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Jon Neitzell – The Accidental Entrepreneur

Please write a short bio about yourself and your business

My name is Jon Neitzell. I have been married for 26 years to my wife Debbie and have two great children, Ethan and Tali! In my “spare time” I am the senior pastor of River Valley Christian Church in Lake Elmo, MN.

I have served as a youth pastor, administrator, associate pastor, and now senior pastor for over 20 years at churches in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

I began training in Krav Maga over four years ago to get into better physical condition after years of not being physically fit. Krav Maga (Israeli for “close combat”) is a self-defense system developed for the military in Israel that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from Aikido, Jujutsu, Boxing, Judo and Wrestling along with realistic fight training. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and is extremely efficient and brutal in counter-attacks. It was derived from street-fighting skills developed by Hungarian-Israeli martial artist Imi Lichtenfeld.

Why did you want to own your own business?

Actually, I did not plan to start a business! After training for a year at Krav Maga Minneapolis, MN I encouraged my instructors to begin classes in my home town of Stillwater, MN. The effort had mixed results, and soon they encouraged me to become an instructor myself and start a school in our area. I successfully completed the Civilian Instructor Course in New Orleans, LA. May of 2012, and from there went on to start my business.

When did you start the business?

My first class was held September 10th, 2012

What training/experience did you have in your business field before you started?

There are 16 levels of achievement in Krav Maga: Practitioner levels (P1-P5), Graduate Levels (G1-G5) and Expert Levels (E1-E6). I had achieved the rank of Practitioner 3 before successfully completing the International Krav Maga Federation’s (IKMF) Civilian Instructors Course in the spring of 2012.

What challenges did you face when starting up your business?

My biggest challenge was outgrowing the space I was renting shortly after moving in. Within the first year the business moved three times because we needed bigger facilities. As part of this another challenge was the communication needed to keep all of the students abreast of the changes in venue.

How long did you have to run the business before you saw a profit?

I began to make a profit immediately, but because each new facility coincided with increased rent and other overhead the profit margin has not increased significantly since the beginning.

How did the business startup affect your marriage/family?

My family has always been very supportive of my work with Krav Maga.

What’s the best thing entrepreneurship has done for you?

Allowed more contact with people outside of my regular sphere of influence. Often when people find out I’m a pastor it is the end of a very good conversation. But when they see me as a “Self-Defense Instructor” there is not an immediate wall that is formed.  It has also allowed me to gain a better perspective of what “real people” are faced with every day: Taxes / Business rent / Insurance / etc.

What lessons have you learned about entrepreneurship along the way?

Consistency! Because it was just me to begin with and my other full time life has precedence in my schedule I had to not conduct a portion of the classes for the first two years because of conflicts. I now have two new instructors who have trained up under me that fill in when I am not able to attend. Since the first of the year we have not had to cancel any classes because of my professional time conflicts and I can really see the difference in class participation.

What advice do you have for those considering entrepreneurship?

Take the chance!! Risk is involved in every area of life. The safest path is not necessarily the correct one.

Be consistent!! The best kind of customers are regular customers. And they will be regular if you are regular.

Have fun!! If it’s not fun you need to find something else to do. Life is too short!

To learn more about Jon and his work in Krav Maga, you can visit his website at

Note: This is part of a series called Entrepreneur Success Stories, which features people who took a chance on starting their own business.  If you have an Entrepreneur Success story, I would love to hear about it. Please visit the contact page to let me know the details.


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