May 21, 2014

Pink Gloves Boxing: Building a Business Through a Sense of Community

By Angela Buenrostro
For Reporting Texas

Brenda Porta opened the doors to her Pink Gloves Boxing Austin in April 2013 with a mission in mind.

“It’s about creating relationships and building a community of strong, supportive and confident women,” Porta said. “I strive to just make this a great community for all kinds of women. … It doesn’t matter if you’ve done boxing or not.”

For its 70 members, the franchise facility on Burnet Road in North Austin can be a fun way to get in shape and build friendships. For Porta, 29, the owner, it’s also a step toward building a gym of her own some day, she said, “something that’s my passion … my top priority in my work life.”

Pink Gloves Austin is one of 20 gyms in a national chain headquartered in Helena, Mont., that also has three locations in Sweden. The Austin facility is the only location in Texas.

Porta, who had no prior boxing experience, tried an earlier incarnation of PGB in Austin as a customer and enjoyed the experience so much that she looked into getting her own franchise after the former outlet went out of business in 2011.

When the owners visited Austin, Porta said, “I worked with them for several months, learned more about the program … [and] purchased the license” for $6,000.

Today, with the help of two employees, Porta runs what she says is the only non-combat boxing gym for women in Austin. The program is designed to teach boxing techniques, footwork and punch combinations on a four-month cycle for which she charges $105 per month or a $399 one-time payment for 30 classes. Porta has 30 members who buy four-month programs and 40 drop-in members who pay per class.

“I am making a profit and have seen a slight increase as the months go by,” she said. She says that starting a new business is “totally worth it” in a city famous for its startups, not all of which succeed.

“What is most difficult is having a full-time job while starting up the business,” said Porta, who teaches Spanish and dance at Lanier High School in north Austin. She majored in dance at Texas State University.

J. Richard Johnson, assistant director of Texas State’s Small Business Development Center, says starting a business in Austin is easy, but keeping it going is difficult.

He said “going into it for the right reason” and “having experience in the field in which you’re applying the business” are key when starting a business.

Balancing PGB and a full-time job has taught Porta to learn from others.

“I have learned that I am not afraid of new experiences,” she said, adding that she’s also taken business classes through the City Of Austin to hone her entrepreneurial edge.

Porta has incorporated community-building into her business plan. For example, both PGB Austin and its national chain support raising money for breast cancer research and helping survivors meet medical expenses. Porta’s first annual Punch-A-Thon, held April 5, raised $5,105 for the new Seton Breast Care Center in Austin.

Porta’s best friend, Ashley Card, who is also a member, lost her aunt to breast cancer in 2007. Porta said going through the experience with Card while both were in college opened her eyes. She began to educate herself about breast cancer and has made it her mission to educate others and help in every way she can.

“When she first started telling me about Pink Gloves and what it stood for and how they raise money for breast cancer, it just got me even more,” Card said.

“Staying healthy is going to keep sickness at bay,” Card said, “but you also know that you can reach out as a community and help people who aren’t well and who are fighting a battle of their own.”