October 26, 2017
Sharing compelling stories
By Cameron Potts
In the words of one of my colleagues, “his story is insanely compelling.”
Malcolm McRoberts, senior vice president of small business services for Deluxe Corporation was referring to Jose Tilapa, owner of Keystone Boxing and MMA Gym in Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania. Originally from Mexico, Jose moved to his wife’s hometown, and opened the gym of his dreams, intent on creating the next great Philadelphia-area boxing club.
As a storyteller, there are times when I come across no-brainer stories. In the first year of our Small Business Revolution series, there was the story of Mozzeria, a pizza restaurant in San Francisco run by a deaf couple who hires only deaf workers. Amazing, right? That is a crazy compelling story.
Also in the first year, there was the story of Spirit Reins, a ranch near Austin, Texas that uses equine therapy to help youth with anger and anxiety issues. Great story. Then last year in Wabash, Indiana, we worked with Filament Tattoo Parlor, which is owned and operated by Matt Haynes, a former church pastor who shaved his head, grew a long beard and began to operate this business.
And now we come to Jose, an immigrant who moves into historic Bristol Borough to follow his dream. When we first met Jose, he told us in compelling and often gripping detail how he used to shadow-box in his room at night because as a kid, he so badly wanted to be a professional boxer. His father wasn’t around and his family couldn’t afford lessons, so he went wanting.
Eventually, he found a way to train and though he didn’t make it as a professional, he ended up in the boxing-rich history of eastern Pennsylvania, determined to make it as a gym owner. Jose also explained how he allows local youth to train at his gym for free because he doesn’t want them to share his same fate of boxing alone.
Yet the unique story doesn’t always mean the business is going to thrive. Matt Haynes is a born marketer and from day one, he knew how to sell his business and make a profit. Jose’s challenge was greater. His need was in defining what he offered in the marketplace. Is Keystone a straight-up boxing facility or a fitness center? Can it be both?
Jose has a deeply ingrained, strenuous work ethic. Not only does he run the gym, primarily on his own, but he also works other jobs on the side to provide for his family and to augment running his dream. He is coming up with fitness classes to draw in locals, while also trying to maintain his status as a training center for elite boxers.
There are so many angles to Jose’s story: his love of being a boxing coach; his drive to make the business successful; his want to be a role model for his son. Every aspect interconnects with the other. His story remains a work in progress as the gym has been open only a year. Building on his narrative will be his success in grooming maybe the area’s next Rocky, or the area’s next great fitness center.
That’s what is great about “insanely compelling” stories. They get better with every page you turn.