Dalton Outlaw was only 24 years old when he launched Element Gym, where he sold his car and worked long hours to pay the rent.
What difference can a decade make?
The kid who grew up in Frogtown and started boxing as a boy now teaches boxing to 250 people of all ages each week, and collaborates with dance and drum teams to reach 1,000 people.
But Outlaw, who is married and the father of four boys aged seven and younger, has even bigger aspirations. Not only does he want to make the Element a permanent fixture, he’s working towards becoming a residential and commercial real estate developer. In 2017, Outlaw was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Minnesota by the US Small Business Administration.
In a recent interview with Eye On St. Paul, Outlaw talked about his beginnings — and where he hopes to be in the near future. The crux of it all, he said, is to give back to the sport and the society that nurtures it.
This interview has been edited at length.
s: How did it all start?
a: I started Element to help future generations in the same way that boxing has helped me. Help me discover myself. It helped me stay out of trouble. It helped me find a clear path and direction in life.
s: How old were you when you started?
a: I was 8 years old. I started in the BT Bombers Boxing Club [now closed] with Clem Tucker [a retired St. Paul police officer]. He focused on the community, too.
I started playing sports and having fun. When I first got into the ring and kicked my ass, I went home crying. So, I kept working on it. I still enjoy going [to the gym]. The kid who kicked my ass took time off and came back. And I’ve been training for months. When I had the chance to get revenge on him, I kicked his ass.
It really helped me make sure what I was doing was right and understand that hard work and dedication will take you places.
s: Did you also play football?
a: I played football at Como Park High School. After I graduated, I joined the North Dakota College of Science [a two-year school] Before returning and playing at Concordia University St. Pee. I was defensive back. I graduated with a degree in business. For two years, she played a semi-professional [football] For fun.
s: You seem to have all ages [at Element], and all levels of experience – from people who just want to work out to those who want to become boxers. Talk a little about it.
a: We start the kids here at the age of 4 in our core program – the Boxing School. Not every child has to compete. I take them through different techniques every four weeks and then they move around, sort of like karate with different belts.
But we also have people in their 70s, people with Parkinson’s disease. We embrace all ages and levels here. And we partner with a number of other organizations – St. Paul Ballet, Young Dance, Dance With Purpose [Dance Company].
s: Where do you want to go with this?
a: We want to keep growing. We want to be accessible to everyone, so we raise money through our non-profit organization to provide scholarships.
I also want to make sure the gym can live beyond my power. In the future [Element has seven years remaining on its lease] I want to look at owning. Building ownership is important to me personally, as well as from a business standpoint. We want to build wealth and financial health here, so we set out to build a real estate portfolio to help us have space that we can keep and keep forever.
s: Are you committed to staying in St. Paul?
a: one hundred percent. I grew up in Frogtown, and went to Jackson Elementary School. I’m a stakeholder in the community now and want to make sure that we, as a St. Paul-based company owned by Black, can continue to collaborate with the community.
s: How did you get this far in just 10 years?
a: I always refer to it as ’cause’. I wanted to give something to society that could allow our young people to have something to connect with, build relationships. I know what you did to me. If I can be the entrepreneur, that leader, the effect of that can last longer than me, I feel I have served my purpose.