesting way. It wasn’t really a choice. Mark and Mike still held full-time jobs so they could really only email clients and potential clients and schedule calls in off-hours. This required the software to be sold on a website where it was downloaded by the new clients who had just purchased it: a totally self-serve process. There were FAQs and online guides to help clients along if they needed it. Mark and Mike used email to communicate as they were able. During that first year, Mark went to USAG Congress to give Jackrabbit the biggest possible intro to gym owners. After seeing how the software worked in Jackrabbit’s booth, the more tech-savvy owners were ready to give Jackrabbit a try. The less innovative were hanging back. They wanted to see other gym owners have success with the software first.
No Longer a Bonus Room Business
The first year began what has been 14 years of impressive growth. By 2008, both Mark and Mike had left their full-time jobs behind because the company had grown to the point that they could be full-time with Jackrabbit. It was a monumental time because the partners thought Jackrabbit would always be a “bonus room business.”
Mark and Mike began hiring. First priority was support to clients. Growth was making this overwhelming for the two of “founders” and preventing them from continuing development of the software and selling it. Mike’s wife pitched in to handle billing. They didn’t need to purchase software to do it. They used Jackrabbit to bill their own clients. A development staff began to grow. One of Mark and Mike’s intentions was to constantly enhance the software and Mike could not do everything. Eventually, sales and marketing were added. The partners were sure that they would never have a staff of more than a dozen or so. Fast forward to 2018. The year began with staff hovering at the 50 mark with 14 new positions coming online.
The growth hasn’t come without some challenges. For example, Mark and Mike were so excited when they were ready to beta test online registration. They were excited. Clients were afraid because, at that point, the Internet wasn’t exactly perceived as safe and trusted. There were no security measures, protocols, or standards. After much discussion, several clients tried it. And it worked. Many other gym owners were interested in that.
Mark and Mike are proof that perseverance pays off. They’ve believed in what Jackrabbit’s software can do for clients and continue to innovate in ways that are always focused on helping gym – and now dance studio, cheer gym, swim and music school, and care center – owners run the business of their gym, studio, school or center better so they can spend more time doing the things that inspired them to start their business in the first place.
Today, Mark and Mike are making decisions they never imagined they would be making. They have added a new management layer so they can get out of daily task management and work on strategies for continued growth – much as they have provided solutions to allow their clients to do. First and foremost, Jackrabbit is focused on client success. The changes in the company are part of the strategy to keep the software on the leading edge for clients: to continue to identify needs and innovate to support needs. It takes industry understanding, software expertise, and vision and the two owners are taking the next steps to provide this. Mark and Mike talk about how Jackrabbit came about in this video.