Taekwondo Chain Schools

Gwai Lo Dan

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I noticed that a local dojang has changed names and is now part of a larger chain. (Specifically, Master Seung's Taekwondo Academy in Mississauga Ontario Canada is now Black Belt World).

I see prices are up (as high as $210/month for the "Olympic" 5x week membership), and renovations are happening.

Putting the 2 things together, I would guess that the chain has deeper pockets, and is able to invest more in facilities and marketing, and is able to command higher prices.

Do you see chains in your area? If so, what are your thoughts on why chains are perhaps more "successful" (in term of money and enrollment) as opposed to more smaller clubs?
 
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Jaeimseu

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I noticed that a local dojang has changed names and is now part of a larger chain. (Specifically, Master Seung's Taekwondo Academy in Mississauga Ontario Canada is now Black Belt World).

I see prices are up (as high as $210/month for the "Olympic" 5x week membership), and renovations are happening.

Putting the 2 things together, I would guess that the chain has deeper pockets, and is able to invest more in facilities and marketing, and is able to command higher prices.

Do you see chains in your area? If so, what are your thoughts on why chains are perhaps more "successful" (in term of money and enrollment) as opposed to more smaller clubs?
I would guess that an owner capable of opening multiple (successful) schools has a proven business system/curriculum in place.
 

TrueJim

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You know, that's really an interesting question. Bottom line: I don't really see much business advantage, other than the deep pockets that one accrues over time that enables you to open up new locations. Once your locations are established though, I don't see what the business benefits would be in terms of being a member of a chain.

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but the big cost drivers are going to be facility costs (rent/lease) and payroll (salaries for the taekwondo instructors, After-School teachers, front-desk staff, etc.).* You might be able to save a little bit of money by sharing the cost of websites and advertising, but I would think those costs would tend to be quite small by comparison. And geographically, schools in a chain are generally far enough away from one another that I wouldn't think you'd get a big word-of-mouth benefit either.

I guess there are probably only two business benefits: (1) whoever is running the chain has a good head for business, so he knows how to choose good locations and set up new locations to be profitable (e.g., staff with good people, don't over-staff, don't over-equip, don't over-advertise, etc.); and (2) profits accrued by the chain can be used to establish new locations.

The school that my son and I attend is part of a local chain, and we do see some taekwondo benefits. For example, there's a ready-made pool of high-level black belts when it comes to needing a panel for dan testing. And when the chain attends tournaments and wants to enter team events, we have a large pool of students to draw from to form the team. I don't think that being part of the chain affects each school's bottom-line much though.

By the way, $210 per month for 5x weekly seems high by our local standards here in the suburbs of DC. Around here that'd be more like $150 or less I think. At our school, by the time you get to that price, you can come as many times per week as you want (e.g., take double-classes or triple-classes on some days).


* I've never owned/operated a taekwondo school. But I did once help a friend start a hair salon. Same thing. ;-)
 
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Gwai Lo Dan

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Interesting comments True Jim. I should add that the $210 is Canadian dollars. It would be the equivalent of about $170 US dollars.

Also, whereabouts in VA are you? I am starting a new job, and the HQ is near Hwy 495 and Tulles Toll Road in McLean VA. If your school is anywhere close, maybe I will take a "trial class" one day.
 

TrueJim

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I used to work in that same area ("Tysons Corner"); around here most people commute about 30-45 minutes to get into that area (me included). The school my son and I attend is out in Sterling, VA (west of that area). Our chain also has one location that's about the same distance away but south of that area (down I-95). Here's the school: Majest Martial Arts Tae Kwon Do You should have come sooner...you missed the chance to meet Hyun Duk Oh, VP at the Kukkiwon! (He visited our school a few days ago...photos on the Facebook page Majest Martial Arts Sterling Virginia - Sterling VA - Martial Arts Facebook )

If you're moving to Northern Virginia you're in luck though -- this part of the country is blessed with a ton of great taekwondo schools. I'm told that Fairfax County (the area we're talking about) has the highest per capita Korean population of any county in the U.S. (I'm a little skeptical though...I'd think the L.A. and San Francisco areas would beat us - but I don't doubt that we're close). So no matter where you move in this area (McLean, Reston, Herndon, Chantilly, Sterling...wherever) you're going to find you have a ton of great choices in terms of taekwondo schools. If a person likes taekwondo, this is a great place to live.

(I know of other poster on this martialtalk forum also lives in this area, but I won't divulge their secret identity.)

(And by the way, if you want to have some goofy fun, take a local tour of this area in Minecraft - our school is the last part of the video:

)
 
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Gwai Lo Dan

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I won't be moving there, just maybe visiting every now and then. Thanks for the info though!
 

TrueJim

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Well anyway, you'll be working in spitting distance of where Jhoon Rhee still lives, I believe! (McLean) So at least there's some taekwondo history there!

I don't know the schools in the Tysons area, but there are a few. The closest school to Tysons that I know is good is out in Herndon. Grandmaster H.K.Lee Tae Kwon Do
 

Flatfish

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Ah yes the founder of the Lee TKD dynasty in VA and NC, LOL. My instructor comes from that lineage as well...
 

WaterGal

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There aren't any large KKW-style TKD chains right around me (though a bunch in neighboring states), but there is a big TSD chain and a couple franchise locations of some mishmash national franchise.

From a business perspective, I think a chain has some real advantages - marketing, for one. For example, it would be a big waste of money to do a TV or magazine ad for one school, because 90%+ of the people who'd see it are too far away to bother driving to our school. But if I ran a chain of 10 schools all across the area, that would be an effective strategy. Also, the costs of any marketing consultant, graphic design, legal advice, etc would be spread over multiple schools. And any time you need to have something printed up - t-shirts, posters, flyers, etc - and generally with other business supplies too - the more you buy the better the unit price is.

The disadvantage is that it makes it harder to maintain quality control. While the chain TSD place I mentioned above is clearly good at doing business and makes lots of money, they're widely considered to be a joke among everyone that knows anything about martial arts. (The franchise place is worse, though - they're just a martial arts-themed aftercare center.)
 

TrueJim

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From a business perspective, I think a chain has some real advantages - marketing, for one.

In my neighborhood we have small 3 chains and 1 singleton. The chains are:
  • Majest Martial Arts (a small local chain, just three schools now)
  • High Kicks (another small local chain I think? Just four schools listed on their website)
  • TopKick (seven schools in the area)
  • Choi's Dragon (just the one school)
I never see any of these guys do an real advertising though. They hold Open Houses, leave flyers in dry cleaners, have brightly-painted after-care-pickup busses, etc. ...but I don't think I ever see much in the way of print or broadcast ads. I wonder how big a chain has to get before conventional advertising pays off? You tossed out the number 10 and that actually sounds like a good guess to me.

For example, it would be a big waste of money to do a TV or magazine ad for one school, because 90%+ of the people who'd see it are too far away to bother driving to our school.

Location is a huge issue I think. Our chain picks up at all the local elementary schools for after care; there's such a high density of schools in northern Virginia that I bet most students live within 2 miles of their schools around here.
 
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