Dalton Outlaw was just 24 years old when he launched Element Gym, selling his car and working long hours to pay the rent.

What a difference a decade makes.

The kid who grew up in Frogtown and started boxing as a boy now teaches boxing to 250 people of all ages every week, and collaborates with dance and drum troupes to reach 1,000.

But Outlaw, a married father of four boys 7 and younger, has bigger aspirations. Not only does he want to make Element a permanent fixture, he is working to become a developer of residential and commercial property. In 2017, Outlaw was named the Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Minnesota by the U.S. 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 not-to-distant future. At the heart of it all, he said, is giving back to the sport and the community that nurtured him.

This interview was edited for length.

Q: How did all of this start?

A: I started Element to help future generations in the same way that boxing helped me. It helped me discover myself. It helped me stay out of trouble. And it helped me find a clear pathway and direction in life.

Q: How old were you when you started?

A: I was 8 years old. I started at BT Bombers Boxing Club [now closed] with Clem Tucker [a retired St. Paul police officer]. He put an emphasis on community as well.

I started for exercise, fun. When I got in the ring for the first time and got my butt kicked, I went home crying. So, I just kept working on it. I still enjoyed going [to the gym]. The kid who had kicked my butt had taken time off and came back. And I had been training for months. When I got the chance to get revenge on him, I kicked his butt.

It just helped me really be sure that what I was doing was right and to understand that hard work and dedication will take you places.

Q: You also played football?

A: I played football at Como Park High School. After I graduated, I went to North Dakota College of Science [a two-year school] before coming back and playing at Concordia University-St. Paul. I was a defensive back. I graduated with a degree in business. For a couple years, I played a little semi-pro [football] for fun.

Q: It looks like you 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 that.

A: We start kids out here at 4 years old in our fundamental program – the School of Boxing. Not every kid has to compete. I take them through different techniques every four weeks and then they move up, kind of like in karate with different belts.

But we also have people in their 70s, people with Parkinson's. 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].

Q: Where do you want to go with this?

A: We want to keep growing. We want to stay affordable, so we raise money through our nonprofit to provide scholarships.

I also want to make sure the gym can live beyond me. 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 business-wise. We want to build wealth and financial health here, so we have started building a real estate portfolio to help us have a space that we can have and hold and continue forever.

Q: Are you committed to staying in St. Paul?

A: One hundred percent. I grew up in Frogtown, went to Jackson Elementary. I'm a community stakeholder now and I want to make sure that we, as a St. Paul-based, Black-owned business, can continue to collaborate with the community.

Q: How have you come so far in just 10 years?

A: I always refer to it as "the why." I wanted to provide something for the community that can allow our youth to have something to connect with, to build relationships. I know what it did for me. If I can be that entrepreneur, that leader, that has an impact that can last longer than me, I feel that I have served my purpose.