How Kitchener’s Return of the Dragon found motivation in digital approach
George received a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant for his business, Return of the Dragon, and received training to help boost his digital skill set.
After walking away from his martial arts studio, Zachary George took some time to recuperate. I needed to re-find myself and my passion,” says George,a 6th Degree Master, 7-time Canadian Kick Boxing Champion, and coach of both the Canadian Women's and Men’s Kick Boxing teams. In 2016, he felt ready to start again, launching Return of the Dragon Martial Arts Studio in Kitchener (a cheeky play on his original business called Double Dragon).
“I was renting a room in a factory for a hundred dollars a month and I had about four students,” he says. “I started with nothing, no license, no place to live really… I just started teaching a few students and trying to get back into health and training.”
Within a few months, he’d outgrown his space and built it to 30 students. He found a 900-square-foot space and grew to 75 students.“From there we just worked our way up,” he says.Then COVID-19 hit and his upward trajectory was shattered. “We had to shut the studio down,” he says. He heard on the radio about a Toronto bar hosting a party over Zoom. “And I thought, well, why the hell can't I do that with my classes?”
George admits he knew nothing about computers.
“I have no post-secondary education… I basically grew up in the boxing ring teaching classes – I learned the business from my parents.”
Despite a lack of skills, he quickly learned how to create online classes over Zoom and reactivate the studio.
“We started offering it free to the community for anybody that was sitting at home and needed something for their kids to do to stay connected,” he says. “From there, our membership grew again to over a hundred students.”
George started uploading useful training tools and videos to YouTube. They were rough and raw but it gave them that digital exposure. Once things re-opened, Return of the Dragon started to run both virtual and in-person classes. Around that time, George heard about Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. George received a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant and training to help boost his digital skill set.
He wanted to launch a series of kickboxing videos for beginners so he used part of the funding to hire a professional videographer. The videos were short and covered 101 subjects like how to wrap your hands or throw a punch.
“We started getting on a roll that way, trying to widen our reach as far as marketing goes,” he says. “We also have our own branded app called Return of the Dragon.”
The funding proved invaluable. The app allows members to sign up, access class schedules, and watch the studio’s training videos. “They're also able to book online classes as well through there while they receive a link immediately for joining the class.” The studio has grown to 200 students, something George says was partially driven by his increased digital presence.
“The grant couldn't have come at a better time,” he says. “We needed to regroup and get motivated again and adapt to what society is like today…it gave us some inspiration to be able to take that step to grow.”
George says he’s still shaking his head at how it has turned out. “Six years ago, I was sleeping on gym mats trying to figure out how we were going to pay rent each month,” he says. “Today I'm living a life that I could never have imagined… I’m truly grateful, it’s a huge blessing.”
Interested in taking some marital art classes? Visit Return of the Dragon sur ce site.
To learn more about the Digital Transformation Grant, and how it can help your business visit sur ce site.
Digital Main Street a été créé par la Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) avec le soutien direct de la Ville de Toronto. DMS est également soutenu par un groupe de partenaires commerciaux stratégiques, dont Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay et Postes Canada.
L'investissement continu de la province de l'Ontario, par l'intermédiaire du Ministère du Développement économique, de la Création d’emplois et du Commerce (MEDJCT), a permis l'expansion continue de la plateforme numérique de la rue principale afin de soutenir davantage d'entreprises qui passent au numérique dans tout l'Ontario.