Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Terrance Thornton, Owner and Founder of San Rafael Martial Arts, located in San Rafael, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a martial arts instructor and own San Rafael Martial Arts. My students are people who want to learn either Kung Fu or Tai Chi, looking to learn self-defense and get in better shape while having fun in a positive atmosphere.

Tell us about yourself

The famous Kung Fu movies of the 1970s got me interested in martial arts. Many years before having a way to get to my teacher's school, I vowed that I would go there when I could get there on my own. In 1989, I was able to fulfill my promise to myself and begin training. I was literally living a dream that I've been dreaming of for years.

I was still in school and working at the time. Eventually, I became a general manager where I worked. Opening a school and teaching for a living never crossed my mind. However, when the opportunity came to open my own school and teach, I felt like I had nothing to lose.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Watching my students grow in their martial arts and personal worlds. Especially the kids and teens, knowing that I'd been a helping hand in molding their character, values, and physical/inner strength. This goes for adults and seniors, too but seen regularly with the youth.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

In my business, you are vested in many of your students' growth. When the long-timers have to leave after so many years due to going away for college, getting a new job out of state, or getting married or having kids, life happens, but people that have become a part of your life may now be a social media or online friend you text every now and then.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. To have an open mind. Unless this is not your first business or location, it will be difficult to predict what's next. Being in the moment so you can absorb what's happening around you is key. I learned a lot this way.
  2. Know your neighbors, so they can get to know you. A big part of your business may be from referrals. If potential clients ask another business they frequent about you, you'll want them to be able to tell them something or at least speak about you.
  3. Be patient and have a plan. My business comes mostly from student enrollment. On my first day, I had some leads but zero students. I knew what I had to offer, I just needed patience. Ten years later, this is still an important tip when setting new goals.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I shop, eat and get my hair cut in the community I work in. I know my neighbors, and they know me. Be a part of and, if you can serve the community you work in.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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