Mt. Everest Karate Studio
It’s been an uphill climb for Carlos Rivas since opening his Mt. Everest Karate Studio in Suffolk three years ago. “I started teaching karate in 1996,” he says. “Then in 2017 I took a leap of faith and opened a studio in the Crittenden community.” Two years later Carlos rented the space next door, doubling the size of his studio.
While Carlos knew his karate, he wasn’t as adept at selling his services. “I started losing students because I didn’t know how to market properly,” he admits. “I hired a business consultant who specialized in martial arts. His advice was to get in touch with the community I was working in, but the expense was high.”
To get his business back on track, Carlos decided to reach out elsewhere. “That’s how I met Debra Farley, Associate Director of the Hampton Roads SBDC,” Carlos says. “I told Debra I was looking for a business microloan. She was very helpful and scheduled an appointment for us to meet right away.”
Debra connected Carlos with Karen White at the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority. “Karen helped me secure a microloan for $25,000,” Carlos adds. “The process was easy and straightforward, and Debra and Karen were always available whenever I had questions. I could not have done this without their help.”
Things were looking up for Carlos, but then COVID-19 happened. “We were closed down for 14 weeks,” he explains. Carlos turned to Zoom classes to keep his students engaged, adding extras like a weekly scavenger hunt. “I had to be creative, like everybody else. I offered prizes — $1, $5, even $20,” he says. “The kids loved it, and parents loved it, too.”
The karate studio opened its doors again on July 6. “When I reopened, Karen told me about the Rebuild VA grant,” Carlos relates. This application process was more complicated and had a few “hiccups” along the way. Nevertheless, when Carlos opened his mail one day, he was thrilled to find a $10,000 check from Rebuild VA.
“I was jumping up and down,” he says. “Debra and Karen steered me in the right direction throughout the application. I would not have received this grant without their support.”
Carlos is pleased to report that business is picking up. “I signed six new students this month,” he says. “Things are turning around.” He credits the SBDC with making it happen.