Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in sports training but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Matteo Gallo, Head Coach and Owner of South Bay Fencing Academy, located in Torrance, CA, USA.

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

Our Fencing Club is centered on offering our members a comprehensive, immersive, and high-level experience as they embark on their journey to become the best version of themselves as people, as athletes, and as fencers. The majority of our customers are children of middle and high school age. Fencing is such a wonderful sport that allows people of ages to participate and have a lot of fun with it: currently, we are offering classes that span from 5-6 years in our Beginner Program to 50+ in our Adult and Veterans classes.

Tell us about yourself

I started this journey in a very serendipitous way, in my home country of Italy, as a complement to my athletic career as a National Team fencer and to help me with the financial burden of competing internationally while pursuing a university degree, and I ended up falling in love with teaching the sport I love to others and share my experience and expertise. My biggest goal is to inspire the younger generations of my students, to share with them the powerful ways the sport of fencing impacted my life and completely transformed me into the man I am today, teaching me self-awareness, work ethic, extreme accountably and ownership for one own successes and failures, the grit and resilience necessary to reach an elite level in any walk of life.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I would say my biggest accomplishment is not yet fully realized, as we are striving towards it every day, and it is to build an environment and culture of commitment to the cause, dedication, and self-belief, where every one of our members feels the possibility to excel, to push themselves towards their limit, to be the best possible version of themself, to face and challenge their fear, to learn lessons that will be useful in their athletic career, but more importantly in the life beyond the sport, as professionals, family members, citizens, partners, students, parents.

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

In my case, I would say one of the hardest things which I am still struggling with is finding the right balance between the (necessary) obsession with my work, with my business, with its competitive aspect, with its nature of being almost omnipresent in my mind and in my life at all times, and all the other aspects of my life that transcend the work, but that must not be forgotten, or underestimated because are ultimately the things that provide meaning to our experience.

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

  1. Find something you truly, passionately, obsessively love, as this will make everything incredibly more sustainable, especially in the darker times. Covid-19 hit my business within the first six from our foundation, and we wouldn't have been able to survive it without our passion and willingness to sacrifice.
  2. Find your own way to run your business, find out how you can stand out from the competition, and once you find it, follow it as much and as profoundly as you can: authenticity is a rare, precious, and valuable strategy in today's world.
  3. In our sector, the human factor is paramount. Your business is your people, so make sure you pick the right team members who share and embrace your vision and your mission. If there is one area where you don't want to accept compromises, it is with the people that form your team.

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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