I truly believe dance is for everyone, and can move everyone in some capacity- as an observer, as a mover, or as a dancer. As dance educators, we have the opportunity to build programming that is accessible to everyone. Once students are a part of our programming, we have an obligation to serve them to the best of our ability.
When a studio culture transforms into statements of regularity such as “those kids aren’t good”, “he/she will never be an overall winner”, or “so-so refuses to dance with so-so”, it becomes a danger zone. It compromises our mission as educators to create a positive infrastructure that focuses on building the art of DANCE through technique, style, acceptance, and diversity.
As educators, we must take the lead. Our leadership is required to promote the accessibility of dance for everyone.
Our art is not elitist- it does not require Olympic level ability for success and impact. Rather, it requires time, patience, love, and nurturing.
Then, you create a dancer (in whatever capacity that may be), and you also build a relationship that will far outlast a student’s tenure at the dance studio. That’s impact.
Now that you’re about to get started opening a dance studio, you have to begin planning your initial marketing strategies to let the public know that you now exist. How will you get the word out? How will people know that you are a credible institute of dance? Before mentioning any detailed strategies, the most important thing to realize is that the more time you have for planning and marketing your opening timeline, the more successful your efforts will prove.
SECTION 1: Opening Strategies
Here are some strategies that worked well for The Dance Exec’s Studio during its opening:
“Coming Soon” Sign
Placing a “Coming Soon…” banner over the doors at the soon-to-be studio site (which stresses importance of location, visibility, and neighboring businesses)
Set Up Tables Around Town
Set up tables at nearby locations to promote your coming location. When The Dance Exec’s Studio was opening, tables were set-up at a fun park (putt-putt, go-karts, arcade games, etc), nearby preschools, local swim clubs, nearby churches and local country clubs on a regular basis. The studio set up at any and every community festival and event possible. These events are frequently free, and you can create an extensive prospective client database by gathering emails and phone numbers with a raffle or give away (e.g. enter for a chance to win a free month of classes, just give us your email!).
Some places that may not work well for setting up a table (local schools), may be willing to put out flyers or business cards advertising your services. Our philosophy is that it never hurts to ask.
Free Demo Classes
Be prepared to give lots of free demo classes! You must be so confident in your service that everyone wants to buy-in. Visit as many places as possible and show them what you have to offer. Very few places will refuse an offer for a free demo class. If you do not ask to offer a sample class, it is unlikely they will ask you. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there.
SECTION 2: Logistical Preparation
Any time you are in the public, you must be prepared. Before beginning your marketing, follow-up information should be ready.
Prior to beginning your marketing / grand opening announcement efforts, make sure the following are fully functional and ready to go:
Class offerings/schedule information to give to people
Flyers & Information Sheets
Studio T-Shirts with Logo (not required, but encouraged)
It is incredibly important to remember that if people are contacting you, you need to be ready to respond. Be prepared to answer the phone and respond to emails in a prompt, efficient manner. Show your prospective clients that your level of customer service is exceptional from their initial interaction with you.
SECTION 3: Grand Opening Event
We also recommend planning a large Grand Opening event, which can be the centralized theme of your early marketing efforts.
At your Grand Opening event, this is your first time officially introducing yourself as a business entity to your community and prospective clients. The studio should be as close to completion as possible and should be clean and in neat order. Show people how organized you are from the very first day.
The Grand Opening event should include any of the following options:
Complimentary Sample Classes for a variety of ages, featuring a variety of your instructors
Facility Tours (we recommend having a tour script that highlights the studio and its best features so that everyone visiting the studio receives the same, standardized information)
Face Painting/ Balloon Animals/ Craft Stations / etc.
Separate Registration area, so interested clients can be efficiently and sufficiently addressed
Separate Shoe Fitting/Merchandise Purchasing area
At the end of The Dance Exec’s Studio’s Grand Opening, we had over 100 students registered. This number will vary significantly based on where you are opening and your marketing efforts. When the studio began, it began from scratch. There was no taking of half of a student base of a nearby studio, or any of the “ick factor” stories you often hear associated with the opening of a new studio.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If students choose The Dance Exec’s Studio, it is because we are building a reputation and are providing the best possible experience for each and every one of our clientele. As a Studio Owner, you have a huge responsibility—in the world of dance studios, there is not a quality control department or corporate headquarters where we can send dissatisfied clients; rather, dance studio owners are all-encompassing title holders.
Be ready for every scenario possible. One of The Dance Exec’s Studio’s greatest mentors and advisers gave us this initial advice,
“You are now a business owner first, and an artist second.”
Take that advice, and enjoy the ride that is opening a dance studio!
Highly successful people choose to develop good habits and routines. They work consistently, with discipline, and do not allow excuses to overshadow their goals. It is rumored that a habit forms in 20-21 days; however, this Forbes’ article (a great read!) debunks the myth and elaborates on the formulating steps required to make an activity a way of life.
Examples of habits for our students may be:
Working Towards a Technical Goal
A Conditioning Plan
Time Management & Organization
Examples of habits for Instructors/Studio Owners may be:
Healthier Lifestyle Habits
Business/Work- Oriented Goals
Improved Time Management
Whatever you are working towards, commit to achieving the level of success that will positively impact your quality of life. It will make a difference!
Writing a dance studio business plan is a BIG project. But an important one! This plan will lay out your studio’s hopes and dreams, as well as the step-by-step process for getting from Point A to Point B. A few questions to ask yourself as you get started:
Where are you now?
Where do you want to be in three years? In five?
Who will help you get there?
The point of a dance studio business plan is to clearly lay out the aspects of a new company: strengths, challenges, and all of the minor details that will make the business a success. This document is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and hopeful business owners to put all of their ideas on paper, so that colleagues and other advisors can review the plan and offer any advice or criticism before the business is launched.
As an example, TutuTix has created a sample dance studio business plan for our imaginary dance studio, TIPS (the TutuTix Imaginary Performance Studios).
Feel free to use our guide’s ideas in your own plan, and please send us feedback about ideas we might not have that work particularly well in your studio! You can download the example dance studio business plan for free by completing the form below:
The layout of a business plan follows a logical progression of topics that a company needs to have defined prior to opening for business.
That order of topics should look something like this:
A concise description of your company, that acts as an overview of your goals and values. Keep it short but sweet! Why did you choose to build this kind of company?
Here, you can flesh out your overview and touch on how your business will function. Talk a little about your customer base, marketing goals, and strengths of your company. Why are you the best? Is it because you have the best staff, the most experience, the best rates?
Who are you competing against? How strong is that competition, and why do you think your studio can handle it? How will your business grow in this community over time?
There are lots of talented teachers and dancers who would be great studio owners. But in their current city or location, they would have a really hard time getting into the market and signing up students. That might be because of competition, lack of student interest in the area, or other reasons. How will your studio stand up to these tests?
Products and Services
Which dance classes will you offer? Will you rent out your space? Will you sell any retail items?
This section lists out your business functions: what do you offer, and how much will you charge? All of the items listed here will add up to be your studio’s income.
Marketing Publishing Strategy
How will people find out about your business, and how will you recruit additional students after your first season? What does your brand mean to you, and what do you want it to mean to others?
Operational Plan, Legal, and Startup Expenses
You can’t start a business from scratch: you’ll need funds and some professional consulting to get your company off the ground. How will you pay for your startup costs? Do you have that money already, or will you need to raise money with partners? Is a loan from the bank your best option?
By the time you get to writing this portion, hopefully you’ve talked to colleagues who might be opening the studio with you, or you’ve found a legal and/or financial professional who can advise you on the best way to move forward. Taking on debt to open a business is always risky, so you want to find funds the right way and have a plan to pay that debt back.
Most importantly: don’t be afraid to adapt! After the completion of the business plan, go back through and make adjustments based on information you’ve learned along the way! Ideas can and should evolve when they’re laid out on paper, so be sure to look for guidance from other teachers and business owners when putting together your plan.
Once you find your ideal location, the next step is setting up the space and determining the best, most cost effective and functional way to fill the space. When you find your space, you will have a tangible element to begin constructing your dream and your studio. As mentioned before, the layout of your dance studio floor plans is critical to maximizing your business capabilities. Your design should be smart, sleek, and efficient.
Free Space vs Common Space
At The Dance Exec’s Studio as much space as possible was dedicated to actual dancing space. Out of 4,200 square feet, about 1,050 square feet is dedicated to common spaces like a lobby, office, hallway, bathroom and storage space. When designing your overall space keep in mind that about three-fourths of your space should be dedicated to income producing (danceable) space.
An important question to consider is: how much free space does a dancer need? If there is a 1,000 square foot room, how many teenage dancers can fit into that room comfortably?
Lobby space should be minimal. The lobby does not need to be a large space for parents to loiter, as that encourages gossip and detracts from studio space. The Dance Exec’s Studio’s lobby is about 240 square feet and can accommodate 24 seated parents plus their children in laps during the transition times in between classes.
Sometimes, there are upward of 35 adults and their small children bustling through the lobby. Though it is uncomfortable with that many people in the space, the way the dance studio floor plans were designed encourages people to be expeditious and transient. You are running a dance education business, not a hang out spot for parents or idle students.
Necessary spaces like office space, bathrooms, and hallways should be practical (often, minimum size is dictated by building codes), but should be kept as small as possible.
Dressing room areas should be large enough to accommodate a few changing students but should not be so large as to encourage students to loiter. A student in the changing room should be there solely with the purpose of preparing for their next class (or storing a few items while they attend class).
Storage room should not be neglected in planning your space. Storage should be large enough to keep all items for studio operations organized and out of sight. Though very important, storage space too should not be huge and should be organized in a structured manner.
In creating your dance studio floor plans and finalizing a layout, maintaining dance space as the priority is key. Homework areas and places to eat and hangout should be avoided. Schedules should be planned in a way that students at the studio are there to take class. If the time arises for activities such as a snack or homework, the lobby space should be sufficient to serve as a temporary spot for such tasks.
It’s important to think about all the different pieces of equipment and dance gear that will make up your dance studio space, because each feature has an important role. Whether it’s the height of the ceiling, deciding which of the dance floor types is most suitable, what kind of mirrors you’ll need, what kind of barre you’ll want, have a picture in mind of what you want your ideal school to look like (and have a budget ready to work with). And, make sure to have fun in your decorating; allow your personality and passion to shine!
Walls & Ceilings
When outfitting your space, it is helpful to install insulation in the walls to assist in reducing noise transfer between studio rooms. It is not always required to install insulation in interior spaces, but this can be an inexpensive way to keep your space quieter (lobbies, bathrooms, if you have multiple rooms)
A high ceiling can make a space feel larger, and, conversely, a low ceiling can make a room feel smaller. The Dance Exec’s Studio has 12-foot ceilings in the studio rooms, making the area feel open and spacious. In comparison, some studios with lower ceilings and similar sized rooms do not feel nearly as large.
Some spaces will not be able to accommodate high ceilings, but you certainly want them to be as high as possible. Ceiling materials can also affect noise transfer, so be sure to take that into consideration in your planning and product selection.
The single most important feature in a dance studio is quite possibly the dance room floor. Which of the dance floor types you select will largely be dictated by budget, but a nice sprung floor system can easily be constructed for around seven to nine dollars per square foot.
There are also several flooring companies that install dance floors, though their prices are considerably higher. Sprung floors can greatly reduce risk of injury, and increase the overall health and well being of the instructors and dancers at your studio. For the health and longevity of your students and instructors, this is absolutely not a corner you can afford to cut.
There are several choices when it comes to dance floor types. What you choose will be dictated by your use of the dance room (ballet only, tap only, multipurpose floor, etc.).
The size of your studio’s mirrors can also make a big difference in how large a space appears. The Dance Exec’s Studio has mirrors that are 8 feet high, which makes the space appear much larger than studios that opt to use 4 or 6-foot mirrors.
For walls with mirrors, it is important to have an open wall with minimal obstructions (electrical outlets, light switches, etc). The cost of working around switches and outlets can significantly increase the cost of mirror installation.
There are several companies that sell wall and floor mounted barres. Wall mounted or floor mounted barres can be expensive, but are a great permanent installation for your space. The Dance Exec’s Studio chose to use portable barres. This allows barres to be pulled into the middle of the floor, and they can be oriented so they face the mirrors as well.
Portable barres are an optimal, flexible option for studio space. They can be built with PVC piping or metal piping (iron or galvanized is a great option). Your choice for barres will likely depend on your budget and how you would like to utilize your space.
Your sound system selections should be professional, functioning, and appropriate for your studio space.
Sound systems should play CDs, iPods, iPads, laptops, etc. Make sure your equipment is up-to-date with the current technology.
Closed-Circuit Monitoring System & Options
Observation windows are likely the biggest deterrent from creating a focused learning environment for dance studio students. Younger students are easily distracted and will likely want to wave or blow kisses to their parents through the observation window.
The parents reciprocate communication, thinking it is cute without realizing that it is drawing every single students’ attention away from the reason they are there: to receive a dance education. As the students age, they become self-conscious about being observed, which can be equally distracting.
In order to remedy this problem, The Dance Exec’s Studio installed a closed circuit monitoring system. In the lobby, there are 4 flat screen, wall-mounted, television monitors. Three of them display our three dance rooms, and parents have the ability to watch their students’ entire classes without creating a distraction.
On studio tours, this is pointed out as a huge selling point to increase focus in the classroom, while allowing parents to watch the entire class without crowding around an observation window. It is a win-win for students, instructors and parents! The other TV monitor is used to show DVDs of previous recitals, pictures of dancers put on DVD, or other items that can be further selling points to prospective parents.
***This is a project that you can accomplish independently. Several home security systems are built to provide closed circuit monitoring (you can even include digital recording options). These systems are fairly inexpensive and relatively simple to install. Security companies are also able to install a similar system, but are more expensive to hire.
Studio Security Options
You may choose to have a security system installed that has monitoring that is paid through a monthly fee. If you are considering a closed circuit monitoring system, these can connect into one system that will provide your space with a heightened level of security to ease your mind and serve as a part of your parent observation system.
One thing that many studio owners do not consider is: “Who has a key to your studio?” Inevitably, someone will wind up with a key, and you will wish they did not have one. Even if they return the key, how do you know they did not have a copy made? Do you want to change the locks every time this happens?
The Dance Exec’s Studio has a keypad with a code that owners/employees have to type in that unlocks the door. This was a relatively expensive installation fee upfront, but the functionality has made it worth the investment. We never have to worry about having the locks changed for fear of someone having a key (or incur such an expense). Changing the code to the front door is about a 2- minute process.
The front desk person is always present to allow parents to enter (by pressing a button that “buzzes” them in). A doorbell was also installed for clients to ring in the event the front desk person has stepped away. This may seem like overkill, but many daycares and preschools are implementing this level of security, so in many cases, parents in this area are familiar with the concept. Hopefully, you have chosen a safe location, but this truly prevents people from entering your studio without someone in the building knowing that they are there.
This can be used as a selling point to parents as it also helps ensure that children are not running outside without a parent, and parents also know that you work hard to keep potentially unsafe people out of the studio. At one point in The Dance Exec’s career (at another facility), someone came into the office (where staff members kept their purses during classes) and stole all of the purses. A locked front door would have easily prevented this incident.
Please note that these systems run on electricity, so having a key backup is necessary in the case of a power outage or if the keypad entry system fails for some reason.
Select your décor, paint colors, and thematic concept to fit your niche market within the dance industry. If you are a training facility for children, make sure your look and set-up is reflective of your mission. If you are a classical ballet conservatory, make sure your look reflects that, too.
Running a dance studio is not a walk in the park. It takes time, it takes money, it takes passion, and it takes love. Here at TutuTix, our mission is to help dance studio owners grow their businesses and to help families enjoy their children’s love of dance.
We want to be here to support YOU, the studio owners working every day to promote your art. We’re here to help you have one less (giant) thing to worry about at the end of the year. But, we’re also here to be partners in your success. And that success happens all year long, not just during recital season!
To help make your success even better, the TutuTix team has compiled a guide filled with tips and strategies for the studio owner looking to grow their business. Best of all, we’re offering it to you for FREE. Just like our ticketing service, this e-book is available at no cost to studio owners.
You can download “Dance Studio Ideas and More: The Official TutuTix E-Book” below:
As a dance studio owner, you’re always looking for more opportunities to bring in some extra money and to invest in your studio. That investment might be new equipment, new staff, or the resources to host a second recital performance. Most studios rely on classes, costumes, recitals, and possibly studio rentals for their major income. But what if you could get patrons from the community to invest in your studio?
Let’s Use the Right Vocabulary
When you think of the word “invest,” you might think of people giving you money and expecting something in return. In the case of investing in a business, those people are expecting money in return. They will invest capital, and expect you to use that capital to make more money than you could before. Having invested capital, they buy equity in your business, and effectively own a piece of your business. Thinking of it simply, when your business value grows, their wealth grows.
For a dance studio, traditional “investments” are not necessarily the best situation for finding some extra resources. You as a small business owner probably want to keep full ownership of your company, and might only consider a major investment like we mention above in the case of something BIG, like opening an additional studio or something along those lines.
For businesses related to the fine arts, what you’re looking for is patronage from your community. That is, donations or contributions from members of the community who don’t expect something directly in return, but do expect you to use the money to build your fine arts organization.
A great comparison are city or regional ballet companies or symphony orchestras, who receive donations from patrons in the community. Those patrons donate to support the continuation and growth of the arts, and expect the organizations to handle and spend their donations responsibly.
So? Where Does My Studio Come into the Picture?
Dance is powerful. Dance as a fine art exists on every continent, and in the United States there are national and state-based organizations working every day to promote dance.
So, you as a studio owner have a culturally impactful organization at your disposal. Your company teaches young people (or people of all ages) about professionally recognized dance techniques. And, it allows those students to express themselves in a meaningful way.
THAT’S where your value has the potential to extend into the community and provide a valuable resource for the fine arts where it might not exist otherwise.
Here, we do need to take a step back and think about the scope of the project you’re undertaking. If you want to request patronage from the community (donations), you need to be very careful about how you ask for that money, and how you report it on your taxes at the end of the year.
Right now, chances are your company is a for-profit business. As in, you run your company and provide services to customers. They pay your business directly, and that money is reported as income from the year. You aren’t a charity, so people usually don’t donate money outside of their fees.
If you’re going to stay as a for-profit business and ask for donations, there’s two BIG points to be made:
Patrons will NOT be able to deduct these donations from their taxes, since you won’t be changing your company to a 501(c)(3).
You’ll need to report these donations as income on your tax return next year.
Having mentioned these two points, now is the time to talk to your lawyer and/or accountant and discuss the idea before moving forward. Tax law is tricky, and it varies state-by-state.
What did they say? Did you get the green light?
Showing Your Commitment to the Community
Let’s say you’ve gotten the go-ahead from the professionals who manage your company’s finances and legal affairs. They’ve said “Yes, with careful preparation and reporting of this income, you’ll be able to receive donations from the community as long as you are clear about your use of the money and follow through with your commitment.”
That commitment needs to be impactful, and extend beyond the short-term donation that you’re hoping patrons will make.
For example, maybe you ask patrons to donate in order to purchase a new barre for your studio. How will you make that purchase translate into a resource for the community?
That’s where this project needs to become bigger than your studio. If you’re asking for extra money, you need to provide extra services to the community. Maybe that means a monthly free ballet basics class for the community, or use of the space for something like physical therapy through dance. Be creative! If you show love to your community, they’ll return the love with donations and support for your organization.
Back to the Nitty Gritty
You’ve got your great idea, you’re out to save the world one dancer at a time, and you’ve got volunteers who like your idea and want to make it happen. What next?
Time to go back to your professionals for a quick meeting. You’ll want to create an easy way for patrons to give you money, and clear language that tells everyone why and how you’ll spend the money you receive.
Some companies, like GoFundMe, exist to provide people an option for crowd-sourcing. Other options might include creating a PayPal account that people can access directly from your studio’s website.
Either way, be sure to have clear descriptions of what any money collected will buy, and a timeframe for the purchase. The last thing you want is confusion about your motives, and possible legal problems down the road.
Let’s go back to our barre purchase, and create some example language:
“My studio is raising money to purchase and install a new barre, in an effort to update the studio and create additional value for the community. As thanks for the community’s support for this equipment, my studio will begin to host monthly classes free to the general public.
In addition, we will make the space available for medical professionals to use for the purposes of physical therapy through dance during non-class hours, to build appreciation for dance in the community and investment in the people of our community.
This fundraiser will last until after our studio’s final recital in May, and we will make a purchasing decision by July 1 of next year. At that time, we’ll let patrons know about the purchase and installation details.
If we have not received enough funding to purchase the barre at that time, we will have a patron meeting about alternate purchases that could fulfill similar goals as the barre. Should we not find a solution at that time, the studio will return the donations to patrons.”
Your accountant should advise you on setting up the donations side of the project, and your lawyer should advise you on the language that you’ll use to describe your project. Don’t make assumptions and take off running: be sure and have your bases covered by professionals who have your best interest in mind!!
And have FUN! This kind of project can introduce you to really great people in the community who are looking to make a difference, and your studio might have the potential to BE that positive influence.
This year, what’s a new skill you’d like to learn or acquire that will improve your teaching or business? There are an abundance of tutorials and opportunities available to learn something new via the internet.
Maybe you would like to revitalize your website, social media, or logo?
Would you like to improve your video or music editing capabilities?
Maybe you would like to have new teaching tips for acro or ballet or tap?
Or maybe a few DIY repairs will polish and freshen up your facility?
Are you interested in tweaking your staff and studio culture for the year ahead?
Research- discover the material that is available to you.
It is easy to become complacent in comfort- challenge yourself! Once you are open to learning more, the sky is the limit.
A popular excuse for not learning new things is lack of time- take the time. Make the time. It will be worth it!
Unsure about where to start? Check out the following sites: