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Walkabouts, Workarounds and Wake-up Calls

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

Founder, Carolyn Walton Lynch, talks about Mixolo's startup journey.

Respectfully, I like to compare the Mixolo journey to a walkabout. In aboriginal cultures, a walkabout is a sacred observance with an emphasis on sending boys into the wilderness for a period of time to live and survive independently and presumably, each returns to their home as a mature adult.

My hope is that you’ll stick with Team Mixolo on this journey of inevitable wins, fails and necessary pivots until we find our way to your city or wherever you find yourself navigating solo. It’s going to be a minute.

Start-ups can be a bit like taking a journey into the wild, the unknown. As a solo founder, you have to learn really fast what it means to fend with limited or no resources and master the art of the workaround. #firstworldproblems

Group walking outside headed to a craft brewery.
Thanks for walking with Mixolo! Not exactly the wild, but the walk back up the hill from Union Brewing Company is one to survive.

The path to “manhood” has been eye-opening in Mixolo’s walkabout. What I didn’t anticipate was the extent of the stigma associated with going out solo and, in some cases, the negative feelings that identifying solo would bring out in some people.

With little fanfare, I launched the idea of Mixolo on Valentine’s Day 2017 with an invitation on Facebook to come to a virtual Valentine’s Day party. Our first hashtag was #noplusonerequired. 38 people signed up for our solo-friendly social network with the expectation that they could enjoy the option of a shared experience when they decide to step out on their own.

Like many entrepreneurs, I was convinced that there was demand for this thing that I also wanted and if I built it, people would surely come. Well, they did. Our first promotional events in Spring 2017 were a huge success. They were free events, but well attended and well received.

People dining together and having beer.
30 perfect strangers showed up for our inaugural event at Brewhouse No. 16 in Mount Vernon Baltimore.

People laughing with a speaker at a theater.
26 ex-strangers came out solo - with others - to Chesapeake Shakespeare Company for The Taming of the Shrew, our second promotional event.

The next test was to see if anyone would pay for Mixolo's curated solo-friendly events. Free is not a sustainable business model. Turns out, there is a market for the Mixolo experience.

Recently, I’ve been pondering just how long can one call themselves a start-up? In February 2020, Mixolo, the idea, AND the business will be 3 years old. The wonderful wins, the epic fails, the pivots…have not yet amounted to a sustainable business model for Mixolo. Mixolo is shaping up to be more of a cultural movement.

Sign that reads Mixolo Community Lounge at a  music festival
Creating space for solo patrons to connect is thoughtful and just good business. Mixolo sponsored a community lounge at Baltimore Magazine's first ever music festival for solo ticket holders. #noplusonerequired

Contrary to popular belief, today’s most successful culture-shifting businesses, like Uber or Airbnb, were in the wild for several years trying to find product-market fit before society viewed them as acceptable and not "strange." Meetup has been around for 20 years and they are still trying to find their footing to profitability; they are now part of the latest un-profitable unicorn of the moment, We Work.

Mixolo is not Meetup, but we’d love to have their list of 40M users! We attract Meetup people who are looking for an alternative to the group-association model and prefer a more curated event or experience when they are ready to go out solo on their own terms. Our active members like that we work with experienced hosts and established venues.

Wake-up calls:

But, is Mixolo working?

Well, we certainly don’t have 20 years of runway (entrepreneur speak for working capital) to win your heart.

We've been working really hard to try to convince hosts that solo consumers are a growing and powerful market (Fortune 25 product companies back this up), but for the majority, their focus remains on coupled and related groups and a “banquet” business model that perpetuates a customer-in, customer-out experience.

While we are so grateful for our early adopter hosts who have had our back in the wild, what’s puzzling is that many hosts and venues that have rejected Mixolo have either gone out of business during our journey or are still struggling to fill seats.

We’ve also had to convince others, including some of our long-time subscribers and app users, that Mixolo is not scary. We did the research; going out with strangers is actually good for you.

Mixolo hosts are visionary, engaging and above all, welcoming. Come see for yourself.

We are sometimes challenged with a tepid turnout from members in our Beta market. This does not bode well for our argument to hosts that solos want this.

Some of our followers have reported that they sometimes feel uncomfortable telling people or posting on social media about Mixolo because they may be perceived as lonely or without friends. Wow! First of all, feeling lonely is a legitimate emotion and any human, regardless of relationship status, has experienced feelings of loneliness. Some of our members are married or in a committed relationship. Mixolo is not a dating app.

Loneliness often stems from isolation or limiting oneself to a social bubble and opting out of opportunities because of perceived, or real, stigma.

At Mixolo, we define solo as “self-determined.” No one should be missing out on doing the things they love or are curious about because they feel they need a plus-one. When you’re ready to go out solo and you want a shared experience, we want you to be able to do it with Mixolo.

People tasting beer and food at a brewery.
Our two tables of "ones" added up to 20 self-determined solos, open to new connections - including two couples - at Nepenthe Brewing Company, stop 2 on our Hampden Brew Walk. Next one - October 19!.

Reasons to keep walking:

I want to share a link to a recent Maryland Public Radio interview where I was asked to talk about Mixolo. The producers offered the perfect lead-in for Mixolo with a renowned psychologist talking about the benefits of preserving and cultivating friendships and making new connections. Apparently, the stigma is real.

Thankfully, my early adopters have come in spite of the stigma and because of it. Like me, most were already pretty comfortable in their own skin and relationships but love the added emotional benefit of enjoying a connected experience with other solo adventurers when they arrive at an event.

People seated at a dining and whiskey tasting experience.
Mixolo at Whiskey Stories, created by whiskey expert and master storyteller, Rachna Hukmani. Mixolo solos can expect a shared experience with hosts who get it. Hello, NY!

Let’s be clear. Without you, we'll have to go home early:

Our hope is that our members in our Beta city and beyond will spread the word about Mixolo to your favorite event hosts and venues. If you really want Mixolo, help us make it happen.

If you wait for Mixolo to be big to use our services, we won’t be around much longer. Without you, we cannot turn this movement into a viable business that you can rely on for inclusive and high-quality social engagement.

We're pivoting again and will begin to list sponsored events and services in our emails and on our website. Implementing new revenue generation options through advertising is a high priority, naturally, as we close in on the three-year mark. Click here to contact us if you wish to advertise on our platform. Ads and promotions featured will reflect the Mixolo ethos.

Don't forget that our host portal is open for business and still free to use. Tell everyone! Moreover, we want you to come out and prove that the Mixolo experience is what you want.

In order to emerge from this walkabout, we need a village that is ready to embrace Mixolo, sans the stigma!

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