opening new dojo - living there to save rent?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by 333kenshin, Feb 22, 2020.

  1. 333kenshin

    333kenshin New Member

    Hi folks,
    I'm a 2nd dan karate instructor aspiring to open a branch studio of the school where I currently teach and train. I've seen 2 common refrains I've heard across several discussion boards about starting up a studio:

    1) start small by renting a room per hour in say a school, gym, or church to build up numbers before signing a lease for dedicated store space. This totally makes sense from a cash flow perspective - paying for capacity you're not in position to use is just burning through savings.

    2) the most cost-effective way to draw in more clientele is location conducive to foot traffic with compelling signage. Ideally next to an anchor like a supermarket or bookstore

    Unfortunately (1) and (2) seems to contradict one another, since a rented room in a school/gym/church limits you on both foot traffic and signage.

    One method I've heard of squaring that circle is where the studio has a back room or attic space where the instructor actually lives in order to save on rent. I wouldn't want to do this long term, but could imagine doing it for the first year or so of operations while the business is finding its legs and getting enrollment numbers up.

    Can anyone comment on the concerns with regards to legality, logistics, ethics, and perception in such an arrangement?


    PS: I'm mindful of the fact that, given the recent bankruptcy of Boy Scouts of America, there is an added need for mindfulness against any form of impropriety where kids are involved. The space will be marked Private, remain locked during all business hours, and accessible to only myself.
  2. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    The common way to do this is rent space by the hour until you have enough people interested to pay for the rent in a dedicated space.

    Living in a business space will invalidate your insurances and possibility put you on breach of your rental agreement.

    I'm terms of advertising, having an active social media presence is the best way.
    Grond and Thomas like this.
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Over the years, we've done both. We started out with a dedicated building on a Main Street, then moved to a (free) room at a college, then to a rented building that we had access to full time, then back to a free space at another college, and now to a dedicated building that is available most of the time.

    The first place was good and brought in a lot of walk-ins. The college campus ones were nice for bringing in new students (sometimes only for a semester or two though) and for being free but had the disadvantage of not always being available . The rented places was awesome until the owner decided to rent it to someone else. Our current setup is very good and we rent out mat time to other groups, but don't get anything for walk-in traffic.

    I would recommend looking at how you want to recruit students (social media is good) and whether there is room in your area for your school. We live in an area with some outstanding instructors but not a huge student base, so prices are very low... making it difficult to run a full time school. Instead we all volunteer our time and any money made is used to pay bills for the school. Do you plan to have this as your job or as a part time thing?
    Mitlov and Grond like this.
  4. 333kenshin

    333kenshin New Member

    Very grateful for the detailed feedback!

    @Dead_pool I am definitely going to steer clear of the living-in-studio option, both for external reasons (zoning, propriety) and internal ones (hygiene, psychological boundaries). Will start by renting space by the hour til I've built up my numbers somewhat

    @Thomas that's fascinating the number and variety of venues you've worked out of. Opens up a range of ideas to look for. I assume the dedicated building was found through traditional commercial real estate rental channels, but would you mind expounding how you came across the rental spaces and especially the college room? There is a college nearby that I could look into operating out of.

  5. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Our first place was an empty downtown storefront on the main strip. We rented it and renovated it. The upside was that we got lots of walk-in traffic, but the downside was that rent was fairly high. We left after the block caught on fire and our place was destroyed.

    We then moved to a private college where we paid a very minimal fee to use the multi purpose room. We had to arrange it through the person in charge and we were limited to actual hours we could use. And... we could be 'bumped' by other organizations sometimes. We also couldn't access it during certain holiday periods.

    The dedicated space we had afterwards was very nice. A local business owner was planning for expansion and he added on to his existing building. He had extra space, so we rented and renovated it and used it for several years (with unlimited access). Later, he expanded again and wanted that space back, so we had to leave.

    We went to a local public university and did like we had done before, with a rental agreement through the multi-purpose room. We had the same issues - limited access and getting 'bumped' sometimes.

    Our current place is a sweet deal. It is in a historic building that has been renovated and there is a desire to keep it occupied, so we rent at a low rate. The previous occupant was a martial artist with big dreams who built a beautiful school and was later relocated due to his job... so we have a beautiful setting with low rent, although it's a bit off the beaten trail. We rent out space to other groups (like Yoga) periodically.
  6. 333kenshin

    333kenshin New Member

    very cool info @Thomas! May I also enquire precisely how you found these spaces? I'm curious about both the college multi-purpose room and the current sweet deal whose former occupant was a martial arts school. Did you hear about it through personal connection/happenstance, or comb through property listings/Craigslist, post on an internet forum like this one, or some other means?
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    We live in an area with several college nearby - we just called them and asked for who was in charge of the multi-purpose room and what the process was for using it... it wasn't hard to find (but we had to be flexible with the schedule).
    Our current deal is one we just fell into. The guy who owned it had to move for work and knew us through the area (we had attended his Open House) so he checked to see if we were interested in it before looking at other buyers.

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