29 – Martial Arts Success Story From Humble Beginnings – Westside MMA’s Stuart Grant

Get inspired by a true martial arts success story. Stuart Grant's Westside MMA is a raging success, but that was not always the case…

martial arts success

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL LEARN:

  • Stuart Grant's humble beginnings with a handful of students
  • How his wife contributed to his martial arts success story
  • Shifting from a fight career to a thriving business
  • The only 2 online marketing strategies he uses – Google Adwords and Facebook Advertising
  • What you discover from running the numbers with your online marketing
  • A different and exciting type of grappling tournament that's gaining popularity
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

Download the PDF transcription

TRANSCRIPTION

Good day, how are you doing – George Fourie here from Martial Arts Media business podcast and this is episode number 29. Another exciting episode today, I have Stuart Grant from Westside MMA and this was a great interview and I don't know if you've ever walked into a martial arts gym and you just, you kind of feel the energy bounce out at you, you just feel, Wow there's something magic happening in here. And that's the experience you get when you walk into Westside MMA and I'm posting a video on this page as well, which you can find if you're listening on martialartsmedia.com/29, and have a look at the video.


I actually took a tour with Stuart through his gym and it’s just phenomenal. It’s really an immaculate place. And that's not something that fell into his lap, it’s something that he had to work long hours hard for, had a lot of support from his partner, and he's got quite a fascinating story and something that he does that is of course close to my heart is, he uses the power of Google AdWords and Facebook to grow his business. So that coming up shortly.

Something I just want to quickly mention: I see there's a lot of people downloading the transcripts of the episodes, which is great, and you can find the transcript of this show on martialartsmedia.com/29. And of course, a lot of people prefer to read, but I also saw a few comments that people actually thought that it wasn't possible to listen to the podcast, so they actually just went to the website and they didn't see the actual play button or they’re probably not familiar – if you're not familiar with the app set you can use to listen and people end up downloading the transcript and just read it.

So if you are reading this, and you're not aware that you can actually listen to the podcast, there are several ways you can do that: if you are on the website, there will be a play button, so on this one, martialartsmedia.com/29 and you'll look for a little audio player, you can play it through there. Then, if you have an iPhone, you can use the podcast app that's like a purple app and you can search for that, all in iTunes and you can just search for martial arts media business podcast, ours will come up and you can subscribe to it, and every week when we bring out a new episode, it’s going to download onto your phone, so you can listen to it directly onto your phone.

And if you don't have an iPhone and you have a Samsung or any type of a phone that is on the Android platform, so on the Google platform, you can use an app called Stitcher, I believe Google also has an app for podcast, but I know Stitcher radio is definitely the one you can use. So same deal: you can download the podcast every week and listen to that way.

But hey – either way you like to consume the information, of course, the reason why we do the transcript is because we know a lot of people do like to read, or you don't have time or maybe you want to skim through it – however you prefer to consume the information, we want to make sure we give you the various options. So just wanted to bring that to your attention if you are reading the podcast – you can listen to it as well and listen to it on the go while you're driving around, or driving to work or driving to the gym, or whatever it is that you're doing.

Alright – that's it from me. I want to introduce Stuart Grant from Westside MMA. Awesome interview, I hope you’re going to get great value from it: please welcome to the show, Stuart.

GEORGE: Good day everyone. Today I have with me Stuart Grant from Westside MMA – how are you doing Stuart.

STUART: Excellent, thanks for coming out.

GEORGE: Cool. And a brand I've been seeing around in the martial arts arena and Stuart's also, I just saw him recently have a great event, here locally Melbourne and I stopped by and I thought I’d have a chat with him, just find a bit more about what's going on here and talk about his success with Westside MMA. So welcome to the show Stuart.

STUART: Thank you very much.

GEORGE: Cool. So I’ll guess we’ll just start from the beginning – who is Stuart Grant?

STUART: Just a lad from country Victoria who wanted to get into martial arts and started as a kid and had a dream to have a gym.

GEORGE: Ok.

STUART: And I've got one now.

GEORGE: Alright. So, going back, your beginnings of beginnings- how did you get into martial arts?

STUART: I’m from Stawell, which is three hours west of Melbourne. A small country town with one option – well, two options. It was football and there was one martial art in town, that was the one I did. And football as well, but I wanted to do martial arts and there was only one choice. That's when I started.

GEORGE: Ok, and how old were you when you started?

STUART: Eight.

GEORGE: Eight years old?

STUART: Yeah.

GEORGE: Ok. And which style?

STUART: It was Zen Do Kai freestyle.

GEORGE: Zen do kai freestyle, OK.

STUART: I started with that and I got to my teens and as all teens do, tried other things: basketball, tennis, football and then in my late teens went back to it as well and that's where I stayed.

GEORGE: Ok, cool. You've also had a professional career I believe?

STUART: Yeah, a short one over a couple of years and now the gym is a bit busy to continue that. Wife keeps telling me that I'm done.

GEORGE: You're done.

STUART: She's normally right.

GEORGE: All right, cool.

STUART: They're always right.

GEORGE: All right. So, the professional career, do you mind telling us a bit more?

STUART: Muay Thai.

GEORGE: Muay Thai?

STUART: Yeah, Muay Thai. Started straight in the professional ranks. Competed in events like Rebellion, Warriors Way, Brute Force, just here in Melbourne. It was good, got a lot of people here for the gym, a lot of exposure for the gym on those events as well, them being good events and I think putting on some good fights.

GEORGE: Ok. So what came next? You've grown up in the martial arts arena, started to compete and so forth – how did things sort of evolve to where you are today.

STUART: Next question – it just happened. I started the gym – it wasn't a gym it was just a concept, an idea in the scout hall, on a pretty average sort of floor. Myself, a couple of pairs of Thai pads and kick shields and hope that people would come because I didn't have any funding to back me and I was just a guy with a passion and a dream. That's where it started, I put a little four-line ad in the local newspaper and suddenly, a few people came and I got enough members to get a small gym. So then it was a gym, 250m2 in a factory. It was I think about 20 students, which was I figured I’d set where I could actually move into a small factory.

And I wasn't alone, I shared it with another instructor from a different style and we shared the rent. And it was not long after that that my members started to grow a lot, his weren’t, so he left and I took over the whole lease and the whole factory and we started to push what I wanted to do. So three years in there, growing, I was doing the Muay Thai, MMA – I was still doing the zen do kai then, but it wasn't what I was wanting to do and the direction I was wanting to go. And then I got Brazilian jiu-jitsu in it as well.

Three years, at the end of our lease, and we needed to make a choice, we maxed out the capacity there and there's a lot of factories around and I was sort of 500m2 and it was a choice that me and my wife had to make, cause she's the one that pushed me to do what I want to do: if you want to make it work full-time, you've got to do it properly and so we sat down and spoke about it and it was a matter of: do we take a small step from 250 to 500m2, or, there was this showroom that we've seen where we currently are and it was a 1000m2, so that's a massive jump, or in our heads it was.

But we took the plunge and believed in what we were doing and went for it and here we are – well, kind of, because, within 12 months of being in our current location, we needed more room, and there was like a doorway into a spare warehouse behind us, so now we've got 1500m2, 4 mats, 6 days a week.

GEORGE: Awesome. Now, just to go back a bit, because I mean, the place here is immaculate. I haven't actually walked into a martial arts school, MMA gym like this, just the different components you have and the way it's laid out. And then you've also got the fight store in the front, although that's leased?

STUART: They sublease it from us, but that was part of the plan when we moved in here was to be able to have a pro shop, for our members to access, so we let the guys from MMA fight store in there.

GEORGE: Ok, cool. I mean, you were saying there was this time when things were happening and you the partner in the same locations, but things were going the direction that you wanted: did you have all this in mind, was this a vision that you had at that point in time?

STUART: The idea of having all the different disciplines under one roof was the idea; the size that it’s got to was not in my head. We far surpassed the idea of numbers, if you talk numbers, long ago. So now it's just a matter of continuing to learn within myself how do I manage the gym, how do we keep growing the gym and how do we keep providing for the people that want to get involved in mixed martial arts and different disciplines.

GEORGE: And just for everyone listening, how many students do you have under one roof?

STUART: 750 now, just that.

GEORGE: Ok. And the different styles that you are catering for?

STUART: We've got MMA, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, submission grappling and wrestling. And that's classes for kids age 5 and up and we do have a minis program, which is 3 and 4-year-olds, which is just the broad specter on martial arts skills.

GEORGE: Ok. Something that always comes up when we talk how school owners, gym owners try and market their business is the different age groups and markets you're really working, because you've got kids, so you're more dealing with the mum and then you’re working with adults, you've got a lot of fighters here as well, so you've got that component: how do you make it all delve under the one roof?

STUART: The joys of Facebook marketing and the targeting options.

GEORGE: Yes.

STUART: We only do Facebook and Google AdWords: no print media, no local newspapers, no shopping centers anymore – just target marketing through Facebook. AdWords.

GEORGE: Fantastic. And how's that working for you? Do you combine a lot of the elements between the two platforms, or…?

STUART: In a sense, yes. We’ve got some re-targeting happening.

GEORGE: Yes.

STUART: So that's a good thing about Facebook and the way that works.

GEORGE: Yeah, that's a conversation close to my heart, especially the retargeting part – I think this is something that people miss a lot, because a lot of things that we are seeing are, people are on mobile phone, or they might have had a toilet break: they're doing things at different times in different locations, so the progress of somebody making a decision, or getting to a conversion, happens on so many different devices or locations.

STUART: And it’s all the stuff I've taught myself, no training in marketing or sales or anything. Just teach me, get in there. I know how it works, what do I need from it and make it happen. Same has really happened with the gym: I made it happen, so I did the same with the marketing.

GEORGE: And how did you find that journey especially learning? I know Facebook is something that people learn a lot – I haven't actually met someone that has really mastered, that has really found Google AdWords and be able to master that by themselves, as in a gym owner. I mean, there's a lot of people that do it, we provide it as a service, but how did you actually gather the skills and figure it all out?

STUART: A lot of trial and error and just looking at the figures. Jumping at the analytics and just seeing where are we getting our website clicks from, changing the demographics of it and just continually looking at the stats. It was something that I had to tell myself, I need to do it.

GEORGE: Yeah, awesome.

STUART: Interesting trying to figure out what all the different stats mean.

GEORGE: And I think it would probably speak volumes to how you do everything else, and especially, something I find in Google is, you can make a lot of mistakes, but the knowledge that you gain from what people actually respond to can change your entire way you actually approach your message on the floor as well.

STUART: Yeah, and you see a lot of ads pop up, especially on Facebook and I wonder why am I seeing this ad? Especially when it's, for instance, another gym, similar to ours, but they are 200km away – why am I seeing your ad?

GEORGE: Yes, small things.

STUART: Yeah, but it’s important.

GEORGE: It’s so important.

STUART: Yes, there's some things that I want all of Victoria to see, all people around Australia to see, but they’re few and far between. The people close to us are going to see everything specific to what we’re doing. It’s just a matter of understanding I think, understanding what you need, what you want people to see and how to get it to work for you.

GEORGE: Yeah.

STUART: And there are so many tools within both Google and Facebook that allow you to be specific.

GEORGE: Definitely so. Awesome. So just going back, just another step: how did you get this all sort of funded? How did you get it all going initially? Cause you've got your part time, you were going part time, you said you had a handful of members?

STUART: Yeah, I was working part-time and teaching part time and my now wife, who was one of my first students, she was helping me along and she was seeing that I was doing everything. Back then, there weren't heaps to do, compared to what is being done now. And she knew what I wanted to do, she knew what direction I wanted things to go and she knew what my dream was. She just came home from work one day and said, Stu, if you want to really make this work, if you want to make it happen, leave your part time job and focus on running the gym. Make the gym what you want it to be.

And I did, I left my job, just focused on doing the gym work and it started to improve a lot. Obviously, when you put more focus on something, not just your job: if you put more focus on your fitness if you put more focus on your nutrition, it improves. So the gym improved and then it improved to the point where she realized it was getting busy for me to handle and she had quite a stable and successful job. She decided she was going to leave her job and we were going to work together and build the gym even more. It was her push that essentially got us where we are.

GEORGE: That's awesome.

STUART: Well, everybody's got somebody – I'm lucky that my somebody believed in me and wanted to help us make something together.

GEORGE: Definitely. There much in just having somebody to support you to push through. And then the element of focus: someone once told me, you can't stay at two light bulbs at the same time, you have got to tunnel that focus into one thing and that’s the only way you can really make it work.

STUART: Absolutely, absolutely.

GEORGE: Looking at your whole set up here, I mean, I might do a quick video that we’ll put on this page, on the episode: just run me through, what's the day today, events that happen throughout here?

STUART: All right: we don't do morning classes, or early morning classes, never had. We tried them briefly, it’s just not the area that has the people for that sort of class. We run a minis program as I said, for 3 and 4-years-olds, that's Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 10 in the morning, that’s the early classes. The gym opens to general public on weekdays, Monday to Thursday at 11.

We have midday classes, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Muay Thai and MMA, and the gym is open throughout the day with those classes, and then from four o’clock is when it starts to really pump in here with the kids’ classes starting at 4:15, last classes for the seniors finishing at 20:45. So we’ll have back to back classes on the three mats, the backend mat, the Muay Thai mat and our fight training areas as well. Kids’ classes, women's classes, senior classes, run throughout the night from 5:45 to 8:45.

GEORGE: Ok, cool. And then beyond the classes, you've also got a lot of focus on events?

STUART: Yep. As you mentioned earlier, we just had our first event on the weekend, which was Lockdown. Lockdown is the submission grappling series that started in Queensland and they just looked to expand nationally this year and I wanted to sort of look into it, how we could do an event similar down here. So Ross Cameron from Queensland and I got together and now I'm the Victorian representative for Lockdown. We started our event here on Saturday, which was a really good success for our first event.

It’s different to normal grappling comps, the biggest difference I guess, from looking at it, it’s not done on a mat, it’s done in a competition cage, so that's the biggest difference. And unlike other grappling comps, there are no points, there's no points for sweeps sweeps or anything like that. It’s essential if you can look at an MMA with no striking, that's the direction we’re sort of going with it. We want to see people seeking the submission, looking to control their opponent, looking to dominate their opponents position. So that's the emphasis on Lockdown.

GEORGE: And then, how long does the fight go for? Does it just go until the submission happens?

STUART: No, it’s not a submission only competition. If there’s no submission, it goes to the judges. So theres are 5-minute rounds for the adults. For the Kids/Colts division, it’s a 3-minute round. So Kids/Colts are 10 and up and then the Colts are the teenagers. So there are 3-minute rounds and we do have two judges. If at the end of the 5 minutes or the 3 minutes there's no submission, it goes to the judges. If the judges can't decide a winner there's a minute break, and there's the second overtime round, 3 minutes for the seniors and 2 minutes for the juniors.

If there is no decision after the overtime rounds, there's another overtime round for the seniors – no third overtime round for the juniors. But essentially, with the rules set, it’s difficult to get a draw after the first round, cause generally there's somebody who's winning the fight and the way you want to look at it from a judge's’ point of view is, which person would you prefer to be: would you prefer to be that guy that was on top holding the other guy down, or would you prefer to be the guy on the bottom, busting your gut to get off the bottom? That’s how we try to look at it, or a simple way to look at it: which would you prefer to be to try to determine who you think is better.

GEORGE: Ok. So you have one cage pretty much, where this is happening?

STUART: Yeah, the way Lockdown works, divisions are stated, so we have start times at 8 am, 10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm, so divisions know when they're starting and they’ve got that two-hour period for the division to run. We have our divisions start time set and the way the matches run, they're just five minutes: your match goes – winner, next match. So they rotate through really quickly, everyone's ready to go, they all know that their division is on for that bracket, so they're all ready and waiting just for their name to be called.

They walk in, they match, they walk out. It’s a double elimination competition too, so you may lose your first or your second match, but you’re not eliminated, you go into a separate section of the draw and have your chance to fight your way back and you can still win the division after losing your first or second fight, so you get a second chance, with the exception of the final, there's no second chance in the final.

GEORGE: Ok. I guess going back to the focus: do you find that, from a spectator’s point of view that there's a bit more of an excitement fighting element to it because it’s in a cage? Normally, a contest or a tournament is a lot of going on on the different mats, but the element of focus and focus on the cage, how are you finding that?

STUART: Very good, because there's only the one match happening at the time, and also the rule set focuses on action. So there's always something happening and we're big on the referees urging the competitors if they're stalling. They’ll stand them up – start again. If you’re stalling on the ground, or if you're stalling while there’s wrestling against the cage, or you're just trying to catch your breath, the referee will stop and start you again to keep that action moving.

GEORGE: It sounds good.

STUART: Yeah, it’s an exciting format. It's new for Victoria, so we're looking forward. We're having 6 events through the year and the way that it works is, as an individual, you'll earn points throughout the year and at the end of the year, there's a division champion, and also at the end of the year, you'll have points for your team, so you'll have a championship team. The concept, the way it is run nationally, division champions will have a chance to fight off against other state champions.

GEORGE: Cool. So right now, just in Victoria and Queensland?

STUART: Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and West Australia, with a view to be in New South Wales really soon as well.

GEORGE: Sounds good.

STUART: Yeah.

GEORGE: Cool Stuart. The last question I'm going to ask: what's next for you because you've arrived at this place, you’ve got an awesome setup, you've got 750 students going through your one location – where to now?

STUART: There's a plan but let's not go there right now.

GEORGE: For sure. Alright, cool. That's awesome, I love the secrecy. When that time arrives and it’s out there would you be open to another interview?

STUART: Absolutely.

GEORGE: All right. That's cool, I'm going to hold you to it.

STUART: I’ll be there.

GEORGE: All right, that's awesome. Cool Stuart, thanks for your time and if people want to know more about you and what you're doing, where can they reach you?

STUART: You can jump online at westsidemma.net, that’s just the info about the gym. The gym, or jump on Facebook, facebook.com/westssidemma, jump on there, were pretty active on there. All our traffic basically is through our Facebook and social media that way.

GEORGE: Awesome. All right, I'm going to hold you to that round two.

STUART: Sure, you know where we are.

GEORGE: Cool, thanks, Stuart – cheers.

And there you have it. Thank you, Stuart, what a humbling story of how he started out. Humble beginnings, I always love a success story, anybody that puts their heart and passion into any business, especially martial arts, because it’s close to my heart of course, but anybody that puts their passion into a business and works hard for it and whether you get support or not, sometimes that's what you need. You just need someone to back you up and help you push through those tough times and turn it around and turn it into a success. I love success stories, it’s amazing.

And the fact that he's actually taken on a lot of his Google AdWords and Facebook by himself – that is quite a task. If that's something that you don't like, it's something that we love here at Martial Arts Media. That's what we do, we live and breathe the online marketing stuff. So if you want your time back and you want to focus on the things that are important to you within the business, we keep up to date with everything that's happening in Google and Facebook and we tailor it to your business and we take on that journey for you and see what works and resonates within your business.

Keep track of the winds, eliminate the fails – rather say eliminate the learning curves, because it’s never a fail, it’s always just a lesson. So that's what we do, we're hands on with all this advertising. And look, we shoot straight: we'll tell you what's going to work and what's not, and we're happy to help you with your digital marketing. We do it for you. In the beginning, we'll spend a bit more time, because it’s getting to understand your approach and your business and what resonates with your brand, but the longer we work together, the easier it is for us to understand how you approach your business and we can help you with your marketing and free up some of your time, while getting great results and getting great leads through your system, through your business of course.

Alright, that's it from me. Thank you for listening. As I said, show notes are on martialartsmedia.com/29. Next week again, another awesome interview, looking forward to speaking to you then, catch you then – cheers.

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

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George Fourie

Hi I'm George Fourie, the founder of MartialArtsMedia.com. When I'm not doing dad duties or training on the mats (which I manage to combine when my son is willing! :), I'm helping Martial Arts Gym owners grow their business through the power of online media.

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