GoalMakers CEO and Co-Founder Jeremy Wall describes himself as a classic Triangle “boomerang.” He was raised in Raleigh, attended NC State and then left for California soon after graduating in 2014 to scale his first startup, Lumenus, a performance lifestyle wearable technology brand.
Once Lumenous failed, Wall returned to his home state in 2019. While Wall and Lumenus had participated in multiple incubators, since he felt that Lumenus’ ending ultimately fell on his shoulders as the CEO and Founder, Wall said he found himself taking a variety of professional development courses to help see where he went wrong.
The one that really stuck with him was John Cioffi’s 5-Day MBA, a seminar run by the uncle of Wall’s friend’s Nicholas Cioffi. John Cioffi is the principal at GoalMakers Management Consultants. The seminar had everything Wall wished the incubators taught, like how to manage people, hire effectively and create worthy and effective goals for an organization.
Inspired by the program, Wall asked Cioffi, what if we could scale this? What if they could record the seminar and move it online to reach greater audiences?
That was the inflection point for launching GoalMakers as an edtech startup in 2019. They picked the right horse to bet on, Wall said, setting out to digitize John Cioffi’s GoalMakers consulting content and create a GoalMakers 2.0. It also turned out that the team was a little ahead of the online learning demand that was turbocharged by the pandemic.
The majority of GoalMakers’ partners today are professional associations. Working with these groups, GoalMakers can clone their base GoalMakers program and add in some branding and new elements for each specific association’s industry. The association’s members then pay for the online seminars as cohorts before achieving final exam certification through each partner. The associations then take a profit share for all the learners who signed up for the training.
GoalMakers has hosted 213 learners in six total cohorts since going to market in October of last year. There are already another six programs scheduled to launch in the next six months, with even more in the pipeline, Wall said.
Some of GoalMakers’ local partners include Independent Insurance Agents of NC, Association Executives of NC and Raleigh coworking space The Loading Dock.
Early on, GoalMakers took on a corporate partner investment, which Wall said allowed them to put their heads down on content and not just focus on customer acquisition out of the gate. By late 2021, they had a strong product and learner experience that was well-timed to meet the pandemic-fueled surge in demand for online learning.
Neither Wall nor his Co-Founder Nicholas Cioffi (John’s nephew) came into GoalMakers with any experience in the market and learned the space on the fly. So it was especially meaningful when the first associations chose to take a risk on GoalMakers.
“Finding the right association partners has been a true blessing because they understand their members,” Wall said. “They understand their members’ needs, and we can work with them as a partner to really help us build something that they see as a valuable add to their business.”
Moving from one startup to the next, Wall has decided to stop chasing what so many believe a startup needs to do—from joining accelerators to chasing big funding rounds right at the start—and instead focus on building a strong business with recurring revenues and high gross margins.
The difference is clear. At Lumenus, Wall says, he was a founder, a would-be visionary. At GoalMakers, he is really more of a CEO. Less talk and more action.
“From company No. 1 to company No. 2, it’s been a huge learning curve,” Wall said. “The first one was my experience in the trenches, figuring it out, learning on the fly, my MBA by fire. Now I’m actually able to apply all those lessons from the ground up on a really strong business that we’ve been able to build.”
Launching at the perfect time, GoalMakers saw the pandemic inevitably spur a greater reliance on online learning. Before, a significant amount of a professional development budget for associations and companies was spent on travel.
GoalMakers is a more cost-effective virtual option, even when traveling does fully normalize in a ‘post-pandemic’ environment. And it allows learners to implement professional development into their day on their own time, instead of losing several days of work to a week-long conference.
There were still negative impacts of the pandemic on the business, however. Other associations and companies rushed to create online learning content, and the market immediately became saturated with what Wall said a lot of was “just junk.” Many people forced into online education because of the pandemic had negative experiences, making them reluctant to spend more money on a program like GoalMakers.
“It’s allowed us to say, well, while there is saturation of the market, we need to continue to prove that we’re better than the average program,” Wall said.
That means GoalMakers will continue to target its niche associations market to create engaging content.
“We’re not going to go out and try and get just any business,” Wall said. “We’re going to find our partners in associations and work in this vertical and be the best turnkey education/professional development program for associations to bring to their members.”
From serving associations’ members in a variety of industries, Wall said there is an amazing ripple effect from their learning programs that will end up impacting hundreds.
“At GoalMakers, we’re super-strong on goals,” Wall said. “We want to create enlightening, engaging and accessible business education for everyone.”
Being based in Raleigh is also an important piece of GoalMakers’ story. While the Triangle tech community is smaller than the one Wall experienced in California, it’s more tight-knit, and the university-to-workforce talent pipeline from UNC, Duke and NC State is unparalleled, Wall said.
Wall is excited to grow here, hoping to get to 600 learners this year. So far, Wall said GoalMakers has been in crawl, walk, run mode. Mostly crawling up until this point, the startup is set to start running in June, with new national association partnerships underway.
“We’ve been able to prove that we can do this in a really strong way at our own level here in our backyard,” Wall said. “Now we’re going to scale this out to 50 states and pretty immediately, the revenue multiples that come from that are huge.”
Wall sees an enormous opportunity to scale GoalMakers state by state, in different geographies, for the same association needs. GoalMakers will also be looking to grow its headcount in the coming months.
Now that its systems are in place, Wall said GoalMakers is looking to put together a modest funding round to help scale growth in the second half of this year.
“We want smart money, not dumb money,” Wall said. “And we’ve got that here in North Carolina without having to leave our state to get that.”