Sensei Serge Sognonvi profiled as one of “5 Faces of Urban Entrepreneurship”

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi, originally published at

BrandMakerNews just featured Sensei Serge Sognonvi as one of “five urban entrepreneurs you should know.”

In the article, Sensei Serge shares what motivated him to open the school, what obstacles he overcame along the way, and what advice he would offer other aspiring urban entrepreneurs:

What motivated you to start your own business?
“I had been stuck in a dead-end corporate job for nearly 10 years. I knew I didn’t want to stay, but I also wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do. I’d been studying martial arts for over 20 years and had always dreamed of having my own school one day, but it seemed like a silly pipe dream that could never come to fruition. One night, I got into a major car accident. The car was totaled, but I walked away without a scratch. It was a miracle – even the EMTs on the scene couldn’t believe their eyes. As drastic as that was, it was the wake-up call I needed to *do something*. Piece by piece, everything just fell into place and less than 6 months after the accident, I was nervously signing the lease on my new space. About 6 months after that, I was able to quit my day job and work on the karate school full-time.”

What major obstacle did you encounter along the way? And, how did you overcome it?
“A lot of people didn’t believe in what I was doing. When I told my mother I was going to open a karate school, her first words were: “Are you crazy?” Friends and colleagues were also skeptical about my starting a business during a recession. Luckily I’ve never been one to be too swayed by what people think of me, so I stayed focused on my vision for the business. I was fortunate to have my then-girlfriend, now-wife as a business partner. She shared my vision for what the school could be and that helped tremendously. Also, I knew a few other successful martial arts school owners who were great mentors to me. They helped me avoid rookie mistakes and learning from them cut my learning curve tremendously.”

What advice/words of wisdom can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Be picky when it comes to mentors. Keep in mind that old expression “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” If you’re starting a widget business and you’re getting advice from mediocre widget business owners who are only doing okay, you’re never going to thrive. Find people who have been truly successful in your field and learn from them.”