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David Jacobs' BJJGround Real time blog - opening new BJJ Academy in Ottawa

8/16/19 10:10 AM
Posts: 4536

In the middle of renovations as I ramp up to open my new academy. So I started a Reddit thread where I'll be giving daily updates as to the progress (or lack thereof) as I clumsily reinvent the wheel.

Come watch me as I slowly lose my mind in real time as I try to juggle media, marketing, renovations and family. Suggestions and gentle ribbing would be more than welcome. Ask me anything, get an honest (likely rueful) answer!

8/16/19 3:46 PM
Posts: 1917

Where is Ottawa? Waze can't seem to find it.

Bad jokes aside, the most importand thing you can do in any new business is to market the hell out of it. Do it consistantly and make sure it is well thought out. Your black belt and amazing new space is secondary to marketing. Know who your customers are and how to reach them. Good marketing brought you Appleby's (1900+ terible restaurants) and Donald J. Trump (The Donald J. Trump of presidents). Imagine what you can do with a good product.

8/16/19 6:52 PM
Posts: 7454

please copy and paste your updates here too. reddit is annoying when it comes to linear post histories

8/18/19 4:10 AM
Posts: 25326


8/18/19 11:08 PM
Posts: 4538
nogidavid - 

please copy and paste your updates here too. reddit is annoying when it comes to linear post histories

Ok. Will get on that this week :)
8/19/19 12:08 AM
Posts: 2050

Im a brown belt from Canada who travels to Ottawa several times a year for work (federal government employee). If you're open to drop ins I'd love to come by next time I'm in town and meet a fellow UGer.

8/19/19 9:58 PM
Posts: 754

Very interesting, are you worried at all about oversaturation in the Ottawa area?  OAMA must have 6 schools there, New Era 2 or 3, Barrhaven Martial Arts is opening Gracie Barra Canada Canadian headquarters as another location plus tons more.

8/19/19 11:39 PM
Posts: 7459
bbomber - 

Very interesting, are you worried at all about oversaturation in the Ottawa area?  OAMA must have 6 schools there, New Era 2 or 3, Barrhaven Martial Arts is opening Gracie Barra Canada Canadian headquarters as another location plus tons more.

not speaking for OP, but just googled and there's a million people in ottawa. With good marketing it doesnt seem crazy oversaturated at first glance

8/20/19 2:23 PM
Posts: 755
nogidavid -
bbomber - 

Very interesting, are you worried at all about oversaturation in the Ottawa area?  OAMA must have 6 schools there, New Era 2 or 3, Barrhaven Martial Arts is opening Gracie Barra Canada Canadian headquarters as another location plus tons more.

not speaking for OP, but just googled and there's a million people in ottawa. With good marketing it doesnt seem crazy oversaturated at first glance

Yeah, good size city, especially considering the surrounding areas.  There is a massive amount of gyms in the area though, the ones I mentioned are just ones that I know the owners personally.

8/24/19 4:51 PM
Posts: 4539
pbody -

Im a brown belt from Canada who travels to Ottawa several times a year for work (federal government employee). If you're open to drop ins I'd love to come by next time I'm in town and meet a fellow UGer.

Of course!

I'm in the middle of updating the website, but come find us at

Dropins are by donation to our youth-at-risk programs in the Dominican Republic.  

The gym will be open in a couple of weeks :)

8/24/19 4:59 PM
Posts: 4540
bbomber -

Very interesting, are you worried at all about oversaturation in the Ottawa area?  OAMA must have 6 schools there, New Era 2 or 3, Barrhaven Martial Arts is opening Gracie Barra Canada Canadian headquarters as another location plus tons more.

Fair question.

The answer is no.  :)

Nick's new spot (Gracie Barra) is going to be fairly close to me, and I sincerely wish him well with it.  OAMA's not as big as it once was, as some of the other gyms in town are break-offs from them.  New Era is leaning in on expansion hard, with a third location in the works in about three years (if I'm not mistaken) -- great for them!

I wish all of them the best of luck.  There's plenty of potential clientele for all of us.  

On the one hand, sure they're competition.  But my real competition is Playstation.  Soccer.  Teen obesity.  The quiet desperation of the lower-middle-management slide into middle-aged life while still in your thirties.

As for those guys?  Despite how good some of them are at marketing (and a few of those guys are great at it!) not every gym is for everyone.  Some guys will come through my doors that would be better served at Oama, or Nick's gym, or wherever.  And certainly, some of the people that go through their doors would be better served training with me.  I don't lose sleep over that.  I'll gladly stack my coaching up against anyone anywhere in the city.

Which, when you think about it, is exactly what I'm doing.  :)

8/24/19 5:06 PM
Posts: 4541
nogidavid -

please copy and paste your updates here too. reddit is annoying when it comes to linear post histories

Starting now:

12 days ago: 

Today's situation:. Mats have arrived. Vinyl cover has arrived. OSB board (I'm going g to float the floor) has arrived. Foam blocks with which to float the floor? Not for another week.

Men's changeroom walls go up tomorrow. Plasterer Wednesday. Painter (hopefully) on Friday) Showers are going to be a headache, but the unit below me is empty, so I should be able come up from the ceiling underneath.

August 12, 2019

8/24/19 5:08 PM
Posts: 4542





White Belt II2 points·12 days ago

what mats are you using and why?




level 3


Black Belt4 points·11 days ago

Brand spanking new regular tatami style mats I got a discount on (I'm assuming they were a cancelled order or something because the price was only for that colour and they only had x amount of them. I'll make a post with the names of all my suppliers when I'm done.

Floating the floor under them (2 layers of 7/16 OSB board on top of foam blocks) and putting a white vinyl one piece cover over the entire mat space.

Tatamis because they came in comparable to plain foam, and I may want to move them some day.
Floating the floor because takedowns.
Vinyl cover because I don't want cooties between the cracks of my tatami mats (and let's be honest, no one ever takes them up and cleans them nearly as often as they should). White because if they're dirty, I want to know so I can clean them. If the white cover gets scuffed and looks dingy, despite all my cleaning, I may have to reassess. But for now? I want people to know I have immaculate mats.



8/24/19 5:09 PM
Posts: 4543

level 1

End of day Aug 12.

Remember that scene in Step Brothers when Will's character says he had planned to take over the family business? And his dad, exasperated, said "I'm a medical doctor!"?

Today I learned that being a GC is not an inherited skill.

Turns out that my plans were, individually, excellent but didn't mesh as seamlessly as I would have thought. Think... bunch of mediocre musicians who've never played together improvising jazz. Only worse. And probably louder.

Turns out my plumbing challenge is greater than I had assumed and, long story short, not only am I set back a few days, im forced to reconfigure the men's changeroom. This in turn will eat common area space, which affects other plans.

Fortunately, I don't have regular people timing. Things either work out fantastic or not at all for me.

Home depot hadn't sent the studs I had ordered, meaning the framer couldn't frame and hang drywall for the men's changerooms last week, meaning I don't have to year down new walls I would have just paid for. So I'm not bitching about the extra time.

Started laying down the OSB board so I can make my cuts and such. Plan is to have all the cuts done and the OSB numbered so that when the foam gets here i'm ready to float the floor.

Oh, and I'm having some close friends over on sat to watch the fights and sneak peek the new place. So no pressure.

Here's a pic of where I left things today:

End Aug 12 2019

8/24/19 5:11 PM
Posts: 4544

12 days ago
Got a link to the blog?

12 days ago
This will be the blog for now. :)

The website is, which will also be changing in real time.

Once things started going sideways, I figured I'd put the whole process out there, warts and all. We can all have a laugh as it comes together, rather than just my followers


Good luck! This is in the DR? I have am old team mate that is training now at Machete BJJ.

12 days ago
No, it's in Ottawa, Canada. But I'm one of the founders of Academia de la Costa in the DR and am still very involved with the programs there.

I used to train at Machete whenever I was in Santo Domingo. Good people!

8/24/19 5:13 PM
Posts: 4545

11 days ago

What kind of layering are you doing for your mats? What are you using to guard the walls? How long do you estimate it will take you to complete your project? What belt would you give yourself in Reno ranking? Obligatory Yamasaki joke : For how many seconds will you let your students ''be warriors'' after they've passed out from a choke. What's your plan to attract the fat government workers making 80+gs a year to do fuck all?


11 days ago
3" foam blocks, 2 layers of 7/16 OSB boards, regular tatamis, then a vinyl cover.

I'll make and hang wall pads on 4x8s once everything else is done. Am considering going 4'high and 8'long rather than upright, but we'll see how I feel when the time comes.

I found out today I'm a white belt in renos. More on that in the next standalone comment.

Our government workers actually do a decent job, but any suggestions on how to draw them in are welcome!

I teach my guys to tap, saves the hassle of being warriors :)

8/24/19 5:14 PM
Posts: 4546

That's all the cut/pasting for today -- more to follow.

Spoiler alert:  The foam guys screwed the pooch.

8/26/19 1:36 PM
Posts: 4547

cut/pasting continues:


level 1


2 points·13 days ago

You going to get a fancy wall timer?



level 2


Black Belt2 points·13 days ago

Looking for a timer now, but likely won't be fancy.

Besides, by blue belt you should KNOW how long six minutes is ;)




level 4


Black Belt2 points·13 days ago

Am considering a stopwatch. We'll see.



level 5


The North Star Academy2 points·13 days ago

I use the $160 or so one off Amazon, comes from China and is a little weird to program (at first) but works well. I actually bought another one when I added a room to the gym. DM me if you wanna chat about launching a gym, I am 2.5 years in and super happy :)


level 6


Black Belt3 points·13 days ago

Thanks -- I'll look into it. And I may just DM you once things settle down a bit. Or rather "if" things ever settle down :)



level 7


1 point·13 days ago

If you contact title directly, the do club deals in exchange for some advertising. Great timer.


8/26/19 1:37 PM
Posts: 4548

Today, August 13th

Had some outside life issues to handle. Seems life isn't always prepared to wait until you have time for it. This to say I got nowhere with the renos today

The good news is that I hired a GC who works for my landlord to finish the showers and changeroom walls. Not only does that put one person in charge (so no passing the buck) it also means the landlord can't really complain if it's not a great job. So he's starting today or tomorrow and he can decipher the plumbing/ductwork Gordian knot that is this building.

Also hired a friend of mine to handle my SEO and such. I simply don't have time nor expertise to do it myself in time for the opening, so I'm paying the "late and uneducated" tax. Good news is I trust him and he's in the industry, so I'm hopeful.

Picked up a projector for this Saturday. No way the place will be as finished as I wanted it, but at least it will be presentable.

Trying to get my Weebly/Square online shop uploaded to my GoDaddy subdomain. Think I did it right, have to wait for the DNS to update. If it's not updated by tomorrow morning, I'll have to call GoDaddy and wait on hold for a hour. Ugh.

Lots of students from the place I used to teach reaching out to ask when the new place opens and letting me know they're ready to sign up. That's encouraging -- I haven't put anyone to the question, so the fact they're reaching out is great.

Foam with which to float the floor should be arriving on the 20th. That's the real bottleneck and I'm more than a little bit frustrated at how difficult it was to get this order done. Whats the over/under on how many days late it will be? ??

8/26/19 1:38 PM
Posts: 4549

Wednesday August 14th

Had to reconfigure the men's changeroom. Had planned to run the wall to join the other wall (see pics), but that, combined with having to roof it on for the shower, would have limited the air intake. Had to make hallway to keep flow to the air intake, meaning I had to make the men's changeroom wider to accommodate.

Long story short? Less common area, and likely no home for the spinning bikes unlocked up on auction.

Got my online store uploaded. Tweaking it tomorrow. SEO guy is on the job. Having friends over for a sneak peek on Saturday. Good thing my good friend is a hell of a plasterer! Walls were looking... rough.

More tomorrow!

Reconfigured -- added hallway 

Reconfigured -- added hallway

8/30/19 10:58 PM
Posts: 4550

Thursday, August 15, 2019.


Got a lot of my online integration sorted. Still some more testing to do, but I'm now confident I can get it to work. Trying to figure out how best to offer payment plans (bi-weekly) for Kids' programs as opposed to having to pay for the whole season at once. If the site doesn't allow for that, I'll just offer the biweekly option by calling/emailing instead of doing it through checkout.

Approved the style of the new landing page. Have conveyed that being live with it by Monday is only good if he means last Monday. We'll see how that goes.

Ordered some chairs so my friends don't have to sit on the floor to watch the fights. The place will most definitely NOT be finished enough to show off, but there's a certain coolness to seeing a place as it comes together that I think people will like. Besides, they're all friends of mine so not like paint on the walls is going to make a difference in how they break my b***s about the place :)

Got all the plywood cut and laid down. Am laying it down now because the foam to float the floor is the bottleneck to opening. Once I get that, I want to be ready to go. Am numbering all the boards so as to pull them up and lay them down in the same spot. Because everything always goes according to plan. Always...

Ordered internet service. Today. You know, because ordering that kind of thing a week before I need it is for the weak. It gets installed on Saturday. Just in time for the fights. Because of course it does.

Know what else happens on Saturday? Painting. Spent extra, got the low-smell stuff so I don't stink up the joint before the fights.

Plumbing is roughed in. Walls for the changerooms are getting drywalled. The plasterer is the best damned plasterer I've ever seen. Makes it look easy.

Starting to feel that I'll be ready to have classes as soon as the foam comes in so I can float the floor.

My phone's been blowing up with well-wishers. Seems everyone thinks I'm going to crush this. Easier said than done. But if every person who's ever said I should open a gym actually comes through for me with referrals or even social media love, I should be fine.

Chairs arrive tomorrow in the am. Have my first tee time with the Mrs in the PM (agreed to long before the lease). Waiting on internet install sat morning, Dungeons and Dragons with the kids in the PM. Fights in the evening. Something something glad I hired a reno guy who I can trust to get it right, because I haven't seen nearly enough of my family this month.

Came off the keto diet this week. Carbs have never tasted so good!!! But MAN my body is not liking the transition back! Meh, when sour candy is on offer, my body doesn't get a vote.

Know what else is amazing? Hot baths. Just saying.

Pics from today:

Aug 15, 2019 plywood is cut and laid out. Bobby saved the day.

8/30/19 10:59 PM
Posts: 4551

Friday Aug 16th

Rental chairs arrived. Most of them. Late. And they look old and crap. Nevertheless, it's a one-off event, and they'll be fine in Monday, so I'm not overly concerned. Wifi gets installed tomorrow between 8 and noon.

Testing the projector today, hanging the screen tomorrow. Contractor will have his site organized and relatively clean so I can make the place somewhat presentable.

Painter in tomorrow morning. I hope.

I snuck out for my first round of golf in over a decade today. Turns out one of our foursome is an internet marketing goddess. For all that I didn't want to talk business, she nevertheless gave me some good pointers. This sort of thing happens to me a lot -- my timing is either impeccable or disastrous. But usually impeccable.

Electrical is pretty much done. Plumbing as well. Showers will go in over the weekend.

Everything physical will be in order by the time the foam blocks to float the floor come in. Worst case scenario they delay too much and I can lay out the mats for now, and then pick them up when I float the floor on any given weekend.

Budget is blown. The complexity of the shower install forced a reconfiguration which in turn set of a cascade of additional work. Internet work will also ding the budget, but with the payment plan I fully expect to recoup that through new members as I go with room to spare.

I'm exhausted and starting to make dumb mistakes. Like building a frame on which to mount the screen so I don't have to pierce the new wall, when I could have simply hung it from the rafters.

Bottom line:. The place will be ready next week, it's going to be beautiful, and I'm going to be proud to show it off and proud to teach classes there.

8/30/19 11:00 PM
Posts: 4552

So... I mentioned I had scheduled a small sneak preview party to watch the fights with a few of my closest friends?

Remember that feeling of hosting a party in middle or high school in your parents' basement? Sitting around with way too much soft drinks and chips, wondering if anyone's even going to show up? Or worse, if only two people show up and you end up standing around awkwardly not talking about how epically the party failed?

Because I do!

Never fear, my friends came through. Packed house, everyone telling me how much they loved the space (which, as friends, they're obliged to say anyway, but after this week I'll take it!).

The leadup was... interesting. Normally, the reno process would be to get all the plumbing done, walls up, plaster, and then paint. And then clean up. In that order.

Scheduling Saturday's event trumps normalcy. The World's Toughest Plasterer (tm) came through in spades. Brought a painter with him and between the two of them transformed my somewhat raggedy walls into glass-smooth semi-gloss whiteness. I got in on the action, mostly because I'm sure the painter was amused at my fussing like a mother hen. Plus they got to mock my old man golf shorts, so really a win for everyone.

Wife came by to clean the bathrooms and buy party food/stuff, because apparently while I was busy doing the million things I had to do I got time-warped back to the 1950s. Guys: Want to succeed and be happy in life? Marry well.

Contractor left his work site immaculate (I'll drop his details in a post with the rest at the end of this thread).

A flawless evening, but for the flaw: As I'm new to the space, no one thought to reset the automatic thermostat, which I don't as yet know how to adjust. Which was set to not run over the weekend. 28 Celcius (that's a tad less than 85 in freedom units).

So yeah, it was... tropical.

Other than that, a great night and a huge relief to pull it off what with all the things going on.

Took today (Sunday) almost off. Went in to clean and that's about it for work. Missed Dungeons and Dragons (adventurer's league) with the kids yesterday with all the lead-up, but got to play Magic the Gathering with my daughter today. Nothing recharges the spirit like spending quality time with my baby girl sharing something we both love. And mercilessly crushing her at it!

See the link for the scene of my planned nap this afternoon. Alas, just as I settled in, it started to rain. Reminding me that while the universe is treating me well of late, I shouldn't push it.

Planning to have the work all but finished by Wednesday and the mats down and ready to go by Saturday.

Once that happens, I'll host a bunch of open mats and soon some classes for my team.

It all depends on the foam company now so I can float the floor. I remain very cautiously very mildly somewhat optimistic they'll come through on time. Wish me luck!

Pics here:

Sat, Aug 17 2019 -- hosting an event

9/2/19 11:47 PM
Posts: 272

Nice work, my last year at Carleton I lived at 640b Somerset :-)

9/11/19 12:45 AM
Posts: 942

Congrats. Keep on posting.