Summer can be a rough time of year for martial arts businesses. With school out, families’ schedules change, and parents are often no longer interested in weekly afternoon classes. Veteran martial arts teachers know all too well the summer doldrums – where it seems like all of the hard work you put into grooming new students goes out the window as soon as that final school bell rings.
With fewer prospects for revenue, just getting through the summer in relatively solid financial shape can be a scary proposition. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. The summer is actually a golden opportunity to not only drive more revenue but to roll right into fall with more students than ever before. How? By holding a martial arts day camp.
Why martial arts summer camps just make sense
Day camps are wildly popular during the summer, and with good reason: They give kids a fun, safe place to go to when their parents are at work, running errands or simply getting a little time to themselves. Weekly afternoon classes are so successful during the school year because they fit perfectly into a family’s schedule like a well-placed Tetris piece. You can’t expect to continue that successful game plan when those schedules change dramatically, though. You have to tweak your approach and give parents a compelling alternative to summertime mainstays like swim practice, Little League and soccer camp.
According to the American Camp Association, 14 million children attended camp in the U.S. as of 2013. That’s a big, lucrative market to tap into. Moreover, enrollment rates for camps across the U.S. remain steady. In 2016, the ACA found that 82 percent of camps saw their enrollment either increase or stay the same over the previous five years. In addition, half of all camps were operating at close to max capacity (90-99 percent).
As veteran studio owner Mike Massie noted, martial arts summer camps are virtually recession-proof too. Parents are more likely to look for full-time jobs when financial hardship strikes, and that means they’ll leap at the opportunity to have a safe place to send their kids while they’re at work.
Revenue opportunities abound in the summer
Martial arts businesses make additional revenue by holding day camps of their own throughout the summer. How much extra dough can you expect to rake in? Well, that depends on a number of factors, including potential costs. Bringing in seasonal staff to help with the added workload or offering a transportation service to get kids to and from the camp.
Don’t let shouldering additional expenses turn you away from the summer camp business model, though. Keep in mind that your rates will increase commensurately – and as many schools have found, parents are more than willing to pay the extra expense for a full- or even half-day summer martial arts camp. According to the Martial Arts Teachers’ Association, school owners can expect to bring in anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 of extra revenue thanks to summer camps. That’s sure to take the sting out of any attrition from your regular weekly classes. Speaking of which …
It’s so fly when students stop by for the summer
“Offer group rates and promotions for students who sign up friends.”
Summer camps are great opportunities to stave off the dreaded “we’re taking a break” talk with parents. When sketching out their children’s list of summer activities (Little League, swim team, etc.), parents may find that there just isn’t space for weekly martial arts classes. Offering a summer camp lets you get ahead of that scenario by providing the same level of exercise and camaraderie as other summertime sports while also providing the life lessons and personal growth you only get through martial arts.
If you lay the foundation now, you can seamlessly segue into summer by getting current students excited about continuing their martial arts journey all season long. To provide a little extra enticement, consider offering group rates or promotions for students who sign up a friend or two.
Cultivate your next crop of students
You should use your summer camp as an opportunity to reach prospective students who might not otherwise have considered martial arts classes. Once they’re at the camp, you can get them hooked on martial arts so they’re begging their parents to sign them up for classes in the fall. To keep up the momentum, you want to be sure that you balance out more strenuous exercises with fun activities, even if they’re not strictly martial arts-related. There’s no reason you can’t take a break from the action to play a game of kickball or go swimming, for instance.
Another important factor to consider is maintaining a brisk pace of development so new attendees feel like they’re making progress. Accelerated timelines for belt advancement can be helpful here, as are regular skills demonstrations for parents to see how their kids are coming along. When they see how much progress students are making in a relatively short amount of time, those parents will be far more likely to enroll them in regular classes when fall rolls around.
If you want to build buzz about your martial arts school and keep the revenue flowing in all summer long, you should really consider holding your own day camp. There’s no shortage of overwhelmed parents who need a place for their children to go during the day while they work or run errands. It’s a fantastic opportunity to improve student retention from school year to school year and begin filling out your fall classes with a new crop of excited students.
Don’t dread the summer – embrace it. Make the changes in season and family schedules work for your martial arts business by holding a day camp of your own this summer.