View Full Version : Starting a dojo

9th July 2003, 16:27
Hi all,

I searched on here for past threads asking this question, and thought I would re-ask it; whats the best way to start up a dojo?

Obviously, minimizing start up costs is important to me, and figuring the best way to do so is to find a cheap location, since insurance and equipment costs etc. aren't really flexible. Whats a good location that would provide flexible evening hours with decent facilities? I'm trying to avoid taking on a lease until I have a small student base, at least, but I do want to locate in a particular area which would allow for a lease should the school get a sufficient student count to do so. No college, so that type of facility is out. I have heard of people running schools in places like a Knights of Columbus or church function halls, etc. Anyone gone this route? Are the costs less? Would you recommend it? Also, do they allow for storage of some of the equipment, since it is not really feasible to transport equipment and supplies to and from the dojo on a daily basis?

Collections agency: can this work for a small startup school? Do they charge a down fee, or is it a percentage of what they collect, or both?

Insurance: how much does this figure to cost for a small startup school? Are the plans based on number of students (more students=increased risk)?

I already have a lot of dojo equipment (having a home dojo for a long time, you tend to collect a lot of equipment) so thats not really an issue, after heavy use they'll need replacement but at the start they should be sufficient. Stocking supplies, though, such as uniforms and belts, etc, whats a reasonable way to start with that? What suppliers have good prices?

I don't have a problem balancing budget and tracking spending / earnings, but I am not really certain about all the tax rules and claimings, etc. I figure I need an accountant. How do they usually charge, any guesstimate on how much one would charge?

Lastly, advertising, whats a decent way to begin advertising a startup school? No students = no word of mouth, which in schools I have helped run in the past, was direly important. How can I generate startup interest? I have a good idea for a plan, but how do I get attention?

Legal stuff is pretty much all set, as I have a lot of forms from other schools who have already done this. I also have a lawyer friend, so I think I can minimize legal fees.

Anything else I am not thinking of?


9th July 2003, 22:38
This has been discussed lots of times and the last time only a few weeks back i think. Heres the link again to how I started my first Dojo on moving to another country.


This is not a commercial Dojo, just a small community based one.

10th July 2003, 16:19
Yeah I knew it had been discussed in the past, but for some reason I couldn't really find anything in a search. I didn't realize it had been discussed so recently, though I am not surprised. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

Mitch Saret
10th July 2003, 18:48
Much depends on what you intend to do. Are you going to do this for a living, or a part time thing with another job supporting you? Are you training in real hardcore stuff, or are you going to teach kids? Determine what your program(s) will be.

I have never taught in a community center or church, but it is an extremely plausable location. I would also check with your YMCA.

No cost, low cost marketing is fliers, for one. Go to your supermarkets, Wal-Marts, whatever, and put one on the windshields of the cars. Press releases with good pictures are another way.

The billing/consulting company I use is percentage based. A small start up fee and the rest is based on what they collect. Check out United Professionals at www.unitedprofessionals.com and get the basic info there.

20th July 2003, 07:53
Hi Ken,

You bring up a good question...1st thing to look at is your town population. Do you live in an area where the population is big enough for you to attract enough students in order for you to support yourself. One of the things that kills many dojo's is when people think of opening a school in a small city...in this case any both small populations and competing schools can pose a problem. It's not uncommon for people in these small cities to last only a year before going out of business due to the locations they chose to open in.

After examining your city's size you need to look at whether the city you'd like to teach in is friendly to businesses. For example, cities which want to limit growth to maintain their current "feel" do so by lobbying various taxes that become prohibitive. This discouragement is meant to drive business entrepeneurs to other locations. People who don't research this have gotten their savings killed by simply not bothering to find this out and insisting on launching out of their city without ever researching this issue.

You need to look at whether your town survive's on it's own...by that I mean does the town largely exist because it's a college town or because of a local military base. If it's a college town, & you're hell bent on this is the absolute must location...then you need to prepare your wallet for surviving when you lose students that go home for summer & christmas vacation. While their training goes on hold when they go home...your rent's still due!! While if it's a military town, then you're looking at a fairly rapid turnover where your students could be disappearing to new assignments every 1 to 3 years. Ideally you want a town that's big enough in opportunity and offers you enough of a population that lives there so you won't be as vulnerable during these vacation or deployment periods.

I remember the first time I heard of triple-net...my God...what an unholy concept that was...for Godsake don't set yourself up in a city that is anti-growth or anti-business when you're looking at renting and having to pay this beast on top of everything else (( if you don't know what triple-net is...it's an additional cost you pay. Ex. Let's say you find a place that charges $2.50 per sq.ft. in addition to that you see that they also charge you an additional $1.75 per sq.ft. -- what you're doing is paying to separate fees for the exact same amount of space that you'll be renting. The triple-net fee normally takes care of the trash pick up & utilities...needless to say this double payment for the same location can rapidly eat through your savings.

Sometimes, local dojos will allow you to teach out of their school to build up a client base. If you're friends with one of the local schools then you might be able to build up a client base by teaching on days & times that the school isn't offering classes.

Another method is to avoid rent costs altogether and teach out of the local parks, beaches, etc...while this can be fun, the number of people who are willing to train out in the open whatever the weather is much smaller than those who would enter a dojo.

As far as advertising...obviously you've got a computer...you can print up your own fliers and distribute them.

Perhaps one of the best ways is to approach the local schools where you want to teach. I don't know what you're credentials are...but if you're able to interest the instructor, you might be able to do a seminar.

Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is how do you intend to support yourself? Do you intend to teach as a 2nd job...or is the dojo supposed to be your sole job.

If you intend to teach in addition to your other job then you are at a greater advantage. The reason for this is that since you have a regular income, you will be able to avoid the temptation to promote students ahead of time or dropping your standards because you need to pay rent & eating would be nice.

If you intend to teach full time and not have another job...then you need to make enough not merely to paint rent for your school...but your rent or mortgage for you home or apartment, utilities...your car, insurance, food...that's only naming a few things :)

I hope this helps, best of luck!

Eric L. Bookin

Mitch Saret
22nd July 2003, 20:27
Much of what Yojimbo says is true...particularly about a triple-net lease! In simpler terms, you pay your rent, you pay a maintanence fee if you are in a mall of some sort, and you pay the property taxes! If I am going to do all that I had better be building some equity and purchasing the place! My situation here is I am buying my building. It is a single storefront on our towns square. It also has two apartments above. The costs of being a landlord can sometimes be a hassle, but overall it's a plus. The rents pay for the mortgage and a portion of the proprty taxes.

Now, about the size of town. Yojimbo is correct here also. Nationally, only aboput 2 percent of the population studies martial arts formally. Also, the the dropout rate is between 6 and 7 percent monthly. These numbers come from some of the professional organizations around, although they are not based strictly on their members. What this means is, if your town has a population of 100,000, only about 2000 will study martial arts. Divide that number by the number of schools in your town and you'll come up with suitable number for expectations. Realize that you should not be limited because of that number, we are just talking averages here. Let's say that including you, there are now 10 schools. That means 200 students each, for the sake of the discussion. Take into account the dropout rate of, rounding down for ease, 5 percent. We also have to determine a number of student for you to begin with...let's say 50. That means every month 2.5 students stop ptaking class, for whatever reason. Let's make it 3 to make numbers easier. That means to maintain 50 students you have to sign up 3 new students every month. To grow to the 200 student potential, you have to sign up even more.

From this we can see there are 2 things to really be concerned about when operating a school. Getting students and keeping students. It is important to watch your stats and see where your weak areas are so you can improve on them.

Again, any of the professional organizations can explain this better, and give you the ideas you need to accomplish your goals. The one I like is mentioned in my previous post.

23rd July 2003, 06:15
Hi there,

Mitch brought up some great points, and what he's looking at in my opinion is one of the ideal situations.

By investing in the building himself, Mitch has opened numerous possibilities & eliminated several problems in one stroke. Is money still a concern...sure it is...but as I mentioned in regard to having a 2nd job...by owning the building Mitch will provide himself with the potential of additional income.

By owning a building you basically avoid the same pitfalls as living in an apartment...namely paying your rent towards something that you'll never own. By owning the building your income goes towards paying off your mortgage. Furthermore by owning the building you lose the worry of the future as to whether the landlord will renew your lease or not...and if not where will you go from there...and depending on how far you move...how many of your clientel will follow you?

By owning the building you can offset the problems of rising and falling income, by renting out to others thereby providing yourself with a steady income to help you pay off your mortgage. Depending on the zoning...you might evem be able to off set your housing costs by setting up your living quarters in the same building.

Now if you don't have the capital to invest in purchasing a building...depending on your credit rating, there are business loans or grants that can help you achieve your goal & in the long run save you great expense.

If these options are still past you, then you need to examine the business opportunities like some of those that I mentioned in my last post. Determine whether the city you want to teach in is friendly to businesses & possesses the right climate and opportunity for you to succeed and grow.

One of the pitfall mistakes made by people without the capital to invest in a building is to open a school together with 1 or more other people. Generally this strategy only works when this is done within the family. If you and your partner are not married...then whatever income you pull in has to be enough to support both you and them. If you two or three haven't established a client base yet...then in the short run you save yourself money by splitting the cost of rent. Rapidly however these people discover their error as they build their client base!! After they pay the rent & expenses now they have to hope that there is enough to split between them to cover their car insurance, gas, housing, advertising & food. The only way I've seen splitting a school with multiple partners works is when they all of have other jobs & this is what they do because they love it & thanks to their other incomes, they're not dependant upon the number of students they have.

I'm not trying to turn you off from your goal...you're picking what in my opinion is a hard track...it's important that you understand what you are undertaking. In my opinion, teaching is one of the most rewarding experiences that lies before you. If you don't have a clientel, look into teaching out of someone else's dojo on their off hours to get your start. Once you get enough students where you can deal with renting a place for your own school. This can be accomplished by either approaching a friend who owns a school...by networking or by launching a series of seminars to both gain exposure and raise some finances.

Good luck,

Eric L. Bookin