By: Debbie Carr, Relationship Manager
No doubt becoming a dance studio owner is a huge undertaking. With more than 8,500 studios across the United States, studios must work hard to differentiate themselves to build their student base. Becoming a studio owner, however, is also one of the most rewarding things an experienced dancer or dance educator can do.
If you’re ready to rise to the challenge in the hopes of sharing your passion for dance with others, here are some beginner tips and tricks that I found helpful when opening my studio 27 years ago:
Conduct Research: Research is the foundation of every successful studio. It’s important to research the demographic of the area in which you’d like to open your studio so you can develop an informed, effective business plan.
Examples of key questions to ask yourself include: Are there a lot of families in the area? What is the median income of these families? Are there other dance studios in the immediate area, and if so, how large are they? This intel will help you determine if there is a demand for your services and if so, how much potential customers would be willing to pay for classes.
Once you feel confident in your location, it’s vital to determine who your competitors will be. Check out what classes those studios are offering and then determine if you can fill holes in their programs to make your studio stand out. For example, studios can tailor their business to homeschooled children and their schedules, or choose to offer classes geared towards adults, such as ballroom dancing or adult-beginner ballet.
Create a Business Plan: Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to start drafting a business plan. Your business plan is the foundation, or playbook for your studio, so spend time on it, do not rush the planning process. Your business plan should include a timeline for securing studio space, budget details, marketing strategies and potential class offerings. When first starting out, you may find non-competitive, established studio owners to be helpful resources. To more easily connect with your peers, consider joining studio owner networks, such as on Facebook, to explore tools of the trade.
Pick Your Location: Location, location, location is key. While many studio owners first think of strip malls for the benefit of foot traffic, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when choosing your space. Take into consideration larger houses that are zoned for commercial use or warehouses, which may offer more room for growth and come with a less expensive price tag. Building size and number of studios are also factors to determine. High ceilings are also important for many types of dance, such as ballet partnering or acro.
Additionally, when looking at spaces, keep your customers – the parents – in mind. This includes everything from considering available parking spaces, what businesses are in the surrounding areas to entertain parents before, during and after class, as well as whether you would like a waiting room to accommodate parents.
Invest Wisely in Flooring: Make sure to include sprung floors in your budget. Providing a resilient dance floor is a necessary and important investment that you can make for your dancers. I recommend floors that are not permanent so you can take the floors with you if you relocate.
Choose Your Staff: At first you may be the only teacher at your studio, but it never hurts to start interviewing potential teaching candidates. If you don’t already have an established network of candidates through your previous experience, look to the community--colleges, fitness centers, local theatres--to find talent. If you are willing to put some of your budget behind the search, advertise on social media, or connect with a professional recruiter. When determining staffing, you must know talent you need, so this effort will be guided by your business plan and class schedule. Critique the expertise, experience, talent, skills and most importantly teaching ability of the candidates to see which ones are the strongest fit for you and your studio’s needs. When interviewing, create a mock class to help assess teaching capabilities.
As with any new endeavor, there will be a lot of sacrifices and long hours, but knowing that you enhanced someone’s health, confidence and creativity through dance makes pursuing your own studio a worthwhile adventure.