Urban Martial Arts featured in New York Daily News!

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi
Originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

We’re so psyched that this past Sunday’s edition of the New York Daily News included our Karate Summer Camp in its round-up of NYC’s best summer camps!

(Thank goodness one of our students’ parents spotted it, or we would have totally missed it!)

Here’s what the Daily News had to say about us:

“Karate kids will get a kick out of this Brooklyn dojo, which runs a seven-week camp full of nonstop action.”

Check out the entire article here, and if you’re looking for a Brooklyn summer camp, call us today at 718-287-5500!

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Urban Martial Arts featured on Fox Business

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi, originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Fox Business just featured Urban Martial Arts in an article about web design for small businesses.

In the article, Carmen discusses how investing time and money into our business’s website design and search engine optimization was worthwhile:

As your small business grows and expands, it makes sense to hire outside help to develop your website accordingly. Professional Web developers bring a deep understanding of the latest technologies and online marketing practices. But be prepared — you’ll likely need to hire both a developer and a designer, and you should consider this a major business investment.

Although outsourcing website development can sometimes require spending thousands of dollars, the results pay off over time. The owners of a martial arts studio in New York City found an experienced developer to help improve their search engine optimization.

Redesigning the site is bringing many more potential customers through the door, says Carmen Sognonvi, co-founder and co-owner of Urban Martial Arts in the borough of Brooklyn. “We went from getting one or two leads per month through the site to now getting one or more leads per day.”

(In case you were wondering: No, that is not Carmen in the photo. LOL!)

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

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi, originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

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.”

Urban Martial Arts featured in Yellowbook video series on small business success

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi, originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Build it and they will come?

We wish it were that easy for prospective students to find their way to Urban Martial Arts!

Check out this video in which we discuss what does and doesn’t work for us when it comes to marketing the school:

It’s part of a brand-new video series called Building Success: Small Businesses Share Their Marketing Success Stories that’s being produced by Yellowbook. We shot it over the summer.

You should especially watch it if you’re in our adult class — you might catch a glimpse of yourself in action. Even our daughter Sean makes a brief cameo appearance!

How Urban Martial Arts Got Started: A Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at Carmen’s Story

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi, originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Carmen Sognonvi of Urban Martial ArtsStarting a business is anything but glamorous. If you thought Urban Martial Arts was an overnight success… think again!

Carmen was recently profiled on author Pamela Slim’s blog Escape From Cubicle Nation in “Side Hustle & Flow,” a series about entrepreneurs who started their businesses while they had a day job.

In the interview, Carmen shares how she juggled a variety of jobs for many years — her day job, her own speaking/consulting business on race and diversity, as well as her role here at Urban Martial Arts — until January of this year when she decided to focus on Urban Martial Arts exclusively.

Here are a couple of excerpts, but you can read the entire interview at Pam’s blog:

How did you know when it was time to quit your day job?

It was getting really hard to juggle everything. I was using all my vacation days for speaking engagements, and it started getting a bit difficult to get the time off that I needed. Plus I was just exhausted.

Towards the end I was also pregnant, so I’d be getting on the train at 6 am with my huge belly, working at the hedge fund from 7 am to 4 pm, then shlepping all the way to Brooklyn and working at the martial arts school till 10 pm. And in-between I managed to squeeze in blogging and doing media interviews too. Thinking back, I’m not really sure how I managed it all.

How did it turn out?

It turned out great!…I’m also really grateful that I was able to quit my day job just as my daughter was born, which allowed me to stay with her almost full-time for the first year of her life. When we weren’t at home together, she was with us while we worked at the school. That’s a luxury many parents don’t have, and it’s a privilege I don’t take for granted.

What advice would you give for others who are working on a side hustle now that you have a bit of distance?

Keep your day job for as long as you possibly can. There’s nothing romantic or fun about being broke, so until your business is generating enough income for you to live off of, keep working there.

Financially speaking, I probably could have quit my day job sooner than I did. But I made a decision to work there a little longer so that I could have more of a financial cushion. Of course, how large of a cushion you need is very much a personal decision.

Urban Martial Arts featured on Business News Daily

By Sensei Serge Sognonvi and Carmen Sognonvi, originally published at http://www.urbandojo.com/blog

Urban Martial Arts featured in Business News DailyUrban Martial Arts is featured on Business News Daily, an online magazine about start-ups and small businesses, in an article titled Danger Ahead: Small Business Owners Warn of Common Mistakes.

In the story, we share how we recently avoided what could have been a disastrous plan to move into a larger space:

Thinking about an expansion: Husband-and-wife duo Carmen and Serge Sognonvi of Brooklyn, N.Y., recently escaped a costly expansion decision. Other mixed-martial arts school owners had suggested they find a bigger space because student enrollment at their school, Urban Martial Arts, has doubled in the past two years. The Sognonvis caught “expansion fever” and found a spot they loved. After careful consideration, they opted not to move.

“We realized that while the space was less than a mile away from our current location, it was a completely different neighborhood with different demographics, much less foot traffic, and it was too industrial and thus deserted in the evenings when most of our classes are,” she said, adding that moving could have been a complete disaster.

Her advice: Don’t get caught up in what others in your industry think is conventional wisdom, adapt to the realities of your local market and use the constraints you work under to get creative.

We learned a lot from this experience. The biggest lesson? You should always be open to taking advice from others in your industry, but don’t get swept away to the point where you lose sight of reality. At the end of the day, nobody knows your business as well as you do.