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Banking on KC – Roy Scott of Healthy Hip Hop

Banking on KC – Roy Scott of Healthy Hip Hop

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode, is Roy Scott. Roy is the founder and CEO of Healthy Hip Hop, an online platform that infuses hip-hop culture with innovative technology, education, and an upbeat positive message. Welcome, Roy.

Roy Scott:

So glad to be here, Kelly.

Kelly Scanlon:

I've heard a lot about Healthy Hip Hop over the last several years, and it's been fun watching the company evolve. Tell us about Healthy Hip Hop and emphasis on the word healthy, that word really intrigues me?

Roy Scott:

Healthy Hip Hop, what we do is, take that urban hip-hop beat, and then just put a positive message over it for kids, focused around education, health and wellness. We found success with using that as a learning tool to improve focus and engagement and behavior with young children. And so the emphasis on healthy, and it's almost, the company obviously, we're a tech company, but Healthy Hip Hop is like its own new genre of music for children and families. And so healthy really stands for a few things in this regard, healthy messaging, also healthy lifestyles.

Roy Scott:

We want kids to get up and get active and exercise to the music and to our programming. And then also, healthy mindsets. We want these kids to still be able to enjoy hip-hop music and culture and be able to do that with a healthy message, that's going to have them having positive and healthy thoughts. So it was just about overall good health and wellness for kids, that's mental, physical, and spiritual.

Kelly Scanlon:

So, tell us about that background, what inspired Healthy Hip Hop?

Roy Scott:

For sure. So again, I was that kid who just loved hip-hop music and culture. Growing up, I did not have a lot of guidance around me and I didn't understand the importance of education. And so after graduating high school, I had an opportunity to go to college on a scholarship and play some Division 1 basketball. And I decided, "Nope, I'm going to trash all that because I want it to be a rapper." I mean, that's how much I love music and I was really just attracted to the lifestyle and the allure of it.

Kelly Scanlon:

Dedicated, if you gave up a scholarship like that? Yeah.

Roy Scott:

It still just wasn't very bright because somebody could have told me, "Hey, you know you can go to school and rap. You can do both son." Started that journey and had my light bulb moment when I was picking up my son, Justin from school. I was a young father, I was playing my music and I noticed him repeating it, word for word. Those lyrics promoted drugs, violence, misogyny and that was just my light bulb moment. Like, "Wow. I can't be this kind of influence on my son or anybody else." And I was also reflecting on how influential hip-hop music was on me. And that's what inspired me to create a positive alternative, and Healthy Hip Hop was born.

Kelly Scanlon:

How long did it take you, from the time you had that light bulb moment of inspiration, to actually change course and introduce Healthy Hip Hop?

Roy Scott:

Healthy Hip Hop wasn't born instantly, but it was an instant change in my mindset and my behavior and my direction in life. So really, the initial change was, "You know what? I'm actually no longer rapping. I'm only going to focus on my wife, my children, and building a better lifestyle for my family." That was my main focus and I said, "You know what? I'm done rapping." But once I committed to that and really got stronger in my faith and really got stronger in my walk and my purpose.

Roy Scott:

I had the vision to, "Hey, I'm going to repurpose this. I want to do this for kids." So I seen how impacted my son was, so how come I can't create something positive for my son? So it started with the music. So I would say, that's probably about a nine month process, where I just created the first album. It was called, Listen and Learn. That was originally, our value proposition because parents really loved the music because it sounded relevant to what was on the radio, to what they were hearing in the communities.

Roy Scott:

So it kept that cultural relevancy of the hip-hop music, but it was all clean and so immediately, it got buy-in from the parents. And at first, I wasn't calling it Healthy Hip Hop, I was just doing kids' music. And then as we continued to grow, the music and the brand and the different offerings, because our North Star is to become an iconic children's brand. So as it started unfolding, that's when Healthy Hip Hop, the branding and the new genre we're in, the business of Healthy Hip Hop, was born.

Kelly Scanlon:

And you embraced the school systems, entered the educational technology market. How did you break into that? And what advice do you have for any of our listeners, who are entrepreneurs and are trying to break into new markets like you did?

Roy Scott:

Yeah. So for us it really just happened organically because when we first started it, we weren't even thinking, "This is going to be an educational play." But then just naturally, we found teachers were using Healthy Hip Hop in the classroom setting. They were using it to start their day, for a morning energizer to help their kids get excited and focused for the lesson plans. They were using it for brain breaks.

Roy Scott:

And so, we also started doing a lot of lobby events and schools were booking us. So really, it was just paying attention to the market and where we were getting that traction at, and that's when we made that turn. So what I would suggest is, do a lot of customer discovery and market research and see where you're finding success at and then focus on those areas, to start to really pick up that steam and that traction.

Kelly Scanlon:

That's a great observation because I've talked to so many entrepreneurs who really thought they knew their market. But then when they started talking to their customers, the light bulb went on, about so many other ways people were applying their software or whatever their product, whatever it might be, that they hadn't even originally intended. And some of those were more lucrative markets.

Roy Scott:

100% and even with us, we were starting this company and we were really getting a lot of love and support. But when we decided to obviously, start raising capital, we were not just your typical, Midwest or Kansas City investment, we were outside of the box. So it helped us in that regard too, because now that we enter the education space, we made that pivot to ed tech, ended up getting accepted into some programs. Really early in Kansas City, we got the LaunchKC Grant.

Roy Scott:

We also had got the LEANLAB Education opportunity and that really helped us fall into in our business model. And that's what really got us into talking to the schools directly, talking to the parents and different partners, to really understand the best use case. And so within doing that, then that really positioned us to actually, receive an investment and be able to validate, "Hey, this is our business model and this is how we're going to successfully scale the company."

Kelly Scanlon:

Exactly. And I believe that you were involved in the scale-up program as well, and that helped to guide some of your decision-making too.

Roy Scott:

Correct. We pretty much in everything. We just went through all of the trenches, really trying to figure out, "Okay, how are we going to make this a successful business?" And also try to get some of the early stage bonding.

Kelly Scanlon:

How did you get introduced to those programs? Because Kansas City is so rich with startup programs like that and yet, so many startups are unaware of them. So I always love to give them a little bit of love, whenever it's appropriate. So that people who aren't aware of them, go out and take advantage of them. So, how did you get introduced to those programs?

Roy Scott:

I came out of a really tough situation with Shark Tank, where we pitched, got a deal with Kevin O'Leary, one of the biggest Sharks, hardest Shark to close, and basically, it all got thrown in the trash can. So after that, is when we realized that we had something special, but we just didn't really have a strong business model. So at that point, I was like, "You know what? I really have to see what Kansas City has to offer." So I started Googling. I also started reaching out to some individuals in my network and that's what I learned, at that time, 1 Million Cups, I believe they're still going pretty strong. We did 1 Million Cups.

Roy Scott:

So, really just started reaching out, how to just be proactive and doing some Googling and finding like, what are the different entrepreneurial activities and reaching out also with them on network, of who can I talk to about what's really happening on the scene? And then once I got in and started having those conversations, that's when I was pointed in different directions. Like I said, starting with Kauffman FastTrac and then it just grew from there, building those relationships and then finding these other opportunities.

Kelly Scanlon:

So at this point, you are creating the content yourself. You're doing the live performances yourself. You are attending classes and you're involved in programs and it's you and your partner at that point. And so your business model really had its limits. You could only expand, as far as you personally, had the bandwidth to do so, however many hours in the day that you had. So what was the breakthrough that allowed you to really ramp up across the country? I guess what I'm asking is, how do you replicate yourself doing what you do?

Roy Scott:

Absolutely. And that was part of the shift of mindset and also understanding how we're going to scale this business, because we were finding success going and being in schools and doing these lobby events. But as you said, that picture wasn't scalable. And so for me personally, as I started doing my research, as I started getting these programs and started thinking about things differently, and also seeing what was happening in every industry, when it came to the technology. So it didn't matter if you were talking about the music industry, you're talking Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, whoever created the innovative software they were scaling.

Roy Scott:

If you were talking about the film industry, it was Netflix, Hulu, going down the list. If you were talking about the automotive industry, it was Uber, Lyft, et cetera. So each industry, and you can name anyone, whoever was creating the innovative technology, that's who was winning. There's a lot of big names like that, but there's also those small ones that people don't know about, that are still having a substantial impact and making revenue. And so at that point, I knew we had to make the pivot to the tech.

Roy Scott:

And so again, when we were doing our customer discovery we said, "Okay, once we create this online platform for educators, now we can be at thousands of schools at once. So we don't have to physically be there. So they can simply create a unique log in. They have access to our content, educational resources, that they can use to help improve their learning environments." So that was the first start of it. And then understanding the parent use case, we wanted to develop the mobile application. So now it extends from the schools into the homes.

Roy Scott:

And so now through the app, parents can stream the music, but they can also create these kinds of TikTok style videos. So, that was always the vision. And then it was the challenge of a non-technical founder, of bringing on the right developers, finding out how I'm going to get this built. So that's the journey I've been on and now slowly but surely, figuring it out, we've got the right of investors. We've got our tech built, it's still in testing, it's in a public beta right now. We got about, over 6,000 active users and getting prepared for a full launch.

Kelly Scanlon:

So, who would you define as your primary customer? You've mentioned schools. You've mentioned parents. So is it directly to the schools? Is it the school districts? Is it individual teachers?

Roy Scott:

Yeah. So that's how it's broken down really, of different levels to it. So it's a B2B to C model. So we do sell directly to schools and school districts, but as we all know in the ed tech space, that is a challenging sell. So we also sell directly to corporate partners. Also, right now, there's a lot of corporate social responsibility, the CSR money, that is, they can underwrite a school or district or community to have access to this social impact opportunity, to help the hip-hop on that level.

Roy Scott:

On the B2B, the customer is going to be the individual school, the school district, we're also working with hospitals and corporate partners, so that's on the B2B side. Direct to consumer, would be focused right on the parents and we're seeing most of our engagement from mothers between the ages of 25 to 45. So really focusing on parents, but then also an individual teacher, can purchase Healthy Hip Hop, just for their classroom, as well. So that's how we segment our customers out.

Kelly Scanlon:

How do educators work Healthy Hip Hop into the curriculum? I mean, I understand that you have it available in a format that's similar to a video. So take that video for me and explain how teachers actually use it within the existing curriculum?

Roy Scott:

Absolutely. So what we're seeing here in the education space, a lot of the times as we know, these educators, these are some of our most important people, but a lot of the times, they're overworked and underpaid. And so it's hard to infuse an entire curriculum. So what we consider ourselves, as more of a curriculum support. So for example, the top use cases that we're seeing in the school is, again, they start their day, the kids will stand up and do these kind of morning energizers, so they get the kids up, get them active and help get them focused on the lesson plan.

Roy Scott:

So for example, we were working with Dr. Sarah Burns and she's in the Chicago Public Schools. It was taking her roughly, four minutes or so, to get her kids locked in, focused and ready to go. Once you started using Healthy Hip Hop to start her day, she was able to get that to under a minute, around 45 seconds.

Kelly Scanlon:

Wow.

Roy Scott:

Starting their day with Healthy Hip Hop to, "Hey, let's get up, get active and let's get you focused and locked in." Throughout the day, let's say they come back from lunch, they'll do a brain boost, so they'll still get up and be physically active. So a lot of has been more movement base to start, but we also have music and content that does address certain academic themes. And going forward, we're building out more content and an actual program that's focused on literacy for K through three, helping kids with reading comprehension and vocabulary, through rhyming words.

Roy Scott:

That's how the best use case right now, is more movement-based. Now when it extends into the home, now this is where kids, because this is the first generation of fully native, internet and social media using children and most of these platforms are not built with them in mind. I mean, for example, when we were doing shows at schools, I just did a virtual assembly yesterday. So we're still doing some virtual assemblies. But when we were actually going physically to schools, we would see later that day, a second or third grader, sends us a DM on Instagram. Right? So obviously, we have to block the issue.

Roy Scott:

But this is showing, these kids are early and earlier having access. And so within the Healthy Hip Hop app, kids can create and publish and share these kind of TikTok style videos, but it's within our safe circle technology. So the only people that they can share that with is their family members, their classmates, and their educators.

Roy Scott:

So now, they get to create and share in this safe space. And it's really kind of creating that connectivity from teacher, student to parent, because it really means, that's important. Obviously, teachers have a lot of responsibility in what they're doing in the schools, but also a lot of these kids, it has to do with what's going on within the home. So we're trying to create that connectivity there.

Kelly Scanlon:

As you've created your content, as you've mentioned, you've focused on literacy, you've focused on movement. I think you also have some content around STEM. How many songs do you have out there and what are some of the more popular ones?

Roy Scott:

Yeah. So actually, I brought on my new co-founder, his name is Wes Smith. And so Wes is the creator of PJ Panda and PJ Panda is like, what Mickey Mouse is for Disney, that's what PJ is for Healthy Hip Hop. So we've created a crew of characters around him as well. But some of our best songs, actually right now, was again, the most engagement, honestly, one of them is the Happy Birthday song, so it'd be like a new birthday song. A lot of people aren't celebrating, so really not a lot of educational content to that, but just fun and they get to celebrate.

Roy Scott:

(singing)

Roy Scott:

We also have another song that's more based around financial literacy, it's called, Save Money. So basically, there's this new phrase in the hip-hop community called, Run Up a Check, which means go and make some money, so we can run up a check and save it.

Roy Scott:

(singing)

Roy Scott:

And so we're talking about financial literacy. So those two have given a lot of traction. And then also, with a younger demographic, we've repurposed some popular nursery rhyme songs. So we did a remix to Baby Shark. We did a remixed, a Humpty Dumpty.

Roy Scott:

(singing)

Roy Scott:

So within the app, right now, we have 150 original songs. So right now, the app is live on iOS and Android, but still a public beta, but we're still letting folks test it out. Before our official launch, we'll have over 200 original songs in the library and be putting out at least, 10 new tracks monthly.

Kelly Scanlon:

Very ambitious there. So you said, it's available on iOS and on Android. And is that just under Healthy Hip Hop? Is that what people look for?

Roy Scott:

Correct. You just search the three words, Healthy Hip Hop and you will find the app there. Yes.

Kelly Scanlon:

You've been through several rounds of capital raises. You mentioned that you have investment money. Some entrepreneurs say that's a full time job, but because you are so personally integral to the day-to-day running of the business, to the content development and so many other things that you're doing, how have you managed all of that?

Roy Scott:

No, that is a great question. I don't know, just by sheer faith and resiliency. Because I'll tell you what? It is a full time job. So in the trenches of raising capital, a lot of the times, I haven't been able to give my full bandwidth to obviously, running business and making sure everything is running efficiently. So it is good that I've been able to bring on my co-founder, he's helping a lot. I've got a couple other part-time and I have some strong advisors who really believe in us. So I've been able to really delegate and lean on my support system, to make sure that we're firing on all cylinders.

Roy Scott:

But yes, raising capital can be extremely challenging. Especially as I said, in the Midwest, for what we're doing, because we are not a typical, Kansas City investment, but we have found some success, but it has been hyper challenging. It's actually, a whole nother conversation we're going to get to, but just say, the mental health side of it, is really trying to stay mentally strong through it all and keep pushing through. And we've been able to get there. There's been some challenging moments, but we just have to stick through it and just see it through.

Kelly Scanlon:

When you look at your son now, how has what you have done impacted him at this point? You mentioned he was on the cover, is he still involved with the company at all? Talk to me about that relationship and how it's changed because of the pivot that you made?

Roy Scott:

Absolutely. Well, he's still involved in the business side. It's exciting because I get to lead by example by showing him, "Listen, anything is possible. You need to go after your dreams. You need to find what you're passionate about and go for it." So he gets to see that and I like to include him on everything, as far as, rolling out new iterations of the app or if I am fundraising. Trying to help him to understand as much as he can. Some of it, he still doesn't quite get. But he's still starting to understand this concept of, entrepreneurship is helping to shape me and in return, I'm trying to lay him a solid foundation and point him in the right direction, education-wise.

Roy Scott:

Because like I said, when I came up, I lacked the guidance. I lacked understanding and the importance of education. He is not like that. He'll still make mistakes and of course, we all will. But I'm still there to guide him and say, "Hey, listen, son, this is the track you need to be on. Make sure you're focusing on education and lock in right now." So actually, he's even at Rockhurst, so just trying to get him set up as best as possible. So it's almost like, honor sharpening honor. So I've been learning so much from him and he's been my motivation and I'm trying to show by example and I can see, because he's just a really good kid. And he's just mature beyond his years and it's just been a blessing.

Kelly Scanlon:

And the impact you've had on so many other kids, as well. What's your long game? What ultimate impact do you want to have?

Roy Scott:

Our long game is to become an urban Disney, to be a global leader in children's content in music and technology. And ironically enough, Walt Disney is right here from our hometown of Kansas City.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yes.

Roy Scott:

So it's almost like history repeating itself. And that's what I see on the table and that's our long game and that's what I'm dedicated to pursuing and bringing to life. And now it's just like I'm walking it out and manifesting it. And it takes time, it takes commitment and just true perseverance to see something like that, to life.

Kelly Scanlon:

You're certainly on your way, there's no question about that and you are making a huge difference. So thank you so much for being with us, on this episode of Banking on KC. And we wish you all the success in the world.

Roy Scott:

Thank you so much.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Roy Scott for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. Financial literacy, science themes, mindfulness, fun loving Panda bears. These aren't the usual messages and characters you'll find in hip-hop music. Roy, the hip hop musician, had a life-changing moment when he heard his young son singing his songs, containing lyrics about drugs and violence.

Joe Close:

He realized he didn't want that influence on his son or any other kid, either, and Healthy Hip Hop was born. Our youth are the foundation of our society. They're our next generation of leaders. Supporting and developing our young people through role modeling and programs that promote mental and physical health, educational achievement and personal empowerment, is one of the best investments we can make in our community. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.