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GRACIE BARRA WESTCHASE OWNER ULPIANO MALACHIAS

From Student To Master: The Story Behind a 7 Figure Fitness Studio Owner

By Mike Arce | April 30, 2021

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Show Notes

How do you connect your craft, your passion for fitness or being a trainer, to becoming a highly successful, 7 figure entrepreneur?

Gracie Barra Houston owner Ulpiano Malachias came to the United States from Brazil in order to pursue his passion: Jiu-Jitsu.

Today, he owns a massive 7-figure fitness studio with 700+ members!

“Many people start a business from a hobby, without knowing how to actually build and grow a scalable fitness studio.”

“My Passion For Jiu-Jitsu Wasn’t Enough With A Baby On The Way…”

Ulpiano moved to the United States from Brazil. 

He didn’t have any money but wanted to compete in Jiu-Jitsu and in the UFC… it was his passion. 

So, he worked at nightclubs as a bouncer to pay for rent and food while he trained during the day. Eventually, he’d become a trainer at a few different MMA gyms.

It was rough, but then he had to add something else to his plate… 

“In Brazil,” Ulpiano says, “if you don’t go to college, it’s shameful. You have to go. So, since I was working with these gyms, I went to business school.”

What Ulpiano learned, he applied.

Despite running a successful gym, he wasn’t making ends meet. He knew he was on to something in the way he ran his gym, but the income wasn’t there… then he got some incredible news.

“My wife told me she was pregnant! But I knew that meant we also needed to come up with more money, and fast.”

So he and his wife moved from Orange County, California to Houston, Texas.

From a Passion for Jiu-Jitsu to 7 Figure Entrepreneur

He knew he wanted to start and grow his own Jiu-Jitsu gym. Luckily, his father-in-law believed in him and put up the money to help him launch his gym. 

“Well,” he thought, “now I can’t fail… I can’t let him down.”

He did everything the franchise told him to do, and more. He and his wife are very organized and they’ve created forms and scripts for everything—EVERYTHING.

In his first year, with a 2,500 square foot gym, Ulpiano signed 300 members and had to expand. 

So, he purchased an open slot near his gym (in the same strip mall) and increased membership to 500.

By the way, the only thing that separated his two locations was a Chiropractor… 

As of March 2021, Ulpiano is up to 700 active members paying him $175 per month. That’s $140,000 each month in recurring revenue just from membership dues.

And, his gym is now 10,000 square feet and the #1 Gracie Barra in the country.

What’s worked so well for Ulpiano is taking his passion for Jiu-Jitsu and using it to become a great business owner and leader.

He put the right systems in place, and has a great team running those systems. Allowing him to see the business from above, track his numbers, and work ON his business instead of IN his business.

Want A 7 Figure Gym? Always Be Challenging Yourself.

Originally, he just wanted to make enough money from his passion to pay his rent and provide food for him, his wife, and their baby.

But once he realized what he was capable of and how many lives he could change, he started setting larger, more ambitious goals.

“Every time you aim for something higher you find new, better ways to make the machine grow and produce what you’re aiming for,” he says.

One of the things Ulpiano is known for (and it’s one of the reasons he’s so successful) is listening to his members… 

With each level of updating and expanding his business, he adds something that enough members said they wanted.

He’s added kickboxing rooms, saunas, large bathrooms with locker rooms, and more.

“Each time we’re in a position to expand is also an opportunity to challenge ourselves and grow in other ways,” he says.

“You’re Not A Trainer Anymore… You’re A Leader”

A lot of leaders are afraid to play it tough with their team because they’re worried about losing staff… here’s how Ulpiano plays it tough but still has people wanting and enjoying working for him:

“Who’s the toughest person on your kids? It’s you. Why are you tough on them? Because you love them. That’s my team. I love them and this business wouldn’t be where it is without them.”

It’s why he has a husband and wife, for example, who’ve both worked for him for 10 years.

“People will emulate their leaders… if you’re out of shape, they’ll believe they can be out of shape too. If mopping the floors is beneath you, they’ll believe it’s beneath them too.” Ulpiano says.

“But really, you don’t want them to be like you… you want them to be better than you. And you want them to want to be better than you.”

Ulpiano’s 7 Figure Key To Great Leadership

“You have to acknowledge that you can always be a better leader.”

Ulpiano was a horrible leader before he became a great leader.

“I learned by making a lot of mistakes and taking a lot of losses… but if I didn’t acknowledge that I was leading my team the wrong way, I wouldn’t have gotten better,” he says.

Entrepreneurs Know Their Numbers, Others Don’t

How Often Do You Check Your Numbers?

“Everyday,” he says.

“This business operates, runs, and grows on numbers… more specifically, money.”

“The mission,” Ulpiano says, “is to create systems so that it operates on a loop that repeats itself every month, every year, and so on.”

So what you want to do with your team is pay attention to patterns… 

If someone on your team has a win, reward them. Praise them.

On the other hand, if someone on your team fails, coach them.

When someone on your team consistently succeeds, reward them AND challenge them.

If someone on your team consistently fails and coaching isn’t working, they’re costing your business more than they’re bringing in, and it could be time to part ways.

Challenging your successful players will increase your numbers, and keeping your poor performers will lower your numbers.

Your mission is to increase your numbers as much as possible.

Same Industry, Completely Different Role (And Mindset)

A lot of people who open up specialized fitness studios like Jiu-Jitsu, yoga, etc. were typically trainers and coaches before becoming business owners.

Your passion led you down a path to serve even more people, which is great. But once you open a business, you’re no longer a trainer… you’re an entrepreneur.

It’s a completely different role and mindset, with unmatched responsibilities… 

You’re now responsible for far more than running a class and keeping people happy. Now, you have to create systems and processes your team can follow to deliver your passion to more people.

You have to track your numbers and ensure your business is growing. Otherwise, a lot of people will be let down and you won’t be able to influence people with your passion like you dreamed.

“Once you accept that you now play a different role in pursuing your passion, you start seeing it differently… you start acting differently… and you start learning to succeed,” he says.

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