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Sweat and determination started 9Round in Mauldin

People in the News
Bill Poovey
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Growing up a small but athletic boy, Shannon Hudson watched gymnasts on television and imitated their moves at home. As a 7-year-old, after years of watching his older brother take karate classes, Hudson joined in. His sweaty training and sparring at the Greer-Lyman School of Karate unleashed a commitment to be one of the best.

Recollections of childhood in Hudson’s new book, Zero to 100, include a story from a children’s lesson in church, when the pastor’s wife asked if anyone could tell her what a “prophet” is. Hudson, who now carries the moniker Shannon “The Cannon” Hudson as co-founder and CEO of the global 9Round fitness chain, writes that he raised his hand and replied, “It’s the money you have left over after you pay all the bills.”

“I remember the entire congregation burst out in laughter,” Hudson recalls in the book. “It was the moment that my parents knew I would be a business guy.”

9Round co-founders Heather (left) and Shannon Hudson. (Photo provided)


No matter what life throws at you, you must keep fighting. I say all the time that I don’t need fighters or kickboxers to operate a 9Round franchise, but I do need fighters in life and business. Part of life is knowing how to handle the bad times because they will always come … If you get knocked down, get right back up.
– from Shannon “The Cannon” Hudson’s book, Zero to 100

Hudson said his instant “profit” answer stemmed from afternoons when he went after school to the office and warehouse where his parents worked.

“I saw them work together almost every day,” Hudson said. “It was a great example.”

While a young teenager, Hudson’s athleticism and an enthusiasm to be the best beat out his shyness as he strengthened his body and earned the nickname “Karate Kid.” As a college freshman he studied to become an elementary school teacher before deciding that business was his professional calling.

“One of the reasons I changed my major from early childhood development to business was the unfortunate fact that teachers just don’t get paid what they’re worth,” Hudson wrote. “I had a bigger vision, and it’s important to recognize when to draw the line and not sell yourself short.”

Hudson earned a Bachelor of Science at the former University of South Carolina campus at Spartanburg. He wrote in the book that during his senior year in college he “went on journey of self-discovery, self-learning. I poured myself into self-help motivational books, and you could always find me listening to tapes about entrepreneurial topics, such as sales, marketing or wealth-building strategies. They were all preaching the same thing: You need to work harder on yourself than on your job, a concept I was (and still am) in agreement with 100%.”

Having joined his brother in teaching martial arts in and around Greenville, they started a school. That venture expanded, they went through disagreements about the business, Hudson married and then teamed in the workplace with his wife, Heather, in opening their first 9Round fitness center in 2008 at Mauldin.

Hudson wrote that startup money for the first 9Round was a $10,000 loan from a friend and a credit card that he maxed out. The 1,127-square-foot location was next door to his third karate school, which offered 45 minute classes.

Having watched the growth of the Curves International and following their model, Hudson adopted a 30-minute workout system for 9Round.

“I was convinced that franchising was the right vehicle of growth for me as an entrepreneur,” Hudson wrote. “After all, that’s what Curves had done, right? Still, I knew I had to have one store that was not only profitable, but a real standout. So I needed the flagship store to be wildly successful.”

Hudson won the International Kickboxing Federation Light Middleweight World Championship in 2011 while operating the business that grew to 100 locations in five years. The couple sold off a 40% stake in 9Round to another fitness franchiser and now has 347 locations. He said they most recently expanded in Japan and are looking next at South Africa.

The 9Round franchise fee is $24,000, and initial investment cost ranges from $65,700 to $101,800.

In marketing franchises, Hudson said “we steer clear of investors. We want hands-on people of the community.”

“We love owner-operators,” Hudson said. “They eat, sleep and breathe the brand.”

Hudson said he has always been a goal setter, which he traces to martial arts competition and said that is a benefit facing life challenges.

“People speak of their ranking with pride, ‘I am a black belt’ or ‘I am a brown belt,’ ” Hudson wrote in a message on the book cover. “But it’s a pride of achievement, not of vain boasting. I grew up being guided by that systematic way to approach accomplishments, and it taught me very early to see myself better than I am.”

Hudson said he considers his new book, published by self-publisher Open Book Editions, to be an investment. He distributes them at trade shows.

“I wanted my kids to know the story,” Hudson said. “One day they will read it and understand the lessons.”

Does he expect his children to be entrepreneurs?

“Absolutely,” Hudson said. “If they want to make a fortune, they need to provide a product or service that brings value to market place.”

Reach Bill Poovey at 864-235-5677, ext. 104.

Reach Bill Poovey at 864-235-5677, ext. 104.

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