What I believe to be the definition of success and our American Dream...

April 22, 2016

Allow me to tell you a little about my background. I began training in what is now Ho-Am or Tiger Rock TaeKwonDo in 1992 as a 10th birthday present. Having gotten a little chubby, my mom decided that martial arts would be good for me, and she was right-I loved it! In fact, I wanted to go every day, attend all of the tournaments-and for the most part, I did. My instructor was the hardcore type, and I laugh every time I think of some of the things he made us do...the bloody Knuckles from all those pushups on the carpet and aching muscles from the hundreds of bar drills with the air turned off. Those were some good times.

Later on, my instructor and mother started dating, got married, and we formed our own "TaeKwonDo Family" with twin brothers on the way. By the time I turned 12, I was at the academy every day training and assisting with classes. In 1995, a young lady came into the Augusta Academy to train. She and her mom were looking into boxing lessons for her, but the local boxing club was closed for the day. So, she walked through the doors of Terry Newton's TaeKwonDo Academy for a trial lesson. I was assisting with the class, and for those of you who believe in destiny, I was glad that she never made it to the boxing club. Because, two years later she would become my girlfriend, and in 2002, Melissa and I got married-both at the age of 20.

I finished my short 6 year career in the Computer Field as a contractor with the US Army in 2004 and held titles such as Field Service Techinician and Systems Engineer with Top Secret Security Clearances. Melissa worked in Sales, finished up her B.S. Degree in Psychology, while I completed a B.S. in Computer Science. Moving to Fort Bragg gave us the opportunity to run a small TaeKwonDo club in Cary, North Carolina that my dad was managing from back in Augusta. Starting with 20 committed students, we both decided to make the commitment to run the school full-time.

In 2006, with a $70k Angel loan from a committed parent of one of the students there (later, he and his wife would become the God parents to our son and become like family), we opened up in a shopping center with 2,400 sf. Soon, we found traction and became the known as the "community school" in Cary, North Carolina due to our family values and commitment to community service-Our students have done hundreds of service projects for the local community.

We were blessed with the birth of our son Ashton in 2008 and started our family. We are truly living OUR American Dream-doing what we love to do, and we decided that with our strong word-of-mouth presence, our high-priced rent and visibility was unnecessary. So, we packed up after 3 years and moved into an industrial court across the street. We were able to save quite a bit on rent and still maintained our numbers-making us stronger than ever. Spending 2 1/2 years in a practically barren industrial complex didn't phase us a bit. People in the Triangle came looking for us, because we offered a pleasant change from the typical martial arts school in the area. Firstly, we are very up-front with the customer informing them of any costs that might occur up to black belt. Secondly, we offer monthly memberships that do not tie people down. This also keeps us on our game requiring us to always give 100% to the customer. Thirdly, our school has a community service ambiance flowing throughout its veins. Fourthly, we train with the martial arts discipline, promote students for rank based on merit, while also being very patient with students who have special concerns or needs.

These things have made us the highest-rated martial arts school in our area, given us special recognition by our mayor, the Tiger Rock Martial Arts International Volunteer Service Award, and a nomination this year to the Cary Chamber of Commerce Community Leader Award.

Feeling that we needed to take the reins of our very own property, we purchased a brand new 4,200 square foot building and completely furnished it with Bag Racks, a 60 ft. glass wall, Ipad Kiosk, Play Area, Study Area and Showers-All directly across a Middle and Elementary school. This was an investment in our future to own the property in which we have our martial arts school. In a time in our nation's economy when banks aren't lending and consumer confidence has been at all time lows in a decade, we were able to secure an SBA loan for our property. It feels good to know that the money we work so hard for each month will be working for us and not the landlord.

In an area where there is a martial arts school on every corner, we have to consistently distinguish ourselves from the competition. With the largest martial arts school in the country only 3.9 miles away, I want to make sure that my message is clearly conveyed, You can run a successful and profitable program and live YOUR American Dream amidst staunch and numerous competitors. First of all, Climb out of the shadows. Don't worry about the way your competitors teach or the way they do things; forge your own path. Run your business the way you feel is right. Secondly, Treat every customer and student as your only one. This practice makes everyone feel special and unique. Your competitors may not take the time for the little things that make such a huge difference in the end. Thirdly, tell your story. Everyone has qualities that make them a star. Promote Yourself.

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