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Thread: Your stories,

  1. #1
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    Your stories,

    I'm interested in opening a club. I intend to buy a space large enough for fencing, kendo, iado, HEMA, and MMA to co-exist. There are two good solid clubs in town, and I would want to compliment them, not compete with them.

    I would love to hear the stories of how you founded your club. Why did you decide to rent/buy? What did you look for in a building?

    I have a background in law, specializing in commercial real estate, financing, forming LLCs, etc. So I'm not too worried about the soft aspects. I just have no idea how to pull something like this off.

    I'd want to use the other martial art's income to subsidize youth programs for needy kids.

    So at any rate: Tell me how you did it. What you'd do any differently. What do you wish you'd known?

    Thanks for any constructive advice you can share. Seriously, if I say I want to do something, and you think it's a bad idea, I'd appreciate hearing why it's a bad idea. I'm no entrepreneur, so this is a scary idea. But I want to give back to the community, and creating a space where kids can learn a sport that might help them get into college.... I dunno, I want to do that.
    Grasshopper and erik_blank like this.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevePirates View Post
    I'm interested in opening a club. I intend to buy a space large enough for fencing, kendo, iado, HEMA, and MMA to co-exist. There are two good solid clubs in town, and I would want to compliment them, not compete with them.

    I would love to hear the stories of how you founded your club. Why did you decide to rent/buy? What did you look for in a building?

    I have a background in law, specializing in commercial real estate, financing, forming LLCs, etc. So I'm not too worried about the soft aspects. I just have no idea how to pull something like this off.

    I'd want to use the other martial art's income to subsidize youth programs for needy kids.

    So at any rate: Tell me how you did it. What you'd do any differently. What do you wish you'd known?

    Thanks for any constructive advice you can share. Seriously, if I say I want to do something, and you think it's a bad idea, I'd appreciate hearing why it's a bad idea. I'm no entrepreneur, so this is a scary idea. But I want to give back to the community, and creating a space where kids can learn a sport that might help them get into college.... I dunno, I want to do that.
    I think you have a fine goal. Please don't take any of this to be overly negative, I'm just thinking out loud here:

    You want to have in the same club fencing, kendo, iado, HEMA, and MMA. That means you'll have a fencing coach, a kendo coach, an iado coach, a HEMA coach, and a MMA coach. All of them need floor space. All of them need equipment. All of them want the gym at the same time, after school/work and on weekends. All of them want to scoop up the six athletic thirteen year olds who just walked in the door. How is this good again? You sound as though you are saying, I will have eight sharks in a tank. These seven sharks will support this eighth shark, whom I love the best. Uh, ok. I think the likely outcome would be one or two sharks left, and I'm not sure you have a lot of control over which shark that will be. Even if your favorite shark is the winner, you have a bunch of MMA and kendo gear lying about which you paid full price for and which you are now selling on ebay. Think about this some more.

    It's a good idea to share space or have a second use for the space, but maybe this second use should be focused on times and students which don't overlap quite so obviously with fencing? Maybe fencing after school and on weekends, and yoga or zumba or something for moms during school hours, or 'aerobics with your baby' classes, or renting out to the local cops for training they have to do, something like that? You need to find an activity which is natural for the times you don't have fencing.

    You also didn't mention the word "coach" in your ruminations. The coach (the fencing coach, I mean) is kind of a big deal in a plan like this. What's your plan for a coach?

    If I wanted to provide scholarships for lower income kids to fence I'd go talk to the people who have done that for years with huge success in the US, the Peter Westbrook Foundation. Call them, then go, sit, talk. Find out how much it costs per kid, get some idea on washout rates, get some idea of failure modes, some ideas on where they get their money and how you could emulate that where you are, and so on. They have a huge amount of experience, I bet they'd be glad to help. Don't try to invent what's already been invented, go learn and copy.

    Good luck,

    K O'N
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Tomas N's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevePirates View Post
    There are two good solid clubs in town, and I would want to compliment them, not compete with them.
    Regardless of whether you want to compete with them, they, most likely, will want to compete with you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by K O'N View Post
    I think you have a fine goal. Please don't take any of this to be overly negative, I'm just thinking out loud here:
    K O'N
    No, all of these points are excellent and well taken.

    Me saying what I'd like to do as opposed to what eventually happens... probably two completely different things. Which is why I'd like to know how other people went about getting their organization off the ground.

    In my head I have this romantic notion of a place where people could come together in peace and harmony, and repeatedly hit each other with objects... harmoniously.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Grasshopper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevePirates View Post

    In my head I have this romantic notion of a place where people could come together in peace and harmony, and repeatedly hit each other with objects... harmoniously.
    Sounds like Han's Island from Enter the Dragon.
    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WON'T YOU BUY MY TACTICAL WHEEL!!!????

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grasshopper View Post
    Sounds like Han's Island from Enter the Dragon.
    You know... hadn't really thought of that. But I do like that movie an awful lot. So, what you're suggesting is that I need to add basketball to the mix....

  7. #7
    Needs to get Outside Inquartata's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K O'N View Post
    You sound as though you are saying, I will have eight sharks in a tank.
    My desert-Southwest metaphor is scorpions in a burlap bag. But yeah. This^.

    StevePirates, I have heard that "peace and harmony" dream from fencers many times before. I have yet to see it actually work out that way. Acrimony and lawsuits seems the more likely result.
    Use the Shift key, people! Keyboard manufacturers everywhere are ineffably saddened when you ignore what they made just for you!

  8. #8
    Senior Member foibles's Avatar
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    I'm pretty new at it still. About 3.5 years in, I guess... Here's a nutshell.

    I started at an established recreational club that had gear, but no classes and only 3 students.

    Then one quit.

    So. I started a beginning youth class anyway.

    We'd get a few hits on the website contact form and I'd immediately respond and offer 2 free classes to try it out. They did and they liked it and they stayed. Some brought in their friends too. So, I organized some fencing classes.

    While doing this, I took various courses at the a JR. college that's about 1 mile from my house. Nothing too fancy or difficult. Accounting. Quickbooks. Business Law. Mktg. other business classes. I took some math classes because I always sucked at math and wanted another shot at it... and did fine.

    Anyway.. so I had this little group that would grow by one student every few months. I liked that-- The slow incremental growth. I resisted the urge to plow into this coaching thing. I did not send out Living Social ads and groupons or whatever.. I kept it small and let it kinda mature slowly over time through word of mouth and the occasional web inquiry.

    Allowing the class to remain small was a trial run. It gave me a chance to really really make sure I actually really wanted to do this coaching thing. (I'd been assnt coach here and there, but this was going to be MY baby). I wanted to see how it would effect my marriage. I wanted to see if being the guy in charge suited me. I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable assuming the role of a youth coach. -- if I could deal with the bookkeeping and such.

    I also needed time to learn some of what you already know... how to create and license an LLC. How to get a city and Fed business licenses etc. I made a business plan. I made contact with a group called SCORE and got some mentoring.

    Finally, I needed time to do some things so I personally felt sure I actually deserved to be a fencing coach. Knowing my private lesson skills were weak, I took tons of lessons from a coach I liked and respected. I attended a few camps and workshops for coaches. I got the Moniteur 'd Arms Certification. I tried (and just barely failed) Provost cert in foil a year or so later. (I'll get it next time). I've been soaking myself in fencing video and tourneys and fnet and books and whatever I can my hands on to improve my overall knowledge of the sport and general sports theory. If the coaches college comes back, I'll do that too.

    Anyway. Over time word slowly got out. One small class became two. Then I added a Home-school class. Then I found another inexpensive venue in a nearby city and added another beginner class. I've been approached by a parent on behalf of a charter school to start an after school class at their location... and that should take off next month. I wake up at 5:00am every other Wednesday and teach students an hour away before school. I just helped a reporter with a fencing story for the local paper. I've agreed to offer fencing at a 4 day summer camp thing. And on May 5th I'll be giving free lessons at a Montessori school for their May Faire.

    It's been, and continues to be quite a ride.

    I have kids who started with me 3 years ago whose voices are breaking. I have adults that are going to tourneys on their own. I have young adults that are getting their acceptance letters and will soon be going away and fencing in college clubs. I had the difficult task of telling my advanced group that one of their team mates, along with his entire family, died in a small engine plane crash. Did my best to comfort the ones that cried.

    Make no mistake. There's a lot to it. You're building community as well as a small business. A community of parents and kids and vet fencers and all kinds of differing folk. It takes constant assessment and reassessment on what to do next. You are, at the same time, a coach, a book-keeper, the boss, the marketing guy, the janitor, the armorer, the referee, a role model, the organizer, the dreamer, the salesman, the sports therapist and whatever else is needed at any given time.

    And I don't even have my own facility. Those folks have WAY more responsibility and worries than I do.

    While very rewarding, it's more than a little demanding as well.

    It's not for everyone, but if you work it right, there are ways to find out if it's for you.
    mrbiggs, Mauler, Mr Epee and 3 others like this.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by StevePirates View Post
    I'd want to use the other martial art's income to subsidize youth programs for needy kids.
    Are you sure there will be extra income to subsidize the needy kids? You say there are 2 clubs in your area already. Is the market saturated? Are their coaches full time or do they have other jobs because the club doesn't make enough to support them? Hint: What kind of car do they drive? In our region, from what I can tell, no fencing clubs make any real money. Certainly not enough to pay all the bills, their coach(s) and have enough left over to support needy kids.

    I coach a Boy and Girl Scout fencing team in an area with a unique combination of poor urban kids and lower middle class rural kids. Not all my kids are low income, but most are. Since we are part of the Scouts we are not-for-profit and can accept donations. We have gotten help from the other fencing clubs and their fencers in the region but mostly we exist thanks to the support of a local community service organization that gives us free space and to a parent and a grandparent who have donated money to help us buy scoring equipment. I asked those who can afford it to buy their own gear. I purchased the foils, jackets, masks, etc. for some of the kids plus I find myself paying for other things for the kids (sometimes even food) to the tune of more than $5000 in the past 4 years. (LOL, Don't let my wife find out how much. That is a significant percentage of my income!)

    If you want to do this I can tell you there are enormous psychic benefits but it an expensive hobby.

    Good luck to you!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Strytllr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by milstdfarm View Post
    Are you sure there will be extra income to subsidize the needy kids? You say there are 2 clubs in your area already. Is the market saturated? Are their coaches full time or do they have other jobs because the club doesn't make enough to support them? Hint: What kind of car do they drive? In our region, from what I can tell, no fencing clubs make any real money. Certainly not enough to pay all the bills, their coach(s) and have enough left over to support needy kids.

    I coach a Boy and Girl Scout fencing team in an area with a unique combination of poor urban kids and lower middle class rural kids. Not all my kids are low income, but most are. Since we are part of the Scouts we are not-for-profit and can accept donations. We have gotten help from the other fencing clubs and their fencers in the region but mostly we exist thanks to the support of a local community service organization that gives us free space and to a parent and a grandparent who have donated money to help us buy scoring equipment. I asked those who can afford it to buy their own gear. I purchased the foils, jackets, masks, etc. for some of the kids plus I find myself paying for other things for the kids (sometimes even food) to the tune of more than $5000 in the past 4 years. (LOL, Don't let my wife find out how much. That is a significant percentage of my income!)

    If you want to do this I can tell you there are enormous psychic benefits but it an expensive hobby.

    Good luck to you!
    Your secret is safe with me! *wink*

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