Master Choi demonstrates the proper form for a kick.

Kick it up a notch

Small business center guides Pike Creek martial arts school

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9:43 a.m., March 4, 2013--Luck was on their side when Mi Jung Choi and her husband, Ha Young Seo, chose the Pike Creek area of Delaware for their martial arts studio, Tiger Kicks, more than five years ago.

“The demographics are perfect for a taekwondo school,” says Wendy Wen, a business analyst in the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) at the University of Delaware. “There are lots of young families and a number of high-quality elementary schools in the area.”

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Launched in July 2008 with just a handful of students, Tiger Kicks now has some 300 members and has expanded twice to accommodate new members and programs. But each time they moved, they followed Wen’s advice and stayed in the Pike Creek area, enabling them to grow without losing their existing customer base.

Wen not only advised Tiger Kicks about location but also assisted them with development of a business plan for expansion. In addition, she referred Choi and Seo to local bank WSFS to secure additional working capital through two programs -- the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012 and the Delaware Economic Development Office’s Access Program, which gives banks a tool to make business loans that are somewhat riskier than conventional bank loans.

“Wendy is very personable, and she really cares about her clients,” Choi says through interpreter Michelle Lee, a UD senior. “She was always willing to spend extra time with us, and she also introduced us to another business adviser, Bob Rausch, who helped us with setting up QuickBooks for better financial management.”

Wen was such a good teacher that her student has now become a mentor to others.

“We have many friends in the martial arts business,” Choi says. “It can be difficult to obtain loans and get started. We are tremendously thankful that we met Wendy because now we’re able to give advice and help others.”

Choi and Seo both hold sixth-degree black belts in taekwondo, but for them the business is about more than simply teaching martial arts classes. Just as the Korean word “taekwondo” refers to the unity of body, mind, and life, Tiger Kicks unifies individuals, families, and community. 

In addition to classes, the studio offers afterschool programs and hosts holiday parties. All of the Tiger Kicks programs reinforce rules implemented in the home, and the various belt colors correspond to values such as discipline, respect, patience, honesty, responsibility, and teamwork.

“One of our fastest-growing programs is our family class,” says Lee, who is majoring in exercise science at UD. “There aren’t a lot of exercises families can do together. Here, families sweat together and jump together and are physically active together, and they develop a special bond through that.”

Lee has been with Tiger Kicks for three years, first as a student and now as a staff member.

“I’ve learned so much from Wendy and the people here,” she says. “I think it’s important for young people just getting out of college to know about resources like the support and classes offered by the SBTDC as they prepare to start businesses of their own.”

About SBTDC

The Small Business and Technology Development Center, a unit of the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP), exists to strengthen Delaware’s economic base by providing quality services such as management assistance, educational programs and resources to Delaware’s business community and potential entrepreneurs. The SBTDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the US Small Business Administration and the state of Delaware. 

Under the direction of former DuPont vice president for research and development David Weir, OEIP works with the state, Delaware Technology Park, and numerous researchers and companies in creating a culture where innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive in Delaware.

Article by Diane Kukich

Photos by Ambre Alexander

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