I recently had a good friend of mine, a purple belt (soon to be brown :)) ask me if $50,000 was enough to open up his own martial arts school.
My jaw just about dropped off….
A little bit about myself, I helped to start a martial arts school at the age of 23 along with a friend and business partner, with a hand full of students and modest loan from an investor. What I would have done for 50K!!!!
It was probably the hardest thing that I have ever done, but I understand that for a lot of guys this is their dream once their prime competitive years are behind them. Just make sure that you are informed and realize that blind passion won’t help you open up and run a martial arts school, and not everything about the instructing life is as it often appears.
4 Things you need in order to open up a martial arts school
I ordered my list in terms of ease of obtaining and implementing.
Starting out, having the desire for having your own school has to take place before you even attempt the other three steps. Make sure that you really want to teach and that you have the ability to teach. If you lack experience teaching, you can always volunteer to help out a few classes where you train.
Also learn the business side of running and operating an academy. This includes learning how to run the front desk, doing introductory lessons, how to sign up new students, billing, etc. Again, if you have no clue what I’m talking about you can always volunteer your time at your academy in exchange for learning their systems.
I really push this point not to be pessimistic, but as a learning aid. I’ve personally seen a lot of people who really wanted to open up their own school because they thought it would be fun, but they did not put in the time to learning how to run a school, and they unfortunately did not stay in business long.
Along with the desire, you really need to have skill to go with it. Preferably you have a black belt and at least six months to a year of teaching experience before opening your own academy. Instructing new students, you will need a solid foundation in fundamental techniques as well as self defense since the majority of people starting martial arts do so in order to learn how to defend themselves.
If you are like my friend and plan on saving up 50k in order to open up your academy, then you will really have a good head start. If you’re smart and treat your school like a business and not a hobby then that money will give you the leverage to acquire a nice facility, hire staff to work for you, and invest in gaining/retaining students.
If you don’t have 50k to throw around, don’t worry. Many famous schools started off with a lot less. As far as getting funding, you can always save money yourself. This is the easiest route but it is also the slowest.
I personally suggest that you do not borrow money from family or friends as it can be weird and add more stress to succeed.
Many of the top schools started with private/ angel investors. Again, having an investor just like starting with 50k will allow you a lot more freedom from worrying if your school will be successful and focus on making it successful. The better your amenities and facility, the more value you will bring to your students and it will show in your pricing.
If you have 0 money, you can still start your own school it will just take more time and you will have to do a lot of the work yourself at first. With no money, your best bet is teaching out of an existing facility such as gold’s gym or local rec center. Getting paying students at first might be hard, so start by offering free classes or self defense seminars in order to get the word out about your program and if you find a few really dedicated students, let them train for free in return for helping out or referring their friends.
This is the area that a lot of martial arts schools either hit or miss. Even schools that have been established for decades sometimes neglect the power of marketing their school. If your goal is to have a small “club” level school, then marketing will not be a major focus of yours, but if you have larger aspirations for your business then this is one area that you will really need to invest yourself in learning or paying someone well to manage for you.
Starting with little or no money, don’t worry about big marketing pushes, instead focus on generating leads and contacts from your existing students. Word of mouth is often the best way to grow your school since its grassroots and will allow you to connect with people that are already invested in your program through their relationships with your students . Once you are making money and can afford to pay yourself, that’s when you should invest in other forms of marketing like mailers, facebook/google ads, etc.
Listen, no ebook or video is going to teach you experience. It will be up to you to learn and keep learning in order to make your school a reality.