Hello again SMU! For today’s 10×10, I would like to spotlight the Co-Founder of Pairr, Tinsley Merrill.
After passing up the stability of working with a luxury car brand after graduating from Southern Methodist University to follow her entrepreneurial spirit, Merrill began developing Pairr. Merrill chose to blend her craving for unique experiences and knowledge of the Millennial generation to create a platform that fosters community engagement by curating custom experiences and sharing existing ones among users. From concerts, to yoga, to dinner parties, Pairr provides users with invitation-only events chosen based on their experience preferences. Today, Merrill shares her inspiration for Pairr, the experiential marketing field, and her advice for entrepreneurial-minded students.
- What inspired you to create Pairr?
“My co-founder, Zach Jones, actually came up with the concept of Pairr while attending an upscale, exclusive wine tasting in Napa Valley with his wife (a fellow SMU alumni!). I met Zach and my additional co-founder, Garrett Greene, through my SMU network after seeing a major gap in the experiential marketing space for customized events. Prior to Pairr, I worked on the Retail Development team at rewardStyle and saw the impact Influencer Marketing was making in the retail space, but didn’t understand why influencers could only monetize through clothing and material goods. As a millennial consumer, I always craved experiences over things and knew many of my friends did as well. If I followed an influencer or friend on Instagram, I wanted to know what they were doing, what events they were attending or where they were traveling – not necessarily what they were wearing. When I joined Pairr I had a mission to not only create customized events based on what our members were interested in, but also align them with local influencers who loved the same experiences. Millennials and Gen Z love exclusivity because you feel like you are in a meaningful community, but what consumers love more than exclusivity, is customization and that’s exactly what we have strived to bring our members, brands and influencers in our experience ecosystem.”
2. What challenges arose when creating Pairr?
“When building a business from the ground up, you are faced with obstacles every day. The biggest question – where do we start? As an experience ecosystem we were not only onboarding users, but also brands and influencers. With three people working full time there is never enough time in the day, so you have to prioritize what matters most and what is most urgent to scale and more importantly succeed. Building out our Influencer Monitization Program and Brand Ambassador program, allowed us to grow quickly without spending extensive resources or money on marketing efforts. That was a huge challenge we overcame with our unique marketing strategy.”
3. What experiences in the past have helped you get to where you are now?
“My entire life I have had a curious and entrepreneurial spirit. Growing up as the youngest of five, I was always coming up with ideas and solutions to challenges, whether it was building a lemonade stand in the 100 degree heat on the corner of Seaside Beach Pavilion, trying to get college students to sign up for a new dating app before dating apps where socially accepted (Bumble Launch) or responding to advertisers on rewardStyle on their technical problems with affiliate networks (knowing nothing at the time of technology or affiliate programs). My sister Brittany started a company, The Akola Project, at the age of 19 and being ten years younger than her, I never thought there was a limit to what I could create or optimize.”
4. What does your average week look like?
“Ha – in the start-up world, no week looks the same. I usually use Monday’s as my “catch-all days”, meaning go through my hundreds of emails, create weekly tasks for my team, send outreach and schedule calls and meetings. Tuesday – Thursday is usually meeting-after-meeting for me. Our team recently joined Park House, which has been a life-saver for attempting to have meetings in one place. When we first launched Pairr I was driving from a meeting in Highland Park to Plano to Fort Worth and back again. On Fridays our team tries to work outside if the weather is nice to collaborate, future plan and reflect on the prior week. We have around 5-10 events happening monthly, so my Saturday and Sundays are normally around producing, supporting or attending Pairr events in the area. Balance is a hard thing to come by at this stage in a company, so I truly cherish the time I have to work out with friends, grab a Mambo at Mi Cocina or just play with my little nephews on Lakeside.”
5. How has your field changed since you first began? Where do you see it going?
“It has been amazing to see the evolution of what we call the experience economy. Now more than ever, consumers are craving experiences over things. We initially thought our ideal clients would be in the retail and food/beverage industries, now every industry wants to layer experiential marketing efforts in their every day budgets. We really jumped on a wave that is changing the way people understand marketing and connecting with consumers in a meaningful way. We are taking the traditional “push model” of marketing and flipping it on it’s head. Instead, Pairr has created a “pull model” of marketing where we ask our members what they are interested in and provide them the experiences they are craving, such as Massages & Mimosas, Farm to Table Vineyard Tasting or Rooftop Yoga. In the process we have created hyperlocal communities based on experiences rather than your background, race or socioeconomic status.
6. Where do you see the future of Pairr going?
“We hope to see Pairr grow nationally throughout the next couple of years. We have strategically partnered with global brands that we can scale with in all different markets. We currently have our priorities in the Texas market and have our eyes set on New York for the spring of 2020. My hope is that we can build these hyperlocal communities across the US and eventually internationally. Who doesn’t crave customized, exclusive events with your favorite brands and influencers.”
7. Where do you envision your future going?
“Right now I live and breathe Pairr. My friends laugh, when I launched Pairr I owned zero purple outfits…. now, I think half of my closet is purple. I can’t wait to see our platform grow to a national scale. For me, I am an entrepreneur and will continue to optimize Pairr, along with come up with other concepts that I am excited to have my hands in. My next big move will be New York City next year – get ready!”
8. What skills do you feel are most important for an aspiring entrepreneur?
“Endurance, Hustle and Positivity. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. There are days you feel like you are on the top of the world and then there are days you are so exhausted you just want to throw in the towel and call it quits. What differentiates a successful start up to a failed start up, is the successful start up never threw in the towel. I always keep a very supportive group of local entrepreneurs, friends and family who bring me encouragement when I feel overwhelmed and exhausted.”
9. What is your best career advice for seniors at SMU?
“Don’t be afraid to take a job with a lower salary that will give you valuable experience for your future. When your young is the time to take risks and experience everything. I had the opportunity when I graduated to take an amazing stable job with a luxury car brand or continue my internship with a local start-up and choosing the local start-up was the best decision I could’ve made. I had a lot of friends going into investment banking, consulting and other industries that were paying 4x what I was making, but I woke up every day excited to work and learn. Additionally, jump on opportunity. As an SMU alumni I have had invaluable networking opportunities, take advantage of those networks.”
10. Can you describe your role as CRO for Pairr?
“It’s funny, in the start-up world titles feel so silly because in reality everyone is doing everything. My main responsibilities as Chief Revenue Officer include creating our marketing strategy, brand strategy, sales strategy, and user acquisition strategy. At this time, I am also the one implementing those strategies with a wonderful small team behind me. I have been afforded the opportunity to really shape Pairr into the experience ecosystem it has become. That said, I am also working on the backend of our platform to strategize optimization for our software solution, execute events, redesign our website, fundraise for our future seed round and so much more. I am extremely lucky to have two co-founders who are very strong where I am weak, and weak where I am strong. Our differences and strengths have made Pairr grow legs and run in such a short period of time.”
Thank you Tinsley!
Until next time,