We had the chance to interview the owner of Strych9 Jiu-Jitsu, a small BJJ apparel company that is making amazing things happen in the community. Check out what they had to say regarding running a business and their approach to sponsoring athletes. You can check out their store HERE.
JJT: What got you started in designing BJJ gear?
Strych9: I had been a designer for a while and had been doing a good amount of freelance work, and I really wanted to do some thing a bit different. I had done some design work for an MMA apparel company through a previous employer and I really enjoyed the project; so I thought why not do some apparel graphics of my own for Jiu-Jitsu line?
JJT: You’ve got a pretty particular niche in the market, creating gear that honors the history of martial arts in general, but with a focus on grappling. What made you choose that route?
Strych9: I have always had an interest in where things come from and how they evolved. That also carried over to martial arts for me. I loved to know the history of Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, and Wrestling. So, when I started developing the Strych9 line, I noticed that no one was really doing much with the history of Jiu-Jitsu, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to make something cool and tell our sport’s history as well.
JJT: As time has gone on, you’ve branched out from just t-shirts to rashguards and most recently, gis. Many people who start a business get excited and try to grow too quickly. How have you managed your growth so well?
Strych9: Oddly enough, it goes back to how I was raised. My mom and dad always taught me if you can’t pay for it don’t buy it. I just kind of rolled that way of thinking over to my business. I slowly got into rashguards and gis because I could pay for them and I had someone front me a bit of money. It was a financial risk to start Strych9, not a huge financial risk, but a risk nonetheless. I did not want to put my family in a bad spot by taking out a business loan. So I saved up birthday money, Christmas money, and did without a few freelance gigs to save up some funds to buy equipment to print my own gear.
JJT: One of the cool things you’ve done lately is offer small sponsorships to up and coming athletes in the Midwest area. Such as Joel Blanton and Nikki Sullivan (who you can also find on instagram). What prompted you to go that route instead of seeking out athletes who are already in the spotlight?
Strych9: It’s a bit different than traditional sponsorship. I am just a small operation, and I don’t have a huge pool of cash to donate to athletes. I wish I could; hopefully in the future I will have an opportunity to do that. Currently, I work with a few athletes to produce custom shirts to sell. I don’t charge them anything to make them, and when we sell through the stock, we share in the profits. I know it’s really hard for athletes that are not in the global spotlight to get sponsorships, this way those athletes that are trying to get recognition and achieve their goals have some extra funds to pay for travel or entry fees. Like I said, it’s not your typical sponsorship deal, but I want to help out and it was the best way I found for me to help currently. Plus, I get to get to know some really cool people like Joel and Nikki.
JJT: You personally haven’t done much competing yourself, but you offer tons of support to local athletes and gyms who do wish to compete and further their goals. What made you want to play a support role as opposed to something else?
Strych9: We all need a bit of help sometimes to reach our goals. If lending a hand designing something or giving a gym a deep discount on shirts or promotional material helps them, then why not help? I am a firm believer that it all comes back around. You get what you put in. I think a lot of people in the martial arts community feel the same way. We all like to help each other out. It’s a great community to be a part of.
JJT: As a graphic designer, do you also do any sort of freelance work for other companies?
Strych9: Oh yeah, I do a lot of work for The Fight Hub. We have collaborated on apparel and some gis as well. I have also been working with them to help rebrand their instructional DVD set. I also got the chance to design a Cosmic Cat rashguard for Old School Grappling Gear. How can you turn that down? I mean seriously, a rashguard with a cat in space; that is a no brainer.
JJT: Where do you see your company going in the next few years?
Strych9: Right now I have a typical 9-5 job as a designer for a product development company. I personally design, make, and market everything except gis and rashguards, so it takes a lot of time to keep Strych9 going in my spare time. I would love for this to be my primary source of income. I hope that Strych9 grows enough that I can help out more athletes, and someday to be able to start a fund to pay for martial arts instruction for kids in need.
We would like to thank Strych9 for taking time out of their busy schedule to let us in on what they’ve currently got going. We hope to only see more from them in the future.