Goatrepreneurs: How this family built a business on fun and farm animals

By   – Editorial Intern, Nashville Business Journal

After a career building video games in San Francisco, Max Knudsen did what any retired tech guru would do: bought a 47-acre farm in Middle Tennessee and, eventually, began a goat business.

Shenanigoats, a goat landscaping and events business that Knudsen founded with partner Jamie Codispoti, made the news last year for bringing a new kind of farm phenomenon to Music City: goat yoga.

With its niche, cuddly service, Shenanigoats is among many quirky business ventures to pop up in Nashville, as the city becomes even more pronounced as a touristy, trendy, bachelorette-party-loving destination.

Goat yoga, which is a normal yoga class with the addition of petite goats waddling around and jumping on your back as you slip into downward dog, began about two years ago when classes popped up in Oregon and Michigan. Since then, the trend has picked up in almost every state across the U.S., Codispoti said.

For Shenanigoats, business has never been better, Knudsen and Codispoti told me.

“We’re definitely making money,” Codispoti said. She decided a few weeks ago to quit her job as a full-time psych nurse to spend more time on the business. “It’s wild. It still doesn’t make sense to me. I put in my notice at work and everyone’s like ‘No seriously what are you going to do?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m doing goats.’”

Eighteen months after starting their business, Knudsen and Codispoti now have over 100 goats housed in four main locations in the Middle Tennessee area. They have a mix of 15 full-time and part-time employees.  And they’re about to make enough for Knudsen to receive a salary, Knudsen said.

Shenanigoats offers goat landscaping, where the goats roam around a grassy area, clear brush and kill many invasive plants by eating them; goat yoga; and more recently, goat events where people celebrating birthdays and weddings can simply request to spend time with the little guys.

It can be tricky to build a business around a trend like goats. But Codispoti said the service is based in something fundamental: happiness.

“You’re in this room doing yoga with these adorable goats bouncing around,” Codispoti said. “They’re hysterical animals. They’re so funny. People have an hour to just not think about anything else and just laugh.”

Knudsen said working in the tech industry provided a more modern perspective on a farm-style business concept.

“When we went about building Shenanigoats, for me it was about building a brand and I had seen that happen so many times in the tech industry,” Knudsen said. “That shaped the name and that shaped the logos. That shaped every decision we made, including pouring every dime we made back into the merch.”

Knudsen trademarked the “Shenanigoats” brand when the business started, and now is considering branching out into selling goat feed and goat-made fertilizer.

Ironically, Knudsen’s entrepreneurial spirit spun out of the desire to retire on a farm.

“Max’s whole thing is always, ‘I want to retire watching goats eat,’” Codispoti said. “And my thing to Max is always, ‘How about you get a real job?’ But a couple weeks later on the NextDoor app, there’s a girl saying I want to hire goats to clear my land. I’m like, ‘Is this for real?’”

Growing up in Utah, Knudsen had always wanted to be a farmer, but it’s harder today for small farmers to make a living, Knudsen said. It became important to find a niche.

Knudsen and Codispoti began setting their goats loose on several yards and clearings by request. And when a woman posted about their services on the East Nashville Facebook page, their business blew up, Codispoti said.

“I mean I guess that’s the way the world is now, but it literally started with a Facebook post,” Codispoti said. “Within weeks, everything in our lives was different.”

Now Knudsen, Codispoti and her two young children are working full-time maintaining and spreading the word about sprightly, hungry little goats, many named after country singers like Dolly Parton and Minnie Pearl.

Shenanigoats has been a surprisingly successful business venture for Codispoti, who said she never thought she’d run a business at all. But watching as her young children help with sales and events, she said it’s also brought her family closer together.

“My son, he’s 11 going into sixth grade, and that little kid can sell merchandise like a beast,” Codispoti said. “I mean he kills it. He keeps everything in the iPad, he’s keeping inventory. It’s been such an amazing thing to watch him mature in this place. It’s been a wild year.”

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