The owners of three area martial arts schools have graced the November cover of an international trade magazine, not for their martial arts abilities, but for their business sense.
"That was more strange," said Eric Hensley, a decorated martial arts competitor and co-owner of Martial Arts America businesses in Evans, Martinez and Aiken. "I've been doing martial arts all my life, since I was 12 or 13 years old, about 35 years. I've been in some magazines, but not on the cover."
Hensley and his wife and business partner, Pat, can be seen smiling on the cover of Martial Arts Professional, a magazine for those who run martial arts schools.
"That's our lead industry magazine," Mrs. Hensley said. "It's phenomenal."
Martial Arts America started in 1992 with a studio on Roberts Road in Martinez. That studio moved to Evans to Locks Road, near Omni Health and Fitness, in 1994. An Aiken school sprang up in 2002 and the Martinez studio on Martinez Boulevard opened in August 2005. All three United Fighting Arts Federation schools teach chun kuk do, a martial arts form developed by Chuck Norris, and Brazilian jiujitsu.
Though the couple has been in business for nearly 15 years, they garnered the international attention for the retail success of their schools.
"Everyone neglects it, which is why karate schools are the No. 1 failing business in the United States," Mrs. Hensley said.
A successful martial arts school must earn revenue from membership tuition, special events and retail product sales.
Rob Colasanti, the president of the National Association of Professional Martial Artists, heard of the Hensleys' success, methods and consulting with other schools and included an interview with them on the association's Sounds of Success CD for martial arts school owners.
Mr. Hensley said Colasanti then called back to do a cover story for the magazine about the schools' retail sales success. The second part of the interview with the Hensleys will be published in the magazine's December issue.
Mr. Hensley said his success has come from a little effort to execute a business plan, but it's mainly a byproduct of keeping martial arts exciting for his students with "built-in" sales items that students will need as they progress through the levels.
"Martial arts schools in general do not sell a lot of merchandise. We're not really, per se, salespeople, either," Mr. Hensley said. "What we basically did is create programs within our schools to make it exciting."
The retail sales promote student retention, which in turn enhances sales.
Mrs. Hensley, who does most of the consulting to the martial arts schools and other similar businesses nationwide and in Canada, said she's happy to share her tips for success with others.
"We would love to help even local people. We think that it would make us better, too," Mrs. Hensley said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.