This is my first post on the aikweb forums. I have been a "lurker" for quite a while. I have enjoyed many of the posts, and the great debates and information exchange I see. So, I am looking forward to finally "joining the fray" and posting some.
Myself and a few others have recently founded a new ASU affiliated dojo in San Antonio, Texas. Our head instructor is Craig Slack, he practiced under Saotome Sensei in DC, and has received his san-dan from him. We are very fortunate in starting our new dojo, in that we also have 3 dan ranked practioners/assistant instructors, and we have all had some experience in running the business side of a dojo before... I myself was treasurer for 4 years at my former dojo. We have set our dojo up as a non-profit organization in Texas and are working on getting 501(c) non-profit status with the IRS. All told, there are six of us that have started this endeavor.
We recently obtained space at a YMCA for use as our dojo...the YMCA staff has been really great in helping us get started, and allowing us to use the space for VERY little rent. While the space we are using is good for a start, we really don't want to stay at the YMCA for a long time. My feeling on it is that we just won't grow that much in the YMCA. The student base is very limited there, and it is in a pretty low income area of town (not that there is anything wrong with this, I truly believe in community outreach to economically challenged individuals).
The problem is that in order to grow we need to get our name out in the community and gain enough paying students to support ourselves. I've been around long enough to know the high cost of advertising, and/or renting a viable and visible space for a dojo. I've also been around in Aikido and martial arts world long enough to know about the high turnover rate in students...so my philosophy is you need to have a lot of people walking in the door in order to get a few people who will actually stick around. We have been at the YMCA for almost 3 months, and we have only had about 4 people join...all of whom have already quit coming. O.K. I'm finally getting to my point here
Its a "catch-22"...we need students in order to afford a space of our own...but we need a visible space of our own in order to attract students. I would like to hear thoughts and input from others who have been involved in the start-up and initial growth of other dojos...
Suggestions for finding a good dojo space and how to finance it intially (Does anyone know of any low cost loans/funding for non-profits?...
Suggestions for "advertising" (low cost): getting our name out there to the community and just plain getting people to walk through our door...(I'm having a hard time persuading others to do demos, so far we have only put up posters at the YMCA and posted a web site: www.alamocityaikido.com
Where do you think money would be better spent..on advertising or on rent at a "higher profile" location?
How about "beginners or introductory programs" to attract new members? How well do they work? (my old dojo never did this)
We obviously have limited manpower, so I want to be careful where we expend our energies.
Sorry about the long post, I'm looking forward to your input!