Joey Horiuchi – Owner, Athletes Dojo

Joey Horiuchi is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, MA, where he studied business marketing and minored in Japanese. He interned at Pioneer Investments where he was later hired on to help with the management of the marketing promotional materials for Pioneer Investment’s marketing department. When not working, he found himself to be very successful at professional blackjack and poker. After a few years behind a desk in the marketing department, he realized that working a corporate job was not for him, so he moved on and started his own business in the fitness industry which better suited his passions

Joey moved to San Diego from Boston, where he built an athletic facility and was able to have a brick-and-mortar location for his company, Athlete’s Dojo. Athlete’s Dojo is a specialized sports performance company composed of a group of successful athletes that focus to train high school student athletes seeking athletic scholarships, as well as college students pursuing a professional athletic career. All levels and ages are welcome to train as well.

Joey met his fiancé at Northeastern University, where she was granted a full scholarship for field hockey. Prior to playing at the Division 1 college level, she had the privilege of playing on the Canadian National team and has several Caps playing internationally for Canada. She holds several career records and achievements which still hold today at Northeastern University. Currently living in San Diego together with their combined backgrounds in sports they now focus solely on their business Athlete’s Dojo.

The following is  an interview with Joseph Horiuchi.

What inspired you to get started in this business?

I really didn’t enjoy the corporate life, sitting behind a desk every day. I was blessed enough to have some success while playing blackjack and poker, so I was able to start my own business with my savings. This is my passion, and that is how it came to be. A lot of my friends growing up were athletes and teammates—I saw a lot of them succeed and go to the professional level. Along with my fiancé’s success, loving sports myself, and being part of that competitive atmosphere attracted me to get involved in the vision of pushing athletes to their full potential.

Where do your profits come from?

Our profits come from training sessions (both group and private), renting out equipment, and selling merchandise. People can come to our facility in San Diego and participate in intensive strength and conditioning clinics, as well as specialized injury prevention and mobility seminars, in addition to specific sport focused skills.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

Since I started the company before having a brick and mortar location there was no overhead, originally it was all profits from the beginning. After investing in the actual facility, I would say it happened within the first year.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time that you doubted whether Athlete’s Dojo would be a success? If so, how did you handle that?

Yes. The biggest hurdle for me was locating a facility that would allow us to focus on specific training styles, but since we ended up building a custom facility tailored to our needs, it made the obstacle of requiring specific equipment/spacing manageable.

How did you get your first customer?

Through a classmate at college. My pickup basketball friends wanted to improve their agility and explosiveness. For my height (6ft), I could jump surprisingly well, so people wanted to learn what my training regimen was to be able to jump that high, and that’s how I got my first client when they saw me dunk in a pick-up game.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that is effective to generate new business?

Our presence on social media, especially Instagram has been effective to attract new clients. Also, each trainer we have is elite in their own individual sport. For instance, if you play field hockey and you are striving to play at the college level, Crystal has played at both the national and international level, so she would have a lot to offer through her experience. I also have a friend and trainer Doug who trains for the Athlete’s Dojo and he’s played professionally for several years as a wide receiver in multiple Arena Football Leagues.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Having to say no to different athletes that may not have been as qualified enough to join the Athlete’s Dojo team has been the toughest decisions I’ve had to repeatedly make. They would come to me and have a lot of enthusiasm and passion to join the team and having to say no is definitely the hardest part.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I carefully select each athlete based on their past success stories and their strong interpersonal skills.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

That would be when a strong field hockey student athlete had plans of attending UC Davis for a division one field hockey scholarship and she was concerned about the initial mandatory fitness testing. A fitness requirement was to be able to run under a 6-minute mile. She had approached me for some help to improve her time as I was a mile runner in the past and I was able to help her shave off a good chunk of time, I believe it was almost a full minute off of her mile that we achieved just after a couple of hard sessions. That was probably the happiest moment of my career, just to see her overcome that hurdle successfully.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

I am most excited to see the athletes that we have now reach their full potential and to see what the future holds for them athletically.

What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?

The Normatec Pro, which is an air compression therapy system for one’s extremities has been a helpful recent purchase for the business. The one we have at the facility is particularly for the hips and legs. It’s really good for injury prevention, mobility, circulation, stimulation, and most importantly rapid recovery. It has been really good to rent out to clients who work so hard they need help speeding u their recovery. They like to use it before they perform in a competitive event or to recover more quickly from a big workout day. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the clients about how much better they feel after using it.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

My goal would be to open more locations, as well as expand on our merchandise/apparel side of the business to make the brand more visible and commonly known. I would love for us to be able to sponsor successful athletes at the professional level. I really want to get our name out there as a brand, and to be recognized globally.

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