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How InCourage and MyStudio Created a New Business Model

 

by Megan Baker

 

InCourage Martial Arts, the parent company of MyStudio, is a successful martial arts chain located in Northern Virginia. Back in 2017, InCourage’s two locations made about $1.7 million while impacting the lives of close to 1,000 students. This revenue was generated via martial arts memberships, an afterschool program, award-winning summer camps, birthday parties, “parents night out” events and more.

Managing and selling all those programs required several seasoned staff members who could handle multiple registration appointments, repetitive follow-ups and the constant daily stress of managing a long line of customers waiting at the front desk.

On November 30, 2017 — the last day of its summer camp pre-registration sale — the lobby of the Springfield InCourage studio was packed. The crowd was composed not just of students trying to squeeze in and take class, but also of parents who had lined up out the door while waiting for the three front-desk team members to help with camp and membership registrations.

While they made nearly $80,000 that day, the leadership team at InCourage knew that many opportunities had been missed. This realization raised numerous questions about the registration process as a whole and the challenges it presented:

  • Why does the process have to be so painful and time consuming?
  • How could the staff register even more students? Did they need to hire additional members?
  • How many registrations, memberships and students were lost?
  • How many people became frustrated while waiting in line to sign up for summer camp and decided not to enroll?
  • How many people were unable to set up a registration appointment or missed their appointment and therefore never joined the program even though they loved the trial classes?
  • What if all those customers and prospective students just could have registered themselves?

That final question sparked an idea that would become a game changer, an idea that would shake up the martial arts industry as a whole and completely shift the standard business model to one that said, Let’s sell martial arts from anywhere and everywhere!

Thus was born MyStudio, the most innovative martial arts software company in the world.

 

Immediate Improvement

“It just made sense for us to not have a line at the front counter for something that’s on their phone — so we can have 100 people at once [or] 500 people at once make the same purchase and not interrupt anybody’s workflow.”

— Greg Horton, Mastery Martial Arts (seven locations)

 

Inspired by their own 28 years in the industry, the MyStudio leaders used all their accumulated knowledge and experience to create a management system that evolves and adapts to the needs of martial arts schools, along with an app that’s easy for members and customers to use.

Fully automating the registration process and moving sales to a mobile app, which allows sign-ups and registrations from any place at any time, has enabled studio owners to step away from the front desk and focus on what they do best: teaching martial arts, building relationships and improving the lives of their students.

With the staff able to focus once again on what truly matters, the quality of InCourage’s martial arts instruction naturally improved, and the product began to sell itself. Since the advent of MyStudio, InCourage has increased to five locations and $4 million in revenue.

Other programs and software certainly can make tracking attendance, enrolling students, and performing other business and administrative tasks easier, but MyStudio is the first widely accepted mode that does all of that and permits studio owners to sell their products and memberships from anywhere.

On the phone, the computer or iPad, at home on the couch, outside on a walk, or in person at your school — it doesn’t matter. All of InCourage’s new registrations and memberships were purchased by the customers themselves wherever and whenever it was most convenient for them. The InCourage team sold its memberships, classes, camps and products without having to lift a finger.

Imagine hosting an awesome trial class at 5:30 pm, coming home for dinner with your family and then receiving a notification at 9 pm that your trial student just enrolled in a membership by herself. Imagine arriving at your school in the morning to see three new students who enrolled overnight on their phones while you slept — no additional appointment, follow-up call or effort required. You didn’t have to do anything except teach your class.

As incredible as that would be ordinarily, it’s even more valuable during the pandemic because it enables members to get set up while social distancing, register for virtual classes, and sign up for additional camps or programs based on their rapidly changing needs.

 

Maximum Efficiency

“We are being praised again and again by our customers on how easy the mobile app is and how it makes their [registrations] happen without a hitch. We believe MyStudio is the best platform you can choose for your martial arts school.”

— Adam Spicar, Reveal Martial Arts (two locations)

 

InCourage’s new location in Fairfax, Virginia, which opened after MyStudio was created, is designed to function with the brand-new MyStudio business model. The studio boasts a fully open space with no office or front desk, as well as operations designed for one full-time instructor. From the beginning, the whole system was intended to have every registration and sales transaction purchased by the customer through the MyStudio app or the studio’s website.

In 2020, after only two and a half years in business and with just one full-time staff member, the Fairfax InCourage location grossed $330,000 — in the middle of a national pandemic.

While the goal of any martial arts school remains giving students an incredible and life-changing martial arts experience, the ultimate goal of MyStudio is to continue innovating to save schools time and money, promote their business growth and improve the overall customer experience. And clients everywhere are benefitting from the results.

 

“The MyStudio app has been great, especially managing 14 schools … you can check in and see how memberships are going, how events are selling, and based on that data, you can see what to change or what to tweak in order to get better results.”

— John and Lana Bussard, Kicks Karate (14 locations)

 

New Business Model

42.5 — The average number of hours a month saved at each studio when it replaces registration meetings, paper filing and data input and, in general, streamlines a host of manual processes.

This is important because the key to giving students the life-changing martial arts experience they expect and need is allowing instructors to prioritize their time wisely and dedicate more of it to helping those students — and the whole business — grow. Instructors should not have to spend their valuable time doing paperwork, counting retail inventory and making registration appointments.

In business, there’s a classic saying: Time is money. It’s always been true, but these days, time is more valuable than ever. To that end, MyStudio saves studio owners time by taking the power of enrollment out of their hands and placing it instead into the hands of the members — literally. During live class times or busy camp hours, members can manage their own transactions and registrations, removing the need for time-consuming membership appointments. In addition, sign-ups and registrations are streamlined to make everything easier, and the use of digital agreements reduces administrative work, removing paperwork and filing tasks that used to take hours.

 

Rapid Expansion

In late 2019, MyStudio and Century Martial Arts collaborated to create a new Century Direct platform. It’s currently servicing more than 900 studios, eliminating all the work and hassle of selling merchandise while depositing profits directly into the schools’ bank accounts the next day.

Century Direct eliminates the need for studio owners to take care of stock, overstock, inventory, storage, shipping, returns and fulfillment for retail products. Century Direct ships the merchandise to the student, and the school earns a profit from every single sale.

 

“Because of Century Direct, we only carry uniforms and T-shirts at our studios. The rest of the required sparring and at-home training equipment [is] purchased by the customer online, and Century ships the product to their front door. All of this saved time is repurposed for staff training, student retention, marketing, lesson planning, hosting more fun events and camps, etc. — all of which helps us to grow.”

— Minh Wilson, COO InCourage Martial Arts (five locations)

 

Cost Reductions

28 percent — Average increase in net profit resulting from reduced payroll, software and payment-processing expenses.

In the past, each InCourage studio required two or three full-time employees to operate according to the old business model. Now those studios are operating more effectively with just one or two full-timers per location. MyStudio eliminated the need for five additional full-timers across InCourage’s five locations — that’s $250,000 in annual payroll savings per year.

Additionally, before the genesis of MyStudio, the InCourage studios were dedicating 6 percent of their billing total to collection systems. After bringing this in-house with MyStudio’s auto-billing system, their processing rates were slashed to 2.9 percent.

MyStudio also gave InCourage the option to pass the expense of payment processing on to its customers. While this is a widely accepted practice in other industries, back in 2018, it was a radical idea for the martial arts industry as a whole. However, InCourage realized the potential benefit and quickly discovered that just from passing on these fees, which were a relatively small amount for each customer, it could see an additional $240,000 in annual income.

And, for a flat rate of $49 a month, the InCourage operators have full access to the MyStudio system — including a website and a state-of-the-art custom member-facing app — which means they no longer need to endure the hassle and costs associated with using multiple platforms.

 

Reduced Sales Friction

12 percent — Average revenue increase when the sales of memberships, events and retail is streamlined.

When customers are ready to buy something, they need a simple and convenient process that’s readily available so they can do so right then and there. MyStudio’s management system enables the InCourage studio operators to communicate instantly with their members via two-way in-app messaging, push notifications, SMS texting and emails. This communication system can be used to promote new programs and upcoming sales, and with the MyStudio app, customers can complete their transaction immediately right on their device — without having to go to the InCourage studio to make the purchase.

 

“We’re in business to make money — that’s a fact. Normally, with the other platforms, we would run pre-registrations and moderately do maybe $10,000 to $20,000. Last year alone, we did over $120,000 in pre-registrations just for camp.”

— Brannon Beliso, One Martial Arts

 

Note that this is instant sales, deposited directly in the bank, without any additional friction.

 

Customer Experience

Martial arts instructors cannot gain all the rewards of teaching martial arts until their students do. This is true both on the floor, where the arts are taught, and on the business/financial end. Giving customers the power to take care of their own memberships and transactions, while improving the overall customer experience is why MyStudio is redefining the industry.

 

“[I like] the design of it from the user’s end. … When the user downloads the app and then looks at all of the options available — whether it’s the retail or the events or the memberships — it’s very clean. It’s very well-designed. The user experience is a lot higher with the MyStudio product than any other product that I’ve seen.”

— Melody Johnson, CEO SKILLZ

 

The MyStudio app was designed with customers in mind. There’s no more painful registration process with appointments, no more long lines, no more paper contracts. Customers can access their participants, update their payment information, order retail, book a birthday party, message their instructors and more — all with just a few button clicks.

Customers are enjoying the benefits of martial arts more than they thought was possible, and they’re happier than ever. This happiness translates to more customers, students and sales — further proof that when customers succeed, so do businesses.

 

“The reason why we chose MyStudio is that first, it was going to allow us to better serve our customers. Second, it will allow us to better serve our studio operators … all of this at a phenomenal price for the value that it provided.”

— John Prosch, Professional Karate Studios of America (40 locations)

 

MyStudio understands this fundamental truth of the martial arts business and has created something truly special. It’s not just a product; it’s an idea. An idea that completely changed the way the martial arts are sold and ushered in a new business model for the industry as a whole. An idea that allows martial arts instructors and professionals to get back to doing what they love: teaching martial arts, building relationships and that ultimate reward of changing students’ lives.

 

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