The purpose of this post is to help people that are considering training in the martial arts understand the dynamics involved in running a commercial school. This way they have a better grasp of what type of school they are in or considering joining. Hopefully it will provide some insight that could help you pick the best school for you. This is not a “how-to” post for school owners.
When someone decides to run a school for a living the first thing they need to do is pick the right location for their school. Anyone that has ever had a retail business knows that the three most important things are: 1) Location, 2) location, and 3) location!
So the first step is what type of area do you want to set up your business in. Well you are looking to make money so you want to be in a well-to-do neighborhood/town/city. You need potential customers/students that can afford to pay for your services. You need to have enough potential students/customers to generate enough cash flow for you to live in the lifestyle you want. You need to know your demographics to be able to make good decisions. You need to know what percentage of the population in your area is even interested in martial arts. You need to know what your competition is, and how many of the potential students in the area are already with them. You can google the information you are looking for or go to sites like this http://www.sba.gov/content/demographics for general demographics. Be aware that the wealthier and area is the higher the cost of doing business is. You need to consider both drive-by and walk-by potential customers per day at your location. This impacts how much advertising you will have to do. Are you on the side of the street the sun hits the most, etc. the list goes on.
Another important thing to consider is the square footage for your school. The space will need to have a training area, changing rooms, rest rooms, an office, and enough room near the entry for people to watch class. The larger the space the more expensive it will be, and the higher your budget will be.With that in mind there is a correlation between how much your rent is, and how many students you must have and how much you charge them to run your school in the black. I have seen schools start with only a few hundred feet. I have also seen successful schools with 3000 square foot, and even a few with 5000 square feet or more. If you are starting out on your own without deep pockets, and an existing student base the optimal size seems to be about 1500 square foot, give or take a couple/few hundred. More than 2000 can be a strain on the pocket book until you have built that student base. Large chains that have multiple schools to support the initial financial drain while building a customer/student base may start with 3000-5000 square feet.
As you can see a martial arts school with a store front is a business just like any retail store you enter. You should keep that in mind while considering their sales pitch and buying their products. Shop carefully to ensure you get what you are looking for.