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How To Start A Martial Arts Studio

How To Start A Martial Arts Studio

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How To Start A Martial Arts Studio

How To Start A Martial Arts Studio

Starting a martial arts studio business can be a fulfilling and rewarding opportunity that allows a person to combine their love for martial arts with their entrepreneurial drive. However, starting and running a successful martial arts studio business requires more than being a master of martial arts.

In this guide, we will provide an overview of the steps needed to start a martial arts studio business, answers to common questions, and more.

Business Overview

A martial arts studio business is centered around providing martial arts training and classes to students of all ages and skill levels. Whether you specialize in Taekwondo, Karate, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, your studio can offer a variety of disciplines depending on your expertise. Martial arts are popular for their many benefits, including self-defense, exercise, stress relief, and practicing coordination. Apart from teaching martial arts techniques, your business should also focus on creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, fostering personal growth, discipline, and fitness for your students.

Industry Summary

The martial arts industry has witnessed steady growth over the years. With increasing interest in fitness, self-defense, and personal development, martial arts studios have become popular destinations for those seeking physical and mental wellness. The industry is diverse, encompassing various styles, traditions, and philosophies. Additionally, there is a growing demand for specialized programs catering to children, women, and practitioners of all ages.

According to IBISWorld, the martial arts studio industry generated $16.1 billion in 2022 and has increased over the past five years by 5.6% annually. The demand for martial arts classes is expected to continue to increase but is somewhat vulnerable to economic fluctuations in the overall market because it is not considered a necessary expense.

Steps To Start A Martial Arts Studio

Step 1: Research the Local Market

Starting a martial arts studio sounds exciting, but the first step should be to assess the market and see if there is an opportunity for a studio in your area. This research can also help in better understanding the potential customer base and identifying unaddressed needs to help you better position your business for success.

Start off by studying your local population demographics and growth projections. Begin by examining census data and information from local economic development agencies. Pay close attention to the demographics in your area, such as age groups, gender distribution, and trends in martial arts participation. Martial arts associations can provide valuable insights into the demographics of martial arts students. Combined, you can calculate the total number of people in your area who would use a martial arts studio.

Next, take a look at the existing martial arts studios in your area. Visit their facilities and evaluate their offerings, prices, class sizes, schedules, and the types of martial arts they teach. By doing so, you can identify any market gaps or opportunities that current businesses are not addressing. For example, if you notice that no martial arts studios offer classes for seniors, that could be an opportunity for you.

Another tip would be to talk with the owners of martial arts studios in markets similar to yours. This benchmarking exercise will provide ideas on what is working and what isn’t and tips from people who were once in your shoes.

By gathering this information and gaining a detailed understanding of the market, you can refine your business plan and tailor your marketing strategy to meet potential customers’ needs better.

Step 2: Write a Business Plan

When the spark of starting a martial arts studio ignites, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement. The vision of a bustling dojo full of energetic students is thrilling, but transforming this vision into a successful reality requires a solid foundation. That’s where a business plan comes into play.

A business plan is essentially a detailed blueprint for your business. It has you to think through every aspect of your studio, from the overarching concept down to the nitty-gritty details. It’s not just about what you want to do; it’s about how you’re going to make it work. Writing a business plan helps you to step back and look at your idea objectively.

One of the essential sections of a business plan is the financial projections, where you estimate the income and expenses of your business. This section helps determine whether your martial arts studio idea is financially feasible. By projecting your revenue and expenses, you can get a clear picture of the potential profitability and identify any potential pitfalls or areas where adjustments are needed. It’s better to know during the planning stage whether your idea is financially viable rather than after you’ve already started the business.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 3: Source Funding

You’ve done your market research, you have a solid business plan, and now you need to find the money to make your vision a reality. Finding the necessary funds to get started can be a challenge, but here’s a breakdown of the common sources of funding for a martial arts studio:

Self-funding: The first source to assess is your own finances. If you have personal savings that can cover the startup costs, this can be an easy option. However, if your savings aren’t enough, you’ll need to explore outside funding sources.

Lenders: Banks and financial institutions are the most common source of outside funding for martial arts studios. When seeking a loan, lenders usually require the borrower to invest at least 15% of their personal funds towards the total project cost. A good credit score and sufficient collateral are often criteria for qualifying. In some cases, if a bank sees the loan as too risky, they may require an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan guarantee to mitigate the risk.

Friends and family: Another potential source of funding is friends and family. They may be willing to provide financial support for your business. However, it’s important to put any agreements in writing to ensure clarity and avoid potential conflicts down the line.

Microloans: If your funding needs are relatively low or you have difficulty obtaining credit through a lender, microloans can be an option. Some organizations also provide business training and support along with funding.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 4: Register the Business

When starting a martial arts studio business, it is important to properly register the business and ensure legal compliance. Every state has different rules, but here are some suggestions for the registration process and legal requirements:

Determine the business structure: Choose the appropriate legal structure for your martial arts studio business. The four common types of business structures are:

  • Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest and most common structure for small businesses. It offers ease of startup and lower costs. However, it does not provide personal liability protection.
  • General partnership: If you are starting the business with one or more partners, a general partnership is an option. Similar to a sole proprietorship, each partner shares equal responsibility for business operations and liabilities.
  • Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners, providing personal liability protection for the shareholders. It requires more formalities, such as holding regular meetings and keeping records. However, the setup and maintenance can be more complex and costly.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC combines the liability protection of a corporation with the flexibility of a partnership. It offers personal liability protection for the owners (members) and has fewer formalities than a corporation.

Related: Comparison of business structures

Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.


Some popular LLC formation services include:


IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

ZenBusiness - Best for beginners. $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Northwest - Best privacy protection. $39 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.

Related: Tips and ideas for naming a martial arts studio

During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.

Related: Finding a domain name for your business

Obtain business licenses and permits: Research and comply with the specific licensing requirements for martial arts studios in your state and local area. This may include obtaining a general business license, zoning permits, health and safety certifications, and any specific licenses related to operating a martial arts studio.

Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general licenses or permits needed before opening. This could include a business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Related: State guides for general business licensing

Step 5: Acquire & Set Up a Location

Setting up the operations for a martial arts studio business is an exciting step that starts to take your ideas and plans into reality. To ensure a successful start, there are a few key elements to consider.

First, find a location that is easily accessible to your target audience. Some studios find that being located close to residential areas is an advantage, as it may attract local residents looking for a convenient place to train, while others will set up close to schools.

Once your location is set, the next step is to outfit your studio with the necessary gear. The equipment and supplies will vary based on the disciplines you offer but typically include mats for groundwork, punching bags for striking practice, training weapons for martial arts like kendo or fencing, and an assortment of safety equipment. Don’t forget the smaller items like uniforms and belts, which not only are necessary for practice but also help instill a sense of discipline and unity among students.

Developing a class structure and schedule is a task to take care of. Determine the different types of classes you will offer, such as beginner, advanced, or specialized classes. Create a class schedule that accommodates the availability and preferences of your clientele.

In addition to class structure, set up billing systems and payment processing abilities. Be prepared to accept various forms of payment, including cash, checks, and credit cards. Consider implementing membership management software to streamline administrative tasks and simplify the billing process.

Step 6: Hire Instructors

When running a martial arts studio, some owners begin by operating alone, while others choose to bring on staff, such as trainers or instructors. It’s important to understand the differences between hiring employees and hiring independent contractors, as well as the respective legal requirements for each.

When hiring an employee, the studio owner has more control over the individual’s work, including scheduling, training, and providing equipment. Employees are typically subject to tax withholding, and the employer is responsible for providing benefits and ensuring compliance with labor laws, such as minimum wage and overtime regulations.

On the other hand, hiring independent contractors gives the business owner less control over the contractor’s work and schedule, as they are considered self-employed. Contractors are responsible for their own taxes, insurance, and benefits. It’s important to properly classify workers to avoid misclassification issues, which can lead to legal and financial consequences.

Before hiring any staff, there are important legal requirements to address. These include obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, verifying the work eligibility of new hires through the I-9 form, understanding and complying with wage and hour regulations, securing workers’ compensation insurance, and ensuring compliance with labor laws regarding employee rights.

Related: State guides for hiring your first employee

Step 7: Prepare to Open!

As you near the launch of your studio, there are a few remaining loose ends to tie up to ensure a smooth start. Here are some common tasks to consider:

Business insurance: Look into general liability insurance, which can provide coverage for accidents or injuries that might occur on your premises. Additionally, professional liability insurance can safeguard against claims related to your instruction or training services.

Related: What types of insurance does a martial arts studio need?

Setting up bookkeeping: Consider using accounting software like Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks to handle daily transactions, track expenses, generate financial statements, and assist with tax preparation. This will help you stay organized and make informed financial decisions for your business.

Contracts: Examples of relevant contracts for a martial arts studio may include membership agreements, instructor contracts, and event participation agreements.  RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful, or consult with a legal professional.

Opening a business bank account: Separate your personal and business finances by opening a dedicated business bank account. This will help you accurately track business income and expenses, and simplify tax reporting.

Creating a marketing strategy: Develop a marketing strategy to attract potential customers to your new martial arts studio. Start by designing a professional logo that reflects your brand and creates a memorable identity. A website can serve as a digital hub for information about your studio, class schedules, and contact details. Also, consider leveraging social media, local advertising, and community outreach to reach your target audience and generate interest.

Joining industry associations: Joining industry associations can offer valuable networking opportunities, resources, and professional development. Consider associations such as the Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA), the National Association of Professional Martial Artists (NAPMA), or the United Professionals Martial Arts Association (UPMAA).

Preparing for the grand opening: As you prepare for your studio’s grand opening, pay attention to important details such as securing any necessary permits or licenses, finalizing your class schedules, stocking up on training equipment and supplies, and organizing any promotional events or demonstrations. Take the time to create a positive first impression for your students and the local community.

Greg’s Tip: Patience pays off as the owner of a martial arts studio. It typically takes 1-2 years to build up a solid student base, so don’t overextend yourself financially early on.

Greg's Business Tip

Common Questions When Starting A Martial Arts Studio

How much does it cost to start a martial arts studio?

The total costs to start a martial arts studio can range from $15,000 to $100,000 depending on the size of the facility, equipment needs, and other factors.

Here are the typical costs you will face when you open a martial arts studio.

Business registration: $50-$500 for licenses and permits.

Facility: Your biggest initial cost will likely be securing a location and renovations. This includes rent, which can vary greatly by region, and a security deposit, which is typically one to two months of rent. Expect $2,000-$10,000 for the lease deposit and up to another $20,000 in renovations, depending on the extent of updates needed.

Equipment: The type of martial arts you teach will dictate the equipment needed. Basic supplies include mats, pads, uniforms, and any discipline-specific gear, but budget between $5,000 and $15,000 for mats, bags, props, and first aid supplies.

Staffing: $2,000-$5,000 to hire instructors for the first 2 months.

Insurance: $1,000-$5,000 for business & liability insurance.

Marketing: $2,000-$5,000 for brand identity, promotional materials, and grand opening events.

Initial inventory: $1,000-$5,000 for retail items like uniforms, supplements, and accessories.

Other expenses: $1,000-$5,000 for office supplies, furnishings, technology, and utilities.

In addition, consider having 3-6 months of operating expenses available as a financial buffer.

How profitable is a martial arts studio?

Determining the profit potential for a martial arts studio can be complex as it depends on various factors such as location, class offerings, pricing, and operational costs. While it is challenging to provide specific figures without knowing these details, here is an estimate based on industry statistics.

To calculate potential profit, we can use a basic formula: Profit = Revenue – Expenses.

Let’s break down each component:

Revenue: Martial arts studios generate revenue primarily through student memberships or class fees. Research suggests that the average monthly revenue per student in the industry ranges from $80 to $200, depending on the location and the services provided. For instance, supposing you have 100 students paying an average of $120 per month, your monthly revenue would amount to $12,000.

Expenses: Operating costs for a martial arts studio typically include rent, utilities, insurance, instructor salaries, marketing, and equipment maintenance. Monthly expenses can vary significantly based on factors such as location, studio size, and the number of instructors. For example, assuming $7,000 in monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, insurance, and instructor salaries, you can estimate your monthly expenses.

Thus, using the formula: Profit = $12,000 (Revenue) – $7,000 (Expenses) = $5,000

Based on this simplified scenario, your estimated monthly profit would be $5,000. However, please note that this is a basic calculation, and actual profit margins can vary greatly.

What is the NAICS code for a martial arts studio?

The NAICS code for a martial arts studio is 611620, which is classified under Sports and Recreation Instruction.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code and how to find yours

Author

  • Greg Bouhl

    With over two decades as an entrepreneur, educator, and business advisor, Greg Bouhl has worked with over 2,000 entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses. Fed up with clients finding and acting on inaccurate and outdated information online, Greg launched StartUp101.com to be a trusted resource for people starting a business.

How To Start A Martial Arts Studio

How To Start A Martial Arts Studio

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