This week's Innovation Economy column dives into a new business that's moving east from California: the truck-based service that comes to your home or office to replace your old tires. The first one in the area, as far as I can tell, is run by karate champ Steve Nugent, who earned his entrepreneurial stripes building up a chain of six karate schools. It's called Rolling Rims.
Nugent told me his typical day begins with a workout at 5 a.m., and wraps up around 10 or 11, when he gets home from teaching karate students. In the morning and early afternoon, he works on Rolling Rims; managing the karate schools takes over in the late afternoons.
Here's a story he told about his early challenges as an entrepreneur, which is only mentioned briefly in the column:
Nugent started learning karate at eight years old, and in high school, had a part-time job teaching at a studio in Newton. After graduating from Newton Catholic High School in 1983, he decided to dedicate himself to teaching – and competing nationally. He holds four world titles, and in 1999, won the gold medal in karate at the Arnold Classic, an annual fitness competition started by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Nugent opened his first karate school in 1994 in Burlington, subletting space in a gym. He’d saved enough money to run the school for a few months, but he didn’t attract students quickly enough.
“I noticed that the gym had a cleaning company that came in at night, around 11 o’clock,” Nugent says. “I said, ‘What if you handed that off to me?’” To reduce the rent, after teaching his evening classes, he swept floors, scrubbed showers, and cleaned toilets. And he started plastering local restaurants and laundromats with flyers, and offering his few students $25 if they referred someone else to the school. "I was determined not to let that thing go," he says.
“Finally, word-of-mouth started to take off, and I was paying the rent and also putting some money in my pocket,” he says. In 1999, he opened a second school in Wellesley. This time, he started marketing the school well before it opened, and also had saved up a much bigger war chest to survive the shaky early months.
Certainly a few good lessons for first-time entrepreneurs in his experience...
(In the photo is Nugent with a group of Daisy Troopers who earned their "Courageous and Strong" merit badge with him...)
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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