“Well… it’s axe throwing, and we’re doing it in the city! Doesn’t get more disruptive than that, except possibly when you allow alcohol in the mix! In all seriousness, we brought axe throwing to the U.S. in 2016, and now there are 30+ axe throwing facilities open across the states not even two years later. People are craving this form of primal entertainment and looking for something to do with their friends besides a standard happy hour — we fit the bill.”
I had the pleasure to interview Krista Paton, co-owner of Urban Axes . Krista, along with three friends, founded Urban Axes — the country’s first and leading indoor axe throwing experience. With locations in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Austin, Urban Axes is on a fast track to growth with another four facilities in the works to open in the coming months. A founding member of the National Axe Throwing Federation (NATF), Urban Axes also hosts recreational and competitive axe throwing leagues in which they can qualify to participate in local and international competitions.
What is your “backstory”?
I have a pretty weird educational background. I studied Computer Science and Spanish in Undergrad and was working full-time in retail management as well. I didn’t actually want to do any of those things, I just liked learning, so I went back to school and did my MBA. I started with Procter & Gamble right after grad school in their Finance Organization and spent the next 11 years with them in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Toronto and Boston, in Business Finance with a focus on Marketing Finance.
Why did you start your company?
When I was living in Toronto, I got invited to go axe throwing for a friend’s birthday. It was BYOB and we drank wine while throwing axes. I remember thinking, “Is this for real?? This is AMAZING.” I had just relocated from Philadelphia, a city I had completely become enamored with, and I instantly knew people in Philly would love axe throwing and needed it in their lives.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Well… it’s axe throwing, and we’re doing it in the city! Doesn’t get more disruptive than that, except possibly when you allow alcohol in the mix! In all seriousness, we brought axe throwing to the U.S. in 2016, and now there are 30+ axe throwing facilities open across the states not even two years later. People are craving this form of primal entertainment and looking for something to do with their friends besides a standard happy hour — we fit the bill.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
The biggest one has to be my mom. She has always been a barometer of good decision making for me; if I can’t tell my mom about a decision I’ve made, then I know I’ve done the wrong thing. In starting my business, my mom was of course, supportive, but very terrified of me leaving my great corporate job to start an axe throwing company. I knew I was ready when I was confident enough in my business plan and the corresponding risks/rewards to call my mom and let her know the decision I had made.
How are you going to shake things up next?
We have aggressive expansion plans in 2018/2019. Beyond that, there are a few things I’m working on, but you’re going to have to wait and see!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
It’s easier in the long run to do the right thing. Sometimes it may feel like you can take a shortcut along the way, or maybe you won’t get caught for something, but these things usually result in way worse problems down the road, and for my peace of mind, it’s way easier to sleep at night knowing we are doing the right thing in each decision we make.
You’ll regret the risks you didn’t take more than the ones you did. This was especially relevant in the decision to quit my job — I realized that if I didn’t do this, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
Work to live, don’t live to work. I’m not going to lie, I’ve never worked more than I do now — but about six months ago I looked at my life and realized I had forgotten these words of wisdom and have started making the necessary changes to take my life back.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
This isn’t a book/podcast, but at P&G — we were regularly talking about innovation, learning and risk taking. One of my most poignant moments at P&G was when I was sitting in a meeting with theGarage Group — a strategy firm that helps companies think and act like start-ups, when I had this moment of clarity — I was sitting in a meeting for a big company being taught how to “act like a start-up” instead of actually working on my own start-up. That was a few weeks before I made the decision to leave P&G.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Honestly, I do a really bad job following along with who the “big names” are at any given time, but I can say I LOVE talking to other entrepreneurs — and I’m fascinated by the “sharing” culture — and would love to talk about how it all started. I’d love to talk to the founders of WeWork and I’d really love to talk to the person behind WeLive. The concept of flexible, shared living spaces for adults with great amenities and a built-in network is super cool to me and I’ve always been interested in hearing more about the challenges they are having and what the future of co-living looks like.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instead of following me, you should follow Urban Axes. It’ll be way more exciting, I promise. You can find us @UrbanAxes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.