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Old 12-02-2003, 02:59 PM   #12
Michael Young
Michael Young's Avatar
Dojo: Alamo City Aikido
Location: San Antonio, TX
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 133
Follow up and clarifitcation

Thanks for all the replies so far, I am enjoying reading them. Rather than respond to each one individually, I decided to wait for a few to come in, so I'll address several of the questions and comments here.

I was afraid my original post would get way too long if I wrote everything I wanted to in it, and I wanted to see if there was enough interest in the post to get some good replies...looks like that's here goes:
Question I must ask is, why do you want to start a club? Are there no clubs around?
This question is a little bit complicated and I really didn't want to get too much into why we have started a new dojo in San Antonio, as I was afraid it might start a whole topic of conversation I didn't really want to delve into. But, I'll give some background, and it may help to lead into some of the other topics anyway.

Yes, there are other Aikido dojos in San Antonio. I started my Aikido practice here over 9 years ago at one of them, and practiced there for about 7 years. This is the dojo that myself and the some of the others who started our new dojo came from. I believe that gratefullness for past instructors and respect for each other is a very big part of Aikido (and life in general), so I don't want to get too much into the reasons for the split: this isn't a forum for complaint about others. There were many reasons why we chose to leave, and it was a difficult and heart-wrenching decision to do so. But ultimately, I believe it was the right thing of us to do, both for ourselves and the dojo involved. During my years at the other dojo, myself and the others who left, had a lot of experience with the business and "political" aspects of the dojo. I saw a lot of what I thought was the "right" and "wrong" way to run things and treat people, and hopefully learned (and am still learning) from those experiences. This continuing process is another reason I wanted to start this thread. I was highly involved in advertising and finances before at the old's probalbly why I was put "in charge of" it here (our organization is set up with a board of officers in charge of the business aspects, and I am the president) I guess it could just be that they made president because of my brilliant personality, rakish good looks, and enormous experience at running multi-million dollar corporations...hahahahah

I must say that I agree with what most of you have said so far, mainly, that advertising is a waste of time. I guess I should have clarified it a bit with the word "promotion" or something instead of advertising. In my experience, usually the only advertising that we Aikido dojos can afford is not worth the trouble (there being a couple of exceptions I'll get to) and the other things, such as TV, major newspaper and radio ads, are far beyond the budgets of most dojos. The only exeptions I can think of are the web and the yellow pages (I'll leave out word of mouth for now). I think the reason these work though, is quite simple...people are already seeking out Aikido (or a martial art). They are actively searching for it. Now, how do you effectively and ecomnomically reach the "others"...the ones who may show an interest, or will at least give it a try, but just haven't been exposed yet. A lot (most) of these people are just going to try it for a while and quit...I hate to say it, but economically we all need those people as well in order to keep operating, and who knows when one of them will stay for the long haul. How do you do all of this also without using all of your members talent and energy focused on it? After all, we need to find time to train of course! This leads to the next point...

If you want your own, look for areas that are not in the bad side of town but cheap-wherehouses, large garage type buildings, little cost and easy maintenance. The closer you are to mainstream traffic the more your per square foot cost.
Aha, here it the crux of one of my big questions with advertising and getting a space (I figured somebody would mention it, thanks John) At our old dojo, we had to undergo a move to a new space...basically a new landlord had come in and was jacking up the rent so high we had to move. So the search began for a new space. The old space was exactly what was described above. We ended up narrowing it down to two the same kind of wharehouse space that was cheaper, and the other a space on a major thouroughfare that was more expensive and needed more work to get it to "dojo" condition. The decision as to which space to move into was very devisive and caused a lot of hard feelings between many members (no, this was not why we left the old dojo, this happened about 4 years ago)I think people really let their egos get involved in the whole process rather than looking at what was best for the dojo. Anyway, the wharehouse space was eventually decided upon, and it was a struggle to meet the rent because many members quit after the move, plus more members were needed because the rent was still higher than the old place. After quite a few years of barely making it and working in the red, it is now working out for them economically. The problem with it was, in order to get enough new members to pay for the new space (it was a stretch back then) a lot of money and effort was put into advertising, and most of it was wasted..very few people ever walked in the door because of anything besides the yellow pages, the web, or word of mouth. Certainly not enough to make up for the money and energy spent, I know because I was there and involved in it all. So the question becomes, with all of the money and effort spent at advertising, would it have made more sense to spend it on leasing the more expensive and high profile space? Would you get enough students joining to start paying for the space quickly? I see lots of little for-profit Karate, Tae Kwon Do, etc., dojos around town in expensive strip centers who seem to be making it. Any experience with this kind of thing out there? Anybody practice in a dojo that is on a major road that either does or doesn't attract membership enough to make the cost worthwhile?
PPS you say you get the YMCA very cheap, and are a non profit organisation but people aren't coming because you are in a low income area. Are you charging too much?...If you are non-profit, you should try and ensure that students really paying only for the hire of the hall and the insurance directly.
We are only charging $35 per month! That's pretty cheap...we also "scholarship" people who can't afford it, and even say so in our brochures and web site (although I am a little leary that some people may take advantage of it, and we are in the process of coming up with some kind of policy and application for a "scholarship" program) Right now all we want to do is pay off our mats. The YMCA is not charging us a set rent, only taking a portion of each students dues...very generous of them.
Something that has worked really well in getting the word out about the dojo was installing an "information" box on the outside of the dojo. I put the dojo brochure in there for folks to take
I really like that idea Rachel, thank you. I think I will approach the YMCA with a request to do something like that. Right now we are using a raquetball court at the YMCA as our dojo space and it is all the way in back of the building (I'm sure this is another part of our problem with visibility and attraction). We do leave some brochures out, but something outside the actual YMCA may be a better idea...I'll work on it. BTW I read your post a while back about your dojo start-up, and greatly enjoyed it (I completely forgot about your information box thing, I will make it a point to read through the post again). All of the helpful responses are what prompted me to start this thread...hope it isn't too redundant. Next time I'm up in Michigan, I'll try to make it by and practice (I have relatives in St. Clair, MI) I'm very glad (and encouraged) to hear that you are doing well, especially with your unusually high student retention...continued good luck!!
I started our dojo about 3 years ago. Luckily I was also working at the local university and managed to use their facilties. One possibility is to see if there are people who would be willing to support an aikido club at the local university/college (it is likely that there will have to be a student treasurer/chairperson or other, although the instructors need not be).
We have definitely considered this possibillity. There are two major universities nearby the YMCA, and we are going to put up flyers and posters there after the new year. Making a move to one of them is something we are considering if the YMCA doesn't take off. We are going to give it a few months here though. How many students do you have after 3 years of being at the university? Do you get a lot of students from off campus too?

Whew, this grew into a huge post...keep the suggestions and observations coming, and thanks for the great contribution so far!

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