Entrepreneurs

Matthew Ayers

July 16, 2014

Matthew Ayers hails from the small town of Sevierville, Tennessee. The son of real estate professionals, he became familiar at an early age with auctions, property leasing and the deal-making process. Encouraged by his parents to branch out, Ayers became fascinated with computers, and some of his early entrepreneurial efforts included building computers  from scratch and selling bootleg copies of movies. 

After graduating from the University of Tennessee in 2009, Ayers has resided in Knoxville, where he has started, grew and sold both a Crossfit gym and a frozen yogurt store. He currently manages a commercial real estate portfolio and is in the process of building an alpine roller coaster in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In addition, in January of 2014, Ayers launched hiretiger.com, a website that matches job seekers with local hourly positions.

matthew-ayersWhat was your upbringing like, and how did it shape who you are today?

My parents were super supportive of me experimenting with new things and learning on my own. They encouraged me to build things, make my own path, and sometimes fail. The act of learning always seemed to be praised. This really gave me the confidence to solve problems in my business and personal life.

What was the inspiration behind building a roller coaster, and what challenges have you faced during the process?

I can’t take credit for coming up with the roller coaster idea. The deal was brought to myself and some other people I know. But the reason it’s being built is extremely unsexy but often times very common in successful businesses: We are building the roller coaster for the sole fact that we witnessed another person do the exact same thing. The one we saw is a huge success; so instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we are just following the trend. It is often safer and sometimes more profitable to model yourself off someone else’s success than to launch a new and unproven idea.

The challenges facing the business have all been internally driven. Because it is a partnership with several different people, it takes time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of everyone involved.

In your opinion, what separates a great roller coaster from a mediocre one?

I think what will make this ride a hit is that it is for the whole family, from children to grandparents. You control your speed the entire time so you can make it as slow or as extreme as you see fit.

How did Hiretiger.com come about, and what are your goals with the site?

I’m really excited about this project. The idea came from the time I spent with my frozen yogurt store. Any time you are staffing close to minimum wage employees, the turnover is huge. When you need to hire someone new, you are left with few options. 1) You can go on Craigslist. This is such a wild card. You get tons of applications and the people span all different walks of life. 2) You can put a “Now Hiring” sign in the window and have people fill out a physical application. There is nothing wrong with this but you end up with hundreds of papers that can be a headache to sort through.

That frustration stuck with me for years until I was talking to a friend (now co-founder) about it. We did some research and found that there are a million job boards for career minded people, but next to none for that hourly employee type. The ones out there were terrible in terms of functionality and charged a fortune for a single job posting.

So we decided to create a site where job seekers can find and apply to multiple jobs online, while employers can collect job applications quickly and affordably.

Our initial goal was to just create something for our Knoxville market that helped local businesses, Knoxville job seekers, and tossed a couple bucks our way. After we launched, we started to get registration after registration with next to no marketing. It never let up. Especially once money started to come in from employers, we knew we were on to something. We really hope we can see the same reactions in other local markets and eventually take this nationwide.

What sort of response have you gotten from employers who have used Hiretiger.com?

Employers really seem excited to have other options. Small business owners especially seem relieved to have a solution to the hiring problem.

If you could jump back to any point in your life and do one thing differently, where would you go and what would you change?

I would probably jump back to my frozen yogurt days. I was so stressed constantly. Everything got to me. I was stressed about inventory levels, who is scheduled to work the next shift, if a marketing campaign was going well or not, you name it and I was stressed about it. This carried over in my personal life.

So I would love to go back and tell myself that the stress is created from myself, not from the world around me. I am in total control of how I feel and how I choose to look at the world.

What’s your favorite frozen yogurt flavor?

Gosh you don’t know how many times I have answered this question. If I am answering it in front of a customer, then I would say, “Cake batter. I could eat it for days!”

If I am being honest, I would tell you that I really prefer a carton of ice cream. New York Super Fudge Chunk by Ben and Jerrys, to be exact.

What’s the best song you’ve heard recently?

I try not to lie, so this is embarrassing, but “Krazy” by Lil Wayne.

If you could have dinner with either former Tennessee senator Al Gore or former University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning, who would you choose, and why? And if you had to pick the restaurant, which one would you select?

Peyton all the way. Im sure Al is a great guy, but all over Tennessee you see the impact that Peyton has made. He still appears in local commercials, comes to UT, and can be seen eating at local restaurants. In terms of where to eat, I can never say no to barbecue. We might not be Memphis, but we still have some great places.

What would you like to do, but simply haven’t found the time for yet?

So many things. I keep a list of hobbies I want to start, books I want to read, and places I want to go. But if I had to pick one, I would probably say to go out west and climb El Capitan.

If you had to offer one piece of advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, what would it be?

Focus on what is important. Life is too short to waste time on issues that don’t really matter. It doesn’t matter what color your business card is, what software you use for your accounting, or what credit card has the most cash back. Spend your time on the business and personal decisions that make a serious impact to your business AND your personal life.

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