John Du Cane – From Struggling Business To Worldwide Kettlebell Movement

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Business Name: Dragon Door
Location: Little Canada, Minnesota, United States
Region: North America
Country: United States

Hear John talk about his struggles keeping his business open, to building and growing a successful fitness business leading the kettlebell movement worldwide.

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Transcript

John Du Cane
All cameras America is a, it’s the best country in the world. And everybody hears about it. Everybody loves it, who hates it. And if they hate it, the reason somebody hates America is because they’re jealous of America. So there’s no third opinion. They’re like growing up. In the Soviet Union, you read some books, you watch some movies, that some American movies that were shown, and seldom left an impression, want to remember is the Magnificent Seven. And that was a terrific movie, such a powerful movie, and the American scenery and just the mood of freedom, and opportunity, anything is possible. And later on, I understand the terms that I learned here, this term of American exceptionalism. I really like that. What I don’t like about what’s happening right now is this country’s trying to some people in this country try to turn away from what has made this country great. They just tried to downplay American exceptionalism and try to be just like everybody else. And they’re forgetting that the rest of the world is looking up to America, and they want us to be exceptional. So I came here and tried to start a new port expert business with some friends, which was unsuccessful this way never heard about this business. Finally, I decided probably I should better stick to things that I know about. August I did a bunch of odd jobs. I sold hot dogs, I Boston nightclub I delivered newspapers, you know, the usual immigrant story. And finally, I started training people because, well, when done well, but important, what do I know about export, then? What am I going to earn selling hotdogs? As I started training people, eventually, I changed several facilities, training facilities by less training facility that was in Minnesota, was in the basement of a bank vault. And that was beautiful, because it was in the basement, so nobody could hear the screams. And nobody really had any good use for the space. They had tried to rent it out to an armored car company, but they had their own. And so there’s no retail front. And so I got a great deal. About that time. That’s when I got my first lesson in marketing. I learned about positioning versus prospecting. And I understood that positioning prospecting means just chasing people down, okay? You come to me trained with me, because I’m the best or whatever. And positioning is just placing yourself where people will find you, people who are the right people will find you. So a friend of mine had suggested that I teach workshops at a local seminar company. And I offered a couple of different workshops to them stretching and ABS, things like that. As a result, as I learned early on that word great, because instead of paying for marketing, I was paid for marketing. I wasn’t paid much, maybe a couple hundred dollars. But nevertheless, every time I would teach the course and people come to me so well, do you offer private training? Yes, I do. And here’s a great example of positioning again. And this wirey a skeptic looking Englishmen took my class and he walks over to me afterwards, and he introduces himself as john Duquesne and is asking, I’d like to write a book. And that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship and terrific business relationship with Dragon and dragon door.

When I first founded dragon door back in 91. There was one impulse, which was an excitement about sharing my passion for Tai Chi and Chico with the world. And that was about it. You know, I didn’t have anything at all well figured out about how that was going to play out in my universe, or anyone else’s universe. For that matter. It was just a kind of vague sense of the desire to get the word out and didn’t really know what I was doing on many, many levels. We published our first book called a vein and she, but it was through traditional publishing, you know, we were selling the book for like 1695 to Barnes and Noble and it didn’t matter how many copies you sold. If it was in the 10s of thousands, no one was going to get rich. I then also organized a couple of certifications. So certification systems for people who wanted to instruct in medical g comb and other aspects of Chico so that developed. However, I was in a desperate financial situation, no question. And the most scary moment came when I remember opening the door to an African American gentleman who was there to turn off my water because we hadn’t paid the water bill. And we somehow managed to come up with the payment for the water bill. And I had lots of situations like that where we had a terrible time staying alive. This is where dragon door started. And kind of, fittingly, it’s still a to do with healing. So I had my little desk over here. And this is literally where dragon door publications first got off the ground. So you didn’t go went out of here? Yeah. Really? Yeah. All your mortars Yes. And your marketing kit is directly out of this tiny little office. And it got so bad that eventually, I approached the guy next door to me in who is about the carwash also, john Kramer, who had a limo business. And I decided to start driving limo to bring in least some regular cash while I was trying to make it as a publisher. And I then had the very good fortune to lies, to meet most the single most charismatic author I’ve ever been fortunate enough to meet and that’s Pavel setsubun. And he was going to show us Westerners what we didn’t know about stretching and how everything we thought we knew was wrong, and he was going to fix it. So I was intrigued. And I went to this flexibility workshop with the open new. And there was this young Russian, very charismatic, very articulate, and he, you know, had a shirt on that said, body by Stalin. And he had a definite stick going. He was the EVIL RUSSIAN, and he came from the evil empire. And, you know, he made a lot about being an ex communist and having kind of escaped from Russia and had been Special Forces. And it was very intriguing, and that was great. But what was so much better was a combination things was that his ideas, and his techniques was stretching and flexibility were amazing. And they were genuinely different. And they were getting people extraordinary results. So I got very excited. And I just felt this special connection with Pavel. Right off the bat. I liked him immediately. And I went up to him and asked him three questions. I said, Do you have a publisher? He said, No. And then I said, Would you like to be published? And he said, Yes. Third question is where you’d like me to publish you? He said, Yes. Let’s look at that. And he just had a few stick drawings of figures and a few kind of little pages of handout. And we worked on that and came out with the first book beyond stretching.

After that, a book and strength training. That was power to the people that at one point, I was to kettlebells. It never occurred to me that kettlebells could be popular is just too hard. So this is how it came about. I’m sitting in Morton Gallagher’s backyard. Marty Gallagher is a good friend of mine. He’s a former coach powerlifting Team USA. He lives in a undisclosed location in the East Coast. And so we’re sitting in the backyard and enjoying some steaks and shooting some breeze and he’s telling me about Kurt Kowalski cone, all this lifters just coach then I’m telling you about things I’ve done and tell him about kettlebells. So he tells me, why don’t you write an article for Milo about this? Southern Milo okay. Milo is this niche publication for just crazy guys who like lifting rocks and then horseshoes and nails? And so I thought, this group seems to be crazy enough, so why not give it a try? So I wrote an article, but it was called the vodka, pickle juice kettlebells and other Russian pastimes. And I thought I didn’t think much of it. And then I started getting mail. People were really curious about

people started getting kettlebells kettlebells had been around in fact, iron. They had been very big. Earlier in the century, with old time strongman they’d been used in Germany and in the states and of course in Russia. But they had absolutely gone out of fashion. Iron mine had this weird adjustable kettlebell that didn’t work very well to in our opinion. There was no literature about it. There was certainly no D DVDs or videos or anything. But pebbles pebble had become master of sports and kettlebell lifting in the military in the Special Forces in Russia. He had this in his background, the article stimulated interest. So Pamela and I started talking about it. And he asked me if he thought that this was something that could fly in the United States. And we had this historic meeting at a coffee shop in St. Paul in Roseville, actually called dumb brothers. And we had, I think, one of the most historic meetings and in modern fitness fitness history, which is why he and I sat down for our espressos. And he had this huge hunk of on on the table with a handles like a cannibal with a handle. So this is a kettlebell is kind of rusting old object, which he actually got from a hockey player from Russia that had been visiting. And he said, What can we do with this? Do you think this will really work? And his idea was that Well, probably there’d be a few grizzled vets who’d been in the military, who this would appeal to, and then maybe some power lifters and some elite athletes, and that would probably be it. So you know, I think it’s, I think it’s to have a bigger appeal.

Unknown Speaker
They kettlebell has been instrumental in rooting out weakness out of the Russian gene pool. And now your next you are on the Soviet territory, and you are becoming a better man.

John Du Cane
If you don’t know how I’ll teach you. If you don’t want to, I’ll make you right now. It’s gotten to the point where you can find nobody knew what a kettlebell was in the West. At that point, right now you can find a kettlebell. And I don’t know for crying out loud a bookstore.

Unknown Speaker
And at Sears,

John Du Cane
I mean, it was just this amazing breakthrough. And, of course, what also happened is we went from being a publisher of books and DVDs to accompany that was a manufacturer. And also, we suddenly had this organization of people are Casey’s, which has now grown to this, like 2000, all Casey’s in 43 countries, all over the world. I

mean, right now, we’re reached the point where we have, you know, an army of guys with tattoos of rkc eagle on their biceps, you know, or the calf or somewhere else, and it’s just feels awesome. It was truly, truly awesome. But we’re just doing what we love to do. I love spreading the pain and love, you know, download, communicating about spreading the pain. And then we had this terrific community of people that grew around what we’re doing. So the growth has been totally organic. There hasn’t been any kind of a business plan. I mean, world domination, obviously, is the objective. But that’s about it, World Domination without any steps or stays.

If you’re concerned as an entrepreneur, about two possible situations, one is you’re in a job, and you’re dissatisfied with your job and you have a passion and you want to get into that new passion, but you’re scared as all hell about what’s going to happen if you quit your job, which is what I did, and jump into something which could fail. Or you’re an entrepreneur who’s been at it for a while, like I was for a long time, and it looked like it wasn’t going to work and you’re wondering, should I quit? Should I pull the plug is this worth it? Just the more you tried to make things happen, the more you’re going to have to realize that people are going to screw up and things are gonna go wrong. That’s just the nature of the game.

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