What I learned from having zero students show up to my hoop class

Yes, it has happened. On a few occasions actually. I could tell you that all of my classes, workshops and events have been completely successful and filled with joy, but that would be a lie.

The thing is that the times when no students turned up or things didn’t really go to plan, they were the times when I learned the most about myself, my business and how I needed to grow.

I was once offered a brand new, state of the art studio space in a new shopping area in Tokyo. It was a dream studio decked out with mirrors, incredible sound system, beautiful floor, next to a women’s only spa and gym and above an incredible shopping mall. Seemed like the perfect space for my weekly hoop dance classes. The centre management also offered to advertise the classes for me in their customer brochures and information centre. 

What could go wrong? 

Week after week I would plan and prepare for the women I thought would turn up and week after week I would get so excited at class start time. But every week…crickets, nada, no one, zero students.

Yes it was quite disheartening at first but this was early on in my hoop teaching career and it really helped me to learn some solid lessons. 

What did I learn from having zero students turn up week after week?

Wrong Audience

Even though centre management was doing their best to promote the classes it didn’t seem like women in the local area were listening.  In all reality they were simply not my audience but I was too excited and optimistic at the time to realise this. 

If I had done my research I would have realised that the women in that area of Tokyo were not likely to book into a hoop class. Uber wealthy and super busy, leisure was not a top priority to them during the week.  If they were going to take time out of their busy schedule it probably would have been to visit the local day spa in their lunch break or on the weekends.

Lesson : Knowing your audience is the most valuable step to filling your classes. Getting to know who you are trying to reach instead of just trying to blast a message out to everyone is going to be more effective. 

Bad timing

The studio was amazing, the location seemed ideal and I thought my classes would be packed but the time of the classes were clearly not right for the type of women in that area. Most of them worked from very early hours to late at night, their lunch breaks were staggered and usually spent eating with friends or doing even more work. My classes were in the afternoons on weekdays; 99% of women were working, snacking or wishing they could have a nap around that time.

Lesson : When you get to know your audience you will also know about their working habits and lifestyle which will help you to make informed choices about your class and event times.

My response determined my future

I could have taken the series of no shows as a sign that hoop teaching simply wasn’t my path. Thankfully I was focussed and confident enough not to let that happen. 

 But these thoughts did cross my mind;

  • maybe it’s me
  • maybe I am not good enough
  • maybe this was a crazy idea after all
  • maybe hooping is silly
    how embarrassing
  • I am totally failing at this
    maybe centre management put the wrong time on the flier
  • maybe my students got lost
  • maybe I should just quit now!

But instead; after the first 10 minutes of wondering, waiting & wallowing, I picked myself up, blasted that incredible sound system and hooped my heart out. In fact, that period of my hoop teaching opened me up to so much more creativity. I would spend classes practicing, playing, recording videos, coming up with tutorial ideas, trying new music styles. I never took the beautiful studio for granted and I always used my time wisely in there…even if I was alone.

Lesson : How we react to situations in our teaching and creating determines how we feel in our bodies and minds. Choosing to focus on failure can cause a great amount of unneeded stress, choosing gratitude and making the most of our time no matter if we have zero students or 100 allows us to open up to all of the gifts and opportunities available.

I have to spread the hoop love

At first I thought it was a blessing that management were going to do all the advertising, and in some cases this really works, but it actually wasn’t getting the reach that it needed. Plus hoop classes were a very new concept in this area. Even if someone did read about “Hula Hoop Class” on a shopping mall brochure chances are they might not realise it was for adults, they might not recognise the benefits and may not feel like it was the right class for them.

Launching a new class in a new area would have taken so much more connection and reach to be successful. In hindsight I really needed to do my own marketing, perhaps bring students from other areas, promote the class well before it’s launch date, have an event or flash mob several times in similar parts of town with hoopers giving out fliers, make connections at other events and performances or promote the class at my weekly hoop jams.

The marketing clearly wasn’t working and maybe it was due to a number of factors but relying on one channel of getting the word out was a mistake.

Lesson : Once you have a fair idea of who your audience is then you can really talk to them in a way that helps them to truly see if your classes are a match for them. Not all marketing is appropriate or reaches the right people, or enough people to make an impact. 

Some things just don’t work out

Not all projects succeed. And failure isn’t all that bad. I learned many things from that whole experience. It gave me time to really think about my next move and after a few more weeks I made a pivot into collaborating with other teachers for weekend events, continuing weekly hoop jams, more performance and working at studios that had large student numbers. 

It is empowering to accept that not everything is going to work out the way that it is planned. It is valuable to take stock of the lessons and use them to make more informed decisions for  better future navigation.

 

Do you fear having an empty class or not getting the numbers you desire? Have you been in a situation like me before and how did you react?

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