Determining a good size for your school depends on the area and the rent. Remember, you want to build a profitable school, not your ego. Other considerations for the size of your school are: What segment of the market are you going for?
Will you be able to schedule and support two classes per night, or five? If you only have two, you may need more room to fit all the stu¬dents into just two classes.
If you can support five classes a night, you will have smaller classes, which allows you to make a smaller space profitable much faster.
Kids take up less space than adults. It’s better to lease a smaller space that offers the opportunity to expand than take a double space and regret it later. Always look for a space that has an empty space next to it, which gives you two benefits:
1) It makes your space more negotiable. Empty spaces mean lost money to a landlord. Also, it’s harder to rent a strip of stores if some are empty. Traffic is the key, and empty spaces don’t create traffic.
Landlords are highly receptive to negotiation just to start filling some spaces. Keep in mind that the spaces may be empty for a reason. Make sure the space is in the right area and talk to all of the other stores in the plaza to see how the landlord is to work with and “how business is” at this site.
Also, if you can, track down who was in the space before. Ask them why they left and if they would rent there again.
2) It may provide you with a good expansion space when you are ready. The key is to include a clause that requires the landlord to give you first right of refusal at the same rent rate or lower as your current space. This way, if someone wants to rent the space, the landlord has to give you the chance to rent it first.
Sometimes, the landlord will receive an offer that is significantly higher than your rent, and he will be motivated to rent it to the new client rather than you despite the agreement.
In that case, you may be able to negotiate that you will allow him to rent the space, but only if he lowers your rent. If the numbers are right, he may be able to rent the space, lower your rent, and still come out ahead. Just make sure you won’t need to expand before your current lease expires.
At the top of the size for new schools, my experience indicates about 4,000 square feet gives a new school plenty of room for a large training area, an office, and some changing rooms.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are schools that do very well that have never expanded beyond 1,500 square feet. Any smaller than 1,500 square feet, and you may have to support a schedule with so many classes each day you will burn out quickly. Any larger than 4,000 square feet, your rent may strangle your cash flow.