“How did I go from earning $3.75 per hour to $1 million per year?”
“Passion,” said Tchicaya Missamou, owner/founder of Valencia, Calif.-based The Warrior Fitness Camp, Inc.
“If you want to start a business but you don’t have passion, then go home and go to sleep,” Missamou told students at a Business Madness session on Mar. 6. “My passion is fitness. I work 18 hours a day. I am the most brutal, vicious and ruthless trainer there’s ever been. Our training makes fat cry. You will puke, pass gas and curse at the same time.”
Missamou started his business in 2006 with two clients and trained them out of his garage. Less than six months later, he opened a gym with 36 clients. Today, he has more than 200.
“What is your goal when doing business?” he queried the crowd. When some answered “to make money,” Missamou disagreed.
“Being a businessman, you have to learn how to create friendships,” said Missamou, who has a master’s degree and M.B.A. from the University of La Verne. “Never put money first or you will be broke. If you create a relationship, that customer will always come to you. You want to show how much you care.”
Missamou shows he cares in a unique way that sets him apart from his competitors.
“I make people sing, dance, and I show them how much I love them.”
His personal style may come from having an extraordinary story, which was captured in his autobiography, In the Shadow of Freedom.
Born in war-torn Congo in 1978, Missamou was on his own by the time he was 7-years old. His father had joined the military and his mother remarried but her new husband did not want him in their home.
Missamou became a child soldier at the age of 13 and learned to kill by the age of 14. But he wanted out. “I decided instead of being part of the killing, I wanted to do something with my life.”
Eventually, in 1997, he was able to secure a fake passport to Europe. One year later, he made it to the U.S. but he faced challenges in this new land. He was robbed at gunpoint and was left with nothing.
“I had no country, no friends, no family.”
Missamou found work at a martial arts studio.
“They gave me a broom and paid me $3.75 an hour under the table and I was the happiest person on earth,” he said. “It’s not about money but about the knowledge you can get.”
Missamou proved to be a diligent worker and after six months took over management of the studio. In March 2000, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and went to Iraq. After his stint, he was given citizenship and went from being illegal to legal.
He went to Congo to visit his family in 2004 but was jailed and tortured. He was able to contact the Marine Corps with a smuggled phone; the FBI, CIA, and Pentagon were involved in his release. Five days later, he was back in America.
“I was rejected all over the world but I never stopped believing,” said Missamou who is married with three children. “America is the only place that you can be nobody yesterday and someone today. I have a great life in America and I love sharing it.”
Missamou concluded with his 10 steps for success.
1. Believe in yourself. Be positive.
2. Don’t be afraid to fail. The more you fail, the closer you get to your solution. If you are afraid of failing, you will never succeed. All have failed before.
3. Be unique in your style. What makes you different? Missamou said he trains his clients on the street so cars passing by can see because the best marketing is free.
4. Don’t pay attention to negativity.
5. Don’t take “No” for an answer. Knock on doors. Someone will tell you “Yes.”
6. Work hard. A man who wakes up before sunrise and goes to bed long after the sun has set will reach his greatest potential. If you wake before sunrise, you are awake before the competition.
7. Never stop learning. Be a good listener. Be flexible. Ask questions. Know your community and your target market.
8. Appreciate and reward your customers and your employees. Encourage, not discourage. Keep in touch with customers.
9. Ask for forgiveness when you are wrong.
10. Always give back to the community. The reason we are here is because someone on this planet needs us.