“When we branched out our own (studio), we knew we wanted to continue Professor Lama’s legacy, but we had no idea how to build a business or a brand. (By) Working with SBDC, we gained new tools and knowledge. We feel confident now, and more capable. ”

Diandra Thompson and Liza Fernandez


Liza Fernandez and Diandra Thompson started karate at Professor Lama’s studio and developed a lifetime friendship as children. When Professor Lama decided to retire in 2015, he tapped the duo to acquire the business and continue his commitments to the community. 

Now, under the ownership of Liza and Diandra, the studio continues to uphold very strong values of community, responsibility, discipline, and self-respect. Their programs teach students as young as four years old, and there are family classes for parents and children to learn together.  In addition to physical and personal development, Liza and Diandra believe in education and promote academic excellence among its students by checking their report cards and progress reports.


Being one of the few women-owned martial arts studios in San Francisco, Liza and Diandra have worked hard to gain respect in a male-dominated industry. While they focus on providing the best services to customers, the owners lacked the skills and experience necessary to market their business. The business was struggling to grow in a competitive environment where aspiring martial arts students have dozens of studios to choose from, many of which are located in the same neighborhood.

In January 2018, they turned to San Francisco SBDC for professional marketing advice to help them grow their business.   


The clients were paired with SBDC Advisor Molly O’Kane, a marketing expert, who the clients described as “always patient with us and broke things down into little steps to make it easier for us to understand how to move forward.” Molly’s skills in marketing and business development aligned very well with the clients’ challenges. Molly began by introducing a new payment system to simplify the payment transaction. Molly also helped the clients redesign their website with the addition of Google Ads to attract more customers. The clients also took our advice to adjust the fee structure to increase profits. 

As a program sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco, San Francisco SBDC is well connected to other public resources. SF SBDC helped the client apply for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund and was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. 


  • Monthly sales increased $4,829
  • Increased profits by 75%
  • Obtained $5,000 grant from to improve the facility and computer system.
  • Doubled the number of monthly new student sign-ups.

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.