Is it better to start a studio from scratch?
Q: I’m a longtime teacher faced with two opportunities. First: The studio where I’ve worked for 12 years is for sale. Second: I’ve found a new location where I could start my own studio. I’m hesitant to purchase the current studio because of staffing and identity issues and debt I’d assume. Should I spend thousands for a guaranteed clientele, or invest in a new business and build my own brand?
A: Take time to thoroughly evaluate both options, and it will become clear which direction might be best financially and professionally. Also, know that there is no such thing as a guaranteed clientele. For the first location: Hire a reputable attorney and an experienced accountant to survey the financial health of the studio. They can also help clarify debt you’d be assuming and determine a fair purchase price. Things to consider: If the studio has had consistent enrollment that’s not tied to the current owner teaching classes, you may see immediate cash flow if other faculty members stay. However, if the studio is in a bad location, has a poor reputation and is in need of renovations, it may make sense to start from scratch.
That being said, opening a new location may be cost-prohibitive unless you have significant savings to establish your business and last until you build a solid student body. You’ll be paying for flooring, barres, mirrors, stereo equipment, computers, utilities, insurance and licensing fees. Also, don’t forget to factor in a budget for marketing, a website, signage and studio-management software. Know how much all this will cost before investing. Keep in mind that there are leasing terms to be negotiated (like rent escalation and building maintenance); we recommend hiring professional help from a lease specialist, broker or attorney.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudio
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety