A new location for our school

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by WaterGal, Mar 1, 2018.

  1. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master Black Belt

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    We're looking at moving our school, and I could use some help from you guys with choosing a location!

    One of the most common reasons people (especially, I think, busy parents) choose a school is convenience. What, to you, makes a school convenient?

    Does convenience mean:
    - that there's parking directly in front of the school? (as opposed to having a garage at the end of the block)
    - that the school is on the ground floor? (vs being in a second-floor unit)
    - that the school is in a shopping center with a grocery store so you can shop while the kids are in class or after your class?

    Am I over-thinking this?

    I have three options. Option 1 is a second-story space (so you'd have to climb stairs or take an elevator to come to class) in a big grocery-anchored shopping center with a big parking lot and easy access in and out from two streets. Option 2 is a ground-floor space in a little strip mall/office building with a good-size parking lot and easy access in and out from one road. Option 3 is a bigger ground-floor space in a strip center directly on the street, with a parking lot at the end of the block.
     
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  2. jobo

    jobo Senior Master

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    i don't think a,second floor room is a big issue, as its America, then they won't walk further than a ball of wool will reach, so the last one might be a problem , and a shop to go and wander round sounds like an attraction, , so 1,2 and lastly 3
     
  3. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    What matters to your students and your taget prospective students? In some places, parking at the rnd of the block isn't goung to cut it, especially uf you don't have good changing facilities. Other people won't like the stairs, period. Assuming all else is equal, I would probably look for tbe best parking and easiest access from tje roads.

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  4. Mountie

    Mountie Yellow Belt

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    From the sounds of it, I'd go with option 2, especially if you teach kids' classes. I have 5 kids including twin 2 y/o, and it's much easier if we can drop the participating kids off and go.
     
  5. taistrong

    taistrong White Belt

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    Option 2 seems to be the best for me.
     
  6. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    I'm going to go all business on this. You want your school where your market is. It doesn't matter how convenient it is to get there, if your target market isn't in that area. I would first look to see what is already in the area. If you don't see any martial arts schools in the area, the you may not want to have your school located in that area. If you have a couple of martial arts schools in the area, then at the very least you know the following.
    1. There's an interest in martial arts
    2. People are willing to travel there for martial arts.

    I would even recommend visiting these schools as if you are thinking about taking a martial arts but haven't decided which martial arts you want to take. This will give you an opportunity to see the make up of the students. Are they mostly kids or adults? what is the racial make up of the students (important for marketing efforts)? What is the gender make up (important for marketing efforts)? Take a look at the websites of the schools to give you an idea of what things the school is doing with the community. All of this will help you to determine if the place is a good location for the school.

    The reason you want to see these things are important is because now you can see what type of "people traffic" an area gets. If it doesn't get the same type of people that attend the other schools then it may not be a good place for your school to be in. To give you an example, my school was in a shopping area between a Walmart and a Restaurant. The people who went to the restaurant didn't look like the people who were in the school. The people who were at Walmart had no other mission but to go to Walmart and then go about their business. Where the school was located there were empty businesses where previous businesses failed. There was a lot of people traffic, but none of them were from our target market. Eventually the school went out of business.

    Our new school doesn't gets 0 people traffic, but a 2 minute drive down the street in either directions are martial TKD martial arts schools. We get more people joining the school now because the location is better and it's in an area where there are other martial arts schools are not far away, which is a good sign interest in a martial art. The same can't be said of the first 2 schools. It's so important to have the school located where there's an interest. Once you find the right place then you want to make sure you market correctly.
     
  7. Tames D

    Tames D RECKLESS

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    I find it odd that a martial artist would be turned off to a school because they have to climb stairs to get to the training hall.
    I would choose the location that gives you the best exposure to the public.
     
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  8. Michele123

    Michele123 Green Belt

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    Are you targeting adults or kids? If I was looking for myself, cost and distance from my home would be the biggest convenience factors for me. If it is for my kids, that changes things a lot. My oldest is the only one old enough to train. I also have a 3yo & 1yo. I want to be able to park close to the door to minimize kids running away or into traffic. I’d prefer no stairs because my 1yo likes to practice climbing (and falling) on them but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker as long as the stairs are behind a closed door once we are in the viewing area. The grocery store wouldn’t make much of a difference for me unless it’s an affordable one like Aldi’s. Then I would appreciate being nearby but again, it wouldn’t sway me at all.


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  9. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    You'd think...

    I've seen people go to a gym, complain about / refuse to use the stairs to access it then spend 15 minutes on a stair machine.

    And people generally complaining about it being so hot outside, then sit in a sauna.

    People are strange creatures...
     
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  10. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    As to the OP, I think it's down to your market and what marketing you rely on.

    Around here I don't know of a MA school that operates in it's own dedicated facility, they all run in places like school gym halls, community centres, leisure centres, etc.

    The school I attend operates in 4 such locations depending on the day of the week, with varying degrees of 'convenience' as to access, parking and the like. None of the locations have much in the way of passing trade (unless you count putting leaflets on the notice boards that other activity groups can see).

    There's very few of us that attend more than one location, and even fewer that will attend at all of them even though they're all within a couple of miles at most. From talking to other students many reasons are cited and not many are based on "I'm busy on Tuesdays" for instance.

    While this school does run classes for younger children, you're not allowed to drop the kids off and go do something else - it's not a child minding facility ;)
     
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  11. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes Senior Master

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    Speaking as an adult practitioner with no kids ...

    My first consideration for convenience would be how close the location is to where I live. Parking would be a secondary issue. Stairs and adjacent business wouldn't make any difference.

    Then again, I'm probably not representative of your typical customer. Over the years I've trained in parks, basements, garages, shopping mall dojos, YMCAs, backyards, college gyms, professional fighter gyms, and almost anywhere else you can think of. (Hmm ... I've never trained in a monastery. Maybe I can add that to my bucket list.)
     
  12. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Watergal, how much do each of these places want for rent?

    How long of a lease do they want?

    What's the square footage of each? At least compared to where you are now?

    What's the bathroom situation, what's the changing room situation?

    What's the floor like in each place?

    Is there a cold winter where you are, if so what's the deal with heat in each place?
     
  13. Balrog

    Balrog Master of Arts

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    Close-by parking instead of a garage and ground floor are important. Having a major draw store (not necessarily a grocery store) is also good.

    More important: what are the population demographics within a 1/2/3 mile radius of the school? How close is it to at least one neighborhood school? How much is your build-out going to cost and what is your monthly nut going to be (rent/utilities/phone/other fixed expenses)? Have you done a business plan with a minimum of one year's projected P&L?

    There's more, but those are a good starting point.
     
  14. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master Black Belt

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    Thanks for the responses, guys! I wanted to get some opinions first, before asking some of our students. I appreciate that.
     
  15. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master Black Belt

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    All 3 of these spots are within 0.5 mile of our current location, so I'm not too worried about that. We have 104 students. It's just that our landlord doesn't take good care of the property, we rented a bigger space than we needed, and the rent & fees have gotten very high.

    Thanks! I hadn't even thought about the "running into traffic" issue - my concern with location #3 was more that new students might get confused trying to find the parking, or not want to drag all their gear down the block. That's something to think about, for sure. For the location that's upstairs, there's a lobby for the upstairs units, so there'd be at least 2 sets of doors between our viewing area and the stairs outside. We teach about 3/4 kids and about 1/4 adults.
     
  16. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master Black Belt

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    Our real estate agent is still talking to the landlords, so I don't have all the answers.

    They're all cheaper than our current location. The upstairs space would be the most expensive, because it's the nicest, newest shopping center in town, and the space has never been rented before. Depending on how they were willing to subdivide it, maybe $3-4k, compared with $2.5-3k for the other two. (Edit: that includes NNN fees.)

    I don't know how long they want. I'd like 3 years with an option to renew.

    Square footage.... Option #1 (upstairs spot) is new construction and not divided into units yet, but we'd be asking for 1500-2000 sqft. Option #2 is 1500 sqft, Option #3 is 2000 sq ft.

    Bathrooms, changing room, floor (we do have plenty of puzzle mats), etc... Option #1 isn't even a vanilla shell, so there's nothing there (another tenent that moved from our center to that one told me the landlord handled & paid for the buildout). Option #2 has 1 bathroom and a closet that could be used as one-person dressing room, I'd ask them to replace the flooring for the lobby. Option #3 has 2 bathrooms, is big enough that we could probably build a changing booth or something if we wanted, and has carpet that I'd ask them to replace.

    I'm sure we'd have to pay for the heat anywhere.
     
  17. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    Some of those guys love to squeeze their tenants. Sounds like you won't need to worry about the being in the right market being 0.5 miles of each other. That's awesome especially the 104 students that you have. You are definitely in the right place. With that said, you are definitely asking the right questions about the parking. Accessibility is always important, right after target market location.
     
  18. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I have a 5 and 7 year old. I’ve had them in s few different activities, so here’s my 2 cents. Aside from the quality of the teachers and the schedule, the most import things...

    I don’t want to park very far away. Getting them there is difficult enough all too often. Fighting for a parking spot and lugging their stuff even just a decent distance makes it so much worse. When my younger daughter was an infant it was even more of a hassle. We used to take our daughters to a gymnastics place that we typically had to walk almost 2 blocks because the parking was awful. It pissed us off to no end.

    Stairs never bothered me much, even when they were infants. Unless we’re talking on the third+ floor. My kids never had issues with stairs so maybe I’m an exception.

    Stores and the like never were on my mind. My wife and/or I always stayed with them, so it wasn’t like we’d have gone shopping anyway.

    The place that bothered me most was a gymnastics place that cut every possible overhead cost - no/minimal heat, no AC, I doubt they cleaned anything very often, and they tried to tell us when my daughters were allowed to come. They had 2 classes available just about every night, yet they dictated which night and time. Hard to explain, but I didn’t have the option to sign up for a specif time and night; it was “you’re on Tuesday night at 6:00 for the next 8 weeks.” The last time they did that I told them we weren’t available that time due to other things, and they just looked at me and didn’t say anything. After a good 10 second staring contest, I just walked away didn’t come back. I guess they didn’t want my kids.

    The most important things to us, in somewhat order are...
    1 quality of instruction (I’m not talking pro-prospect, I’m talking about how they handle the kids)/professionalism
    2 schedule
    3 price
    4 schedule
    They’re all a make or break, because if any of those are off, my kids aren’t going regardless of the rest

    5 accessibility
    I can deal with accessibility issues within reason. If everything else is great, I’ll deal with it.

    One more thing...
    Ability to watch your kids easily. A dance place we went to was horrible. It had this little window that everyone fought over. If you didn’t get there 20 minutes early, you weren’t watching your kids unless someone went to the bathroom and you stole their seat.

    Oh yeah... have adequate seating for the parents too.
     
  19. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Watergal, the upstairs place...what are the window views like? What I mean is, do people driving by or people walking by, see Martial people training through the windows when they look up? That can be a big plus in the long run. Huge.
     
  20. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    Around here, that woudl be a big deal - folks are used to parking right next to where they are going. In a larger city, I don't think it would matter much. In someplace where people walk regularly or use transit, it would be even less of an issue.
    That's an issue for visibility, for people finding your school and seeing classes through windows. Once they find you and see a class, It's a non-issue to most.

    That might help, but I doubt most folks consciously choose for that reason. It would be good for visibility, and should ensure parking is always handy.

    No, I think considering these things is good. If you pick it because YOU like it, that might not get you the right space for your prospective students. Here are a few other thoughts...

    Have you asked your current students (parents, in the case of kids) what they would like? Also consider distance from your current location. The further you move, the more current students you risk losing (you move out of their convenience zone).

    Also consider pathways. Part of "convenience" is that the school is either near a destination (work, school, home) or is on a path between two of them (the path used at that time of day).

    All three of the options seem decent. I'd probably put the one with distant parking last on the list, because it makes visiting to observe and ask questions less convenient.
     

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