Are You Ready to Rock “Back to School” Programs


After School and Summer Camp market has been gaining momentum, and two of the leaders in this market are Duane Spires and Erica L. Martin, I sat down to discuss this aspect of the martial arts profession and got some very interesting insights into their success.

DOJO NATION: Welcome guys, thank you for taking the time to tell me a little bit about what you’re doing. I’ve been hearing a lot about of great things about your programs and I can’t wait for this interview to start.

Duane: We’re excited to be here and we’re looking forward to it.

Erica: Thank you for having us!

DOJO NATION: Ok, so let’s get started, can you guys tell me a little bit about your backgrounds as martial  artists?

Duane: You want to go first Erica?

Erica: I’ll go first. I was literally raised in a dojo. My father (Ric Martin) has been in martial arts for 43 years and opened Authentic Martial Arts-Largo 35 years ago. I opened my school, Authentic Martial Arts-Seminole 10 years ago, when I was only 18 years old. I started with zero students, in a small shopping center.

My original school was only 3,000 square feet. After perfecting the After School business model we enrolled so many students our options were: stop enrolling kids in our programs, or expand. So, in 2013 we purchased a 10,000 square foot mega dojo, that you so generously featured in Dojo Nation last June!

DOJO NATION: Cool, and Mr. Spires?

Duane: Yes, so I’ve actually been in martial arts for approximately 24 years, I opened my first martial arts school on my own when I was only 19. Today, my schools are focused primarily on us what some of your challenges were in those aspects of this business?

DOJO NATION: Great, so both of you came from a traditional martial arts background? When I say traditional, I mean you ran martial arts schools and your income was derived from teaching martial arts classes only. Then, you moved into the after school/ summer camp market. When you first decided to make that leap, can you tell us what some of your challenges were in those aspects of this business?

Duane: I’ll go first. Some of the challenges that I experienced were learning how to market differently to the parents and to the students; it’s a completely different game than promoting traditional evening martial arts classes. Once I had perfected the marketing strategy the rest was history, it caused our programs to be successful very quickly at that point.

DOJO NATION: Ok, and Erica what were some of the challenges you faced when you were introducing the after school program?

Erica: I was in a 3,000 square foot facility, with a 1-mat training floor, and there wasn’t a ton of space. We didn’t have any outside area for the kids to play and the only space that could be used as a homework area was my small office. As you can imagine, my office quickly turned into a homework room! But, I’d say the hardest part for me was moving outside of my comfort zone and hiring staff because, at the time, I was the only one running my school. Now, I have a great team that runs the entire program each day and they require minimal oversight on my part. Best decision ever!

DOJO NATION: Right, so you guys are dealing with a lot of martial arts school owners now who are either involved in after school programs or looking to get involved in it. What are some of the things they should be considering?

Duane: That’s correct. First off, they need to consider how incredibly profitable an after school program is. In many cases, an after school student will generate 3 to 4 times as much revenue per month as compared to a traditional evening martial arts student. What’s amazing about this entire concept is that we are teaching school owners how to create a program that is considered to be a necessity item. Say goodbye to “overcoming objections!” This allows school owners across the country to save money on their marketing budget and they are registering students at a much faster pace.

Erica: I would invite them to consider offering an after school program because it is systematic, easy, and highly profitable. It will allow them to make good money, and it will give them the opportunity to change more lives and develop better black belts at their school.

DOJO NATION: Right, so you both co-founded the Martial Arts Success Team, (MAST) and you’ve been owners how to run profitable after school programs and summer camps. Let’s pick three challenges that they might face when starting an after school program.

Duane: The first challenge they may face is understanding that the marketing strategies are completely different for an after school program vs. evening martial arts. When marketing your after school program, you need to FIRST focus on parents who need after school care, instead of only focusing on parents who are specifically looking for martial arts for their child. This will allow you to attract a larger number of children to your program, who will ultimately love martial arts. Instead of marketing to only a few parents who are already seeking a martial arts specific program.

Erica: Yeah, and I would say the second thing would be hiring. It’s important to know how to choose the right people who are qualified, who have clean backgrounds, who have a clean driving history, and who are trustworthy enough to facilitate the program. This will allow you to have more freedom as an owner to work on your business instead of being tied down with the daily operations of running an after school program.

It’s important to understand that you can hire people who have zero martial arts training. In reality, we only have a small number of employees who are black belts and teach the martial arts classes

Dojo Nation: Got it.

Duane: And the third thing is daily operations. Some questions that school owners will need to know are: What is your transportation system? How do you handle kids who are sick? How do you facilitate homework time each day? We help school owners easily understand these systems and we support them throughout their journey. We are currently coaching many school owners who are experiencing very quick success. We were excited to hear that four of our top members generated more than $60,000 each of aDojo Nationitional revenue in less than 10 weeks!

Dojo Nation: So the after school program and summer camp market has been around now in different forms for probably 10+ years. What new trends, or what direction do you see this going in the future for martial arts?

Duane: Great question, the first trend we’re noticing right now is that you do not have to promote to families with kids who specifically want martial arts. You can literally market your program to any family out there, and keep in mind that this is a necessity program you’re promoting. Kids do not have to be interested in martial arts to join your after school program. The fact that you offer a high quality program that includes martial arts gives you the winning edge over daycares, YMCA programs, and recreation center programs.

Erica: Yes I completely agree. Another major difference is the vehicle you use to deliver your marketing message. Back in the day, we used to hand out flyers on a street corner, wait for someone to walk into our schools, or hand out VIP cards in the park. Today, the most powerful marketing tools are social media coupled with a strong web presence. Parents will even enroll online, having NEVER stepped foot in your school, if your website builds enough trust for them to know you have the best program in town.

Duane: Absolutely! Erica and I have have traveled across the country, we have spoken at numerous events, and the question we are most commonly asked is, “What is the secret to internet and Facebook marketing, for After School?” The answer is to promote a generalized after school program with an after school specific website, and tune up your Facebook marketing. The rest is history, you are going to get a ton of leads!

The most exciting part of this business model is that the retention rate of an After School student is 2 to 4 times greater than an evening martial arts student. So, if you have a student that starts in kindergarten you can reasonably expect for them to be there for the next 3-5 years. The lifetime value of each child skyrockets when you have an after school program.

DOJO NATION: I agree about the lifetime value of a martial arts student being about $2,000-$3,500, and you’re right, and after school/summer camp student who stays with you for years can be worth $20,000 or more.

Duane: Exactly! They’re paying you several thousand dollars per year for 5 or 6 years, so that’s easily more than $20,000 per kid. And what’s exciting is that they all have siblings, and they all recommend their friends over the course of the next couple of years! It’s a self- sustaining business model once you get it launched.


Erica: And that’s just tuition which doesn’t even include upsell events like Parents Night Out, Seminars, Tournaments and Belt Testing! So, that $20,000 over the course of 3-5 years doesn’t even touch the total amount of revenue that one child generates. I think one of the biggest challenges we’ve seen with new school owners who are introduced to the concept of an after school program is being able to wrap their their head around the fact that parents have a budget for this After School Programs, and they want to do it.

Duane: The best part about this business model is that when you have a successful after school program, your summer camps, evening classes, adult programs and events are all going to be more successful!

DOJO NATION: Right. Ok, you have had success with your summer camp program, tell me about your upcoming after school program launch.

Duane: Sure thing! We have an awesome fast- track course that we’re launching with you, Randy! We’re basically going to go through every single concept that school owners need to know to either launch an after school program for the very first time, or level up and quickly start earning more income and registering more kids in their existing After School Program. It’s as simple as that!

DOJO NATION: Great, I’m looking forward to working with you guys on this program.

Erica: Us too! We have seen tremendous results from our members and we are looking forward to bringing this information to even more school owners who want to take their businesses and lives to the next level. It’s an exciting time for us as coaches.

DOJO NATION: All right, cool! We mentioned the mini- course, and now let’s just talk about your full blown coaching program.

Duane: Sure, we teach school owners step by step how to create a profitable after school program as quickly as possible. And, if they are current after school owners we work to grow their business from whatever level they are at presently to a highly profitable program with a few specific tweaks. It’s a turnkey system, and it’s exactly what Erica and I use in our businesses.

Our members who have just completed the Summer Camp Success Course had tremendous success, and they’re already registering new students for their upcoming After School Programs! We’re excited to work with more school owners, and we appreciate the opportunity to work with you, Randy.

Erica: Yeah, here’s the bottom line, Randy. Duane and I have made all the mistakes so other school owners don’t have to. We’ve paid the price and invested thousands of hours and years of work into perfecting this system. We’ve lost students, we’ve gained students, and we’ve lost money and gained money, all to find the perfect formula for After School Success. And, it’s our mission to bring this knowledge to school owners across the country who are passionate about creating positive change in their communities.

Duane: Exactly. We give school owners a proven blue print that’s worked time and time again across the country. It doesn’t matter if you have a small school or a large school or somewhere in between, these systems are effective, scalable, and they’re quick. And that’s what’s exciting! The school owners we work with are experiencing results much faster than they expected, and that’s what makes us happy.

DOJO NATION: Well on that note I think we’ll close out, thank both for your time and you’re insights into the After School business model!

Duane: My pleasure. Thank you, Mr. Reid.

Erica: Thanks Randy, and thank you for supporting the martial arts community.