Joshua Hong and Katarina Conrad are the diverse business partners who own and operate two thriving Eternal Martial Arts schools in the Houston area. Part of their success is based on how they changed the approach to kids and women’s programs. And their business has tripled since joining the Martial Arts Industry Association in 2014.
Joshua Hong started martial arts at just 4-years-old. He earned a black belt at the age of nine, by 16 he started teaching and by 19 was in charge of his own school.
“I had a partner at first,” Hong remembers, “but I bought him out and went totally on my own in 2009.”
His first school had 2,400 square feet, but he eventually expand it to 3,600. Then, he purchased his own land and built an 8,500-square-foot facility in Northwest Houston that also houses a separate child-care center. He named the school Eternal Martial Arts.
“It is pretty much its own operation,” he says, “with babies, toddlers, even food service.”
Like most martial arts schools, Hong’s business was mostly children. One of his youngsters was Sasha Conrad, whose mom, Dr. Katarina Terzić Conrad, couldn’t help but join her son and husband on the mat.
Conrad was raised in poor circumstances in Belgrade, the capital of the former Yugoslavia. At 17, she came to America to escape civil war. At the time, she did not even speak English but was an outstanding student and earned a math degree in three years. Then she went on to a graduate program in mathematics at Virginia Tech.
When her husband and son earned their first belt ranks at Hong’s school, she decided this was something she could do also. Conrad earned her black belt and won national-gold taekwondo championships several years in a row. In 2012, she and her husband, Dr. Emery Conrad, became co-owners with Hong of the second Eternal Martial Arts location in Pearland, a city south of Houston.
Hong and Conrad joined the Martial Arts Industry Association’s Elite program in 2014.
“In the three years we’ve been with MAIA, they taught us how to create interest and perceived value in what we are selling,” says Hong. “That’s one of the things they have really stressed. It’s not just like raising your prices and see if you can get away with it. It’s about showing the value of your product in a way that your customers see it.”
Hong says that their business has tripled since they first met with MAIA representatives at the annual SuperShow convention.
“It’s not that we weren’t successful before,” he emphasizes. “But they have helped us to increase our ability to capitalize on the value we can offer by using proven business practices.”
Hong and Conrad believe customer service is their key to success and in the past years have also stepped up their social media presence.
The duo expanded their programs with popular classes like HIIT&RUN, a self-defense class empowering women.
Because Hong started teaching at his own school when he was just 19, he has some sound advice for young entrepreneurs.
“Surround yourself with people who know more than you,” he says. “Not just in the martial arts but in business and particularly in the martial arts business.”
True. Running a martial arts school is different than just running an ordinary small business.
Hong says you have to listen to others and not to assume that you know more than you do. Obviously, he recommends MAIA, but he stresses that being mentored by anyone more knowledgeable than yourself is vital to a success. He also points to his relationship with Conrad as an inspiration.
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