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gb institute blog

The Evolution
of GB Wear

And the Grand Opening of State of the Art Design Center

The beginning…

From the GB Mats of Rio de Janeiro in 2002, where the Gracie Barra legacy was etching its mark into the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the story of GB Wear began with a vision. A vision to elevate Gracie Barra into a professional organization and to equip school owners, professors, and students with official Gracie Barra training and casual products so they could proudly represent our team.

It all started with a simple t-shirt, bearing the name the name of the student. Back then, money was scarce, and this humble t-shirt served as a litmus test for the interest within the GB community to wear their team's flag. To the team’s delight, those first 50 units of shirts vanished from the shelves in a mere couple of days.
But this was just the beginning. In 2003, the iconic Red Shield and Equipe GB emerged, accompanied by the birth of our very first kimono. The Red Shield gave GB its identity, a rallying point for the team.

Fast forward to 2006 when GB Wear USA took its first steps, with a solitary desk nestled within the Lake Forest headquarters. These were very long days, when those involved tried to do a lot, with very little. Professor Marco remembers a story:
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“There was this one time that I was running everything, for a couple of weeks. Professor Marcio had gone to Brazil to compete. Professor Flavio had not yet come to California. I would teach classes at 8 a.m., then work for a few hours with Graciebarra.com, GB Wear, and GB Association (the early GB Franchise).  Then I would teach some afternoon classes. After the classes were done, I would close down the school and clean up. I would walk back to the house at the end of the day, around 10 p.m. I remember a funny story about this time - on day 3 of doing this, I walked in the door of the house and sat down on the couch just to take a moment.  And I woke up the next morning on the couch, with my Gi in one hand and my computer bag in the other, having never moved.” 

It bears repeating that this was a time when resources were scarce, but the vision and philosophy drove Master Carlos, Professors Marcio, Flavio, and Marco to accomplish a mission.

In those early days, GB Wear would not keep a very large inventory. At first the inventory was just kept in a small area at the school. The Orders were collected from the online store, and school owners would have to drive to Lake Forest personally to do order pick-ups. Later, the need for more space became evident, so Professor Marco got a 3 X 3 storage unit.

Once the inventory was moved to the storage unit, school owners would come to Lake Forest, follow Professor Marco to the facility, down a peculiar path, only to find a modest 3 x 3 storage room. It was a sight to behold as they navigated this odd process, helping transport inventory to their cars. These were the days before they could ship orders or extend credit. It's a proud memory of the humble beginnings that both Professor Marco and the other school owners often get a giggle about.

The early years…

The work in 2007 and 2008 was expansive. This was a time in GB history when everything was being developed. Many have heard the stories of Professors Marco, Flavio, and Marcio living with Master Carlos in Lake Forest, all sharing a 3-bedroom house. They fondly called this the “Mad House.”

During these years, the policies, procedures, and GB Method were being created. Every decision was discussed at length, tested in the school setting, and worked with to become the beginning of what we now call the GB Experience. 

Let’s set this scene to bring into the early years of GB and GB Wear. Professors Marcio and Flavio were working on systems and procedures, and Professor Marco was doing the branding and digital marketing. They were working and living together with Master Carlos. After being at the HQ all day, they would go home and have long dinners discussing every detail, such as, what are the procedures for bowing, warm-up, and all the GB Method guidelines that we know today. The dinners began around 10 p.m. on most nights and went until 2 a.m. Then they woke each day to do it all again.
They were so embedded in this process that one day, one of them, Professor Marco couldn’t remember if it was Marcio or Flavio, actually bowed as they entered the house at the end of the day. Professor Marco said it was definitely funny, even though he wasn't trying to be funny. We don’t want any cliffhangers here, so we asked Professor Flavio if he remembered who it was. He confirmed that it was, in fact, him that bowed into the house. It was at this point that they realized they brought too much work home and needed to come up with a solution. According to Flavio, the gratuitous bow was due to a time when going home meant simply changing locations, not disconnecting from the work.

Growth was picking up for GB Wear specifically. Every few months, the storage unit would run out of space due to increasing orders. Professor Marco increased the inventory space several times during these years. As they outgrew the 3 X 3, they moved to a 6 X 6, then a 10 X 10, then two 10 X 10. Eventually, in 2009, they moved their inventory to a fulfillment center, where it would remain until 2012. 

Gracie Barra was embarking on the mission of Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone. With that vision, GB Wear had to design, create, and make available clothing for everyone who wanted to train Jiu-Jitsu.
From 2003 to 2006, there was only one kimono. In 2006, the growth began. First by offering Gi’s in different sizes, then a pink Gi was added to support women who wanted to train. Children’s Gi’s were added to feed the growing demand for children in Jiu-Jitsu schools. GB Wear became focused on providing uniforms for the Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone mission to empower and inspire people globally!

The first GB Wear office spaces

In 2012, GB Wear and GB Franchise Systems opened an office separate from the HQ school. For the first time, Professor Marco had his own office space to focus on the vision of GB Wear. He remembers feeling that he finally had the ability to work “on” the business instead of just “in” the business. What this means is there was finally a team of people that could work the day to day while he could focus on building strategy and plan for the business. A time to learn to become proactive for the needs of the community instead of reactive.
As the growth of GB started to explode across the globe, the GB Franchise team and GB Wear need to grow to keep up and the office no longer fit their needs. Each entity had a need to get its own office space to be able to sustain its own growth. Then, in 2014, it marked the opening of the first GB Wear solo facility with a warehouse that was approximately 1,200 sq ft, which felt big to the growing team.

From 2012 to 2017, GB Wear went through some growing pains. GBW entered into an agreement with another Jiu-Jitsu apparel company to meet the demand for uniforms and apparel. The goal was to add much-needed infrastructure, manpower, and inventory management resources to the business, but it actually proved to be quite challenging. This was due to the partnering company not meeting the standards and needs that the GBW team knew it wanted for the GB community.

The GBW team was forced to re-think and re-imagine how they were going to conduct business once the agreement was complete. Although this time was challenging, Professor Marco feels GBW came out much stronger and much more prepared to move GBW to the next level. They wanted a new beginning, and the company had a fresh start when it moved to its new facility in 2017.

A New Era

The year 2017 marked the beginning of a new era for GBW. A new 4,800 sq ft office and warehouse were opened in Lake Forest. At the time of this re-start, GBW had only three employees: Professor Marco, Nicole Pham (who joined GBW in 2009), and another person who is no longer with the company.

In essence, it was a restart because the contract agreement was thankfully complete, and the desire to build an internal team aligned with GB's value system was crucial to the small team. A new e-commerce platform was launched, new procedures were developed, departments were organized, and a forward vision plan was developed to meet the needs of the growing GB community.  

In this facility, GBW weathered the global pandemic and post-pandemic regrowth. Halfway through the five-year lease, GB Wear had a vision of purchasing a new building to serve as its headquarters. GB Wear envisioned a bigger, better, and nicer space for the GBW team to design, develop, and distribute high-quality products that would continue to fulfill its mission — a space to empower and inspire the GBW team to accomplish the vision

The new facility's grand opening

Through a long search and a lack of suitable properties, a location was finally found in Mission Viejo in 2022. Perfect timing because their lease was about to expire. Through a nearly 1 year process of completely demoing and rebuilding the facility, including amazing office space for the staff, design center, media room, and ample warehouse space to house the inventory, GBW now has the facility they were envisioning for smooth running operations.

In mid-November, GBW hosted a grand opening event to share this milestone with local and global leaders. Master Carlos Gracie Jr., Professors Marcio Feitosa, and Flavio Almeida joined Professor Marco Joca, Nicole Pham, and the team of GBW to celebrate the occasion. The reactions in the room were amazing. From the pro shop to the design center to the beautifully decorated and inspiring warehouse space, the 100+ attendees were in awe at how perfectly this new space embodied the values of Gracie Barra.

A few key moments from the event were some heartfelt words from Marco Joca,

“We have to recognize the one that started it all, the one that we looked up to and we tried to replicate his behavior, his thoughts into Grace Barra philosophy across all the Grace Barra entities. So thank you, Master Carlos, for that. I also want to thank Professor Marcio for the trust to see me as a student, as a brown belt, and for whatever reason they thought I would be able to join in on this project and make it happen together with them. I'm very thankful for the trust and also the friendship throughout the years. And then after that, I want to thank Flavio, which is my childhood friend for all the loyalty throughout the years and the friendship. And for believing in these two crazy guys and joining us on this crazy journey, it makes it much easier to be surrounded by people who believe in you and believe that you are more capable than you are. These guys push me forward day in, and day out.” 

We then got to hear from Professor Flavio and Professor Marcio about their thoughts about GBW:

“It’s quite something to stand here tonight with people that I have admired my whole life and have the privilege of serving by their side has definitely been one of the biggest blessings that Jiu-Jitsu has brought to my life. And starting from a place of gratitude, I am so grateful for what Gracie Barra Wear has brought to our team … I’m grateful for GB Wear for the opportunity to wear my pride. The pride to compete and represent this team first as an athlete, and now to wear my pride to the world because 99% of my closet is GB Wear.” 
Professor Flavio.

“I’m so grateful for this gathering to celebrate this huge step forward that GB Wear did, accepted the responsibility and challenges to build a huge base like this one. There is a lot of hard work that goes into this, and a lot of tough battles won in order to move forward to have this building that stands tall and really honors what Gracie Barra is about.”
Professor Marcio.

And then, finally Master Carlos Gracie Jr. offered his inspiring words:

“Sometimes people ask me, ‘Hey Carlos, how did you find those guys that work so hard with you and are always there through everything with you? How can you trust them so much?’ Well, I believe in these guys 100%. We have been together for over 30 years. Actually, they are capable of doing whatever they want, they don’t need me anymore. But they are still there, and I know they will always be there as long as I am here. When we all started, they were Jiu-Jitsu students, and I was a Jiu-Jitsu professor. We were not businessmen. I saw in them the value that they believe... I had been watching them since they were kids. And when I knew I needed partners, I needed someone to help me because I couldn’t do this by myself. These are the guys I saw in them how they think, and the principles to take care of each other…They believed in the Gracie Barra philosophy. Many years ago these guys were not businessmen. They were Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. Today they are business specialists. Look what they have achieved. And this is just the beginning. Do I feel proud of myself, no, I feel proud of them because they are doing this. What I feel proud of is that I chose right.”

The event was not only a celebration of the progress of GB Wear but also a symbol and celebration of the overall dedication and commitment to the Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone mission. If you happen to be close enough to stop by and pick up your next order, we recommend that you drop by and say hello to the awesome team of people who allow us all to wear our pride!

Where do we go from here?

GB Wear has a very clear goal ahead as we head into the next decade. As Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu looks to reach its projected growth into 2030, GB Wear is putting in place the infrastructure and team of individuals to meet the growing demands of an increasing number of students. This requires not only Kimonos and other uniform items but also the growing demand for empowering and inspiring apparel.

Professor Marco is grateful for the early days when they were living in a 2 bedroom apartment with Master Carlos and 6 instructors, all sharing one car. These were long days, with very little resources, but it created a mindset of constantly doing as much as you can with as little resources as possible. This mindset has helped him since the beginning, and the team he has built as GBW maintains the same mindset.

“That is what helped us do what we do with regards to Gracie Barra. The scarcity of resources is beneficial for any entrepreneur or any business in the long run.” 

It is those early times that give us the knowledge, resourcefulness, and courage to face the challenges of today when it looks as though there are not enough resources to accomplish the goal at hand.

“Today, when someone immigrates here or decides to be school owners, they don’t open their doors with as large of a scarcity of resources as we did back then. There is a network of help and resources that GB offers through the entities. Now we can provide an ideal scenario for anyone who wants to start a career with Gracie Barra. That is one of the things that I am most proud of.” 

We will leave you with one of Professor Marco Joca’s favorite quotes, one that embodies the early determination and the current vision to serve the Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone mission:
“If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.”
Wes Jackson