Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in martial arts, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with John Le co-founder of Chicago School of Grappling, based out of Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Tell us all about your business...

Chicago School of Grappling is an MMA gym where we teach people how to fight in the city they love. Very happy to show people how to defend themselves and to get fit again.

What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?

I've been doing martial arts since I was seven, mainly due to inspiration from Bruce Lee, and the Power Rangers. Fighting is the only sport I have ever done since I was seven, and I love it. I love creating a great customer experience online and on the mats.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Surviving for six years purely on cash from the business without a need for outside investment. Love that it's just my partner and my business, and we get to call the shots how we see fit.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?

I always say: "Just because you're a pilot, it doesn't mean you know how to run an airline. Just because you're a doctor, it doesn't mean you know how to run a hospital". Many of my peers are fantastic instructors, but when they are tasked with doing taxes, making a website, doing finances, emails, and, etc. it's not what they are good at doing.

This is why my partner and I work well. He was born to teach martial arts and, while I love teaching too, I handle all the admin so he can do what he loves and what our students enjoy.

Double down on what you're good at and outsource the rest.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run or grow a small business today?

  1. Identify your audience. Do you want someone who is a hobbyist, uses your product frequently, but is unwilling to pay much, or uses it rarely, but will pay a lot? Figure out who this audience is.
  2. Try to use your cash as much as you can instead of instantly going for outside investment. Cash flow is all that matters, but when it comes to equity if you give up equity for cash. Think of it as giving up voting power for cash now.
  3. If you end up hating what you're passionate about, change the process. You can't let your passion die or else the business will die. This is why many businesses fail when they replace the founding CEO. The new one just doesn't have the same passion.

If there was one thing you could do repeatedly to help grow your business, what would it be?

Shifting to digital content as much as possible. Very scalable and high margins.

What are some of the things you put in place to maintain a healthy work/life balance and to keep it all together?

We hire about 4 people. This allows my partner and I to only come in a couple of times a week. This way we keep our passion high, have time for family, and I love being able to provide a good income for our staff.

Who are some of your favorite entrepreneurs and best business resources/books?

Meg Whitman. CEO of eBay back in the 1990s and 2000s when eBay was Amazon. She is such a strong female and made eBay what it was.

The podcast "My Startup Journey" is great because Kellogg MBA students who are starting businesses are interviewed so you get to see them from the ground running as opposed to hindsight.

Where can people find you online?

Learn Grappling, Jiu-Jitsu and other Martial Arts in the city you love with the Chicago School of Grappling

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share then email, we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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