Lloyd Irvin Jr. is an MMA & Jiu-jitsu guru who has been self-employed his entire life. Currently, he is helping people train to work their way up the UFC ladder to become UFC world champions as well as helping people reach their goal in becoming Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champions. As the summer camp he runs is kicking off this year he is also in the process of adding some new kids programs as well as adult boxing and kickboxing programs to his school. Married to his wife who is also an entrepreneur, they have a son who is an honor roll student that is active in both basketball and football. On his spare time, he likes to travel. His favorite spot here in the states is Miami Beach while out of the country he loves Saint Tropez in France.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I started in the business in 1996. I was inspired by a VHS tape of the UFC that a friend of mine gave to me and I just fell in love with it.
How do you make money?
Marketing, we sell product and services online. No matter what particular niche it is, it comes down to marketing.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
In the beginning, I was profitable within the first 6-8 months but when I started scaling the business and needing more locations my profits were eaten up. Once we got to our current location back in 1998 it took about two or three years
When you were starting out was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I doubted it would work when I went three months behind on my rent in our current location. I quickly found out that what I was good at the martial arts but I wasn’t good with the business side of it. I knew I had to make a change and I was introduced to someone that taught me that I wasn’t in the business of martial arts, I was in the business of sales and marketing. Once I made that mental switch and learned how to do sales and marketing I was able to turn it around.
How did you get your first customer?
My first customer came through a personal friend who knew me when I decided to open the business. The first customer I got, who I didn’t know came from flyers that I would put on people’s windshields.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
We have hundreds of different landing pages, websites, we drive traffic from Google and Facebook. We buy email drops, consistently building our email list and better relationships with our prospects trying to push them from cold prospect to warm prospect to an actual paying customer.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
My toughest decision in the last few month has to be the reorganization of the company. Changing the positions and responsibilities of a few people. When you own a small business, you develop friendships and relationships. If you treat your business like a business it will pay like a business, if you treat your business like a hobby, it will pay like a hobby. So changing people’s positions and dealing with those emotions is tough.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
We have a strong group of committed people that are very passionate about what they do, it’s not about just coming in and getting a paycheck. We have been in business for 19 years and our entire employee basis has been with me for 12-18 years. They know the program inside and out.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Ryan Villagram was raised by his mom, he didn’t know his dad. One night his mom came to me and asked me to watch over her son, to take care of him. Little did I know that was probably the last conversation she had because the next day she committed suicide. Ryan was in the 10th or 11th grade at the time. We helped him, supported him, people from the school gave him a place to live. We supported him throughout college. My mother would up getting cancer and we didn’t know if she was going to be able to see him graduate, but thank God her cancer went into remission and she was able to attend Ryan’s college graduation. Our entire school, team, and family drove to that graduation, seeing him walk across that stage was probably my proudest moment.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I am most excited to see the kids that are coming through the program now becoming teenagers and adults. Some moving on to college with great grades and the goal to be world champions in jiu-jitsu or mixed martial arts. Seeing everyone and helping them reach their goals. That’s our whole thing, supporting others and helping them reach their goals.
What business books have inspired you?
The number one book that has inspired me is Think and Grow Rich.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
On the marketing side, I have purchased a lot of different online referral automation systems. I have a new CRM to do better, higher level marketing for us to our prospects. On the athletic side, new basic equipment.
If you had one thing to say to any other business owner what would it be?
No matter what your product or service is, just make sure you are in the business of wanting to help other people achieve their goals and help them get what they want. If you do that, you are in a great situation!