Training to be a ninja – or just wish you were? Well, you may want to heed the advice of one wise warrior who has turned his passion for ninja-style fitness into a small business success story.

A while back, we introduced you to Garrett Takach, owner of an obstacle training facility in Albuquerque called Ninja Park, where people of all ages and fitness goals can take part in a unique fitness technique combining obstacles, calisthenics and strength training. After smartly seeking mentorship from the nonprofit SCORE, Garrett quickly grew his dream business and earned the coveted distinction of grand champion in the 2016 American Small Business Championship (ASBC), hosted by SCORE and sponsored by Sam’s Club.

Now, the ASBC is back to celebrate small business owners and help them gain access to the resources they need to grow their businesses. This spring, 102 small businesses from each state and the District of Columbia were chosen as finalists and awarded a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, an all-expense paid trip to a training and networking event in Dallas, and mentoring from business experts at SCORE. Later this week, for the first time in the ASBC history, three winners will be selected as grand champions.

What does that mean? Three hard-working, passionate and well-deserving entrepreneurs will receive $25,000 to help grow their business.

What would a ninja do with all that dough? We caught up with last year’s grand champion to hear what he’s been up to after earning this respected title, and how the funds have helped Ninja Park be more successful than ever. Fun fact: Earlier this summer, Garrett performed on NBC’s hit-competition series “American Ninja Warrior!”

Q: You’ve mentioned that true passion lies behind your business. When did you first learn that you prefer getting your workouts in, ninja-style?

A: When I was 15, I became a fan of the show “American Ninja Warrior,” and I began training on obstacles when I was 16. I became a Certified Personal Trainer when I was 18 and was working at a conventional gym as a personal trainer. I wanted to create a fitness style that was fun, functional, and effective for everyone – something that would keep people motivated and lead to more success stories. This led me to create TAK Fit, which is a combination of obstacles, body weight training, and strength training. After developing this fitness style and doing it for myself, I knew that obstacle fitness was how I preferred to exercise.

Q: How has your business been impacted by winning the Championship and receiving support from Sam’s Club and SCORE?

A: By receiving support from Sam's Club and SCORE, Ninja Park has been able to complete an expansion, create more services, create more employment opportunities, and offer complimentary services to children with autism. The exposure has resulted in more people learning about us, which brings in more people and gives us the opportunity to make a positive impact on them.

Q: We know that you’re a proud SCORE mentee. How has that mentorship benefited you as a business leader?

A: Being able to speak with my SCORE mentor means a lot to me. I know that I have someone who is looking out for me and genuinely cares for me. My mentor has helped me work through many obstacles, and he teaches me something very useful each time I see him. I learn more and more about how to be an effective leader, which helps me to keep the team united, working together for the cause, and motivated into action.

Q: Overall, what key learnings or takeaways did you get from participating in the American Small Business Championship?

A: I learned to make every opportunity count. When you are clear on your goal and the direction you want to go, you can fully capitalize on every opportunity presented to you. Being clear on these things helps to decrease the decision time and increase the action time, resulting in greater outcomes. Know your goal, make decisions that will bring you there, and act upon those decisions.

Q: Ninja Park was competing against thousands of businesses nationwide in the ASBC, and all of them are so unique and impactful. What do you think made you stand out to become grand champion?

A: It was truly an honor to stand out among these businesses, and there was a tool that we used to help us stand out. Ninja Park uses George Black's The Next Level Navigator method. This process helps us become clear on the company’s vision, guiding principles, promise, culture, next level, and next steps. By knowing these things so well, we were able to speak and write about the company in a powerful, concise, and clear way. We were able to fully describe why we are in business, what we do, and how we do it. This level of clarity also made planning and making strategies much easier. I have begun teaching this method through a company I started called Solomon’s Life and Business Development. I truly believe that this method will help any business owner become clearer on their ambitions and create more precise plans of action to get there.

Q: You have learned so much through this experience. What advice would you give to this year’s grand champions?

A: The advice I would give to this year's grand champions is this: "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." - Simon Sinek
Remember to lead with your cause, and let your success be a result of the work you do to positively impact the world. Be successful in helping people, and let financial success follow as a result. Don't just tell people what you do, tell them why you do it. People will get on board with your cause, so go ahead and communicate it in all that you do.

Now that we’ve caught up with our 2016 grand champion, it’s almost time to pass the baton to this year’s three new ASBC winners. The official announcement of the winners will take place this Thursday, September 14, at the SCORE Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., and you can follow along on the Sam’s Club and SCORE Mentors Facebook and Twitter pages to learn who won. Stay tuned – we’ll be sharing stories straight from the grand champions themselves on this blog!