How to Open a Dance Studio — Ultimate guide
Understand Your Role
If you have no experience in a dance studio whatsoever, it is important that you understand the different roles you might have to play when managing your own studio. What’s more — if your studio grows in business and in size, then you might consider hiring more people to fill those roles.
Dance studios will need the following major roles fulfilled:
- Studio Manager
- Bookkeeper / Secretary
- Marketing Director
As stated, you might be more than happy to fill more than one of the above, but understand that you will need to concentrate on the daily ins and outs of the studio, as well as short- and long-term goals. You will not be able to do that if you spread yourself too thin. After a while, if it makes sense to hire more people, and you are financially within your means to do so, then seek to grow your team.
Build Your Business Plan
A successful business will always begin with a vision. In order to preempt any hiccups or potential issues, you must start this process with a solid road map, which will come in the form of your business plan.
The main components of a business plan can include (but are not limited to):
- Executive Summary. Here is where you detail what your business is all about and what your goals are for your dance studio. It’s essentially a declaration of who you are, what you will provide to your customers, and how you will go about doing that. Think of this section of your plan as answering the “how” and the “why”.
- Market Analysis. In this section, you will put forth the research on the dance studio market as a whole, including the demand for the services, recent trends in style and branding, any potential setbacks, and other factors that are in play. You might also want to study your competition, too, so that you can offer insights into what you are up against when it comes to other studios. As of 2021, it was projected that the United States alone will have more than 56,000 dance studios, so you have a hefty pool from which to draw your research.
- Marketing Plan. You might be the most prepared person in the world, and you might think that by simply opening your doors, you’ll have a line of customers just waiting to sign up for classes! The truth is, you are going to have to put in the work if you want a steady client base! Your business plan will have to address how you plan on reaching your clientele and what you are going to do to get your name out there. It is important for you to outline exactly what means you plan to use to market your dance studio, be it through social media, a website you build (or will pay someone else to build), etc.
- Services Overview. In this section, you will get into the specifics about the types of classes you plan to offer. What types and styles of dance will your instructors be teaching? How many classes per day, per week, and per month are you offering? Will you also allow small groups and private lessons? What about birthday parties? Try to answer all of the questions that might come up beforehand. While it might seem difficult to do that, you need to predict the things that may come up in your business’s future.
- Financial Forecast. What are the costs involved in starting your own dance studio? What are your first year projections, coupled with your one-time costs and your revolving costs? In this section, it’s important that you detail all of the finances involved. Not only will you estimate the costs to you, you will also detail what you plan on charging your clients. Include the per-session fees as well as any special memberships and costs (such as private lessons).
Register Your Business Entity
Once you have crafted your business plan, you will have to decide how you want to register your business. There are a variety of classifications when it comes to this process, known as business entities. These business entities include:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company, or LLC
First, you should choose a name for your studio that you will register as your official business name. Be sure to check with your state and the federal registry to make yourself aware of other business names so as not to either duplicate or have a name that sounds too similar to another dance studio or company. Try to get creative in this process, but choose something that is also easy to remember.
Second, decide what kind of an entity you’d like to register as. Recall that an LLC, or a Limited Liability Company, is an entity which protects you as the individual. Should your studio be sued for any reason, your personal assets would be protected.
Third, register for all of the necessary taxes. You can do this easily by first applying for an EIN, or an Employer Identification Number through the IRS website. Then, be sure to register for the required state and federal taxes.
Finally, be sure to secure all of the necessary business licenses that come with starting your own business. Your local government should be able to assist you in determining all of the permits you also need to obtain to ensure that you are complying with health and safety regulations. To help you navigate this journey, it is always recommended that you consult a business attorney, as stated above.
Scope Out a Location
As you read above, there are more than 56,000 dance studios in the United States alone, but thankfully, you don’t need to localize your search to big cities. The one element that is important to focus on is accessibility to your future customers. Since you might have a large number of clients who are either young or coming with their families, a space with a parking lot will be appreciated. If, however, this is not feasible, then try to look for a location that is readily accessible via the major transportation hubs. If your dance studio offers prime services, then people will be willing to travel distances to come back.
When it comes to a city environment, you more than likely will not have your pick of big spaces, but that does not have to be a negative thing. If you are relegated to a smaller studio, understand that you will not be able to offer a high number of classes simultaneously. Conversely, if you find yourself in a bigger space, then make sure you have enough classes and interest to justify having multiple different rooms. Again, this is dependent upon what types of dance classes you are going to offer.
As you start your search for a space, you will also have to keep in mind some of the other aspects you will need for your own convenience, not just that of your clients. You will need a storage room, a lobby of sorts, at least one bathroom, and a waiting room where the parents can watch their children dance (if you are primarily targeting a younger market). Remember that you can always change the decor; it’s the structural layout that you will not have much control over, so choose a space that structurally will fill your needs.
You’ve done the research, established your business entity, found your location, and built your team. The last step before cutting that ribbon is to market yourself. How are you going to let people know that you’re opening your doors? If you don’t mind word of mouth and going around on foot, a great way to advertise yourself is to hand out flyers throughout the community to let people know that you’re open for business.
You might also consider taking out an ad in the local newspaper or working with one of the restaurants in the area to see if they will let you advertise there (think of those diner menus that feature local businesses).
Social media can also be a vital tool in getting the word out about your business. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram allow you to create a business profile where you can market your services, show off photos of your lounge’s interior, announce special discounts and promotions, and much more.
Finally, consider investing a bit of time and money into a website.
Your website should allow people to do the following:
- See your class schedules
- Book a class / pay for a membership
- Cancel a class
- Contact you
- See your social media accounts
Not everyone is going to want to call you to schedule a class or purchase a membership, so having a well-organized and easy to navigate website takes away the need for someone to be constantly attending to the phones.