Dawn Barnes gives two BIG tips about your small business

By Dawn Barnes

What an honor to be on the show with such talented entrepreneurs! Many people ask me how I got my start, and I owe it all to my 2 sons, Andrew and Christopher. Andrew in particular


kept bugging me for karate lessons. I guess I wasn't responding quickly enough so he brought me the phone book, opened the page to martial arts schools, and said, "If you don't call, I will!" I knew then and there he was serious.

Business lesson #1:

I walked into the karate school and had to fight back an initial repulsion to the grunge. The old carpet, dirty mats, poignant gym-smell made me almost turn around and leave. But, my kids couldn't wait, so we stayed. When I opened my first school 10 years later, I made sure the environment was beautiful and clean.

Lesson #2:

As a parent, I was so excited to see my kids take their first class. But, the teacher pulled a ragged curtain and blocked my view, telling me to come back in 45 minutes to pick them up.

Today, my schools are like fish-bowls so every parent can enthusiastically and lovingly enjoy their child's experience.

The story continues as I enrolled my boys and myself. I earned my black belt in 1988 and taught children's classes in schools and studios until I figured out what I was really going to do. I realized after 8 years that THIS was what I really wanted to do, and in 1995 opened Dawn Barnes Karate Kids in Santa Monica, CA.

My husband, Ben Yellin, is now my business partner. Along with 7 schools, I have 3 children's books published called THE BLACK BELT CLUB. We are in the process of producing it into an animated television series. Stay tuned!

I feel a huge part of my success has come from being in tune with my customers – both the children on the mat, and the parents. I try to do everything from their perspective, and I think that is a key to what has made my business unique.

Love what you do, work the steps, stay positive, and the money will follow.

Good luck and Good spirit!

- Dawn