Josh P.: Welcome to the Gym Heroes podcast. I’m your host, Josh Peacock. Today’s show is brought to you by Gymdesk, the easiest gym management software you’ll ever use. Take payments, create marketing automations, track attendance and much more. To try the software out free, go to gymdesk.com. No credit card, or painful sales call required.
Our hero today is Thomas Huskey, an MBA and serial entrepreneur in the fitness space and beyond. In this episode, he reveals how you can get an online training business up and running to supplement your income. Thomas’s online program is centered around martial arts, but you can apply these principles into any fitness or related business model. Without further ado, Thomas Huskey.
So welcome to the GymHeroes podcast. Can you go ahead and introduce yourself and your background in martial arts, and also your background in business.
Thomas H.: Sure. So my name is Thomas Huskey, I am a fourth degree black belt martial arts, in taekwondo specifically. Some will call that master level. I’m credentialed in several different areas, master instructors licensed from the Kukkiwon, level one USAT coach in both Poomsae and Kadugi which is sparring.
As far as business experience, I started my first business in 2014 in the event space, and since then, I’ve started a few more digital marketing agency, e-learning program online with students all over the world. And at this point, I’m what you will probably call the serial entrepreneur.
Like once I get something started, I move on to the next one once that becomes self-sufficient, and in which I’m currently working on a project right now which is scheduled to launch in the next month or two. That’s about it.
Josh P.: Cool. And you also have this, I think earlier this year, right? You graduated with an MBA or is that last year?
Thomas H.: No, that was this year, that was March. People ask me that and I always forget, I know it was March, I think it was this year, but I’m not certain, I always forget. Maybe March last year, but yes, I have my MBA that I’ve got within last year.
Josh P.: Yes, within the last 12 months you got it. It’s no big deal, it’s just an MBA.
Thomas H.: No, I mean, I didn’t do it for the reasons maybe most people do it. Like I wanted to catapult myself into a business digital marketing space, and I knew that the credentials would do that.
Because one, being a martial art instructor, a lot of us don’t have degrees, right? Other than first, second, third, right? And then my degree was in music, so I knew people wouldn’t look at me with the same vigor if you will with that degree.
Josh P.: For sure. So I know that you we used to teach together, and I know that you’ve run a lot of in-person programs up until recently, and you’re still doing the college, coaching at college, right?
Thomas H.: That’s right. I’m the head coach at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Josh P.: Cool. So you’re still doing some in-person training, but you have an entire program that’s online. So what kept you from like opening a traditional brick and mortar Dojong, which is Korean for Dojo. What kept you from opening that and deciding to go the digital route instead?
Thomas H.: To be honest, I wouldn’t say anything in particular kept me from opening the brick-and-mortar place. But I definitely had motivations to move or create an online program. And before I became the head coach at the university of North Carolina, I actually started the program at one third university, which is where I graduated from with my bachelor’s.
And post-graduation, I taught there for probably another six to seven years or so. I would have these students that would come to my program, that if you stayed the whole four years, the program was designed from a freshman when they graduate to receive a black belt. Well, most of my students started sophomore year.
Or they didn’t even hear of us being a program, which is due to the school’s fault in marketing you know their organizations. But they came to me, didn’t know we had a program, so they started in their sophomore, junior, senior year. But they loved me as a coach, a person, an instructor and they wanted to know how they could still train with me.
Well, the downfall to that is that if you aren’t enrolled in the college program or faculty and staff member there, you’re not able to take those classes or reap the benefits of using the gym facilities and things of that nature.
So I mean, I had so many students wanting to learn from me, I was like you know what? It’d be a good idea if I put this online. But I didn’t want to do it haphazardly, so rather than record some YouTube videos and give them a link to a playlist. I wanted to make it something that I guess people across the world could use, right?
Because if there’s a need here, where my small town of college students, there’s a need in Wyoming, there’s a need in Michigan, there’s a need in California. And then nowadays, there’s a need in Ireland, there’s a need in Australia, there’s indeed in Great Britain. There’s a need in the Philippines, right? So it turned into something that I didn’t even know it would turn into.
Josh P.: Absolutely. So we kind of know the answer to this question, but for those that are kind of skeptical. Is it possible to deliver martial arts, good martial arts instruction online?
Thomas H.: Yes. And I can leave it there or we can dive.
Josh P.: Yes, let’s dive in. Let’s go into why, why and how.
Thomas H.: So I am, so my bachelor’s degree is actually in music education, right? And when in the United States at least when you’re going through an education program to teach in the public school system, the education program is largely disjointed from the actual discipline, and essentially, what I mean by that is I took a separate load of courses for music, and I took a whole nother load of courses for pedagogy, or the art of teaching, right?
And my student teaching actually wasn’t even in a music classroom, my student teaching was in science classrooms, elementary classrooms and things of that nature to really understand the full spectrum of students or the learner.
And the only reason why I mentioned that, is because when you’re studying pedagogy, you learn the types of things that you need to implement into a program or curriculum for someone to actually gain either skill level, knowledge or whatever the case may be.
And then I research what it is that colleges need to do for their distance education programs in order to bring accreditation from like the DLC, right? Which is backed by the United States government. And you cannot get accreditation for your distance learning programs, unless they meet certain criteria.
And we actually baked that criteria into the program, to ensure that not only are students learning in a scientific, progressive format, that actually gains you knowledge, but you’re actually able to retain that knowledge and then develop skill actually along the way.
And a couple of those things that we have baked in is an instructor watching you, such as you have to submit video gradings along the way, so you’re not practicing something and baking that into your musculature if you will, be it muscle memory which is a thing, not a thing, which we get into later. But we embedded some of those things like a student-on-student interaction, like colleges we’ll call those discussion posts and things of that nature.
We actually have forums and messages and groups that you can create with other students within your area, or before specific black belt. So you can have camaraderie and community within the program as well, trade ideas, training habits, things of that nature. And all those things are part of the program that helps someone to not only remain engaged, but learn and then develop skill.
Josh P.: Awesome, cool. So what was square one for you? What was your starting point for planning and building out cyber taekwondo?
Thomas H.: I said the starting point, so, that’s a trick question.
Josh P.: We were on the mat after teaching one day, and you’re like hey, I got an idea for you.
Thomas H.: Yes, okay. So I didn’t know how far back you wanted to go.
Josh P.: Well, I’m interested to think like would you just, I know that you use your Apple notes a lot, your iPhone notes a lot. Like what was it? Was it just like an outline? Was it a couple of notes? Like where did it start? Where did you begin to plan? Because I guess there’s a little bit of room there to explain.
Thomas H.: Sure. Yes, I think you hit it then, I didn’t know whether you meant like okay, build the website first, but you want to go even further back to the origin.
Josh P.: The conception.
Thomas H.: Yes. So in that case, it was obviously before the day, I brought it to you, all those years before. And again, students I was training that were graduating and didn’t have the opportunity to train again, all the finances to be honest with you, cyber taekwondo is cheaper than any brick and mortar you can go to.
And you learn either the same amount of skill or better, as far as knowledge and being immersed in the world of taekwondo is concerned. Then you would add a traditional brick and mortar martial arts school. And that being the case, it led to the idea of cyber taekwondo. But the problem with it in the beginning, is that at that point, I didn’t really have the money and things of that nature to do what it is that I needed to do with it. Because I knew that it would cost some money in order to build.
So at that point, then I brought it to you, we had a small chat about it, but it was largely on the back burner for about six or seven years. And it was on the back burner until I actually developed skills to build the program myself. So since I knew that the barrier to entry in regards to finances will be a larger undertaking for this, I actually decided to start another business.
And a business within the event space that was very low overhead, very low barrier to entry as far as funding is concerned. And for that business, I built the website myself, because I didn’t have the finances to build that website at the time. And then not only that, it’s something that I was interested in and wanted to learn how to do. And then consumers didn’t care how your website looked at that point or in that particular space, they’re more concerned about your performance as an artist.
Me playing piano at a dinner party, djing where my DJ’s up to speed, so I had video files and things of that nature on what would be considered a crappy website by today’s standards. People to understand, get a good gist of how we were as an events company. And then all the while, throughout the six and seven years that cyber-taekwondo was on the back burner, I was tweaking, learning things, studying, growing digital marketing space, how to market a program or anything really, and then how to also build a website that was professional to the front end for a consumer or user’s view.
And I got pretty good at it. Let’s just say that I got pretty good at building websites, I got pretty good at marketing, getting the word out there about the program, people joining or purchasing the things that we had to offer in that particular business. And then one day it clicked to me like literally it was like hey, I know enough now to build cyber taekwondo.
So from that point, then it was okay, I need a curriculum, and the curriculum that I use is largely the curriculum that I use at my institutions, right? So I didn’t necessarily have to revamp the entire thing. However, I did have to mold it and change it in a way to where it could be conveyed to someone through video alone. I think we did a pretty good job of that.
And then after that was scripted, every single video that you see on the program was written down somewhere and spoken verbatim how I read it that, wrote it down for someone to hear on the other end. And then after scripting, then came the actual recording process, which was a long undertaking within itself. And to be honest with you, we didn’t even have it finished before the program launched, we had maybe half the program.
But we knew no one was going to be a green belt to start off with, and if they were, we’re going to start them at white belt. And then we actually built the program out, and then people were asking to hey, can I keep my red belt then? Things actually built on the program off of inquiries that I was getting. Hey, I’m a green belt, can I keep my green belt? Well, I don’t know, what should I do? We created an assessment program, or transfer program.
Video and assessment with these criteria, so an instructor can look at it. We’ll look at it and get back to you about whether you can keep your rank or what rank you will fall into with the cyber-taekwondo program. Hey, your black belt, I find out that I didn’t have a 51 certificate. Well, are Kukkiwon like up the speed, up the snuff. Hey, create an assessment video.
Hey, you’re good to test, so now we have straight to black belt testing programs for people who move or in the military they were a red belt, and they moved somewhere else where there’s not a taekwondo program, so we can help out those people and people with unique situations as well.
Josh P.: Sweet. So I know you had a curriculum before and you still use it for your teaching that you kind of had set in stone, you still tweaking stuff. But did you have to make any significant changes to your curriculum for the sake of cyber taekwondo?
Thomas H.: Absolutely, in particular with self-defense actually. Self-defense is just difficult to grasp in person, and I could only imagine and there are still some challenges we face with people grasping it via video, which some of my students have to do resubmissions, because we’re as strict, if not stricter than any in-person program, right? We don’t want anyone that says hey, I learned through cyber taekwondo and people are like yes, you look like you learned online.
So our students are what? You learn all this online? No way, right? That’s what we get when our students hit a certain level or black belt or something like that. And to answer your question, the self-defense portion, I needed to strip down from some of the things that I like and want to do with my in-person students, just because of my eclectic background in the martial arts, right? some Brazilian jiu jitsu, taekwondo, karate, Muay Thai.
Taught at a Muay Thai school for a while. Some taekwondo with spar and train with their guys before after class, so I just picked up some things along the way, right? Boxing, and some of those things I want to integrate with my students when they hit a certain level, just so they’re a little bit more well-rounded than your average taekwondo person. And teaching how to do an armbar from the mount position was just not happening via video.
So that’s one of the things that we took out, and we streamlined it to like a standing armbar position. If you get cross grab, right? Still can be considered an armbar, just an easier way to showcase it to a student in that regard than doing ground self-defense. Some takedowns from the standing position, things of that nature is what we really had to go towards.
Josh P.: Awesome, cool. How do you manage testing and promotions? I think a lot of people are going to be interested to know that.
Thomas H.: Sure. And I get this all the time actually, like inquiries via our contact us page or something like that. So a lot of people are interested in that, and it’s probably one of the top questions that we receive. Other than like generally, hey, how does this program work? Yes, and to that regard, I will tell you everything’s online, and when I say everything is online, we have a fax page to where you go there, you can get all your questions answered just about, unless it’s something too intricate, just from browsing the website.
We have it laid out and segmented in a way that I believe is UX user friendly, and you can really get a gift from the program before even signing up for it. And then if you do sign up for it, shameless plug, you get a seven-day free trial. So even if you don’t have to worry about paying anything off hand, try it, see if you like it. If you don’t, it’s cool, it’s not for everyone.
But if you do like it, it’s something that you want to move forward with, just keep the subscription active. But how do I manage testing? So the program is segmented into courses, but what we as martial artists will call belt levels. So when you sign up for the program, you’ll see five lessons in the beginning or five courses in the beginning. And that’s introduction course, warm-up exercises and stretching course, then you have your course that has all your curriculum and videos that you need to watch, which is your white belt course.
Or whatever about level you have to be at the time will transfer into. And that has maybe 20 years more videos in it, for you to learn the things at that belt level that would take you to the next belt level. And throughout that course, there are three video upload assignments that are segmented or in between learning things.
So say you have a lesson block, where you’re learning seven things, so seven different videos. After the seven different videos, there’s a video upload lesson that asks you to demonstrate the seven things that you learn in that video. You send it to someone such as myself, which is an instructor, will grade your video that hey, this looks great. These are the discrepancies that we see in the video, and allow you to tweak it and do a video resubmission if your mistakes are that egregious.
But if there’s something that we feel that you can correct just by me telling you to correct, we’ll let you move on to the next video assignment where you would do the next block, and then the third one for the next block. Then after you complete every lesson in the curriculum, you get an automated email that says hey, you’re ready for testing. And it gives you a link and everything, it explains to you how to register for testing and everything, how to sign up.
And you will do a testing live via Zoom, like this podcast is being recorded right now. So that’s one of the elements that we really pride ourselves on, because just to be honest, there are other programs out there. But how is your ability to recall techniques in the moment tested. The only way you could do that is live testing such as we’re doing now. So you schedule a time to do so with an instructor, and then we’ll hop on at this time, and then we’ll go through the commands.
In each, we have a script that we read off of, and try to be, and we go through the whole spiel and then we end it. And then we don’t like to let people, like we’re not going to hey, I’ll tally this up and let you know later, we let you know right then whether you passed or not based on your performance. And then we give you a sit down right then of the discrepancies that we saw, and then you’re able to take that and move on to the next belt level and make those adjustments during that time, should you successfully pass the belt test, right
So that’s really how everything is set up. And then once you pass, then you unlock the next course of your white belt, you got a high white belt and then you pass that, then yellow belt so forth and so on all the way up to black belt. But once you pass that belt test, then you gain access to the next course, so you can start your next round of lesson.
Josh P.: Awesome, cool. So what would you say to people who are skeptical of running an online training program that awards rank. Does this depend on style? Can it work for every martial art? What are some things that can kind of smooth that over for people?
Thomas H.: The first thing I would say is who cares. And the reason why I say that is because I think the main thing that would bar someone from starting the program, is an old traditional mindset. Oh, my instructor would never allow that. Oh, my Sifu, my sensei would never allow that. Because they’re old and they’re stuck in a certain type of mind frame that feels either that this could or couldn’t work, or that martial arts is supposed to it needs to be taught in the classroom.
Because there’s no way for you to gain skill or the things that you need if it’s done online. And I say who cares, because we’re moving that way anyway. You’re either going to get on the bandwagon beforehand, and be a leader in the space, or you’re going to try to do it after the fact when everybody has already moved there, already pivoted and then you’re going to be left behind because the industry is saturated.
I’m not the first, I’m one of the leading ones currently, but I’m definitely not the first, there were people before me. And I’m doing great right now, because I pivoted in a time where the transition should have happened. And I didn’t plan it this way, but I didn’t know no COVID was going to happen. But it did, and my program was rewarded because of it, so that’s the first thing I would say.
First of all, relinquish any doubts or ideas that you have of an old traditional regime, right? Think about how to best serve your students which is what you want to do anyway. Like if you are a traditional martial artist, one of the founding principles is to teach to your students and how to best service them, come from a student-centered approach.
And if you’re coming from a student-centered approach, then it’s almost a no-brainer to have an online program or a piece of your program online, right? To where people can engage with you in that format as well if you have something that you feel is of value that you can offer, right?
Next, I would say after you have thought about and refashioned your mind to move towards a student-centered approach that starts from an online or online engagement aspect of it, then I would say hey, is my martial art suitable for this? And to which I would ask you or tell you that it is. That because any martial art you could probably think about already has some form of it online.
How many people are learning karate right now from YouTube, right? The Gracie garages, right? The Gracie’s have portions like you can literally get your belts online with their distance education program. Then I think about, I haven’t seen anything for Kung Fu yet actually, and I might be the first, because I know a guy who I want to reach out to and partner with them to get a kung fu curriculum online, right? And for people that want to learn and then we’ll go from there.
But I would say it can, there’s probably nothing with some forethought and ingenuity that you can think about in terms of how you need to build the curriculum, in order to put it online. I think one of the things that might stop someone is they want to put everything online, right? And to be honest with you, I was that guy in the beginning. I want all this online, I want everybody to learn every aspect.
Well, you can learn aspect online, and then not only that, it needs to be segmented and spaced out. Like for example, there’s some stuff in my curriculum that you’re probably learning at let’s say blue belt range, that you will learn at a green belt in an actual school.
Just because the scientific way that we’re building your skill level, so that when we teach you that skill at the blue belt stage, you actually get it a little faster than you would at the greenbelt stage, because all the necessary components to do this kick, this technique, this movement have been led up to in a way that allows you to do those things a bit easier.
Then after you relinquish your ideas from the old regime, right? You’ve decided whether your curriculum is able to be put online. Then I will say do the necessary work, in order to get it there, right? Start segmenting what you need, website, who’s going to build it, hosting platform, partners, right? Like I couldn’t have done this without you, Josh or somebody else who’s actually present in a few of my videos depending on what we’re talking about.
But you need partners, you need people that will help you and support you a foundation system, and that will surround yourself around people who are for your idea, not just going to bash it and tell you why it’s not going to work.
Josh P.: Great advice. So I know this is really difficult to set up, there was a lot of leg room, it was many years in the making for you. And there is a little bit of it’s getting better, it’s getting easier, but there is some technical skills you have to learn in setting up like a learning management system and a website that can manage people to come on and sign up and use the material.
Would you say that if somebody has the discipline, the motivation, and I guess the bandwidth, because a lot of business owners are really tied down. If they have the bandwidth to put something together, do you think that it’s a solid move for supplementing a martial arts school’s income? Or even a gym or a fitness center.
Thomas H.: I think your question is two-prong, right? And the two things that I’m taking from it is one, if the person themselves who owns the school teaches whatever the case may be, if they have the bandwidth to learn and get all the things together themselves, should they start a program. And then two, is it a good idea or viable enough to do so to supplement a traditional martial arts group, right?
So in regards to the first question, no. I am an anomaly, and not an anomaly like in a, though, I’m the guru, I’m the only guy who can do this. I’m just an anomaly that I am one of the few martial art instructors who actually has a digital marketing background, so I was able to build this myself to be to what it is today. The fact of the matter is most people don’t have duality like that.
They don’t have those particular skill sets. And what I did and the things that I implemented about knowing how to design from a UX approach based on skills and certifications that I have. Then coding, right? Coding and then developing the website via CSS and html that I have to use on top of some of the templates and stuff that I built. That takes a long time to learn.
I mean, it takes a long time to learn you didn’t get good at to where you’re not breaking an entire site, right? One line of code can crash your entire site. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to be in bad shape. And I just so happen to have six years of practice doing these things prior to me launching the program, and most people are current school owners, right? That is their day-to-day.
Your current school, or your current instructor and you really don’t have the time or the bandwidth to sit down and learn these things, that will take you in upwards of three to four years to really get good at in order to build a program, right? And the only reason why I mentioned it in that regard is because in this day and age, you cannot say from a marketing perspective, you cannot say that I’m going to just start a program or have this website look like this for now, and then make it better on over time.
You have to come out the gate with something strong. And if you are trying to put something together yourself and it’s choppy, right? It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t have a good user experience, it’s going to end up hurting you rather than helping you, because you’re going to spend time and money and resources to something that you really don’t have the skill set for in the first place.
And I mentioned all that to say that it can be done, but you really should outsource it to someone who knows about it, who knows what they’re doing. And in that regard, just give somebody your ideas. So if you’re a martial art instructor, and you want to put your program online, get somebody to record your videos that has excellent camera quality, and you do what you know how to do, make a curriculum.
Space out your curriculum over the course of time for what it takes to get a white to a black belt, right? Via your own belt colors, right? Via what you want to put in there, how you design it. And then after you get those things together, your curriculum, your video scripts, how you’re going to shoot the videos and what it should look like. Do you cleaned up your dojo, your dojong a little bit.
Maybe have some branded materials like in the background while you’re recording and whatnot, then record the videos. Then let somebody else edit them, right? If you’re not an editing person, don’t try to do this in iMovie or something like that, and then you’re not putting together a project or something that’s cohesive at the end. Because to be honest, consumers are just scared of scams.
And you might not be trying to scam someone, but if you remotely look like you do not put together, you don’t have everything put together, you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re not legitimate, that’s going to come across to the other side. So you need one that’s going to help you package this together in a way that really looks professional. So no, do not do it yourself, right? Outsource as much as possible.
Then we get to the second part of the question, that is it viable for a brick-and-mortar location. And I would say it is, and there’s a couple reasons why. How many times as a martial art school owner or instructor, and I can say this because although I don’t teach, well, I do teach at university, I get some of the same questions, but I also taught at a brick-and-mortar martial arts school for quite a long time as well.
And never like a school owner head instructor people just wanted me to come in and teach, and then I left that behind and I might go back to it soon if I can coach again. But that’s neither here nor there. But I have experience of questions that school owners get asked all the time.
And how many times do you get asked about hey, my son Johnny is really struggling with this form, does he have a way he can practice at the house? How many school owners would say unfortunately, like the very next thing they would say is unfortunately. How many times do you get the question of.
Josh P.: I can’t spend five minutes to perform the Poomsae and put it on YouTube.
Thomas H.: [Inaudible 00:35:51.26] Poomsae’s not even five minutes, right? Laura, especially if we’re talking about taekwondo in particular WT style, no Poomsae is over a minute long, unless you’re just like dragging it out. Everything is designed to be performed in under a minute. So you don’t have eight minutes to record the form, right? And the whole curriculum, that’s and that’s not just for Johnny, that’s eight minutes that will serve everyone.
But hey, check this out, what about if you don’t record any videos of your Poomsae? How many times do you get asked hey, Johnny needs to learn how to count to ten in Korean, is there a place where he can view this, so he can get the proper pronunciations? And then like unfortunately, right? There goes unfortunately again, right?
And then you have to search YouTube for a video that’s properly counting, and then you send that to them versus something that’s your own, that’s branded. But that boost, that’s a marketing vehicle within itself. You have your own branded video on YouTube, you have your own branded video on your website, to keep people engaged with your content, and not moving on to someone else via YouTube or however else.
They find out how to count to 10, how to do their Poomsae or their forms, right? So it’s viable mainly as a supplemental aspect to what you’re teaching in school. And then if you build it robust enough, right? You can have people that are solely your online students, and maybe come into your Dojong only on testing days.
That’s a real good idea. Now, I just gave you a gym and I don’t even have a school. But if I ran a school, I would have in-person classes and online classes of robust online curriculum, and then all my testing since they’re held live via zoom anyway, people who are actually in my area would come to me and test live in the dojo.
Josh P.: Yes, that’s excellent advice. A thing I thought of as well is, you don’t, and this is becoming big in a lot of fields. Karate people are doing it, jiu jitsu people are definitely doing it a lot, MMA people are doing it, and they’re creating these online libraries of resources that are pretty good quality of the way they’re filmed and everything, that students can reference as part of enhancing and augmenting their training at the gym.
But they allow people outside of the gym to also sign up and have a membership there. So if you’re in the same association, or you went to one of these guys seminars or you just happen to know through somebody, or through some marketing channel, you can gain extra income not only from your own students like an extra whatever, some of them give it away for free as an add-on.
But you can also have people that are never going to come into your school or your academy that are paying you money every month, be it you know nine dollars, fifteen dollars, twenty dollars, that’s money that you wouldn’t have got before that are you’re now pulling into your business. And you don’t have to be competing with the big players out there, to gain value from that.
In fact, if you wanted to do something paid or even organic, you can just focus on your state or your area, like your region and it actually helps you to create marketing that could be more effective because it’s more locally targeted like North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, talking directly to those people, those ads, those things get more eyes on your ads or your posts or whatever it is that you’re marketing.
And you could just focus on building a network of people that are in driving distance of your academy. And you could just have them in, and you can double your school as a place to host the occasional seminar, for people that train online. That’s basically two income streams in one that kind of build into each other, so there’s a lot of creative ways I think that make me excited about what you can do with building like an online learning center for your school that you can then leverage to bring in much more money potentially than you would if you were just doing a brick-and-mortar thing.
Thomas H.: I think you mentioned two things that really stood out to me, and one of them is in regards to when you talked about competing, I think that’s another area that stops people from starting things. They’ll see one person online, they’ll do a soft searching does this exist, and they’ll see one person that already has it and that’s like oh man, I can’t do it anymore, it’s already done.
And that stops people from doing it, without thinking about their tons of different grocery stores out there. You have food line, you have Publix, you have Target now, you have Walmart now, how are these things still alive where you have big players like Walmart and target? There’s Kroger, right? There’s Safe way, depending on where you live, there’s Aldi, right?
You have these grocery stores that are competing against people within the space, and what if these people thought about oh, Walmart already has a grocery store, oh Publix already exists as a grocery store, the idea is to start something that is one local to you, right? Initially anyway, and then that is unique enough that it can play in the space, right? There’s another taekwondo guy that teaches online, there’s actually two programs.
What sets my program apart from theirs? I won’t say it here, but there’s quite a number of things. Some I’ve already mentioned about how distance education programs work and skill development and engagement, that’s baked into the program, but there’s a couple other things that I do as well that make me unique enough to people, either come to my program from other programs, try my program, because it’s the first one to ever try, leave to go to other programs and then come back, right? So that was the first thing you mentioned.
And then the second thing that you mentioned is about having a program that is online separate from your actual institution if you will. And what comes to mind when I think of that is if you told somebody you went to school online and finished all the way through, never walked into a college campus, maybe 15 years ago at this point, people would laugh at you. What? You went to school online? You got your degree online?
And then you look at today, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, Cornell, Brown, all your ivy league schools have online programs now, and they needed them because they needed to compete in the space where knowledge and things are moving to. Udemy is big, we have other learning, great courses.
What’s another one? Skillshare. Like you have so many e-learning platforms that are huge now, and people were even circumventing going to college to learn these skills. You can go to MIT for an eight-week twelve-week boot camp now totally online to learn coding skills because Udemy had it.
Josh P.: Yes. Udacity has micro degrees and it’s a little pricey, but it’s way less than going to an Ivy league school. And they work directly with big tech companies. So your prospects, it is rigorous to be fair, if you get through those programs, you have the discipline to get through those programs, you’ve got good prospects for a job at a good company.
Thomas H.: Yes, 100%. And if you’re framing your mind and thinking about it from that perspective of these Ivy league schools. I mean, you have classes or institutions that already had online programs for the longest time, where you had these older and Ivy league institutions that didn’t, that are now moving towards that way because they’ve seen the error of their ways.
In particular, due to the pandemic, but even prior to then, market research suggests that people were leaning towards that anyway. Working in the workforce, alongside earning a degree, rather than being a full-time student and missing out of years of opportunity from gaining workforce experience.
So when you think about it like that, an institution that has an online program, and then the prestigious ones, the most prestigious ones at that. What’s stopping you from following in the sort of footsteps, if you believe in what you have to teach?
Josh P.: Yes. And you were talking about how difficult it is to set up a website and everything, and it is really difficult. Especially, if you want to do something that’s really custom. But if you just want to do something that’s kind of cut dry, and you don’t have a ton of customization options, there are sort of bespoke options that are much easier, that even with just hire a teenager out of your member body or something.
Or just ask somebody online or Fiverr or something, it’s probably not going to be that expensive, you can integrate it into your website. You have something like Thinkific, you have Locals.com.
Thomas H.: Thinkific is a good one, I know a lot of people who use Thinkific for several different things.
Josh P.: Yes. And Thinkific, they even have an offering that you can use to literally start basically contracting with big businesses, and have them paying you contracts to use your content through Thinkific. So you can white label it, and just use.
So some of these platforms are already available if you want them there, and you don’t mind not having deep customization figures, you might want to do more gamification and stuff, so that could limit what it is. But if you just want to have that material out there, you want that reference material, you can do it. I mean, it’s totally doable.
Thomas H.: Only from sales, right? Like I think there’s I guess pros and cons to everything, so 100 building years. I think that what you’re saying also falls along the same train or thought of like outsourcing it, right? Like don’t try to build your website custom to like how cyber taekwondo is, because it’s difficult if you don’t know how to do that.
But there are things that you’re saying like Thinkific and whatnot, to where everything is kind of cut is baked in. And you can have something like semiprofessional out of the box, right? Then all you have to do is plug and play. You definitely have those services out there.
The only problem I would say with that is that it can cut into sales some, like if you sell from Thinkific and you’re using their platform and everything, you’re going to take a proportion of your proceeds, and then you just have to weigh the pros and cons or charge out to offset what it is that you would have to pay them.
Josh P.: Yes. I think you can use like stripe and square I think through them, but you are going to at least through Thinkific pay subscription every month. So you’re going to pay, you could be an extra $200 coming out of your pocket. But you could be making two thousand dollars.
Thomas H.: Yes, exactly.
Josh P.: You could be paying three-fourths of your brick-and-mortar businesses rent every month is probably really nice, probably a big load off your back. So that the rest of the money you make from your memberships is closer to pure profit. So this one’s more of a curiosity one, because we already established that unless you’re just ready, there is room for innovation in this field.
But unless you’re going to come in with a big old budget and you’ve got all these skills, and you’re just going to innovate in the field or you have some crazy niche that you’re going to fill, you’re probably not going to be competing with the top guys for like national, international membership. But is it possible if you could build your program big enough, is it possible to actually make a full-time income from an online program?
Thomas H.: I will say yes, just because I’m doing it. I do other things because cyber taekwondo allows me to have so much time. Like video gradings aren’t popping up like every day, definitely from every week, but real grades aren’t popping up like every single day, every hour, every minute and then we actually have a pretty good-sized student base larger than some actual brick and mortar programs.
And just the way people like, people in the Philippines are training, submitting videos at a whole different time frame than somebody is in the United States, so it kind of offsets in that regard as well, to where I have a lot of free time to where I do other things and the business space and whatnot.
But at one point, and still that point, I remember when I started making a full-time salary from cyber taekwondo. So it’s definitely possible but at the same time, I built it up to where I was, and that’s because I was, I think if you’re building a program like this in such a niche space like the martial arts, and you’re trying to think about it from a global scale initially, you’re probably doing it wrong.
And the reason why I say that is because I came at it at just a way to train people that was local to me, and then put some SEO on it, some professionalism on the website on its subscription membership based. Then it slowly built up over time into what it is today.
And I think that when you’re making it, if you’re really just trying to supplement and build something, even if it’s on top of your current website, like if you have a website that says blah taekwondo, make it backslash online, as a URL and then to where people can go to get online supplementation from your school. and if you’re honing in on your current member base, and what I like to call putting back into the school.
So many times, people start something to get the revenue, the revenue starts coming in and then they pocket it instead of putting that back into the school. Like it cost me, I think for a few months, like we have an app now for cyber taekwondo, and for a few months, I didn’t take any salary from cyber taekwondo to get the app up and started, because I knew that it was something that the program needed and I was willing to make that sacrifice in order for my students to be better served.
Now, I’m generating revenue from the Google play and app store, right? On top of regular website memberships and subscriptions of which I get checkouts and people purchasing and installing every single day, right? So when you think about it from a really student-centered approach, of how do I best service my students right and build something that answers the questions that you get from a daily, weekly, monthly yearly basis from those students, how can Johnny learn Poomsae?
How can he learn how to count? Start with putting those things online. And then if you put a little SEO on it, you’ll find that people are visiting the pages from other places, because other schools have students that want to learn how to count the tent, right? And then it gets to be this thing to where you can then disjoint it or segment it from your actual school or brand name, right? But still a part of it, because you tell your students this is where you go when you want to learn your poomsae and stuff.
But then it becomes something that it services or acts as a supplement to other programs. And I’ll be honest with you, cyber taekwondo is even used as a supplement program for some of my students who actually attend in-person classes. They tell me like we’re at a belt test, then I see them wearing an orange belt or something like that which is a color that we don’t have in our curriculum.
Like hey, what’s going on? Where’d you get that from? Well, they do their videos already in uniforms and they’re white belts. So where’d you get a uniform from? You haven’t purchased one yet, they’re like oh, I used to take classes or I’m taking classes at this other place, I just go once a week, so I’m supplementing with cyber taekwondo. So that’s something to think about when you embark upon creating something online for your student base.
Josh P.: Yes, that’s excellent advice. And I think that’s really contextualize everything that we talked about previously in the idea of a student-centered approach. Because while we do want to make sure the business numbers are in place, because this it’s too much time and effort to just sink into it for no return.
It’s not going to give you a return, and it’s not going to get what you want, it’s not going to serve your students if it isn’t student-centered, and you’re not looking to supplement what they need, and to even you’re talking about starting with just your students before it grows out.
Looking at what they need and giving them what they need, odds are that’s probably going to be needed by a lot of other people outside of your school. So you want to take that student-centered approach, and not just get lost in the abstraction of e-learning and making money online, cool.
Thomas H.: I think there’s a motivating approach to that as well. I think a lot of like, if you look at stats of people who they say start podcasts, right? A lot of podcasts never make it past the 10th episode, just the 10th episode. And that’s because when you’re starting something, and it’s not getting traction, people aren’t viewing, people aren’t listening, you start to lose interest yourself, and you start to lose motivation to get up every day and put an hour, two hours or however long it takes to make just a 10–20-minute podcast, right? Take your whole day to make a 10–20-minute podcast.
But when you’re doing something that has motivation built in such as coming from a student-centered approach. I know you talk about of course; you want to make revenue. And revenue will come if you come at it from a student-centered approach, to something that can be used immediately. So say you put up, you heard a question, Johnny needs to learn Ill John, you don’t have anything online, but you think all night about it. You know what? I should put something online.
And then you work towards a couple months, two months, three months, four months to put something online. You go back to class one day and at the end of class or before you file out, hey, we have this new online thing that you’re telling everybody and everybody’s going to go there, right? Immediately.
So immediately, you already have usage from it and if your website is built properly and doing what it’s supposed to, you can look at the analytics from that page to skyrocket from the people in class that you’re telling about the page, even turn to the parents to say hey parents, I have this new thing for your kids to practice online. I think you’ll see that you will gain some value from that yourself, that would keep you motivated to actually build it out and put content into it.
Josh P.: Absolutely, cool. Well, I appreciate your time, Master Huskey.
Thomas H.: Oh, just Thomas.
Josh P.: For me, not for everybody else.
Thomas H.: No, I’m just one of those guys, man. I’m like one of the most credentialed people in my area now, and I do it for the love, man.
Josh P.: It’s not cool anymore, it’s cool when you don’t have the credentials and then when you do get them, it’s like, yes, don’t worry about it. I got over it. Where can people find you? Where’s your stuff at?
Thomas H.: Man, like I said, I’m pretty under the radar, low key. I’m a powerhouse that no one knows about. So if you want to find me, Coach Huskey, coach Huskey on Instagram. Just Google coach Thomas Huskey or taekwondo Thomas Huskey, and I’ll pop up.
Martial arts Tommy Huskey you’ll see my online programs and what I do and what I’ve done all over the place. If you want to try out cyber taekwondo free seven-day membership, Cybertaekwondo.com, Google it, first thing that pops up. Home taekwondo, at home martial arts taekwondo training will pop up, right? So yes, just look for us and you’ll find us.
Josh P.: Awesome.