Business Overview

Most people want to get in shape so they look, feel, and perform better. The problem is exercising can be boring and monotonous. An acrobatics, gymnastics, and aerial arts instructor helps people make the changes they want to see in their body and mind. And, they can often do it in a way that keeps people interested and motivated in during their workout routine.

An aerial art studio teaches students to do acrobatic movements and dancing in the air, either by hanging from a fabric (hammock, silk), a short bar (trapeze), a hoop (lyra), or a rope. This form of dancing or acrobatic movement is a total body workout that requires strength and flexibility. As a result, lots of people do it for fitness purposes and, if they stick with it, become very strong and flexible. 

Who is this business right for?

This business is perfect for anyone who is athletically inclined and has excellent spatial awareness. In addition to athletic ability, a business owner needs to understand the basics of running a profitable business. While long hours aren't typical, flexibility in scheduling is. Most students will have to come either before or after work or on the weekends. So, a business owners has to be willing to train students during "off peak" times of the day.

What happens during a typical day at an aerial arts studio?

Aerial arts instructors have busy days. Before students arrive, they often train privately for their own benefit and to put together a program and schedule for students. Instructors spend a lot of time making sure rigs are safe, inspected, and maintained. They also ensure student safety by spending time going over safety procedures with students.

An instructor may have one-on-one classes or small group classes. Beginners, intermediates, and advanced aerialists are often grouped together in different classes, but some instructors do choose to teach mixed classes.

Several routines are performed during a class, with beginners focusing on basic moves that will prepare them for more challenging maneuvers later on. Instructors often have to deal with first-timers' dizziness, muscle aches and pain due to the unusual nature and use of the ropes and fabric used during class.

What is the target market?

The target market is fitness enthusiasts, yoga practitioners, Pilates practitioners, and individuals who are interested in learning circus arts and want a career in aerial or circus arts.

How does an aerial arts studio make money?

Aerial arts studios make money by charging a fee for classes. Many instructors and facilities charge a per-hour rate for classes and may have different rates for members and non-members.

What is the growth potential for an aerial arts studio?

Growth potential for this business is usually small, but can be quite large depending on your ambition. Most instructors choose to maintain a small business so they can focus on quality instruction. However, some studios maintain several locations and build networks with other non-competing studios to further expand reach.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful aerial arts studio?

You must be an expert aerial artist if you want to be actively involved in teaching it to others. Usually, this takes many years of practice. Most business owners are actively involved in the business. However, if you know or can hire expert trainers, it's possible to simply run the business side of things with input from your instructors.

What are the costs involved in opening an aerial arts studio?

Costs for starting this type of business vary, but generally include a building that's specifically designed for aerial arts (it must be modified with braces installed for trapeze, rope, and fabric/silk use). Overhead anchor points may also need to be added to the existing interior support beams. This may range between $5,000 and $25,000 depending on the building and existing infrastructure.

Gear includes padding per station at $800 each. Hardware, like carabiners, swivels, ropes, anchor slings, lowering devices and other related equipment will run you $400-$800. Fabric will run you $120 to $150 per person.

Insurance typically costs between $400 and $800 annually and includes general liability coverage. It's expected you will have all students sign a waiver of liability to limit your insurance needs. All instructors must also carry their own aerial instructors liability insurance.

Instructor pay varies, but is generally between $30 and $60 per hour.

Marketing for the business may run between $1,000 and $10,000 or more depending on whether you purchase space advertisements, run radio or T.V. spots, or do local advertising through fliers and business cards.

What are the steps to start an aerial arts studio?

Once you're ready to start your aerial arts studio, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your aerial arts studio is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your aerial arts studio keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  5. Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
  6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
  7. Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
  8. Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
  9. Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Recommended: offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

What are some insider tips for jump starting an aerial arts studio?

Start with your local community. Find a demand for your services first, and then offer a few free classes. Gauge interest. Partner with yoga studios to offer aerial arts for more advanced yoga students. Finally, consider partnering with other health and fitness providers, including gyms, to kickstart your business.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market an aerial arts studio

Promote your business by partnering with yoga studios, local, state, and national fairs, circuses, and fitness studios. Send out flyers in your local neighborhood and offer a free class to locals.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

The key to making this business work is to keep people safe and keep their confidence up. If they see that they can do something that looks as complex as this, then they'll come back. You can achieve a sense of efficacy in your students by making your programming progressive. Each new class should move your students into progressively more difficult situations.

Obviously, you want to keep them safe, but classes also need to be increasingly challenging without being overwhelming.

How and when to build a team

Most studios don't need a large staff. If you are an instructor, it can be just you. Otherwise, consider hiring between 2 and 3 other instructors for a small studio and between 5 and 10 instructors for a large studio.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an aerial art studio business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

For information about local licenses and permits:

Release of Liability

To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, an aerial art studio businesses should have their clients sign waivers. An example of an appropriate waiver can be found here.

Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your studio when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.

Certificate of Occupancy

Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a aerial art studio business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your aerial art studio will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Typical fees for aerial classes range between $15 and $25 per hour, with some studios charging up to $60 per hour for classes. You can also charge a flat fee for specific programming. For example, instead of charging $15 per hour, you could charge a flat fee of $150 for five 2-hour classes per month of instruction.

What are the ongoing expenses for an aerial arts studio?

Ongoing expenses are minimal and include regular maintenance of the rigs and equipment, along with instructor salary. Expect to pay several thousand dollars per year for a small to medium-sized studio.

How much profit can an aerial arts studio make?

Profit for a studio depends on your hourly rate or flat fee program and where your studio is. You may achieve a 10% profit margin, but many studios operate on much thinner margins.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Make your studio more profitable by offering supplementary classes and mixing other disciplines into your core aerial arts programming. For example, consider offering aerial yoga or aerial Pilates. You may even want to partner with local yoga instructors to bring in more students.

Next Steps

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