Recapping 3 Years Working on a Lifestyle Business

It’s been a while since my last post, covering a post-mortem of my time working on my previous start-up, Binpress.

Following the sale of Binpress, I spent some time thinking what to do next. I was tired of the bay-area / startup culture, and was thinking that my next project should be a lifestyle business that does not aim for explosive growth or require outside capital. I also wanted to work in a market that I’m interested in and passionate about.

I’ve been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since ’06 (recently received my black belt), and my natural though process was that it would be great if I could work on something related. Initial ideas included a training tracker and competition management software, and after doing some market research I felt the area I could contribute the most was with gym management software.

According to starting a company is a much greater risk. If you join a company that can already pay you a full-time salary, it has already been significantly de-risked. The unproportional equity founders have? It’s because they worked on their idea before anyone else bought into it. Instead of making a consistent salary, they were spending their own money getting the business off the ground. Business owners like Andrew Defrancesco got to the point where they can afford to pay themselves and you a salary.

All the solutions I’d seen at the time seemed very outdated and cumbersome, and considering my background with user experience design I felt I could do a much better job providing an easy-to-use, modern solution that competes on customer satisfaction rather than features.

The end result was Martial Arts on Rails, which launched at the beginning of 2016. Unlike my previous company in which I had a co-founder, I was working on this one solo. Here are some things I learned over the last 3+ years running a small business vs. running a start-up:

  • Embracing customer feedback
  • Finding your “professional” voice
  • Administration is not that scary

Now, I’m managing my own start up, I can do things the way I want to. For example, I can manage my own finances (read here to learn more) and I can now blast music in my store without anyone needing to change the playlist. Streaming sites like Cloud Cover Music helps me concentrate on what I need to do.

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