Dance studios: Dance has been a traditional element of many cultures for centuries. Many different styles of dance are taught and practiced around the world, and dance studios are a common type of business where people of all ages can take dance lessons. Starting up your own dance studio might seem daunting, but following this list of steps will help you ensure that you do it correctly.
Settle on a budget. Before you continue with any further planning, you need to be well aware of how much you are able to spend on the different elements of owning your own dance studio.
- Rent/mortgage on a space
- Utilities for the space
- Start-up expenses (e.g. renovations, mirrors, seating, storage, paint, equipment)
- Advertising and marketing
- Payroll for employees and dance instructors
- It is possible that you might need to take out a loan or obtain investors to start your business. Know what you are getting into before you officially sign any agreements.
- You should have enough money at your disposal to meet the business expenses for 6 months. For example, if your monthly overhead cost is $6,000, you should have $24,000 with you before starting your studio.
Decide on a geographic location for your business. This is important, because your location determines the type of clientele you will attract to your business.
- Starting your dance studio in a very family-friendly neighbourhood will likely bring you many kids, so if you are interested in marketing your dance studio to children, then keep this in mind.
- Think about what part of town you choose for the location. If you are looking to offer ethnic styles of dance, for example, then opening your studio in an area of town where people of that ethnicity live makes sense.
- Try to plan for your studio to open in an area where it will be highly visible to the community, such as on a busy road. It may be more expensive, but with traffic driving by constantly, your building is advertising itself to all of the passersby.
- Consider how much you can afford to spend on renting or buying your dance studio space. If you are in a large city, for example, then renting or buying a space in the downtown area is likely extremely expensive. Look in areas of your town or city where the rates are in your price range.
- Think about the safety of the area. A particular area of town might be more affordable, but if it has a higher crime rate, then it is likely not worth it. You want your clientele to feel safe when they attend classes at your studio.
Research and decide upon what type of business entity you want to be. This will vary based on whether you plan to be the only dance instructor in a small studio, you plan to have a business partner, or you plan to hire additional dance instructors.
- Sole proprietor: an unincorporated business that is run by one individual with no separation between that individual and the business
- S-Corporation: a type of corporation that can avoid double taxation (e.g. once to the business and once to the shareholders)
- C-Corporation: a type of corporation that is owned by shareholders but is legally liable for actions and debts
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): a structure that offers the limited liability of corporations but has the flexibility of a partnership.
Decide on a name for your business. This is the most important part of your brand and business, because this is what will be shared most often. Be sure that it represents you and your vision for the studio.
- Dance the Night Away
- The Tango Studio
- En Pointe Ballet Company
- Swing Dance Central
- Masters of the Dance
- Premier Dance Studio
Identify your market niche and ideal clientele. There are a variety of niches that you could go into with dance studios, and each niche will bring certain clientele. You need to identify what yours will be.
- Couples dance lessons
- Singles dance lessons
- Children’s dance lessons
- One or two particular dance styles only (e.g. ballet, salsa, tap)
- Ethnic dance styles (e.g. salsa, flamenco, jazz, folk, street)
- Common dance styles (e.g. swing, ballroom, jazz)
Plan your company’s vision and mission statements. Having these statements identified helps to keep you on track as you start up your studio and define short-term and long-term goals.
- A vision statement outlines the primary goals of your business without giving definitive plans for achieving them. The vision statement helps you and your employees conceptualize the goals of the company.
- A mission statement is a short statement that helps convey your business’s purpose. This statement may change over time, if your business goals become different, and it is intended to clarify what your business will do for both employees and clients.
Define your brand for your dance studio. Your brand will represent everything about your business, and it should be consistent across everything that clients and potential clients see.
- Branding is the equivalent of your promise to your clients. It should come from who you are and what you want to give to your clientele. Your vision and mission statements tie into your brand.
- Having strong branding leads to having much business success. When people know what to expect from you, they are more likely to trust you. It takes about 2 to 3 years to build a studio, and it takes a lot of work to build a reputation.
- Know what your target niche is and what those dance clients needs, and then tailor your brand to them.
- Market yourself as much as you market your dance studio. Branding includes how you choose to treat your clientele, the quality of dance education you give, the details you provide about how you do business, how you create a special experience for your clientele, and how you inspire your clientele.
Choose what services you are going to offer your dance clientele. This will largely depend on your client niche, so consider this as you decide.
- Will you offer group dance classes? Private dance classes? Both?
- What about couples classes? Singles classes? Both?
- What styles of dance do you plan to teach?
- Will you have a dance team that will compete?
Create a pricing structure of your services. You will need to make an income off of your dance classes in order to keep your business open, so weigh the services against your expenses.
- Know what the clients in your target niche will be able to afford. You do not want to charge prices that they cannot pay.
- Remember that you will have to pay quarterly estimated taxes when you are self-employed.
- Have a realistic idea of how much your monthly expenses will be, and ensure that you can at least break even. Losing money on your business will ultimately lead to having to close down.
Design a marketing and advertising plan. In order to get dance clients, you need to have a plan for how you will market and advertise your studio in your community. This plan should approach marketing both offline (i.e. in person) and online.
- Find a Dance Studio support group in your area or join webinars that provide different ideas on how to market and enroll students into your studio.
- Start advertising your studio before it opens. This will help get people excited about it and create awareness of it before you are even ready to open your doors.
- Look into the costs of building a website and opening social media accounts in order to reach the online crowd. Accommodate those costs in your budget.
- Be aware of how much expenses will be for marketing. Printing flyers, creating business cards, advertising in the newspaper, and having a billboard advertisement all cost money.
- Use word-of-mouth as much as possible. Have friends and family who support your business endeavor help spread the word about it.
Come up with your business policies. This includes a variety of key details that you may not have otherwise considered. These policies need to be clear to clients and employees in order to avoid confusion and problems down the road.
- Methods of payment
- Late payments
- Hours of operation
- Communication with clients
- Hiring process for employees
- Signing on new clients
- Termination of employees or relationships with challenging clients
Rent or purchase a space for your business. After you have identified how much you can afford to spend and where your ideal location is, use a real estate agent to help you secure a space. There are some things to keep in mind:
- Square footage
- Layout of the space—studio space should be maximized over lobby, office, storage, and bathroom spaces
- Zoned for your specific use as a dance studio
- Up-to-date on building codes for your city
- Neighbouring businesses
Renovate the space as needed. If some renovations are required in the space before you can open your doors for business, then enlist help from family and friends to get those renovations done. Remember to keep your costs as low as possible, but you can hire professionals if it is in your budget.
- Keep in mind that the flooring is the most important element of the space. It is important to have appropriate dance flooring, and types of flooring vary depending on what styles of dance you plan to offer.
- Fill the space with appropriate equipment. The types of equipment you might want for your dance studio include barres, a sound system, soundproof insulation in the walls, a security system, and an observation system for parents that is not distracting for dance students.
- Decorate the space according to your brand and service offerings. If you offer a variety of styles of dance, then the space can reflect that. However, if you are only offering one style of dance, such as ballet, then tailor your décor to that style.
Declare your business entity with the appropriate government agency. There will likely be paperwork you need to fill out, and, depending on what type of business entity you want to become, fees to pay. The processes for this vary by state, so check your state government’s website.
Design and order the visual elements of your business. Having a specific logo to represent your brand is important.
- Be sure the logo can be recreated across different platforms, such as the outside sign, your website, and your business cards.
- Take this decision seriously, as it is possible to re-brand in the future, but it is challenging. Do not rush into a decision on a logo.
Set up any accounts or online tools that you need to help you run your business. This includes a variety of things:
- A business bank account and credit card
- A bookkeeping tool or hired professional to track income and expenses
- A business mailing address (i.e. PO Box) and phone number
- Necessary technological equipment and software to run the business. You can get Studio Management software like Dance Studio Pro or Jackrabbit. It will enable the parents to sign up for classes and pay tuition.
- Online methods of payments, if necessary, such as PayPal or Stripe
- A method for paying taxes, either by yourself or hiring a tax professional
Become familiar with how to complete your own business systems. Tasks such as bookkeeping, payroll, invoicing, tracking client information, and the like need to be solidified before accepting clientele.
- Create fake clients, invoices, and employees to help you practice. These can be deleted or destroyed once you have the system down.
- Become familiar with bookkeeping by tracking your expenses during the start-up period. Know what can be claimed as a business expense on your taxes.
Build a website for your business. Just as you came up with a marketing and advertising plan that included things like business cards and advertisements in the newspaper, you also need to have a business website.
- Find a hosting service and a domain name. You can get these together or separately. Your domain name should be the name of your business and, if possible, end in .com.
- Hire a professional to build a framework and theme for your site or search online to buy these things yourself. There are many pre-made themes available for varying prices. If you choose to buy pre-made themes, be sure to also buy a framework. Genesis Framework is the most recommended, and you can buy it separately from your theme or find a theme that comes with it.
- Decide the platform for your website. WordPress.org is the most recommended self-hosting platform, and most hosting services offer ways to install WordPress onto your new site.
- When setting up the pages on your website, be sure to have the necessary pages: home page, about page, services page, testimonials page, and contact page. You can also consider having a blog as part of your website, if you think you will be able to publish regular blog posts about related topics.
Start accounts on social networking platforms. This is another way to market your business word-of-mouth, especially prior to opening.
- Pinterest, if desired
Hire additional employees and dance instructors, if you are financially able and it is in your business plan. You may decide to go it alone until your clientele gets large enough to afford these other staff members. However, if you want to offer a large selection of classes right away or if you want to offer a selection of different styles of dance, it is best to hire additional instructors.
- You may decide that having an office manager or receptionist will take a load off of your plate. This person can handle signing on new clients, setting up clients in particular classes, processing payments, and communicating with clients.
- Look to local colleges and universities for dance students who may be looking for experience as dance instructors. They will likely be more affordable, since they are not yet fully trained. This will also allow you to network with area dancers.
- Teach your new employees about your business policies and systems, if it is necessary for them to know these policies and systems based on their roles.
Market your studio as you get closer to your grand opening. In the planning stages, you came up with a marketing and advertising plan. It is now time to put that plan into action so that when you open for business, you have people interested in becoming clients right away.
Plan a grand opening event. This is a great way to advertise your studio and get a lot of potential customers right away.
- Set a grand opening date depending on your renovation and set-up timeline. Then, be sure to have your renovations and set-up done by that date!
- Advertise the party. It can simply be a party welcoming people to the space to get familiar and learn more about your business. You could even offer free group dance lessons during the party.
- Market the grand opening party to your target niche. Make sure that your ideal clients know about your studio.
Know why you are starting a dance studio. No one else knows your motivation to open this business, so you need to make sure that you know why you want to do this. If you lose sight of why you are doing this, there is a possibility of failure.
- Why did I choose to open a dance studio?
- What do I want to achieve by opening a dance studio?
- Who do I hope to help?
- Why does my community need this dance studio?
- What am I going to do to set my dance studio apart from other studios in my area?
Understand your budget and maintain it. Many new studios fail because they do not control their budget and end up in debt. Be sure to frequently check your budget and know how much you can spend on different start-up costs.
- I had to spend more in electrical repairs to make sure the studio was up to code, so where can I make some sacrifices in another part of the budget?
- I do not have enough money saved up myself to fund this dance studio. How can I get the rest of the start-up costs funded?
- It seems like I am spreading my money too thinly. What equipment or renovations can I cut out for now so that the important elements of my studio, such as the flooring and safety, are better quality?
- I do not have enough money to buy new flooring for every room of the dance studio. What rooms and type of flooring should I prioritize right now?
- I was able to get all start-up costs funded, and I have extra money leftover in my budget! How can I save that money and put it toward other studio needs, such as future rent payments or repairs?
Stick to your start-up plan. While you are going through with finding a studio space, renovating and readying it, and getting your marketing strategies going, you might be tempted to take on more tasks. It is best to stick to your plan to not overwhelm yourself and your resources. These additional things can be done at a later, more advantageous time.
- Avoid buying additional equipment that is not necessary for the studio to function right now.
- Avoid taking on additional repairs or renovations that are not necessary for the studio space to be up to code and open to welcome customers.
- Avoid comparing your dance studio to another one in town that you think is “better.” Stand by what you can do and what you can offer to your future clientele.
- Maintain marketing strategies that you can afford. Ignore temptation to take on more expensive, flashier marketing strategies that you see another studio using.
Communicate with your stakeholders. If you have stakeholders involved in helping you start up your studio, such as investors, then you need to engage in frequent, honest communication with them. If stakeholders learn that you were dishonest or that you kept some information from them, they will likely withdraw their funding.
- Communicate if an unexpected necessary but expensive repair comes up.
- Let them know if renovations are delayed and your timeline for opening has to be pushed back.
- Tell them what their funding is helping you purchase for your dance studio.
- Invite them to the grand opening event.
Build relationships with your employees. Starting your own dance studio is going to be stressful, and it will feel easy to take that stress out on new employees. However, it is important to build relationships with them. They will help you start this studio, and you do not want them leaving you before the studio even opens its doors for customers.
- Thank them for their help in getting projects completed.
- Pay them the agreed upon rate and when you say you will pay them. Be honest about how much you can afford to pay them.
- Recognize their work and dedication at the grand opening event.
- Reward them with any benefits that you can afford, such as paid time off, insurance benefits, or guest passes to classes for their family or friends.
Reach out to your local chapter of the SCORE Association. This is a free small business mentor service that can help get you started on the right path for starting up your dance studio.
Until you become more familiar with how to run your business, it is strongly recommended to have a professional assist you with bookkeeping and taxes.
Seek advice from someone who is an experienced dance studio owner or small business owner. They can provide insight on how to do things and common pitfalls.