When we were first starting up our business, we searched for a good article on startup, and couldn't find any, so we decided to write this short guide as a checklist of things that will be helpful to any studio owner starting out.
Owning a studio takes a lot of hard work to get the business off the ground. If you are thinking about becoming an owner it is wise to talk to a few experts and take the time to research, especially on the internet before you put out any large sums of money. Take a little time to make sure entrepreneurship is right for you.
1) Make a pro and con list of business ownership, and evaluate yourself honestly. How many characteristics do you have in common with successful entrepreneurs? Is your financial position strong enough? Do you have the necessary technical and management skills?
2) Understand that you are not going to be the perfect entrepreneur. Nobody is. But in order to make yourself the best entrepreneur you can be, consider ways to compensate for any weaknesses you might have.
These next steps to starting a business are in reasonably good order, but you might find yourself varying from it under your particular circumstances. That really isn’t a big deal, as long as you get most of it done. There are some steps you’ll be able to skip as well, but please don’t skip any of the 'big ones', which I’m sure you’ll pretty much figure out from taking a look at the list.
So, assuming you’ve done your evaluation, let's get started.
1. Conduct a feasibility study of your business. Describe your typical customer, your product and your competitors. What will you charge for your classes? How much will you pay your faculty? Will you be in a position to hire other faculty and any staff members? How will you market your product? These are just a few of the questions you need to answer.
2. Write a complete business plan for your company, using the information you gathered from your feasibility study. This vitally important, often overlooked step needs to include a description of your company, its goals, competitors, market, financial information, and of course, how you intend to meet your goals.
3. Get your financing in place. There are many ways to finance your business, from your own savings to personal credit cards to bank loans. If you need credit, know your business plan from front to back and maybe even sideways. Talk with your bank manager and find out how they can help you as a small business owner.
4. Decide what kind of structure your company will have. From a legal standpoint, there are three basic choices, sole proprietorship, partnership and incorporation, each with advantages and disadvantages.
5. Choose a name for your company and check on name availability. Naming your company is highly individual, but it’s the first thing associated with your business, so choose your name carefully. You’ll need to do a NUANS (Newly Upgraded Automated Name Search) report, which checks your name choices for uniqueness against a database of other business names. A reserved name is valid for 90 days.
6. Decide whether you want to register federally or provincially and register your company. If you register federally, you’ll also have to register provincially, which almost doubles the cost. You don’t have to have a lawyer process them for you, but it might be a good idea to at least consult with one. You can get the forms from your local government office, have them faxed to you or download them. You can fax or email printed copies, or complete the forms online
7. Determine whether there are special permits or licenses in your municipality for construction or alterations. It’s highly unlikely that your municipality does not have special permits or licenses.
8. Develop the marketing materials you decided on in your business plan. They should include at least a company identity package, press kit and website. Your identity package is your logo, business card and letterhead. A press kit can include letters of introduction, biography sheets, press releases, articles and a brochure. In today’s electronic age, printed materials aren’t enough. You need a website that looks professional, matches your printed material and has great copy. You’ll also want to make sure it’s optimized for search engines.
9. Set up your business bank account and record-keeping system. Your banker will need to see your incorporation documents, and you should probably set up more than one account so you can keep track of your finances better. Record-keeping is required, and can be done manually or with a computer program.
10. Purchase insurance. There are many different types of insurance, but most definitely your studio will need at least one. For example, if you’re going to have employees, you need to contact the Worker’s Compensation Board. There are different insurance options out there; some are specifically tailored for dance studios.
11. Contact any potential creditors and set up credit terms. You should have researched suppliers when you were doing your feasibility study. Now is the time to contact them. This includes cleaning services, garbage disposal, electricity and gas suppliers and any other business or service that you will be using on a regular basis.
12. Decide where your business will be located. Lease your business’ space. Alternatively, you could choose buy a building but you will need your own cash to do so.
13. Purchase supplies and office equipment. You’ll need too many things to list here. You will need a fax machine and printer. You will definitely need a computer. You’ll definitely need paper, pens, pencils and a calculator.
14. You will need mirrors, flooring and sound systems. Again research online the companies that can give you the most value for your money
Congratulations! Go out, buy yourself a bottle of champagne and celebrate. You're about to embark on a most exciting journey. And may we be the first to wish you good luck and prosperous times in your business venture.