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This Is How Sports Helped an Individual To Become a Better Entrepreneur Philip Villa is an Italian serial entrepreneur who believes that sports is the key to unlocking two important traits for success

By John Stanly

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Philip Villa

Being your own boss is what many people aspire to but the amount of hard work, resources and time required isn't what they envision. Entrepreneurship is a path rife with many challenges and uncertainties. It is estimated that nine out of ten startups fail: a whopping 90 per cent.

So why do some entrepreneurs succeed while others fail? There are many possible reasons such as lack of research, inadequate financing, and being over-rigid. There is no shortcut but the ones who succeed do so by showing up and putting in the work regardless of rain or shine, figuratively speaking. In order to do so, an entrepreneur needs to have both the physical as well as mental fortitude for this path. Philip Villa, an Italian serial entrepreneur believes that sports is the key to unlocking these two important traits for success.

Villa is the founder of Yokkao, a leading combat sports company that covers a vast range of services including event management, gear & equipment manufacturing, a gym, and streetwear line. His entrepreneurial ventures have appeared in notable media outlets like CNN, National Geographic Travel, Wall Street Journal, and Vogue magazine.

In 2007, Villa moved to Thailand and started training in Muay Thai at the Sityodtong Gym in Pattaya for 3 years. He competed during this period and got acquainted with prolific fighters while learning about the Muay Thai industry in depth. Villa saw a huge market gap and potential for the sport to grow. He seized the opportunity and established Yokkao in 2010 to cater to a growing global fanbase of Muay Thai and fight sports. Within a few years, Yokkao grew to become one of the market leaders via its contemporary style fightwear and equipment, a series of high-profile international events and partnering with many of the biggest names in Muay Thai.

Between 2010 and 2017, Villa based himself in Bangkok to grow the brand and oversee the expansion of its manufacturing operations. He also organized over 40 events during this time along with over 60 training seminars around the world. With such a wide array of tasks at hand, Villa remained committed to his regular Muay Thai training. He credits his entrepreneurial success to the workouts that have helped keep his body healthy and mind sharp. Villa shares some of the benefits he experienced first-hand through sports,

"Besides getting fitter and stronger, I learned that regular exercise helps to reduce stress through the production of endorphins. Endorphins help to relax the mind and improve sleep quality. Sports like Muay Thai also help in building self-confidence as my physical shape improves and I get better at it. Most of all, training in a physically demanding sport like Muay Thai has helped in building my mental toughness as it requires a lot of mental perseverance. I believe all of these attributes are critical to the success of any entrepreneur."

In 2017, Villa moved back to Italy to focus on expanding his brand's market share in Europe. Even though he was no longer able to enjoy the convenience of training Muay Thai, he continued to engage in regular fitness workouts such as HIIT (high-intensity interval training). This year, Villa picked up cycling as a recreational sport which has since become a regular fitness routine.

As with all his endeavors, Villa is giving nothing less than his best. He recently embarked on a solo ride to Stelvio Pass, one of the highest and most iconic mountain roads of Europe. The pass is also one of the hardest climbs for cycling with a 2,758m summit and 1,700m vertical gain over 24km. Villa now has his sights on the next summit. On top of long-distance cycling, he has incorporated swimming and running into his exercise routine to prepare for his first triathlon. He tells us why he intends to sign up for the endurance multisport race,

"The level of effort it takes to achieve aggressive goals is tremendous, but when you know that what you are doing is worth it, nothing can stop you."

Indeed, the parallels can be drawn between sports and entrepreneurial pursuits. Taking from his own experience of running his vertically-integrated business, Villa emphasizes on the importance and benefits of sports for all entrepreneurs,

"If you are building or running a business, or maybe just going through a difficult period in life, engaging in any sports can help you gain the mental fortitude and self-confidence to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals in both your personal and business life. When you engage regularly in a great game of sport, positivity spills into every aspect of your life. I truly believe that sports can make you a more accomplished entrepreneur and person."

John Stanly

Start-up mentor

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