A good way to get a start if you don't have a personal hookup at a large gym like Gold's is to find a smaller gym or a small martial arts school of some kind and offer to teach a beginner or introductory class for their students for a small fee. Something like teaching intro to Kick Boxing at a small Judo school for 10$/person at first. Once you have a few people interested you can generally get an agreement with the school owner to either share revenue from your class in exchange for space + being carried on their insurance or pay a flat rental fee and carry your own insurance. It's definitely a small start, and you will have to have some other income to pay your bills and probably to acquire equipment for your classes, but it's a start. Once you have a small core group of students you can start your marketing to try to bring in more. At that point you're getting into the business side of knowing how many students you need, etc...
My main point here is that if you don't have a personal connection it's going to be hard to get space or a class at a MegaGym like Gold's, so don't be too proud to go slumming through the TKD stripmalls for an instructor greedy enough to give you space.
I'm going to skip the advice part on getting instructional experience/becoming a good coach but it is still one of the most important parts, martial art fight gyms are a pretty competitive market since most people will only train at one gym, so make sure you can compete.
First thing first, even if you don't end up going to a bank for a loan you need to write a business plan. Here is some advice from someone who has worked in the banking industry, good business plans REALLY help you get that loan. And by writing one it will force you to think about your business parameters, limitations and targets more. You two are good at internet searching and are smarter than the average fighter so i'm sure you'll find a good template somewhere along with different questions you need to answer such as the ones Omega suggested.
Once you have a business plan nutted out you will know if your current town has the demand for a new gym, estimated costs, target market, whether you want to mcdojo it with gradings (suggested to an extent). Then you need to find the cash to start it up. This will be tough if your economy is as bad as the Australian one at the moment, but you are probably talking about 5 or so years time anyway. Keep in mind here that most business' don't turn a profit in the first year, you will need a big pool of money to help you survive until then.
Next you should be doing at least rudimentary accounting, prefferably electronically through a program like MYOB to keep track of your costs and student's payment details. It is crazy how few business' could tell you what their costs are, how many students they need to break even or how much tax they need to prepare for. Then again, 70% of new business' fail within the first year so it is not so suprising.. don't let this be you.
BTW you don't need to have people sign contracts, by offering a better daily/monthly/3month/6month pricing ramp up your students will commit themselves without being forced to. For example, the gym i was at previously had 3 days training a week with something like $13 casual per class, $100 monthly, $500 half yearly. This basically meant we all paid monthly and didn't train at other gyms.
Quite a few gyms make their profit from selling martial arts equipment to their students too, so it would be a good idea to think about getting a direct contract to one of these suppliers so you can offer the same price as sports stores with the markup going to you. Also start making friends with promoters/gym owners now, the fight world is pretty close-nit.
There are 100s of hours of planning work required for this is you are serious about opening a gym. If you want we can have a chat about it sometime (thinking about opening my own in a decade's time). Best of luck.
ive read the op, if the school won't work out there's definately a cool story in it..kid and kat opening a martial arts school, but their passion is not understood by the local tkd and karate dojo's....darkness gathers...will they overcome their troubles and reach their goal?
now in cinemas...
The Gold's I was with was a franchise gym, not a corporate gym. It would be VERY difficult to get a program with a corporate gym. Really, any privately owned gym/martial arts school/rec center/etc would be a good place to start. Get to know the owner or program managers and let them know what you want to do. Good facilities are always looking for well qualified, reliable instructors. Just don't be a flake! Be there on time for all of your classes and be reliable. It's difficult starting out, but consistency is the key to getting things off the ground.
Originally Posted by KidSpatula
Definitely going to want to find a different location when we eventually open up our own place. There's like a dozen big commercial MMA gyms around here.
Originally Posted by Omega
Definitely things we've been considering. We were thinking about trying to appeal to women looking into getting into martial arts while still trying to maintain an image that will attract guys (since there are obviously a lot more guys interested in fighting).
Originally Posted by Omega
Maybe this fall? We had a lot going on this summer. We do still want to come out there. Set us up with some fights and then we'll really have an excuse to make it your way =P
Originally Posted by Omega
just to jump in on niche markets, a womens gym or a gym run by women has excellent appeal for all the obvious reasons.
Lana Stefanac opened up a school in the Bay Area and I don't know the specifics but I do know its doing very well; instant curb-appeal in a Gracie BJJ saturated area.
I still teach part-time, too much risk to open a school right now, initially I started with craigslist searches for mat time. $25/hr was pretty standard so I just needed to cover that.
At another location, I worked out that I would teach their students for free and charge my own students directly. This was nice cause there's up risk.
If you two are already teaching classes at your gym then you might not need this. I went this way cause I wanted to work out my classes and teaching method without worrying about a failed business venture.
I'm also getting some very good info here so thanks to Kid for being the OP.
I started out in the mid-'80s renting an old-school wrestling studio a couple of days a week and eventually expanded into renting other spaces (a ballet studio and a martial arts room in a community center) in other areas. Most of these classes were traditional TKD and non-violent self defense/exercise classes for kids and teenagers.
Then I was hired by a large adult education program to teach women's self defense twice a week, to the point where I was teaching six days per week, sometimes two or three classes a day, which was plenty to make a reasonably good living as an instructor. At about the same time I also started teaching combat classes for actors and stunt performers.
TBH the idea of owning my own fulltime school never appealed to me. As a freelancer, I liked the fact that the venues/institutions handled most of the logistical headaches, freeing me up to concentrate on teaching.
During the '90s and into the present I came to specialize in short intensives and seminars, mostly for MA conferences, university programs etc. This can be a great way to go as long as you're willing and able to travel widely.
Best advice if you go this way is to be innovative and versatile in terms of what you can teach, to establish a good reputation early and then build on it. Attending the "right" events and making good contacts, i.e. people who are/will be in the position to bring you in as a guest instructor later on, is crucial. I'd also strongly recommend writing articles, getting good press coverage, etc. early on in your freelance career.
Just wanted to give a quick 'I hate you' to the OP and the area where she lives.
Originally Posted by KidSpatula
I'm gonna go back to crying and doing knee drills on the wall.
Great responses so far, this thread has been pretty informative :)
Think hard about affiliations and/or partnerships, these can eventually lead to problems. Try to have as much capitol as possible and avoid loans.
Keep all ideas between yourselves. I had the unfortunate experience of watching several ideas, I had shot down, get implemented by the McDojo I trained at when I was an instructor.