Two years after making plans, Lars Mueller started his combat sports equipment business as a side venture in early 2020. “Unfortunately, I launched two weeks before the first COVID lockdown. The timing was not very good.”
When he was laid off from his IT sales job last spring, the 2012 B.Comm. grad decided to go all in on his sports equipment venture. Since he moved from Toronto to his mother’s home in Oakville, he says, the business has seen an up-and-down year.
After Ontario’s first COVID-19 lockdown ended, Mueller saw monthly doubling of sales of his branded Techniques line of boxing gloves, headgear, shin guards and other Muay Thai equipment.
After the second pandemic lockdown in late December, gyms shut and many of his potential customers vanished. “I still get online sales, but they’re not where they could be,” he said in mid-February.
Those rollercoaster emotions continue. Sometimes Mueller feels that he’s sunk a lot of money into a business without a future. More often, he thinks about new prospects and connections.
He’s built up his website, including getting fighters at martial arts gyms to model his equipment for shoots by a photographer-videographer friend. Besides ordering more equipment, he’s designed a related apparel line now being made overseas.
“When we get back to normal, I’m going to have enough inventory to capitalize on the boom that I expect,” says Mueller.
A long-time combat sports fan, he started Muay Thai lessons at a Guelph gym during his undergrad. After graduating, he moved to Toronto, where he worked in construction and fought as an amateur in bouts around Ontario. He even trained for a few weeks in Thailand, where this martial art form is the national sport.
A bad car accident ended his fighting. He used money from the settlement and savings to start his business.
Post-COVID, Mueller plans to explore potential markets in the United States and other related ventures, maybe even doing a Muay Thai podcast. As he told Toronto Life magazine in early 2020, he figures he can lean on his passion for the sport and his business smarts, including entrepreneurial genes from his parents, who ran a business in Mississauga.