John and Lisa Highberger will be the first PRO Martial Arts franchisees in the Charlotte area and the second in South Carolina. Having purchased five licenses, the Highbergers will be one of three franchisees developing a total of 15 studios in the fast-growing region.
Both John and Lisa grew up .....
Both John and Lisa grew up in Roanoke, Va but hadn’t met until they started working at ITT, where John spent more than 30 years of his career and Lisa 28. The couple each spent time in the defense division working on night vision technology as well as the commercial water and wastewater systems division. “We like helping people. All the products and services that we have worked with have been about saving lives and making them better, such as through water treatment,” Lisa said.
Graduating from the Ohio Institute of Technology with an electronics degree, John moved his way up within ITT from hands-on technician to facility manager. Having worked in the defense electronics and commercial water divisions, John gained insight into both the service and production side of the business. In 2011, due to company cut backs and tough economic times, John was laid off. After working a facility management job, he is currently retired and waiting to start his new venture with PRO Martial Arts.
Lisa graduated from Roanoke College with a major in chemistry and held various positions within ITT, including manufacturing engineer, Integration Manager, and Quality Manager. By the end of her career with ITT, Lisa had become the Director of Manufacturing and Quality for a plant in Springfield, interfacing with customers and suppliers. During the course of her career, Lisa also became a certified black belt master and coordinated the Lean Six Sigma training program for the company, eventually becoming the mentor and trainer for more than 120 green belts and 10 black belts. The training program was a part of the company’s Lean Six Sigma curriculum, which is designed to improve product/process quality and reduce waste in manufacturing and transactional processes.
How did you first learn about brand?
We reached out to a franchise broker and he presented us with three options. With our background, we had done everything in our career except sales and marketing, so we needed something with a strong sales and marketing recipe.
Why did you choose an opportunity with PRO Martial Arts?
Lisa: I’m big into fitness. I’m a kettle bell instructor. After my first husband passed away, my kids and I had a lot of anger and frustration about the passing and we did martial arts for several years to help cope. It was therapeutic for us and I knew that my kids would be able to take care of themselves with those skills. It gave them self-confidence.
PMA is different because they took time in putting together their Armor, character building and obesity programs. When I heard they were focusing on childhood obesity it was a slam dunk. It was a good business model and I liked the fact it was about giving back to the community.
Why is PMA poised for success in Charlotte?
Lisa: There are a few different reasons. There are strong demographics that support the PMA franchise and it’s a growing area. Our first location is more rural because Charlotte keeps spreading out as it grows. There’s a lot of opportunity to find a growing area that doesn’t have a lot of opportunities for kids. You can grow with the community and become a part of it.
What are your development plans?
We plan to open four more locations in the next five to seven years. There have been 15 licenses sold within the Charlotte area, which will help build brand recognition before we open our other locations. We’ll be focusing on the South Charlotte area.