When he was 11, Pennsylvania resident Ed Samane weighed 215 pounds. School was not a happy place for him. Bullies lurked in corners and his self-esteem was pretty low. When he attended a karate class, his life took a positive turn.
“I walked into the class and saw all these kids moving and kicking and in shape,” says Samane. “I decided to give it a try and it ended up changing my life.”
Nine months later, Samane was 40 pounds lighter and had a higher self-esteem. School bullies stopped bothering him within a year. But he didn't stop there.
Samane kept up his karate practice. After graduating from college, he opened his first studio to build self-esteem and educate others about bullying. Today, he is the owner of the King of Prussia Pro Martial Arts Karate Studios based in Pennsylvania with 14 franchised locations across the U.S. Thirty more are in development and annual revenues total more than $1 million.
I talked with Samane about his business success and why the anti-bullying conversation is so important right now.
How did you decide to open your own karate studio?
The greatest weapon a child can have against a bully is self-esteem. Since karate helped me so much with my self-esteem, I thought it would be a great business to start. I opened it in 1991 as Master Samane’s Karate Studio and kept that name until 2008 when we decided to franchise the business.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Early on, we didn’t have marketing, branding or messaging materials. Instead, we had the "build it and they will come" attitude. After a few years, we realized that there must be a better way and now have marketing and public relations help.
How do you incorporate an anti-bullying curriculum into your business?
We try to teach self-esteem and self-defense through martial arts and give lessons on bullying. We educate our students on the types of bullying—verbal, social and physical. We talk about what to do when you feel like you're being bullied or see a friend being bullied.
Here in Pennsylvania, we are going to schools and speaking to students about how to avoid bullies and predators, both online and in person. We even go to preschools to build awareness and teach avoidance tactics for small children in an age-appropriate way. The bottom line is that we don’t want kids to be victims.
Why do you think bullying is such an important topic right now?
Bullying has always existed, but today things have changed. When I was young, I may have been bullied in school but I could go home and have peace with my family and friends. Today, that peace is gone because of cyber bullying. It happens 24/7. Kids don’t have a place to go.
On a positive note, I think it is good that the problem is being brought to the forefront. It means lawmakers, organizations and schools are addressing it more aggressively.
What does the future hold for you and your business?
I’d like Pro Martial Arts to have 500 units nationwide in the next few years and 1,000 locations worldwide. I plan on staying with the company for a long time. As long as I’m young and have energy, I’m going to push forward the brand and help as many kids and families as I can.
For more information on bullying prevention, visit StopBullying.gov.
Photo credit: Courtesy Pro Martial Arts