Giving Back: The New Marketing Strategy for Schools

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bjj practice at the martial arts build vention

Zen Planner’s Chris Mierzwak, Tom Callos and Neil Magny after one of the Build-Vention’s daily training sessions.

At a typical “convention” in any industry, one usually travels to Las Vegas or some other convention host-city, checks into a local hotel and gets his or her lanyard allowing access to a convention hall. Once settled, they then attend classes or lectures, tour the booths of vendors and schmooze with fellow conventioneers. However, at a build-vention, specifically, The 12th Annual Alabama Martial Arts Build-Vention, attendees make their way to the little southern town of Greensboro, Alabama (pop. 2,500) to pick up paint brushes, scrapers, hammers and saws, and go about the work of building and renovating structures, some of them built before the Civil War, to benefit people who, well…need some help.

volunteering at the 2016 martial arts build vention

UFC fighter Neil Magny, who came with the Zen Planner team, practices “paint off and paint on” on a school house renovation.

The Alabama Build-Vention is the brainchild of progressive martial arts teacher Tom Callos. Callos heads the martial arts business consulting firm called The 100. Method, which was named with the help of civil rights icon, Rosa Parks.

“I founded the Build-Vention for a number of reasons,” explains Callos. “First, I got very tired of martial arts conventions. I got tired of the boring lectures, the overcrowded workout sessions, the endless sales pitches and meetings in bars where my peers would ask questions like, ‘Well, how do we monetize this?’ and ‘How much did you pay for that suit?’ Second, I fell in love with the work of radical architect Samuel Mockbee, whose Alabama-based Rural Studio, a school for young architects, was doing everything in the world of architecture that I wanted to do in the martial arts world. I wanted to shake up the status quo and redesign the how and why we go about our work. And third, I wanted to show martial arts school owners and teachers, with a hands-on project, how they could radically change how they went about promoting and managing their schools through community engagement.”

kids volunteering at the martial arts build vention

Two martial arts teenagers who came all the way to Greensboro from Alberta, Canada to work on building renovation.

“This was our second year attending and co-sponsoring the Alabama Project and we’re so grateful Tom invited us back,” says Phil Stern, Zen Planner’s Director of Sales. “To be a part of such a dedicated and selfless community of Martial Artists was inspirational and to get to know the community of Greensboro, AL was such a unique and enriching experience. You really feel like you’re a part of something big, even though it’s taking place in a small town. I’m already looking forward to the event next year.”

“I believe that the martial arts business community needs to move away from many of the methods of promotion and business practiced over the last three decades,” says Callos. “There’s been way too much emphasis on high pressure sales, ‘getting leads’ and amassing Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous incomes to live some perversion of ‘The American Dream.’ The new methods for helping people learn and practice the martial arts is found in being engaged in one’s community, in person-to-person contact and in taking what we practice so diligently on the mats, in the ring and in our dojos and putting it to work to the benefit of others. It comes down to being real and working smart. It’s less talking about our benefits and more social proof.”

Since the Build-Vention’s launch, the work has brought in more than $250,000 in donations from martial arts students and facilitated more than 40,000 volunteer man hours of time in Greensboro. We would love to see you at next year’s Build-Vention. Learn more about how your school can get involved.


Get your copy of our free, 10 Step Marketing Guide for Martial Arts Schools for additional ideas on how you can better promote your school this year.

marketing guide for martial arts schools


Tom Callostom callos martial arts attended his first class, in judo, in 1969, and is presently 7th dan in Taekwondo and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was the first teacher of 1000’s of martial artists, including BJ Penn and Tom’s sons, BJJ black belts Shannone Callos and Keenan Cornelius. Tom has ran some of the largest schools of their era located in Reno, NV. He has been consulting martial arts schools in ethical, sound and intelligent business/management practices for 25 years. Tom currently head’s The 100. Method. You can reach Tom by phone at 530-903-0286 or on Skype at tomcallos.

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