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Start Small: How to Open your Own School

Many people dream of opening their own English School.   Well, you’re in luck.   Japan makes it extremely easy to start a business.    And the start up fees for opening an English School can be minimal.   


  • My first piece of advice: KEEP your job.   Grow student numbers / your school in your free time.   


For us, that meant opening up two lessons (1 kindergarten and 1 elementary) on Thursday nights.    And 2 lessons on Saturday morning.   


When those 4 lessons become FULL, then we opened up more lessons on the same days.    When Thursday became full, then we opened up another weekday.   


When we made MORE money from the school than Dave’s job, then he quit the YMCA (I had already quit because I had had our first baby).   


Even now, we STILL just open up 2 days (1 weekday and Saturday) when we open up a new location of Dave and Amy English School.   And grow the school.   I know that within a year, 4 days will be open.  Within 2 years, 6 days.   


  • My 2nd piece of advice:  Keep Initial Costs Low.   


At first, your biggest expense will be rent.   If you can begin in your house or in community centers, your costs will be minimal.   


Our story:  When we moved house, we KNEW we wanted the option to open a school.  We kept that in mind when looking at places to move.    And had it put into the contract that opening a school was OK.    


Dave and Amy English School began in the community rooms at the bottom of a 35 story apartment building.   We lived on the 22nd floor and as residents, could rent the rooms by the hour for 700 yen / hour.   No-one else used the rooms, so we could easily rent when we wanted.   We grew from 2 days a week to 5 by the time we left—-thrown out (that’s another story and another blog)??    


Again, when we moved from the 22nd floor to a house, we told the real estate agent we wanted a house: to live in and to have a school in.    We moved a 20 minute bike ride away and used the opportunity to open the 2nd location of our school.


****  Although we recommend STARTING out in your house/ community centers, we don’t recommend staying there if you really want to grow your school.  Or DO stay and realize that growth is limited.   It’s all what YOU want.   Just realize there are pluses and minuses to both. 


Our story:   We began in our house/ community centers, but now 3 of our schools are in commercial premises 30 seconds from the station with BIG signs outside (of our faces).   1 school is the corner apartment on a BUSY road with it’s own separate entrance.   Being near the stations and VISIBLE (with the big signs) means we DON’T spend money on advertising.  The location, the signs ARE the advertising.     


Start small and stay small if that is what you want.   Or start small and grow into something big.  The options are endless.  It IS your school after all.  


I am sure many of us have our OWN stories and OWN ADVICE.   There are many ways to open schools.    This was our way.   Upfront costs, financial risks were low.    It’s a way many can follow to open their own business (ANY business).

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3 Responses to Start Small: How to Open your Own School

  1. Thanks for the advice! My wife and I are thinking about starting a preschool in our home. Do you recommend any programs that would make getting started relatively easy?

  2. HI Glen: are you talking about 5 days a week with the same kids? And what age? An international pre -school is completely different to what we do (we do after school English) so the advice about starting small doesn’t really apply. Because you HAVE to open up more than just 2 days if you are doing a pre – school. My advice: read more from people who have done pre – schools / think about–what do YOU really want to do. For us, we never wanted to do international kindergarten. We wanted to do English after school. If you have any more questions, please ask. A

  3. Hello,
    Thanks for the article. I am planning to start a English school for kindergarten and elementary kids, 1 class once a week.

    For starters I am thinking of starting the school from home or the club house, can you please let me know if there is some special permission or registration required for starting the school in Japan.

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