Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Craig Haley, Owner of Elite Force Martial Arts, located in Lighthouse Point, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are in the business of developing champions in life. Sure, we teach martial arts; however, the combination of physical skills, success mindset, and character education we teach impact our students in all areas of life...personally, professionally, at home, and at school. We are making our communities stronger, one Black Belt at a time!
Tell us about yourself
I started martial arts in 1987 because I was getting bullied at the bus stop. I had zero confidence to defend myself, so my parents brought me to the local martial arts school. I fell in love with the training, the culture at the dojo, and the amazing instructors. After successfully dealing with many bullies over the years, I realized I was passionate about inspiring and empowering others to learn self-defense, build confidence, and develop the habits of a champion.
I opened up Elite Force Martial Arts on June 1, 2003, and our second school, Elite Force Jiu-Jitsu, in 2017. I am currently a 7th degree Black Belt in Kempo Karate and a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I train every day (most days, 2 times per day). I love training Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu, and I do weight training 3 days per week.
At 45 years old, one of my main goals is to be a great example for our adult students. I come from a family that struggles with obesity. My example of being in great shape year-round and training at a high level will hopefully inspire our students to strive to be their best.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We just celebrated our 19th anniversary in business on June 1st, 2003. The city of Lighthouse Point awarded me the "Keeper Award" in 2020, similar to receiving a key to the city.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As a business owner, you have to stay focused on sales and marketing. You can offer the best product or service, but if you are not good at selling and marketing that service, you will be the best-kept secret in your town.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Get great at sales and marketing.
- Learn how to manage money, so you keep the money you earn.
- Be a life-long learner. I read 3-4 books every month. I listen to audio programs while driving, walking the dog, and working out at the gym. Make your car a university on wheels.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I run our main dojo with my wife, Melissa. She is a 5th-degree Black Belt. Our daughter, Alexa Rae, has been training since she was 3. Alexa Rae earned her Black Belt in the Spring of 2021.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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