Martial Arts School Advice

Starting Your Own School

Opening a Kung fu school while still working a full time job is not easy. There are scores of factors that go into starting a brick and mortar business venture, but I’m only going to comment directly on a few, which I think are the most important.

To begin with, long before the inception of the thought of opening a school has occurred, consider your life and lifestyle. Are you married? Do you have children? What are your pressing responsibilities and can they be reprioritized? These are the initial questions to ask yourself before deciding to open your own business. Your wife or significant other will have a voice in this decision—and if you think otherwise, you might not have a wife or significant other for very long (at least not a happy one)! Starting and running your own business takes a significant amount of hours from the day, most of your physical energy, and almost all of your mental energy. Do you think a spouse or significant other might feel left out if your thoughts are constantly focused on your business? The answer is that they will most likely be at the very least slightly put-out that you're not devoting all of your mental and physical energy toward making them feel wanted and happy. Your children will feel the same way. Keep that in mind.

Next, if your family is supportive of your plan, you have to actually execute the plan. When does your plan begin? After you've secured the lease on a space? When the doors to your school open? When you get your first student? How about as soon as you save the first penny towards opening your school? Or, perhaps, maybe the plan begins when you register your business with the state you’ll be doing business in. What I’m saying is, your plan should begin far in advance of any actual instruction taking place anywhere. There is lots of registering, and filing, and emailing to do before you do anything else. You have to register your business, file with the IRS, possibly register with your local municipality (sometimes registering with the state is required if you file as anything other than a sole-proprietor (at least in NJ)), and find out what, if any, licenses are required to run your particular type of business. State websites usually have an entire section of their website devoted to small businesses.

Have you actually found a location for your school? Is it in the center of town? Is it on the outskirts of town? On a major roadway, or a quiet side road? Are there sidewalks (super important)? Are there other businesses around the location? Is there competition? How long has the location been vacant (also important because the landlord doesn't want vacant storefronts he wants them filled to attract business)? Once you’ve answered all of those questions and you’re talking to the landlord, remember that he/she needs to get the space filled with a business, and if you can pay and your business sounds like it might be profitable, you have the upper hand in negotiating all kinds of things from provisions in the lease agreement, to the actual amount of rent you pay each month. He/she needs you more than you need him/her!

You’ll also need insurance for your school and there are plenty out there, but be careful and get quotes from two or three places before settling on the cheapest—this is important stuff. Just as registering your business as an LLC can help prevent you from personally losing everything if you get sued, insurance will pay the damages (hopefully).

So—you’ve done all the advance work of getting registered with the state, licensed if necessary, got insured, signed the lease. Now what?
Now you really get to work! Create social media pages for your business and link them all so that when you post to one, you post to all. Maintain a positive attitude in your posts; negative Facebook posts, tweets, Google+ posts, and Instagram posts won’t attract business it will drive it away. Create a website for your school, and create videos that demonstrate examples of your art to post to that website. Prospective students will want to see what it is that you do, and a short (minute long) video is just the thing to show them.

Be the best person you can be because you will be your business’ first and best advertisement. At least until you get some loyal, happy students training in your school. Then they become a part of your advertising arsenal. But at the inception of your business, its all about you. Your social media posts will reflect on your business, so post carefully. Try to keep politics our of both business and social media unless you’ve made a clear distinction between your personal social media presence and your business’ social media presence (which is very difficult to do).

Finally, budget, budget, budget! Keep all of your receipts for tax purposes. If you’ve done all that, and you’re still training every day and perfecting your art, all I have left to say is: good luck!