Youthful entrepreneurs fight for the community


Alexis Douglas

Local business, Down Dog Bar and Yoga Studio nestled in South Asheville.

Alexis Douglas, [email protected], Contributor

Young business owners build a new and sociable Asheville by combining business efforts after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There’s always something going on,” said Sophie Silcox, manager and co-owner of Down Dog Bar and Yoga Studio. “So we partner with a lot of other local businesses, a lot of women-owned businesses, which is cool because that is a great way to meet people and reach people we may not be reaching on our own if they have customers and followers who might not know about us. It’s a good way for us all to integrate.”

According to Down Dog’s event calendar, they work with many businesses like Queen Island Cuisine Food Truck and Kinfolk food truck. One business they collaborate with every Tuesday and Thursday is Not Rocket Trivia. 

“Am I passionate about bar trivia? No,” said Alex Abernathy, the owner of Not Rocket Trivia. “What I am passionate about is the bars and restaurants that we help on a consistent basis. I’m passionate about the people who work for me. I’m passionate about the players who have shown our company tremendous support. I’m not passionate about the product, I’m passionate about the people and our impact.”

According to the International Federation of Accountants, small businesses account for 90% of all businesses worldwide. 

Abernathy said the idea for his business formed during his senior year of college. He never made a plan, but started by acting first, accepting failure and adjusting as needed. 

“My official start date for the company was Jan. 1, 2020. I acquired a few clients and got some friends to host for me, then COVID-19 hit and killed it all. Immediately, I shifted to hosting virtual trivia,” Abernathy said. 

According to the National Center for Biotechnology, business dropped 22% from February to April 2020. 

He said when restrictions were being lifted, he started marketing his business as a way to help others with the post-pandemic loss in traffic. 

“I grew up in an overwhelmingly nerdy family that loved going to trivia nights. Before I graduated college, I looked at the market around me and saw an opportunity through trivia and other events to bring the same joy that my family experienced to my current community while simultaneously benefiting my client’s bottom line,” Abernathy said. 

Silcox said she shares a similar familial connection with Abernathy.  

“My sister and I started Down Dog together and we’re from Abbington, Va.,” Silcox said. “We grew up knowing about Asheville, but from a little bit further away. And then I went to school in Kentucky, at the University of Kentucky, and I moved to Charlotte after I graduated and then slowly made my way here.”

Silcox said her college degree did not directly lead to her owning her own dog bar business. 

“It was arts administration, so it really has nothing to do with Down Dog. So, I worked in development and fundraising for museums,” Silcox said. “I was immersed in the arts and cultural scene.” 

Silcox said the inspiration for the business came from her time spent living in Charlotte, where she frequently visited a dog bar and found the lack of such establishments in Asheville baffling.

“And I just started kind of researching and realized that it was a pretty popular concept in other cities, like Arizona and Atlanta,” Silcox said. “And they’re just popping up all over the place, so that’s kind of where we got the idea. It just started as a dog bar and then as I got big into yoga, we thought about adding that component because there’s so much yoga in this town and everyone’s super active.”

Christen Piñero, a current UNCA sophomore, said she loves this aspect of being in Asheville. 

“That’s what I like about the liberal arts part of this because they’re welcoming of people who need service dogs and emotional support animals. And I’d love to go to a dog bar and do musical trivia and see dogs,” Piñero said.

Down Dog offers a student discount for a yoga membership, but Silcox said she has an immense interest in reaching out further to current college students in Asheville.

“I would say that that’s probably one demographic or group that we haven’t really targeted much on our own,” the owner said. “I’d say most people that we see are probably between 25 and 35, so a little bit older.”

Silcox said Trivia Tuesday was a huge success due to the high-interest rate of trivia in Asheville. 

“We started using Not Rocket Trivia for Trivia on Tuesdays. Which is just a general trivia where they have multiple rounds of three questions and everything, just because we’ve noticed trivia is very popular in this town,” Silcox said. “So we started doing that on Tuesday and it ended up being our biggest night of the week.”

Silcox said they started offering Singo, musical bingo, once Not Rocket Trivia attempted to expand the concept into Asheville. 

“Initially, I only viewed Singo as something for college-aged audiences, but I was terribly wrong about that. Singo has been embraced by players of all ages and has become our second most popular product behind trivia,” Abernathy said. 

Piñero said Singo appeals to college-aged audiences, especially ones like herself who are interested in music, singing and trivia. 

“I have transportation and I’m the target audience,” Piñero said. 

Silcox said she hopes to expand her business in the future but for now, Trivia Tuesday and Music Trivia Thursday will carry on. 

“It’s on the calendar indefinitely, we’re not with any contract with Not Rocket Trivia, so if we did want to end it at any time we can. But for right now it’s going really well. It’s lucrative for us. We’ve had a lot of people that have met through trivia, so it’ll be ongoing,” Silcox said.