Entrepreneur and Realtor Develops Innovative App | GVL SC

Entrepreneur and Realtor Develops Innovative App

Bob Morgan likes to take care of people. He’s worked for his dad, billion-dollar corporations, small businesses, and himself. He’s worked around the clock selling family fun and southern comfort food. For the past 20 years, he’s guided countless clients through the biggest investment of their lives. Now, he’s putting his passion into an innovative app that could take some of the stress out of buying and selling a home.

Heyward and Nancy Morgan in the Greenville News, July 2000

When Bob Morgan does something, he goes all in. Most people don’t have the kind of stamina he does. His energy seems to flow from somewhere deep within his soul. While he’s certainly had his share of hard knocks in business, Bob is an eternal optimist not deterred by setbacks or bumps in the road. Where other people see insurmountable obstacles, he sees opportunity.

Bob Morgan is the youngest of six children. His energy and passion for entrepreneurship are likely coded into his DNA. His dad was visionary businessman Heyward Morgan, a serial entrepreneur who during his lifetime owned businesses in entertainment, construction, and investment.

One of Heyward Morgan’s businesses, Star Theaters, became a real-life classroom for his son Bob. The company his dad founded with a childhood friend grew into a small chain of movie theaters in the upstate that included Astro I & II in Greenville, the first “twin theaters” in the southeast. Decorated from top to bottom in a space theme, the original Astro opened during a time the world was captivated by the space race. Bob calls the Astro “the coolest theater ever.” The Greenville News said it was “a colorful movie house the likes of which Greenville had never seen.”

FUN FACT: One of Bob's favorite movies is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman

Photo courtesy: cinematreasures.org

Bob started selling movie theater concessions when he was 8 or 9 years old. He says his time behind the counter – without the benefit of a cash register – taught him to do fast math in his head. Bob also learned the importance of advertising and marketing in business.

Back then, movie studios sent theater operators “cut sheets” to promote their films. Bob says his dad got so creative with his local ads that Star Theaters often outperformed the national average. In fact, cinematreasures.org says at the Astro theaters, “box office sell-outs were a regular weekend occurrence.” As Bob grew into his own as an entrepreneur, he often drew upon the lessons he learned watching his dad build his businesses.

After he graduated from Clemson with a degree in Economics, Bob went to work for Brunswick, a multi-billion-dollar corporation. During an appearance on the Unusually Successful podcast, Bob told host Sean Dipple he discovered that “everybody’s a number in corporate culture.” Bob’s a people person, and that impersonal approach is just not his style.

He went to work for Star Lanes, which owned bowling centers in the Upstate and Western North Carolina, and eventually became an owner-operator himself.

Photo of Star Lanes from Bob Morgan

At one point Bob, never one to do anything halfway, managed three bowling centers that were open 24 hours a day, 364 days a year. Bob told Sean Dipple he and his partners rarely got any respect as bowling alley operators, so they preferred to call them “family recreation centers” instead.

No matter what other people believed, operating a bowling center the Bob Morgan way involved a wide variety of skills. His centers were innovative – offering childcare, food made from scratch, gaming, and billiards. He had to learn about bowling league rules, machinery, and retail. Bob said on the podcast it was “probably one of the most complex businesses out there, but I loved it.”

Funbee's & the International Pavilion from Bob Morgan

Bob’s next business venture was equally ambitious. As owner of Funbee’s and the International Pavilion, his creativity and attention to detail shined. At the time, there were 18 countries doing business in the Spartanburg area, so Bob put up flags from each of those countries around the go-kart track. His mini-golf course featured replicas of natural wonders of the world from all seven continents. There were batting cages, bumper boats, and an indoor playground and game room. His laser tag setup was so unique, a national trade magazine did a feature story on it.

The family fun park concept was so successful, Bob and his partners planned to build two more. Nature had other plans, though. A business in the south based primarily outdoors makes most of its revenue in the summer and early fall. Bob says it rained from Memorial Day to Labor Day two years in a row, and they lost a lot of money. Bob says it was so bad he almost went bankrupt. That’s when Paramount, the company that used to own the Carowinds amusement park, came knocking. They had seen the article on the laser tag game at Funbee’s and asked Bob to take a job as Paramount’s national operations manager.

Bob traveled all over the country for Paramount for about a year, but he decided once again that corporate culture was not for him. He started a consulting company and coached other entrepreneurs on what he knew best: bringing the fun to fun parks and bowling centers.

His next gig was with one of South Carolina’s most successful family restaurants, Wade’s in Spartanburg. With Bob as general manager, the “meat-and-three” did well. The company started making plans to expand. That success came at a cost, though. Bob says he worked gruelling hours and barely saw his wife and kids. On the Unusually Successful podcast, Bob quoted his wife Jennie as saying, “Face it, Bob. You don’t have a life.” Her words hit home. Bob decided to take a big risk that set him on the path he’s walking today.

Bob had no income and a family to support. As a couple with a growing family, Bob and Jennie had bought and sold several homes. He thought he could be at least as good of a real estate agent as those who had represented them. He went to work for C. Dan Joyner Realtors, a family-owned firm that is now a part of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

Making a leap from a salaried job to living off commission might have been terrifying for some people, but Bob says he found success early on in his career as a Realtor. Part of the reason he did well is that real estate is a “people business,” and he loves helping people. Bob admits “The Power of Ignorance” also played a role. The phrase comes from a video one of his friends produced. In the mock infomercial, a character named Vaguen dramatically exclaims, “You don’t know what is impossible. Therefore, anything is possible.” Bob says the video was meant to be funny, but he finds a lot of truth in its message. Bob says he didn’t know he couldn’t do it, so he just did.

Twenty years and countless closings later, Bob is still with the same company. He’s channeled the same passion and energy into growing his client base that served him so well in his previous ventures. While he’s been very successful in his real estate career, his drive to innovate has never faded. He’s constantly looking for ways to do his job better. He says when a client exclaimed from the backseat of his car, “there should be an app for this,” Bob knew the client was right. There should be an app for that, and – once again with “The Power of Ignorance” behind him – Bob asked himself, “Why not me?”

As with everything else Bob has ever done, he dove right in with this app idea. He thought about the inefficiencies in the process of buying and selling a home. He thought about the massive amount of back-and-forth communication between a real estate agent and their clients. He thought about the time spent locating properties, planning routes, and driving clients around. He thought about all the problems he had encountered in his years as a real estate agent, and he methodically set out to solve them.

The Unusually Successful podcast took a deep dive into Bob Morgan's career and how the Quitchet app came to be. Take a listen.

Pic of Bob Morgan from Unusually Successful podcast Facebook page

Building an app doesn’t happen overnight. It takes money and a good fit between the “idea guy” and the developers who bring his ideas to life. Bob has been working on the app with developers since 2014 – purposely under the radar until recently. Bob says a group of developers from DevObal Technologies in Greer worked on it six days a week for a few years before Kopis USA in Greenville came on board more than two years ago and took Quitchet to another level.

Bob carried around an iPhone and an Android to check the app as the team worked out the kinks. He asked his colleagues to use the real estate agent tools and give him honest feedback – What works, what doesn’t, and what do you need that’s not there? Bob and the developers tweaked. They tested. They tweaked again.

Bob says the name Quitchet came to him early one morning, and later his son who was in his twenties at the time gave it the thumbs up – because in his words, “it can be used as a verb!” Bob has several patents pending on the app, and Quitchet is now the official app of the Greater Greenville Association of Realtors -- a membership perk for the thousands of agents in the group. He says the app is ad-free and costs nothing for homebuyers.

Bob is ready to travel the country to pitch Quitchet to professional organizations for realtors, but he’s happy to be based here in Greenville. He and his wife Jennie have grandchildren now. They love walking and riding the Swamp Rabbit Trail, showing new people our downtown, or just driving around on beautiful South Carolina days they call “cool outs.”

Michelle Willis