“From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed, it’s just Karate,” Jesse Enkamp told us, “I practice, I teach, I learn, I read, I write.”
Jesse also sells products on Gumroad, including a highly successful membership product: a private online video subscription club. The club delivers recurring value in exchange for recurring revenue. Every week he sends new videos to his community of fellow Karate Nerds.
In his time using Gumroad, Jesse has made six figures in sales several times over. “To be able to do my craft without having a regular job,” he told us, “I need to also get paid from my craft, somehow, and that's how I'm using Gumroad.”
We asked Jesse to reflect on his Gumroad journey, and here’s what we learned.
Blogging from the Birthplace of Karate
Jesse grew up practicing Karate at his family’s martial arts center in Sweden. For him, Karate has been a family business from the beginning — and it has turned into a lifelong calling.
Years before he started using Gumroad, Jesse blogged about his observations and experiences. His writing attracted a community of people wanting to learn more about what he was studying and learning.
“‘Karate Nerds’ are like-minded,” Jesse said. “We love to learn as much as possible about this weird martial art from Japan, where we punch and kick in our white pajamas. There's a lot to learn about the history, the culture, the language, the philosophy, not just the physical aspects, but unfortunately a lot of Karate instructors and Karate schools don’t teach these things.”
Jesse filled this gap in the market, applying his blogging skills to writing books. For a decade, he wrote and traveled the world teaching Karate seminars. “But it wasn’t until I moved from Sweden to Japan, and more specifically to Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, when I started to do instructional videos. I was fortunate to study at a university there. I learned a lot, which I started sharing and it resonated with a lot of other people who didn’t have that same experience.”
Using Gumroad as a Delivery Mechanism for Instructional Videos
In Jesse’s words, “What I needed at that point was some kind of delivery mechanism for these videos. And that's when I found Gumroad.” Jesse was already an internationally-known educator, national team athlete, best-selling author, and founder of KARATEbyJesse — he just needed a platform that stretched further than the walls of a dojo.
Jesse decided which products to create by building answers to questions he received often. “People were asking me the same questions over and over again. I just had to make a product because there was a lot of demand. I’d sell tickets to my karate seminars through Gumroad. I’d have professional videographers come to my training camps and film them. Then I would presale those videos to people who couldn't attend the camp. And then after the camp, I would sell those videos to other people, as well. It wasn't until later I realized I could do memberships and weekly videos. Gumroad has been essential for my business, especially when it comes to the digital products.”
Staying Busy Doing Martial Arts, Not Selling
Jesse told us he uses Gumroad because it allows him to “Train smarter, not just harder.” “I like working hard,” he said, “but what I like even more is working smart — and I hate to waste time.” As he put it:
“If you want to be the best at something, you have to invest a lot of time and effort. I have to prioritize. Do I work on my business? Do I work on my own personal practice? So I have to find platforms that are easy to use. I'm running the martial arts school with my family, then I have physical products and it’s impossible to do all of those things at the same time. You have to do one thing at a time, then automate that. Once it’s automated you start the next thing. That’s how I managed to build a lot of stuff and accomplish things that I’ve been working on for a decade.”
“What I like about Gumroad is how easy it is to use and how little I need to know and learn to use it properly. It’s very basic in a good way and there’s not too much to learn, because I'm busy doing what I love the most, which is my martial arts. On Gumroad, I upload a digital product and if I run a Facebook ad, the rest takes care of itself. That chunk of effort is already invested, but it keeps paying me day after day, month after month, year after year.”
The Reward of the Work
Creators of all stripes can learn from Jesse’s approach to his online business:
“It comes back to helping people. I try to help people overcome their limitations through karate. It's something that can be useful in daily life and form a community at the same time.
“I try to provide people with top level content so they can find out more about my business. As they get more invested, they look at more videos and maybe they visit my website. When they visit my website, they start reading articles and get even deeper into my content. Maybe they check out one of my eBooks. Then perhaps they sign up for my email list — and that’s what I use for most of my sales.”
Jesse may wear a Gi instead of a suit and tie, but that doesn’t mean his business lacks sophistication. Over the years, Jesse has built every piece of a robust content business: growing his audience with free offerings on his blog, building an email list, and developing multiple product lines with varied price points for different segments of his customer base. Along with stable recurring revenue from Memberships, this mix is a great model whether you’re teaching front kicks or front-end development.
While keeping an eye on the basic health of his business, Jesse gets to spend his focus on fulfilling pursuits. “This might sound strange, but I don't really look at any numbers. When I focus on the numbers, I feel like I'm not focusing on what I do best, which is doing what I love. If I want to see those numbers, I have them on Gumroad. As soon as I see I'm not in the negative then it's all gravy, because the true reward of this work is that I get to do it.
“I just hope I can keep doing what I do. There’s a saying, ‘The destination is the journey.’ The reward of my work is I get to do the work. I don't need a regular job because of Gumroad and because of the possibilities the platform provides for me. So in the future, I would just love to keep doing what I love.”