Author Topic: School start-up tips and advise  (Read 6765 times)

Offline MVPKaj

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School start-up tips and advise
« on: April 29, 2003, 10:51:28 PM »
I'm looking into starting up my own school.  Man!  There's a lot to learn before you even get started.  I was thinking this would be a good subject for it's own category for instructors to share experiences and tips.  Helpful subjects may be avg. cost for insurance, tips for negotiating a lease, suggestions on priorities for startup in an empty building (which supplies/modifications are most critical without dumping too much up front), etc.  It's not easy to get this because the other schools in the same area DO NOT want you to succeed as it may take away from their base, but this forum should be an association of sorts where we can share ways to build successful and thriving schools to pass on our vast experience and heritage of Kajukenbo.....

.....any thoughts?

Sifu Matt
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
Matthew Porter
Black Belt Instructor
Kajukenbo Self-Defense/Wushu KungFu
Community Martial Arts/Self Defense
Escondido, CA - YMCA

Offline Nagi

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2003, 06:44:03 AM »

Sifu Matt,
I wouldn't sign a long term lease utill you get a good base of clientele try to go for a tenant at will, there are pro's and con's to this. Insurance for 40 students will run about $450 a year (Martial Arts group Ins.). Location Location Location! you want to have a school where people can see you with foot traffic, it will cost you but the rewards will be very good and you will benefit from this in time.  Yellow pages is really pricy but it's usually the first place students will turn to a 1/4x1/4
column is about $150 (in my area). When I started my school I Incorporated the school so this way if I got sued they cannot sue the owners only the school.
A M.A. school doesn't need alot to get going you biggest concerns are heat, electric, phone, and a floor, a bit of paint does wonders for appearance. I will chime in once the thread get's going   (if I can help more)

Sensei Ron
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
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Jon Pack

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2003, 09:40:40 AM »
Don't plan on making a real salary for some time. In my experience the first year I put all the money right back into the school.
Start out with finding a low interest loan for initial expenses. First impressions are real important and can make the prospective student more comfortable in signing up for longer term programs.(If you can get some of the initial students to sign up for a year it will go along way to solidifying your school) Also start off with competive pricing and raise the price each year.(Don't be affraid to charge what you are worth)
You are off to a good start, ask lots of questions not only of ma. people but also other small business people in the area. In our area the Main Street association has been a real help. They can advise on so many things and are experts in your area.
Jon Pack
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »

Kempo-Sensei

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2003, 08:30:57 AM »
MVPKaj.

My school is less than 2 years old.  I started out with 4 guys in my backyard.  We then wanted a better place to train, so we rented some space in an old mill building.

This worked out well, and I took on some more students.  We had about 15-20 when we moved to our current location.

It's not that big, only 2500 sq. feet.  We've been there since Sep. 2002, and now have 65 students.  Not bad for us because I don't even have a sign up yet!  But that doesn't bother me because our goal was 50 students.

I only teach part-time a the school.  I have a day job, wife, and kids.  So all of that keeps me busy.  But the school does make a small profit.

Word of mouth is what works for me.  But I did have an article in a local newspaper when we opened, and I have hung some flyers.  But mostly people come in becuase of a student's referal.

I plan on increasing the school to about 100 students this year.  I will attempt to do this by advertising in the local paper, getting a sign, and hanging more flyers.  I don't think it will be a problem, except for managing the class schedule.

If you plan on doing this full-time, then you will need starting capital.  Get a loan if you need it.  You want to have enough cash to run the shool with no students for a full year.  This will make things a whole lot easier for you.  If you do this part-time, and can afford your rent and utilities with the money you currently make, then I would say you can do it to.  

The first couple of months for me were tough.  I just focused on getting the number of students needed to pay the bills.  At the same time you must teach quality lessons, so that your students will refer people to you.

Good luck!


-John

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »

Offline badsifu

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2003, 09:47:35 AM »
everybody and their uncle will be out to sell you advertizing.  I think word of mouth, street signs and seasonal banners that are professionally made not only bring attention to your location and promotion, but you can also re-use them.  Yellow page ads are expensive and everyone who is shopping through the yellow pages usually goes through the whole list for calling anyway.

Location isn't everything.  When I started my school, it was on the main road right across from the high school.  In 3 years while I was there, I think I got about 10 kids from the high school and the dust/dirt/debris from the main road, as well as the noise pollution, made it unpleasant.  We are now off the main drag, and I have enrolled the same number of high school kids in 6 months, that I had in 3 years at the old location.  Also being on the main drag, you are going to pay for the cost of the drive by traffic in your monthly rent.  That will never change.  If you have a bad month, your rent stays the same.  If you go off the main a little, you can get a deal on your space, and then put more into traditional ads when you have a good month...there is more flexibility this way when you are just starting out.

Finally, don't underprice yourself.  Most people will naturally try to get a better deal from you.  So you say $100, they say that is too much, so you say $75, they still say that is too much.  I recently had a woman say that she only wanted to bring her kid in for a half hour once a week - "so what would her rate be for that?"  I directed her to the competitor ... poor guys.  If they want to pay for a year up front, I will cut a deal...other than that, I stick to my guns these days.   I am a lot happier because of it too :)  GL with your school!  What town will it be in?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:05 PM by -1 »
Dan Tyrrell

Offline Sifu_George

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2003, 11:47:49 PM »
I too am starting a martial arts school here in Fremont, CA. I don't have my space yet; I do work out in a students garage which is clean, carpeted , air conditioned and well lit.
I'm have been looking for enough money to pay for a year of rent, or lease to start the new dojo. I know that I won't be in the garage forever, cause that is the same place my Sifu, Tony Kattengell of Kattengell's Karate in San Jose, started. Sifu Kattengell now has about 200 students at his school.
So I know things will work out for me. Sifu Kattengell has been a great influence in my life.
I'm really glad someone started a thread on this subject. I'll keep you posted on my future progress.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
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Offline Gints Klimanis

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2003, 12:39:57 PM »
Hey MVPKaj,

I'm in Menlo Park, just across the bay from Fremont.
I'm also looking into starting a school, but since I'm
starting with nothing, I'd be interested in a time share for a few night hours / week.

Gints Klimanis
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
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Offline MVPKaj

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2003, 11:06:56 PM »
Thanks for the tips.  I appreciate the experience you're all sharing, whether you're already up and running, or like me and just starting.  I am currently going back to the Kajukenbo roots many of us came from and teaching a few students in a park once a week.  It looks like by the end of the summer, I may be closer to 12 or 15.  Friends are puttin' out the word and my students are having fun.   8)
To the point of getting more than MA advice only, I already had a SCORE consultation for free from the local Chamber of Commerce.  They followed with a pretty good pitch about membership and a need to cater to fellow business owners.  I strongly recommend being a member for those schools in small to medium communities.  Lots of benefits for biz, mixers, events, etc.  
I somewhat jumped the gun and now I got the itch, BAD!  I found a location along a secondary main street.  It sits perpendicular to the road, but is the last suite in the building.  I've done a ton of research and worked my overhead out to roughly $800/month.  Since I want to do this part-time, I can deal with that.  The toughy is that I need about $5K to get going with enough to back me up for roughly 5-6 months of rent in the bank (just in case).  I love teaching and am dying to jump at it, but initial costs, small number of students (so far), and common sense are forcing me to be patient.....
...it's not easy.  Patience is not my strongest suit  ;)
More comments are appreciated and encouraged.
Thanks again, Sifu Matt
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
Matthew Porter
Black Belt Instructor
Kajukenbo Self-Defense/Wushu KungFu
Community Martial Arts/Self Defense
Escondido, CA - YMCA

Offline John Erickson

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2003, 05:59:10 AM »
Sifu Matt,

I do not own a school, but I have been in ma for 14 years.  I do own my own electrical contracting business.

My one piece of business advice is to find a good Accountant.  Your accounting needs will be minimal, but the general business advice that an experienced accountant can provide in about 1 hour in an initial consultation could be very beneficial.

My advice on the martial art aspect is to get your name out as much as you can.  Word of mouth is the best, but a prominent sign, flyers, etc. will help.  The more people hear about you, the more likely you are to enroll students.   I would not be overly concerned with facilities and amenities.  Quality instruction will make for satisfied customers which should keep enrollment growing.  You can always upgrade facilities as business grows.

Just my thoughts.

John
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
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MVPKaj@wk

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2003, 05:02:20 PM »
I agree on the accountant tip.  Those kind of smarts go a long way.  The nice thing about the building I'm looking at is there is a sign right on the road, about 30"X20" that I can put up a sign in.  The other thing I'd do is go to local businesses and offer a break for the mgr/owners who allow flyers to be posted or make referrals.  Also, the location is blocks between an elementary and middle school.  A good demo or two will go a little ways as well.
Again, full of idea's, empty of money so I exercise my patience  :P

Sifu Matt
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »

Jon Pack

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2003, 08:36:51 PM »
We are in a histroric mainstreet/downtown area and offer 1/2 price to other downtown business owners and their families. (In one case we signed up a family of five). Remember that five test fees and supplies can make up for monthly dues. Also creates a bigger student base for refferals.* Note: Practice reciprocity, you give them a deal so in turn they can offer services. Sign up on long term programs and have higher expectations for refferals from them. I request that they sign up on year long programs in turn, so far I've had 100% of them do this.
Also this is the group that was first to sign up on private lessons when we held a special, 25% off on 6 months worth.
Just some insights on a great idea you had posted.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »

Offline MVPKaj

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2003, 10:03:34 PM »
Awesome idea, John.  Thanks again for the input.  This forum, I hope, gives others like me plenty of great ideas and suggestions.  I appreciate it.  8)

Sifu Matt
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
Matthew Porter
Black Belt Instructor
Kajukenbo Self-Defense/Wushu KungFu
Community Martial Arts/Self Defense
Escondido, CA - YMCA

Ron Esteller

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2003, 11:31:53 PM »
I suggest a payment company.. I love the one I use...as stated in an above post, its important to have a good accountant... with the billing company I use, I just come in and teach, the dojo runs itself. I get a auto deposit in to my account every month on the 26th rain or shine. Also they provide a membership to NAPMA at a discounted price,,, it cost $250 or so a month but its tax deductable, and it worth it to have the peace of mind....I taught at a local boys/girls club for free, 17 yrs before I finaly opened the dojo I currently run. At the boys club I never had more than 25-30 students, with the help and information about business stratagies Im well over 100 and growing.   Hope that helps...good luck,

Aloha
sifu Ron
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »

Offline MVPKaj

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2003, 11:40:24 PM »
To respond to BadSifu, I live in Escondido, CA - just north of San Diego.  The location I'm looking at is in the Poway area, about 15 minutes closer to San Diego, but in a good suburb and a growing area.  Tough part down here is the overhead.  I found a cheap(comparatively speaking) place.  900sq. ft. for 630/mo. including everything but electric and phone.  It is also 1/2 of a total space of 1800sq ft.  I'd love to get in and, within a year or so, expand to the whole bldg.  Down here, most of the franchised Korean style schools teach more students out of maybe 500-600 sq ft in pricey strip malls.  It's utterly amazing what people pay for what they think is quality training.

Sifu Matt
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
Matthew Porter
Black Belt Instructor
Kajukenbo Self-Defense/Wushu KungFu
Community Martial Arts/Self Defense
Escondido, CA - YMCA

Offline badsifu

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Re: School start-up tips and advise
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2003, 08:46:59 AM »
Congrats :)  The chamber of commerce usually helps with Grand Opening ribbon cutting ceremonies.  Give us an announcement post in the events portion of the board when you are about ready to open.

We have a lot of cookie cutter Taekwondo schools here as well - you'll find that those that are serious about training will come to your school as long as you stay positive.

edit:  as far as pay goes - I think the local school charge about $85/mo for a beginning kids program(2 days a week.)  They cram as many kids into the class as possible.  I think it is fine to charge more than your competitor, but show that you keep your classes smaller.  At least in the beginning anyway, when your classes are already small.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:05 PM by -1 »
Dan Tyrrell