Houston-Based Mom Carla Ja Takes A Jab At A Pro Boxing Management Company
Welcome to the debut of “The Hustle” where we profile African-American women who are turning their passion into a little something on the side, and turning that little something into a big business. Know someone who should be in “The Hustle”? Email email@example.com.
“No Glove, No Love.”
When boxing fan and Carla Ja put this familiar slogan on t-shirts to sell at the Mayweather vs. Cotto match last May, it became the unofficial launch of her business. “Within a couple of hours,” she says, “I sold out of the shirts.”
The sales drove more than usual traffic to her website, and led to even more sales—but soon after, Ja admits, interest faded. “All of the momentum and everything just, you know, kind of went away.”
For Ja (pronounced “Jay”) who juggles raising five children with a full-time position as a manager in the medical field, the t-shirts were not about making a few extra dollars on the side. Instead, it was the beginning of the realization of an idea she had had more than 16 years ago.
At the time, Ja’s eldest daughter was three and she had been feeling more responsibility for the world her children would inherit. “I wanted to do something to be a positive contribution to society, and a big part of it is, you know, safe sex and abstinence,” Ja explains. “But I didn’t want to be preachy,” she clarifies.
Biding her time as her family and career grew, and weathering a divorce in the process, Ja finally had the shirts made. But their debut taught her a cardinal rule of business: It’s not about whatever product, service, or even message you’re selling. It’s about building a brand that authentically connects with a community of supporters that can help you make your concept a movement.
Ja had found the seeds of that support in the boxing fans that had patronized her shirts. Now she had to build her brand. As she explained to MadameNoire, it has not been a predictable or straightforward course.
Madame Noire: How did you go about beginning to create your brand?
Carla Ja: I started doing entertainment reporting for Humormill.com and interviewing a lot of the comedians that were doing improv here in Houston, Texas; interviewing the guys from Shaq’s All-Star Comedy Tour. A lot of those interviews really started circulating on the Internet, and shortly thereafter some gentlemen approached me and said “You know what? We see that you’re into boxing. We see all of your pictures. We see that you’re at every boxing event. We see that you’re also doing the entertainment reporting. How would you like to do boxing interviews for us?”
From there, Jeff Mayweather’s Pro Boxing Insider asked me, would I be a contributor for their website. Then Boxing Socialist asked me if I would be a contributor.
MN: How did the interviews evolve into managing boxers?
CJ: A lot of the up-and-coming prospects started asking me, “Miss Carla, can you get us sponsorships?” “Miss Carla, can you hook us up with someone that can help us out with, you know, endorsements and the patches for our trunks?” I said, “You know what? I should just go on and launch my own company.” So that was already something that was in the back of my mind.
From that I interviewed Juan “the Baby Bull” Diaz and [he] said “You know what? I’d like for you to be an athlete representative for my company.”
God opens doors and kind of puts the perfect people in front of you. It just kind of evolved from me launching the t-shirt company and wanting to have a larger platform; to now having a sports and entertainment company [Carla Ja Sports & Entertainment] with a number of potential athletes who are slated to sign here in the next couple of weeks, to the ones that I’m currently managing.