Planning a Martial Arts Summer Camp
While many school owners dread the slow months of summer, others have found ways to make summertime-profit time. According to a recent Inc. magazine article, about 5 million kids attend an estimated 8,500 day and overnight youth camps nationwide each summer. This presents us with an opportunity to tap into an already lucrative and established market.
Hosting a 6 week summer camp can be very labor intensive is a serious undertaking. It can also be very lucrative. Schools have reported earning $30,000 to $50,000 over the summer with a successful camp or series of camps. Children in this scenario would enroll for either:
1. Weekly for $99 per week. That’s about $2.50 an hour to watch these kids all day.
2. $499 for the full six weeks
Look at the prices for other camps in your area to determine what your market will bear.
Starting the Monday after school breaks for the summer, camp day starts at 9am and ends at 4pm. In most cases you’ll have to have someone available an hour before and an hour after each day for early drop off and late pick up. These children pay an additional $10 per week for that extra supervised time which we call “extended care time.”
Activities range from an hour of martial arts each day to reading, swimming, arts and crafts, community service (clean the shopping plaza), show and tell, karaoke, sports, field trips, videos and anything else you can come up with that is safe, supervised and most of all entertaining to the kids.
The rule of thumb for your camp is the same as for your school, keep wages at about the 30% of gross.
If this person is not you, you may want to hire a full time professional elementary school teacher who needs a summer job. This person should be paid well. However, don’t assume that a teacher has a good sense of customer service or is capable of dealing with children.
Sometimes, they are burnt out and have little tolerance left. Also, their idea of discipline and control may differ drastically from your own. Don’t be mislead by their title. Interview extensively and only hire someone you would be comfortable leaving your kids with. If you do hire outside from the school, make sure you schedule yourself or a good instructor to come in and teach the martial arts portion of the day.
Remember, its your name on the patch. You are liable.
SWAT teens at minimum wage.
Hiring a bus and driver is not a difficult process. Determine the frequency you’ll need them and negotiate a deal.
In some states, camp leaders must be finger printed and bonded. Be sure that you check your state requirements and insurance needs. Keep a minimum of eight to one as a ratio of supervisor to student.
You may consider forming a separate corporation for the operation of the camp. In either case, we recommend opening a special business checking account for all revenue and expenses associated with the camp.
While the ongoing revenue is great at $89 per week per kid, the real goal is to transfer as many kids as possible into your regular classes. By advancing the children in rank and then offering discounted enrollments, you can turn a summer promotion into a super strong fall.
Track the kids just like you track your trial students for renewal. Rate each one and focus on their individual needs. On test days, showcase the kids and their progress so their parents can see the benefits of continuing membership. Spice up the promotions with demos from your STORM and SWAT teams to create a lot of excitement.
Even if you don’t enroll all of the children, you’ll still get plenty of repeat business each year as kids return to your camp. Often, the kids and parents will refer others to your school and the summer camp as a result of their great experience. Each year your camp should grow.
Your local paper may have a listing of summer programs. Also, be sure to promote it heavily within your own student body. While your kids should receive a discount the equivalent of one month’s tuition if they enroll for the entire six weeks, it’s their friends that you are really after.
You may consider extending a special discount to friends of participating students. Of course all past students and prospects in your data base must get flyers and, believe it or not, other martial arts schools in your area are hot prospects too. While getting your competitor to distribute your camp flyer may be tough, the local tournament and martial arts supply houses are perfect for reaching martial arts crazed kids in need of a camp option. While we are not out to get the child to transfer from another school into ours, we would like them to develop a high opinion of our school. Besides, if they have to spend money on a summer camp, it might as well be ours.
Be sure to send press releases out to the local media since your camp is a little different from most.
Finally, ask your kids, “how many of you are going to camp this summer?” How many of you would like to come here instead?”
The Three Keys To Success
Preparation, preparation, preparation!
Have each day completely planned and make sure your staff is fully prepared and trained. Imagine every possible difficulty or disaster and prepare for it. At the same time, realize that kids need down time to do pretty much nothing. In other words, block out some free time for them to just lay around and watch videos or play games.
Children are brutely honest and they will let you know in no uncertain terms what activities they like and dislike.
This is a profitable alternative to the six week camp. In this case we simply rent a camp for the weekend. These camps are designed with you in mind. They will have activities, auditoriums, bunk houses, a pool, and cafeteria.
The camp rental will run $60 – $100 per person. This should cover everything including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
To the student, the price will be in the $150 range for the weekend. It’s a good idea to start the promotion for this far enough out to establish a budget plan for the families to be able to afford it. Remember, if you put a student on a 90 day same as cash arrangement for this to either:
1. Collect all three checks at once and deposit them on the same day each month.
2. Put them on an auto-pay for three consecutive payments.
Staff wages are still not to exceed 30% but you should be able to recruit a number of volunteers who are willing to help out in order to tag along without paying.
We recommend a five to one ratio of student to instructor for these camps. Each leader is supplied in advance with a schedule, clipboard, whistle, digital watch, colored T-Shirt and roster of their team. In big camp situations, one leader from each team should have a walkie talkie or headset.
The chief supervisor of the event (you), should also have a direct walkie talkie connection with the camp supervisors and maintenence personal.
This is not as hard as it may seem. The kids will be so excited just to be at the camp that they will have a lot fun simply throwing a ball around in the grass or playing in the pool or lake. The key is to be flexible but understand that you’ll have different ages and need to provide age appropriate activities for your troops.
Break the group down by age into teams of ten. Give each team, a color, a name and two leaders. For instance, the dragon team might be your 6 – 8 year olds and their group leaders would wear green shirts for easy ID. Obviously pre-registration is critical here. You don’t want to wing this as the kids are climbing off the bus. Again, preparation.
Rent a comfortable bus to pick the kids up at the school and then drop them off at camp. On sunday about noon, the bus returns to pick the kids up and return them to the school for their parents to drag them home.
This service will run in the $500 range. Your SWAT, parent volunteers and lowest ranking professional staff members should ride on the bus with the kids. It is loud.
Your primary staff should arrive to prepare at about 4pm at the camp to prepare for the bus to arrive about 8pm. When the kids arrive, escort them into the cafeteria for a quick meal. If the auditorium is separate, walk the kids to the auditorium for orientation. Why not have orientation in the cafeteria? Because it kills 20 minutes to shift and it keeps things moving. In the auditorium, recite the student creed, preview the weekend,
lay down the ground rules and split them into their groups. Each group should have some activities planned to occupy the kids for about 45 minutes.
During that 45 minutes, some of your staff should be preparing the Ninja Walk. The Ninja Walk is an outdoor obstacle course with a some surprises thrown in. Use your blockers and body shields to jump out at the kids as they walk in their groups to the bunk house. The kids have to use their punches and kicks to ward off the attack of the ninjas. If you have a very brave or not so swift brown belt, put him in a chest protector, head gear and super-cup and let the kids fire on his chest protector when he jumps out. Caution your ninjas not to terrify the little ones too bad because they will scream for mommy and want to go home.
Have the kids brush their teeth, straighten their beds and stand at the foot of the bed for inspection. Here is the first real example of the level of discipline you want to see from the little troops. By now it should be about 10:30 or 11pm and it’s lights out. The staff members take turns standing guard on the kids to make sure they all go to sleep and no one’s terrified or sick.
Saturday it’s up at 8 for a day of activities. That night, in the auditorium after dinner, everyone gathers for a special performance of the demo team and a board breaking contest. That should last about 90 minutes and finish the night off with a bon fire and martial arts stories. It’s very interesting to pass a microphone around (from your karaoke set) so people can share what martial arts means to them. Usually the kids are exhausted about now and not nearly as difficult to get to sleep.
The next morning after breakfast, let the kids relax by the lake or pool after cleaning the bunk house and camp grounds. The bus arrives at noon after a quick lunch. Be prepared to have someone stay at the school to wait with the kids whose parents are running late to pick them up.