Aspire Combat Sports Academy

Dean Garnett talks to us about his academy

Dean, a sport coaching graduate, is co-founder of Aspire Combat Sports Academy - a mixed martial arts school that balanced its books within eight weeks of opening. 

“I started UFC fighting when I was 19. At the time I was studying for a Real Estate HND and heading for a career in property. My first spar was with a guy named Phil. After that, my life changed forever.

“Nine years later and Phil is now my business partner. Together we’ve founded Aspire Combat Sports Academy. The Academy is a mixed martial arts (MMA) school based in Liverpool. We have two gyms in the centre– one for coaching and one for strength and conditioning workouts. Soon, we’ll also be opening Liverpool’s first ever paleo café and we’re developing sports massage rooms, a sauna and a shop.

“Before starting Aspire Combat Sports Academy, my main concern was business acumen. I had a lot of great coaching knowledge, but I didn’t know how to manage a businesses’ finances or how to project manage.

“That’s why I went to the Centre for Entrepreneurship. The business advisors gave me fantastic support. They were a neutral audience who I could sound ideas off to. When you’re as passionate as I am about your business it can be hard to see the pitfalls. The Centre’s advisors helped me keep my business plan realistic. They also helped me plan for costs I hadn’t thought about, like legal bills and business rates."

“Age is irrelevant when you’re starting a business. Don’t let being young stop you. If you’ve got the right skills, go for it. If you don’t have the skills, find the training you need before starting out.

“Even though I’m working long hours, I’m proud to have made my dream into a reality. Every night, just before I pull down the Academy’s shutters, I take a moment and look at the gym and smile to myself.

“In the future, we’re hoping to open expand the business, opening a physiotherapy service. We’re also researching a youth development programme. Our dream is to one day open the first MMA school in Ghana.”

"In this life, nothing comes to you. You have to go out and get what you want."

Dean Garnett

Dean's tips for start-ups

Dean shares his top six tips:

1. Create your own opportunities and make yourself available.

2. Have a clear vision and stick to it.

3. Back up your idea with experience. I worked with as many different people as possible.

4. Get qualified.

5. Build a support network of useful contacts and, if you choose a business partner, pick someone who is good at the stuff you’re not so good at.

6. Do something you love. If you’re passionate your business is more likely to succeed.

  1. Morning

    I wake up at 8.00am and train at the gym for an hour. I then coach a Pro Fight Session.

  2. Lunch

    For lunch I need something that's going to fuel the rest of my day. I normally choose a paleo salad.

  3. Afternoon

    My afternoons are full of meetings. We have a team meeting every day, as well as marketing and sales meetings. Before the first classes kick off, I try to do some social media and marketing work.

  4. Evening

    From 4.00pm to 9.30pm, I'm coaching. The Little Ninjas come in at 4.00pm, we also have sessions for beginners and pro fighters throughout the evening.

  5. Night

    After the last class, I prepare the gym for the next day and head home. I'll tackle my inbox before heading to bed.