Traditionally, summer has been one of the most difficult times of year for most martial arts schools. Thankfully, however, savvy studio owners have developed new ways to actually generate more income over the summer months than they do during the other months of the year.
How, you ask? For those of you who don’t mind teaching kids, the answer is “starting a summer day camp.”
Now, I’ve heard from a lot of instructors before that they don’t want to teach kids. All I can say to that is, before you opened your school you probably didn’t want to go to your job every day, either – but you did it because it paid the bills.
So, look at this like a temporary day job, but one that is a lot more profitable and a whole heck of a lot more fun (I mean, c’mon…you’ll be getting paid to play all day!)
The Bottom Line is…Summer Day Camps Increase Your Bottom Line
If you doubt that starting a summer karate camp is worth your time, I’m here to tell you that it is and then some. We held very small summer camps for the last four years before we sold our Georgetown location. We typically ran camp for 8 weeks, taking a week or two off in the middle of summer and before school started.
Averaging just 15 kids per week, at $125 per week minimum tuition, our camps generated an extra $7,500 per month in revenue. We kept our overhead for camp expenses (including part-time help, vehicles, and activities) down to less than $25 per week per child, so we profited roughly $100 per week for each kid in camp.
Could you use an extra $15,000 – $30,000 this summer? I thought so…
If You Don’t Know Where to Start – Get Some Guidance on How to Run a Summer Camp
If you don’t know where to start, don’t feel bad – I didn’t at first, either. The first summer camp I ever ran was back around 2000, the summer after I got married. Oh, I had done some piddly little day camps and a Spring Break or Christmas Break camp or two, but nothing on the scale of what we were about to attempt.
In preparation for this momentous event, we had just flown in to spend four days with a very successful school owner who ran after-school and summer camps in Florida, and I had seen for myself how successful his camps were.
In addition, I had spent several days hanging out with another school owner who ran a studio about 40 miles from my school. This guy made most of his income by running camps… huge camps, actually, with around 125 kids all year round.
I also spent a lot of time with a friend in Houston later, when we decided to run after school camps as well. All this observation and note-taking paid off in dividends when we started our first camp… we actually made close to $25,000 that summer, over a few short months!
Planning Considerations for Your Summer Day Camp
There are just a couple of things to consider as you plan your summer camp:
1. State laws – It is your responsibility to make sure you are abiding by all laws. Many states have licensing regulations regarding day care that may or may not apply to your program. Save yourself some headaches and do your homework on state and local laws before you start your camp.
2. Advertising – Late March and early April is the time when parents are choosing summer activities for their kids. You need to start advertising before then if you plan to run a successful summer camp.
3. Transportation and activities – You need places to take the kids in your camp to get them out of the school for a few hours, and you need a way to transport them there. When we first started out, we used to rent a van two or three times a week during our summer camp.
Then, a friend showed us how to get buses for less than what it costs to rent them all summer. Figure out how and where you’re going to shuttle your kids around right now so you don’t have to worry about it later.
4. It has to be fun – Okay, let me make this clear. You’re not going to produce any black belts or super-star athletes over eight to twelve weeks of camp. Many of these kids will be new to martial arts training, so you want them to leave your camp wanting to come back (camps are also a good way to get new students, you know).
Maintain discipline and safety, but keep the training basic, do fun stuff, and let the kids have a good time. If the kids go home happy, they’ll tell their friends, and you’ll get more kids in your summer day camps as time goes on.