"I'm having more fun and I have more passion with wrestling than anything I've ever done," said Kim Artlip, founder, owner and promoter of Ignite Wrestling. "It's the most stressful fun I've ever had. I understand wrestling is not everyone's cup of tea, but for me it's just as important as any other business."
Wrestling is not just any other business, it's a big business. It's one that attracts people from all different backgrounds and brings them together to enjoy some great entertainment. Ignite Wrestling is the only pro wrestling event on the Treasure Coast. It's also one of only a handful of female-owned wrestling companies in the world, making it very unique. "A lot of young wrestlers learn the sport with us," Artlip said. "They learn how to work the crowd and hone their skill set before moving up to the next level." Artlip said at least five of their wrestlers have moved up to the big leagues, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). She's very happy about this fact and prides herself on working with independent wrestlers and watching them grow to the next level.
Originally from West Virginia, Artlip moved to Vero Beach to be with her new husband and to surround herself with more opportunities. For Artlip, a long-time wrestling fan, it was never her intention to own and promote a wrestling company. It just sort of happened. "It was around 2015," she said. "I was running a community event website called the TC Chronicle. Through a sponsorship opportunity, we were made aware of this wrestling company. It was a fun show, but they hadn't gone anywhere with it. We looked at what they were doing and what they weren't doing and we knew we could take the idea in a different direction and grow it. By building proper links to vendors and sponsors and adding live streaming and cool venues, we saw it as a viable business."
Artlip spent about eight months planning the new wrestling business. She did a business plan, learned about merchandising, got to know the wrestlers, studied the social media accounts of other wrestling companies and learned how to be a promoter by researching and watching. She also sat down with a SCORE mentor to review her business plan. Throughout the whole process, her family was extremely supportive.
"Most promoters are former managers or wrestlers," Artlip said. "Not me. I came from out in left field. Having not been an events promoter, there were a lot of challenges I had to work through in the beginning. That included legal considerations, paper work, insurance and liability concerns, marketing and graphics. It was a huge learning curve."
After all the formalities were taken care of, Artlip and her team put on their first show in January of 2016. Since then, the response from the community has been great. Artlip teamed up with Walking Tree Brewery to host her events there. She needed a big space with tall ceilings and plenty of parking. The brewery, located in an industry type building, fit the bill.
Outside of the actual wrestling matches, Artlip is always busy working on the next show and overseeing various revenue streams they've put in place. "I'm actually busier between shows than when we do the shows," she said. "We have our own line of trading cards. We're one of eight official Twitch streaming partners. Our shows can be viewed on FITE TV, Pivotshare and soon to be Amazon. We have an Amazon merchandise store for Ignite Wrestling and a Pro Wrestling Tees Store I manage. I'm a guest on radio shows and I'm always putting out new videos. It's a full time job keeping everyone aware of the next show."
Artlip has big aspirations for the future of Ignite Wrestling. She wants to see the majority of her roster of wrestlers move up to the WWE. She also wants her fans to get in on the action and to join the ranks of the up-and-coming wrestlers. Artlip is working hard at networking and going to different events to get her name out there. Over the years, she's noticed several new wrestling companies around the country come and go. She's determined to not be one of them.
What advice does Artlip have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got," she said in regards to taking the leap of faith and trying something new. "The biggest thing is research. Learn the industry before jumping in. Talk to people in the industry. Also, take advantage of SCORE, chambers and other resources. I'm someone that had a dream that people laughed about, but two years later I'm doing it and I'm living my dream."