Amber LaValley loves martial arts. She's been a Taekwondo student since she was 11-years-old. Now, she's taking her love of martial arts to a higher level, in turn shining the national spotlight on her Norman studio.
"I think everybody should have a little bit of training, even if it's only a self-defense class," said LaValley. "I think it is very valuable and I want to take and spread that with people, and create leaders."
LaValley opened Vision Martial Arts Academy in 2009 at the age of 18 alongside her mother, Lynne.
"My mom is an entrepreneur, so I knew I wanted to open up my own business and I figure Taekwondo was a natural route for me since I have done it for so long," said LaValley.
LaValley started with just under 20 paying students. Now, three years later, she holds classes for more than 100 students.
"I believe in setting high goals and dreaming big," she said. "So, I just feel very blessed and appreciative for everything that I've been given and achieved.
Now 21, LaValley holds awards in numerous martial arts competitions, but recently won an award she wasn't expecting. She is the 2012 recipient of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. ActionCOACH, the World's #1 Business Coaching Firm, presented the award during a black-tie banquet in Memphis, Tennessee on January 14.
"It's such a great honor to receive Young Entrepreneur of the Year," LaValley said. "I couldn't have done it without my mother and my students."
LaValley triumphed over hundreds of applicants across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
"I am so proud of Amber's accomplishments at such a young age," said Rob Garibay, LaValley's business coach. "She is a sponge in the way she picks up and implements the various strategies to move her business forward. Her success is just starting."
While she's thankful for the success her business has brought her, she says it's her vision of training people of all ages in the art of Taekwondo that keeps her motivated.
"I make sure each student leaves with more than just physical skill," said LaValley. "They leave with life skills as well."
LaValley instituted Verbal Judo Anti-Bullying curriculum within the Academy making her Norman's Anti-Bullying expert.
Her academy currently has several students competing for the American Martial Arts Institute's national champion title. LaValley employs two full-time black belt instructors and plans to hire another by the end of the year. She also hopes to expand her facility by two or three thousand square feet in the next year.