Re: Dojo in southern Indiana?
Thanks for the suggestions, Ron. It probably wouldn't have occurred to me to look into gymnastics schools, but we do have a couple in the area which could probably spare the space and time. The YMCA is also a good idea... We'll just have to call around and start getting some concrete options on the table.
In my experience, the problem lies not in opening the dojo, but in keeping it open long term and in keeping enough students to support a new school over the long term; I think a conservative estimate from my experience would be around a 75% attrition rate, with only one of every four new students becoming at least semi-dedicated to the way and continuing to train long term.
Although it seems counter-intuitive to purchase a building knowing the difficulty inherent in maintaining a school long term, I think it's a reasonable option as long as the circumstances are appropriate. The benefits can be substantial: no landlords to keep happy, no need to work around the schedules of other groups in a shared space, a mortgage is often considerably cheaper than rent for a comparable space (in our market, at least), and, at the end of the day, one owns the property. Of course, one certainly stands to lose more when buying the building. I've known schools which own their buildings and supplement their mat fee income by accepting uchi deshi or, in cases where the building was purchased by the head instructor, by his relocation to the dojo as his primary residence so as to avoid paying both home and business costs.
Beyond opening the school, would you (or anyone) have advice for maintaining a school financially over the long term and suggestions for how best to weather periods of low student enrollment when the dojo is consistently losing money? Thanks!