Opening a school

BrandonLucas

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I'm planning on opening a dojang in the near future in a neighboring town from where I live. I'm waiting around 2 or 3 years before I attempt to open one up, because I'm currently a recommended 2nd dan, and should be a full dan in about another 2 or 3 years. I'm also pretty bad out of shape, and should be back in reasonable shape in that amount of time.

I'm just wondering what everyone's experiences were when they opened their first school. I'm concerned about being able to afford to open the school at all...I would prefer to have that as my only source of income, but I am aware that I'll need to at the very least have a part-time job while the school is still new.

Any feedback is welcomed and preferred.

Thanks!
 

Daniel Sullivan

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While I haven't opened a school, I have the same dream of running a school and have been researching for the past year. I also have managerial experience in non MA fields. Here are my observations:

You need to be prepared for what happens if you don't turn a profit for, say, six months.

How will you handle health insurrance for yourself and your staff?

Make sure that any potentially liability issues are addressed. Good insurrance is a must.

If you plan to offer after school care, summer camp, and pick up and drop off services, find out about any licensing requirements in your state and county. And know that people will enroll their kids in taekwondo for the sole reasone that it is cheaper than daycare.

Know what kind of curriculum you intend to offer. Teach as much as humanly possible over the next two to three years and develope your teaching style. Take advantage of any instructor courses and such that your association offers.

Know who you intend to teach: if you're after suburbanite families/kids, know going in that your biggest competition is McDojo. If you're after adults who want a fitness program, McDojo will still be your biggest competition. If you are after medium to hard core martial artists and SD students, then don't model your dojang like a McDojo.

Lastly, have as much worked out and prepared for as possible and understand that no matter how prepared you are, you'll still encounter things that you haven't prepared for.

Best wishes!!

Daniel
 

jks9199

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Great advice, Celtic Tiger!

I'd add that it might be easier to start by working with a recreation department or adult ed program, or in a community center. That way, you're not trying to do all the advertising, rent the space, etc. until you've got a small core of students to work from.
 

bluekey88

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It wouldn't hurt to take some business, accounting and marketing classes from your local community college as well. You not only have to be a good martial artist and teacher...but a good business person as well.

Peace,
Erik
 
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BrandonLucas

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See, this is why I post on this site....you guys just gave me more information in that small amount of time than I could have found doing research for several days!

I really appreciate all the feedback and info. I know there's a lot that goes into opening a school, and that's why I'm trying to get everything in order a couple of years in advance so that I can prepare accordingly.

And certainly, if anyone has any more information to add to what was provided, please share.

Thanks!!
 

bluekey88

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Make nice with other school owners in the area. Network. You may be able to coordinate inter-school events. Also, if they like and respect you, they might refer students your way (say when they close, or when a student has to move on).

Peace,
Erik
 

Kwanjang

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Having opened three shcools- it is indeed something you have to plan for.
More later if you are interested.
 

Twin Fist

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having just done this, here is my advice:

start out with either:

a rent free arrangment, ymca, your garage, etc

OR

have a YEARS rent in the bank

figure out your advertising, and pricing stucture ahead of time.

practice every part of your ciriculum and have it down pat.
 
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BrandonLucas

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Make nice with other school owners in the area. Network. You may be able to coordinate inter-school events. Also, if they like and respect you, they might refer students your way (say when they close, or when a student has to move on).

Peace,
Erik

I'm actually thinking of trying to open a sister school to the dojang I attend now, just in an adjacent town. I'm going to talk to my instructor about what should be done in this regard.

My instructor is extremely respected throughout the state, and is a staple member of the community where I live. I have expressed interest in teaching when I started back with him a month ago...I used to student teach for him when I was actively attending class several years back...and he said that he would help get me ready as far as learning the material and getting back into shape. I really haven't spoken much to him about the business and technical side of it yet, but I plan on doing that pretty soon.

I know I have the patience to teach, and I have an idea of how my teaching style is. I do need more practice in teaching, but that should come later, as I'm still feeling like a whitebelt at the moment.

But thanks again for the advice, and keep it coming!
 
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BrandonLucas

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Having opened three shcools- it is indeed something you have to plan for.
More later if you are interested.

I'm interested in learning all that I can before I start on any part of this journey. I'm like a sponge....
 
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BrandonLucas

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having just done this, here is my advice:

start out with either:

a rent free arrangment, ymca, your garage, etc

OR

have a YEARS rent in the bank

figure out your advertising, and pricing stucture ahead of time.

practice every part of your ciriculum and have it down pat.

This is very good advice...the only downside to the rent part of it is that I have to wait until I'm close to being ready to look for a place to open shop to be able to run the actual figures.
 

igillman

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I can only speak as a consumer but I would say that you need to make sure you do not have hidden costs. They may not seem hidden from you but they are to someone who is new to martial arts. Testing fees are a good example, someone who is new to martial arts does not know enough to be able to ask about them.

There is nothing worse than getting involved with something and then finding out it is a money pit. It makes you less likely to help out with the school or renew any contracts you may have when they run out.
 

jks9199

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I can only speak as a consumer but I would say that you need to make sure you do not have hidden costs. They may not seem hidden from you but they are to someone who is new to martial arts. Testing fees are a good example, someone who is new to martial arts does not know enough to be able to ask about them.

There is nothing worse than getting involved with something and then finding out it is a money pit. It makes you less likely to help out with the school or renew any contracts you may have when they run out.
Another good point...

Disclose as many of the fees (and when they fit in) early on. Maybe something like (and I'm literally making the numbers up):

Regular tuition: $50/month
Testing fees: $10, when testing. Testing opportunites are every other month, with students testing an average of 2 or 3 times a year.
Uniforms: $25, not required until you've trained for 3 months.
Sparring Gear: $85/set (head, hands, feet), not required until after 1st test.

and so on...

So that someone can look over it and have an idea that their first year will actually cost something like $775 all told...
 

Kacey

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If you want to open a school - which, to me, means a facility that you have sole control over - then you'd best have at least 6 months operating expenses, minimum, in savings before you start.

If you want to start a class - which, to me, means a facility that you have the use of during set times - then check with local Ys, recreation centers, community colleges, and public schools, all of which will cost less, generally, than other facilities - and often nothing - the Y where I teach requires me to carry my own liability insurance, but they collect the dues, take care of the building, provide storage space and advertising (in the class listings), and pay me to show up - except for the insurance, I have no overhead.
 

ArmorOfGod

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First, are you able to promote students at the rank you will be when you open up?
Next, print this article: http://martialtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=42320
It is competely on the mark and helped me out immensely when I opened my school up a few years ago.
Are you planning on renting a commercial building? Are you going to start out of a recreation center, which is far cheaper but has its pro's and cons. Start calling around to find out how much it is to rent those places.
Are you going to go independent, which is how I am doing it, or are you going to be a part of an association? The bigger associations require yearly dues and money to register your students.
Remember a few things though: libraries can be your best friends. I do demos and free programs all the time at the several surrounding libraries (I live on the state line) and get tons of free newspaper coverage and new students because of the libraries.

AoG
 

terrylamar

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Check out the following website. You can order his book from there. It is full of good information about how to run a small, profitable school, from start up to an established school. It has the best information out of all the sources available at this time.

http://www.small-dojo-big-profits.com/
 
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BrandonLucas

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First, are you able to promote students at the rank you will be when you open up?
Next, print this article: http://martialtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=42320
It is competely on the mark and helped me out immensely when I opened my school up a few years ago.
Are you planning on renting a commercial building? Are you going to start out of a recreation center, which is far cheaper but has its pro's and cons. Start calling around to find out how much it is to rent those places.
Are you going to go independent, which is how I am doing it, or are you going to be a part of an association? The bigger associations require yearly dues and money to register your students.
Remember a few things though: libraries can be your best friends. I do demos and free programs all the time at the several surrounding libraries (I live on the state line) and get tons of free newspaper coverage and new students because of the libraries.

AoG

Thanks for that link! That has a lot of useful info in it, and I didn't even have the chance to read it all the way through yet. I'm at work, so I'm going to read it throughout the day.

I would like to open a school in my own building, but I don't have the financial backing to do that. I probably won't for a while, either, as I have twin girls on the way, due in March of '09. The practical plan would be for me to teach out of a rec center around town for a while.

The main problem with teaching from the rec centers around here is that they are all run politically. Even the ones in the surrounding towns, where it would still be practical to teach without commuting too far. The problem is that in the town I live in, the rec department has recently opened a new facility that cost a pretty good bit of tax money, and our city has some doofus running it who won't allow anyone who isn't virtually made of money to come near it. The neighboring counties are all trying to compete with it, so now it's a pollitical money thing.

My other options are to try to find somewhere other than a rec center to teach in...the problem is that the area I live in don't have too many facilities available. But, I figure that I'll tackle this obstacle later down the road, as I'm planning on opening 2 or 3 years from now, and alot of things can change in that amount of time.

As far as being independant goes, it's kind of hard to answer that. I'm pretty sure I would be considered independant. My instructor runs an independant school, but he's certified through the ITF to teach. What I may end up doing is opening a "sister" dojang and possibly paying my instructor a small amount of the dues to use his school's name. But that part's kind of sketchy at this point as well.

I guess right now I'm just trying to get an idea of the basic first steps I would need to get started. It's hard to answer specific questions at this point because I don't really have my ducks in a row yet...mostly because I'm not quite sure what ducks to line up. :) The main thing I'm worried about at this point in time is getting back into shape and getting at least to a full 2nd dan before I even start to get everything started.
 
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