What if you could turn skills that you’ve mastered while doing a hobby into a thriving business. This is exactly what Libby Kane describes Don Faggella doing in a very detailed article about his story here.
He turned a passion for martial-arts into something more than a way to train his body and mind.
“I was 17 or so when I first learned Brazilian jujitsu, and I really fell in love with the ‘chess game’ aspect of the martial art,” Faggella says.
It wasn’t until his teacher’s studio close that Don decided to open up his own studio using money he’d earned from teaching private lessons and working at a local beach. Over the next few years, he grew from a 500-square foot training space to 2,500-square feet of his own space.
While starting to grow his business and after getting a degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Faggella started experiencing the growing pains of a business with little to no leverage.
“I was teaching class all day and doing work all night,” he remembers. “I was making sales calls to book appointments while driving down and up to make sure we’d have the student flow we needed. The first year I spent sleep-deprived — and I realized it wasn’t that bad!”
Don kept plugging along until one day at the age of 25, everything changed drastically for him when his roof collapsed.
“I spent my life savings to expand the gym. I put up the drywall and painted by my own hand… and then we had a partial roof collapse that borderline destroyed everything,” he remembers. “I realized I came close to bankruptcy, and I should probably do something other than be the slave of the snow.”
Realizing that he needed to find a way to expand his business and reach a wider audience outside of just the area he lived in, he turned his instruction into online courses in January of 2013. He utilized footage from his competitions, seminars, and classes and his business took off.
Not only was he able to sell his physical gym in May of 2013, but he moved to the Boston area to focus on expanding the online business, Science of Skill. They are the go-to resource for online fitness and self-defense curricula and products, offering everything from recorded drilling modules online to DVD programs to gear like folding knives.
Four years of owning his gym had brought him limited success offline, but now with his online business he was earning about $20,000 a month after only six months.
Fast forward to today in 2016 and his business now earns $230,000 a month in revenue! The bulk of his company’s earnings come from recurring memberships which focus on close-quarters combat and self-defense martial arts skills.
Faggella says that to turn your passion into a business, you have to make sure your market is “legitimately ravenous” and large enough that even a small fraction of the target market could sustain you.
“In order to really grow, we had to do a lot more than Brazilian jujitsu,” he says. “We had to broaden the market to self-protection, defense and reliance. We had to widen the lens.”
The 28-year-old also recommends “nailing the marketing and automation side” to make sure you’re converting people who stop by your site into paying customers — a skill he teaches through his other website, CLVBoost. “Can you turn people who land on your site into any kind of dollar?”
Although he does have his sights set on potentially selling his business in the future, Faggella believes anyone can accomplish what he has done.
You just have to have something that you are really good at and can teach other people to do that is valuable for them.