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Hard knocks for martial arts

Starting your own business requires a warrior’s spirit — which came inhandy when Alana Green started her martial arts school in south-endHalifax two-and-a-half years ago.


Starting your own business requires a warrior’s spirit — which came in handy when Alana Green started her martial arts school in south-end Halifax two-and-a-half years ago.

“I didn’t have any funding,” the 23-year-old black belt says, and she spent a couple fruitless months trying to get her Choi Kwang Do school up and running. When that didn’t work, she took out a Students in Business loan through the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Education, with the help of Saint Mary’s University’s Business Development Centre.

Part of that process was developing a business plan, which helped Green focus on her target market. She originally aimed at university students and people aged 25 to 40, but “the more I learned about the martial arts business, the more I realized the importance of having children as part of the school. They bring the excitement and enthusiasm — and their friends and parents.”

Green could be on the verge of a breakthrough — next month she and her business partner Dawson Wambolt, a former member of the Canadian Forces, are travelling to Toronto to appear on The Dragons’ Den — the CBC’s reality TV entrepreneurial show — to pitch a martial arts/military boot camp for ordinary people.

“It would completely change our lives,” Green says of gaining the Dragons’ financial backing. She describes it as “an amazing opportunity” that would put rockets on their planned growth, allowing them to take their “total fitness” program to the next level.

A key piece of advice she offers other would-be business people is to spend your money carefully. She put a lot into advertising, but could only afford sporadic spots.

“It just doesn’t have the repetition to work. I learned that the hard way — and that’s a lot of money when you’re starting out,” Green says. “I thought it would be pretty easy to get 10 students in the door, but today I know that’s difficult. You always have to be marketing — for me, that’s a lot of networking and special programming.”

Similarly, she invested a lot of money in software to help run the school, but now feels she got it too soon to make it worthwhile financially.

Asked what advice she would give her younger self, she thinks for a moment and says:

“It’s OK for it to go slow, and to take your time with it. When you’re starting out … there is a sense of urgency that keeps you moving, but not always in the right direction.”

 
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