Matt Lane started teaching Martial Arts in the Arvada area at age 11. Twenty years later, he founded Lane Academy of Martial Arts across the street from his high school, Arvada West. “It’s cool to be the local kid who grows up and starts his own business to help people in his backyard,” says the Arvada native.
At Lane Academy, Matt offers yoga classes, Tai Chi classes and Taekwondo martial art classes for three-year-olds all the way to seniors. We talked to Matt about shaping his passion into a business and how he gave his school a fighting chance to survive opening at the start of a pandemic.
How did you get started with martial arts?
Matt: I grew up in the 90s watching shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. So by the time I could talk, I kept asking my parents to join martial arts. I got enrolled at three years old here locally at Stephen Oliver’s Mile High Karate. He was one of the biggest martial arts artists of that time, with schools all over the country. Stephen Oliver was formally trained by Jhoon Rhee, the ‘Father of Taekwondo in America,’ who taught Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali.
I’ve always loved martial arts and I realized that I have a passion for teaching it. I started teaching at local schools and I knew that one day when I got my Masters, I would open up my own business.
When did you start Lane Academy?
I actually founded the company in 2019 and acquired the space in December 2019. This was after a year and a half actively searching for a space. We acquired the keys in January and by the time we renovated everything and painted the walls and were ready to open the door, we got our certificate of occupancy literally the day before lockdown. That’s what I woke up to on the news: the governor saying to put the state on lockdown. So yeah…[laughs]… every day when I come in, I can look at that certificate and it reminds me of that day.
Wow, so what were your next steps?
We basically spent the summer boosting our marketing presence, trying any way we could to fix our website, market more on Facebook, and other internal things to make the business that much stronger for when we could open up. We weathered through about three, almost four, months of being in lockdown before we could start hosting people. Right from day one, we had a couple of people who live right across the street who started coming in and we just slowly kept growing a little bit every week. It’s a slow process but we’re almost at the 60 student count which is incredible despite everything that happened last year.
You recently decided to go “all in” on this business full-time. What have you learned about yourself with that decision?
Until very recently, I was juggling another job, working for a construction company as a drafter. There’s various projects scattered all throughout Colorado you probably have driven by that I’ve designed. I left that job last Friday and you could say it took a tremendous leap of faith. I think the biggest thing is, I couldn’t keep lying to myself that I can do this job and build a school and they both will be happy. I had to stop telling myself that and just commit in one direction.
There is a Russian proverb that I’m sort of haunted by and the proverb goes like this: a man who hunts two rabbits gets none. And I think about that a lot when it comes to my work and how much time and energy you put into something. I can’t successfully juggle both and now that I’m here, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of fear and anxiety. But there’s fear with any job. There’s risks with everything. I think it’s important to stay focused, stay calm, pursue goals with a clear head and just not give up.
You’re working a lot with kids. Do you feel empowered to impart that advice and encourage your students to follow their dreams?
I totally believe that. In fact, 90% of the words out of my mouth every day are about believing in yourself. There’s going to be challenges and obstacles, but if you want it bad enough, you’re going to work at it and get better every day. Even in our mission statement, we believe in strengthening and cultivating a person’s mind, body and spirit. Martial arts is not just a vehicle to learn how to kick and punch, it’s a vehicle to bring those other lessons. The kicking and punching are like the doors or the windshield wipers of the car. The thing that is actually carrying you is confidence, discipline, and courage.
I have a kid right now who is obsessed with magic. He’s not the best at it but he comes every day and tries to show me these little tricks. I love it because he has the confidence to show me. And I tell him to keep practicing because who knows? I mean how did David Blaine start? He had to start somewhere.
I have another student right now who started his own little 3D printing company with his brother who was also a member and a former black belt. They have a website and made some money designing their own fidget spinners. I love that I’ve helped them have confidence and pursue things like that. They come back to me and tell me how much training as a little kid has helped them now that they’re adults.
You attended Arvada West High, right across the street from here. What’s it mean to start your own business so close to where you grew up?
It’s really cool. I like that half of my clients have known me for the better part of 15 years or I have an instant connection with a lot of the new people that come in and we can swap stories. Like “Oh, I also went to that elementary school that your kids are going to or we had the same English teacher.” That’s awesome.
How is your family involved with Lane Academy?
Actually every single member of my family plays a role here. My father helps teach the classes and helps with day-to-day operations. He’s the vice president of our company. I’m the CEO. My brother handles social media, marketing and advertising. My wife is the CFO and helps track our finances and generates our profit and loss reports. My mother helps with interior decorating and design.
What was their reaction when you told them you were starting this business?
They all said what took you so long? What were you waiting for? You should have done this years ago!
Anything more you’d like to mention?
We do offer summer camps at our location, which will be starting pretty soon. It’s an all-day camp, from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Monday to Friday. We play games they get they get class experience along with activities and socialization.
The last note I’d like to mention is I’ve done a lot of research. I’ve been in this industry for a better part of 30 years and I am the most affordable program in the state. And I’m one of the only schools that has no contracts.
Lane Academy of Martial Arts
11651 W. 64th Ave, Unit B-2
Tel: (720) 688-6918