After many years of blood, sweat, and tears, you’ve finally climbed up to a brown or black belt, and find yourself wondering if quitting your desk job and opening up your own Jiu-Jitsu academy could be right for you. The delightful thought of owning your own business — a place where you can share your deep knowledge, experience and passion for BJJ, to lead others in the in martial arts journey — can seem really exciting. But before embarking on such a big move, it’s important to keep these factors in mind.
Step 1: Did You Ever Pass Economics?
Like any successful (or even unsuccessful) business, numbers are going to follow you everywhere. Being strategic about your finances is a huge part of running any business, not to mention your own life. You are going to have expenses such as utilities, rent, insurance, and salaries, along with legal permits and requirements you will have to obtain. If you can’t budget, or are very bad with saving and dealing with money, perhaps managing your own business is not for you. And if you think you’re getting into this so that you can enjoy total freedom, think again. You’ll be lucky if on most days you actually see the mats! Keeping a social media platform and honing other marketing tools are vital for constantly attracting an influx of students.
Opening a BJJ school also entails some financial risk. Ask yourself if you have the necessary funds to take that risk. There will be bumps along the road, but creating a realistic budget that will support you for the first 12 months, a period in which you will likely be generating very low to no income, is necessary. Keep in mind you will have to buy gear, primarily mats, and find a place that accommodates a front desk, change rooms, bathrooms and storage areas. While renting mats may also be an option, you will probably end up paying for them at the end of the lease. Before embarking on the big move, get a real life opinion from someone who has their own business. Ask them all the necessary questions, and maybe get them to help you create a spreadsheet with your budget, at least for the first year.
It probably goes without saying that having a background in BJJ is absolutely necessary for anyone wanting to start a school.
You’ll attract few to no customers if you have nothing to bring to the table. Beginner students like to know they’re in good hands, and signing up at a place that boasts instructors with tons of experience and expertise. Referrals and online searches are the main ways future students will find out about your school, so you need to invest in marketing and social media. And remember, location is key. A school that’s far from your home, and difficult to get to will impact on your ability to have a healthy number of students.
Keeping your students happy is also another big factor in running a successful BJJ school.
If you have good relationships with your students they will be with you for the long haul and recommend your school to their friends. A coach’s job is to provide positive and helpful feedback, and support to students. It’s important to be observant and kind, especially with beginners. No one can blossom under a tyrannical structure. Keeping students of higher belts in check (temper those big egos!), and making sure your environment is hygienic are very important considerations as well.
Running a BJJ academy is a full-time job, requiring all of your passion, energy and focus. If you’re looking to start a BJJ academy as a part time job, or a hobby, I will tell you now that it just won’t work. Running a successful business entails full attention, and many sacrifices. So before you take that giant step, think it through, talk to your mentors and put together a budget. Any business start-up is a challenge, to be sure. But the rewards that come in impacting a life, and changing the life of your students through focus on one of the world’s greatest martial arts, are truly invaluable.