“I started this business when I was 16 years old. We specialize in self-defense. But I did not realize when I opened that I would need self-defense not only from a virus, but also from our government. 

“I got started with martial arts when I was five years old. I had the opportunity when we moved back to Mississippi to get introduced to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Through training for several years, I learned about the instructor certification process and program. I was given the opportunity to get certified when I was 16 years old and opened the school here that same year. 

“I was homeschooled from fifth grade on and I was never really held back by age. My parents were super supportive in my endeavors as far as opening the school. No doubt it was absolutely terrifying and super scary initially because you’d have a 16-year-old teaching people two or three times his age. And having to make big decisions that affect the business. 

“Ultimately, it’s been my passion, my love, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 

“When we first started, we started with absolutely nothing, we had zero students, zero anything. We had a beautiful school, beautiful facility, with nobody. Shortly after that we started building up our clientele base through word of mouth, social networking, things like that. Built a solid clientele base, got to over 200 students, and then March 4 everything kind of went sideways. 

“The roof from the building across the street from us flew into our building with the storm. We got hit with that, completely wrecked the school, broke out front doors, destroyed our women’s locker room, destroyed our mats. The following week all of the COVID restrictions came down the pipeline. To say that hurt would be a very big understatement. 

“Our clientele base started slowly dropping off and then we dropped off like crazy. We lost over 50 percent of our students, that’s kids and adults. One, because of fear of getting out, and the government restrictions, not wanting to do a class where they can’t get the full impact and full potential of the program.

“With that being said, insurance is still wanting their money. Our bills haven’t gone down by 50 percent just because we lost 50 percent of our clientele base. We’re still plugging away. We’re still trying to make everything happen. We have employees who we’re trying to keep food on the table and unfortunately the regular costs have not gone down just the clientele base all because of COVD.

“Small businesses are absolutely essential. A community cannot survive without the small business in it.”

Houston Cottrell
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
Madison, Mississippi