William Spivey, owner and founder of Spivey Karate, first discovered Karate in September 1966. After helping the wife of a karate instructor carry groceries to her car, he noticed a flyer on her dashboard. Spivey eventually met the instructor, was introduced to the martial art and, over time, got hooked. Six years later, after earning his black belt and developing a true love and appreciation for Karate, he was ready to be the instructor.
"In the early days, I pretty much just taught in my backyard," he said. "I had classes a couple times per week, but it wasn't very successful at that point in time. In December 1977, I moved to the Hernando/Pasco County area for a better opportunity with Winn-Dixie. I was with them through 1992 while I continued to build out my business. I'd work 40 hours a week with Winn-Dixie and also teach 6 Karate classes per week at various locations around town."
Spivey left Winn-Dixie in 1992, but spent an additional five years with U-Save before he decided to take the plunge and go full-time on his business. Around this time, he also purchased a small space to teach classes in. According to Spivey, the transition from a steady paycheck to the unknowns of entrepreneurship was rather seamless.
"I was actually very confident about the whole thing," he said. "I already had a class established and it was more than paying for itself. I also had plenty of room to add more people, so that's what I did. I really had no doubts or problems whatsoever."
Spivey's biggest challenge came during the Great Recession. He went from 169 students to just 69. Rather than folding or shrinking overhead to limit expenses, Spivey made a bold move. He cashed in his retirement and used the proceeds to purchase the building he was operating in. He no longer had to worry about paying rent. Once the economy recovered, he was in an even better position to grow.
Spivey, who loves the challenge and ability of Karate to build character, has always been focused on doing things the right way. This includes his approach to Karate instruction, which focuses on character development, not necessarily victory or defeat, and his approach to running a debt-free business.
"Martial arts is a different kind of business," he said "You need standards and you need to keep those standards in order to develop a good reputation. I could make more money if I lowered my standards, but that's not what it's about."
What advice does Spivey have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Try to be debt free," he said "Also, plan for all the eventualities. Don't just jump in. Have a plan A, B and C. Most importantly, if you're going to do it, you have to be fully committed. If you happen to fail, just start over again and keep going."