Have you ever had to move or close your business not because you necessarily wanted to, but due to extenuating circumstances? Have you had to do it in a less than reasonable amount of time? I have.
When BK asked me to write a piece on moving my studio I wasn’t sure I wanted to. It was not the happiest moment in my life and I did not really feel like reliving it. But then I thought about one of my core values: inclusivity. Inclusivity means embracing all types of students, all races, sizes, all levels – hell it’s even part of my studio’s tag line. I always try to help other studio owners who reach out with questions and I think it’s really important to share knowledge in our industry. That, along with the fact that people seemed to think our move was easy and went smoothly (it wasn’t and it didn’t), helped me decide to do this piece. I know others have been through similar situations, but I never heard the nitty gritty about how they handled it. So here it is. The 5 stages of my studio move. It isn’t pretty, but it’s real and it’s all right here.
FUCK I HAVE TO MOVE!!!!
DENIAL (week 1): The writing was on the wall for a good year. The landlord was trying to sell the building, the pot store that moved in next door was annoying us, the students had all grown and we needed a space with more height.
My studio needed to move. The thought alone wasn’t scary. I mean sure, moving and re-rigging could be expensive but we have time, there is no real rush, so let’s do this the right way. We will search for the perfect space, save funds diligently and move once we find our new circus & pole mecca.
FEAR: OMG The landlord actually sold the friggin building?
That was the first thought in my head (because honestly it was way over priced). The second thought was “Shit we are probably going to have to move and move fast”. The third was “I am so screwed” and the fourth and hardest thought of all was “Should we move or should we close the studio?”. The fifth was to balls out cry.
I love my studio, truly I do, yet even before I set out to open it I decided that if it became a huge financial or emotional drain, if there was not enough of a student body, ego be damned, I would close it. I think it’s super important to be realistic with your studio. Is it killing you financially, are you being driven by ego, does closing symbolize a fear of failure to you? Honestly, even opening and owning a studio to me is a win. It’s a hard gig. Close if you need to, stay open if it works for you but never look at closing for whatever reason as a failure.
Tip…breathe through it. Take care of yourself. Giving yourself a stroke is not going to make things any better.
That being said, damn it, it wasn’t really the case here. I had already had the come to Jesus talk with myself months earlier about the need to move for growth or close and I was prepared to do it on my terms…just not in six weeks! Six weeks is not a lot of time to actually find and secure a space that would fit our needs, secure funding, come up with a new business plan, hire everyone that needed to be hired – oh and did I mention this all went down right around our student showcase, Thanksgiving and my rigger just booked a job in Turkey? Amazing timing…
DECISION: We had to make a decision and make it fast because we really wanted to be able to give the students a month of time in the studio to finish their classes packs IF we had to close. We went back and forth between thinking “it’s impossible to move that quickly and we need to close” to “we’ve finally hit an amazing stride with the studio and this is NOT the way we want to go out”. We loved our students and the community we built. If Aeriform were to close it should be on our own terms not because someone bought our building. Throughout this whole period we spent every waking moment dragging ourselves and eventually our rigger to locations all over LA. We decided finding a space would dictate whether or not we would close. We basically left it to the universe. We wanted to stay open, but we weren’t willing to blindly move into a space that didn’t work for us. We gave ourselves two weeks to find a space or roll out our exit plan.
Tip…be realistic about your finances, your motivations and the projected outcome.
ACCEPTANCE (week 2): I did eventually find a dark, depressing, sad little space deep in the Valley but hey at least it had high ceilings! In an attempt to be an optimist and because I did not want to admit defeat I dragged my husband and our rigger there and said “We can do this, right, this will work, some paint, new floors…it will work”. They begrudgingly agreed but behind my back they agreed it was a bad idea. It was doable but felt all wrong. I knew that space was wrong but I was not ready to give up my baby.
“If it feels wrong, it is.”
So even while I was talking with the owners of that sad space, I continued to look and literally on the last day I found a listing on Craigslist that sounded promising. I told our rigger we were looking at one more space then sent my husband over to see it. He loved it. I went over the next day, fell in love with it and then sent over our rigger who loved it too. At the last minute we had found our space, took it as a sign and moved full steam ahead with the closing and re-opening of our studio in a new space.
Tip…make sure you are looking towards the future. Right now you are in crisis mode and probably looking for any space you can “make work”. Try instead to look for a space you can grow into or with.
PLANNING/BUDGETING/EXECUTION (week 3-6): On Oct 10th, during our student showcase and 4 Year Anniversary Party, we made the announcement that we were closing our North Hollywood location on Oct 25 for three weeks and would then re-open in our new Hollywood location with more height and space. We prayed that with the geographical change and three weeks down we wouldn’t lose too many students (we didn’t).
Tip…do as much as you can yourself but know when to hire the pros. Make sure to spend the money where it counts. Make a budget and then add in a contingency of at least 25% – trust.
I set a budget and started working the numbers. While we found an amazing space there were still a lot of things to deal with. There are unforeseen costs and multiple things to take into consideration when changing locations. Here are just a few of the items we had to take care of in just 3 weeks…
Work through a tricky lease
De-rig and move from our old location
Hang not 2 walls of mirrors but 3 because the pro hung mirrors that cost way too much money to think about came crashing down 1 week before our grand reopening
Have new rigging designed, purchased and built out. The added ceiling height was great and at 15 -18ft we would have a lot of new apparatus and class options but it also meant we had to buy all new rigging and that meant a very pretty and new truss set up, plus a pulley system (which we LOVE) but $$$
My rigger had a job outside of the country so while the truss was up for both the aerial and pole sides of the studio the actual poles didn’t go up until after our open house
More Height = more insurance
The studio floors were concrete so we needed to build a padded dance floor side, which we decided to do ourselves. We also needed to purchase and lay full mat flooring for the aerial side. Lot’s of the items we were looking for were out of stock for weeks.
Two sides means 2 sound systems, two cubby set ups, two…well you get my point right?
Different height = all new crash pads. I am lucky to live in LA where I can purchase them and pick them up to avoid shipping, don’t assume stores will have them in stock as they are a specialty item. Mine didn’t, so I begged, they took pity and rush made them for me.
Our landlord had taken out the shower plumbing so he needed to put it back in.
Tip…Share your situation with a few key trusted people. Once you do share with the staff and any students keep them in the loop. Post progress updates. Make it an event - a good thing. People get scared with the prospect of losing their jobs or studio, reassure people as much as you can during this time.
In the end all of the emotions you go through when faced with a crisis in your business can be difficult. My initial instinct was to not share the situation with my instructors or close friends until we figured out whether or not the studio would close. That choice was literally making me sick. I didn’t want to scare anyone, but when going through something like this it’s important to have support. Once I shared it with my instructors and a few key students it took a huge weight off my back. What we accomplished as a team in just 3 weeks of moving, building, painting and rigging still boggles my mind. I know there is no way we could have ever pulled it off without the love, help and support of so many of our students, friends, employees, contractors, amazing rigger and I thank God for them everyday. We closed down our old space Oct. 25th reopened the new space 3 weeks later Nov. 15th.
While initially the experience was difficult and felt very wrong, in the end I think we are where we were meant to be. For the sake of our studio’s growth it really was time to move. Maybe this was just the universe’s way of kicking our butts, tossing us out of the nest and pushing us to create that loving, safe space, that “just feels right”.
*Have a similar story or questions? We’d love for you to share them here.
Love & Glitter