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Aerial sports offer people outstanding views, adrenaline-inducing flight and lots of fun. Before people take off paragliding or hang gliding, however, they first need to learn how to take off, fly and land safely. Aerial sports instruction businesses offer lessons to novice, experienced and even expert flyers on how to safely enjoy these sports.
Who is this business right for?
People who enjoy being outdoors and like aerial sports may be well-suited for opening an aerial sports instruction business. Business owners should be flexible and strong enough to fly paragliders and hang gliders. They should also have good people and communication skills, as much of their time will be spent interacting directly with students.
What happens during a typical day at an aerial sports instruction business?
An aerial sports instruction business owner spends much of their time teaching students how to fly paragliders, hang gliders and similar equipment. When not teaching students, a business owner may spend their time maintaining and repairing equipment, managing any instructors they hire, marketing their business, scheduling classes and monitoring the weather (to see if conditions are conducive to flying).
What is the target market?
An aerial sports instruction business’ ideal customer is someone who enjoys adrenaline-inducing sports, but is new to paragliding or hang gliding. Such a person will be open to taking a class, and they may get hooked and want a lot more instruction. Additionally, most customers that are able to afford instruction have a decent amount of discretionary income.
How does an aerial sports instruction business make money?
Aerial sports instruction businesses make money by charging for lessons on paragliding, hang gliding or other aerial sports. Lessons may be one-day long, or they may build on each other in longer courses.
What is the growth potential for an aerial sports instruction business?
Most aerial sports instruction businesses operate from a single location. Many business owners are able to find plenty of students to fill their schedule, as well as the schedules of other instructors.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful aerial sports instruction business?
Business owners will need to be experienced and knowledgeable flyers in their chosen aerial sport. If they don’t have previous experience, they’ll need to attend classes at another aerial sports school.
While there are some variations in training programs, reaching the level of instructor always takes a number of lessons. For instance, instructors who train through the Association of Paragliding Pilots and Instructors (APPI) system, need to go through five levels before they reach professional status. Even then, full-fledged instructors have to complete four more levels of training.
The U.S. Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association’s (USHPA’s) levels are a bit simpler, but instructors must still reach H-4/P-4 Advanced Pilot level before the association lets them teach others. This is the fourth of five levels.
Technically, this training is normally a legal requirement. Prospective students, however, will ask and check what training their instructors have. If the instructors aren’t officially recognized by a respected professional organization, students will probably not sign up for classes.
What are the costs involved in opening an aerial sports instruction business?
The startup costs for an aerial sports business can easily reach $50,000 or more. The first significant cost is training, as attaining the aforementioned levels requires a number of lessons that must be taken at other aerial sports schools. The other large upfront cost is the price of equipment, for each glider can run in the neighborhood of $2,000.
Other notable upfront expenses include liability insurance, other insurance, staffing costs and advertising fees. Businesses also need a vehicle that can transport students and gear, if the business owner doesn’t already have one.
What are the steps to start an aerial sports instruction business?
Once you're ready to start your aerial sports instruction business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- 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.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your aerial sports instruction business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your aerial sports instruction business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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What are some insider tips for jump starting an aerial sports instruction business?
Aerial sports are weather-dependent activities. While there are many weather resources available (e.g. weather radios, apps and websites), becoming an amateur meteorologist and intimately familiar with local weather patterns can help business owners decide whether, when and where to take off.
How to promote & market an aerial sports instruction business
For a couple of reasons, online marketing is one of the most effective ways to market an aerial sports business.
First, online advertising campaigns let business owners target specific demographics. Often, campaigns can be based on age, gender and income, as well as other interests.
Second, many people search online when they’re looking for an activity to do. Having a strong presence on the internet and social media will help ensure a business comes up when people begin looking for things to do in the area.
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How to keep customers coming back
An aerial sports instruction business can stand out from its competitors by hiring highly qualified and very experienced instructors. Instructors who have certifications will assure customers that the instructors are true experts. In addition to the main certifications offered by AAPPI and USHPA, instructors may also attain specialized certifications.
How and when to build a team
Business owners will likely want to hire at least a few staff members from the start. Employees can help coordinate launches and landings, and they can assist students with their gear.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an aerial sports instruction 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.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Paragliding businesses should be aware of Federal Aviation Administration airspace restrictions. Airspace restrictions break down into three categories:
- Airspace flyers cannot enter
- Airspace flyers can enter only with prior authorization from the controlling authority
- Airspace flyers can enter without prior authorization from any controlling authority
For a more comprehensive description of these regulations, visit section 60-109 on the Federal Aviation Regulations Page here.
How much can you charge customers?
Aerial sports instruction businesses usually offer a variety of classes and bundles, and the rates are different for each. Eagle Paragliding, LLC has a well-structured pricing scheme, which includes:
- Tandem flights priced between $100 and $200
- A 1-day course priced at $200
- A 2-day course priced at $400
- An 8- to 10-day course for novice students priced at $1,500
- Clinics priced between $395 and $750
- Tours priced between $1,800 and $2,250
What are the ongoing expenses for an aerial sports instruction business?
The ongoing expenses for aerial sports businesses include fuel and maintenance for a vehicle, maintenance for equipment, professional membership fees, insurance premiums, employees salaries and advertising costs. Professional memberships aren’t required, but they’re relatively inexpensive and help show that a business is well qualified to teach aerial sports. Membership with the USHPA is $294 per year for instructors. This amount could be earned back in a single lesson or class.
How much profit can an aerial sports instruction business make?
An aerial sports instruction business’ profit potential varies, but these can be highly profitable businesses. One husband-and-wife team in San Francisco earned $18,000 in their first year and grew that to $210,000 in revenue just four years later.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are several ways an aerial sports instruction business can increase its revenue. To start with, instructors can obtain advanced certificates and certificates in other aerial sports. This lets instructors lead advanced clinics, which often command higher prices, and provide classes to people interested in a wider array of aerial sports.
Businesses can also sell equipment to beginners they introduce to the sport. Many people will first try out aerial sports by taking a class or two, but they may soon want to buy their own gliders. Without many contacts in the industry, they’ll often purchase gear from that their trusted instructor recommends. Since gliders can run $2,000, this can add a significant amount to a business’ profits.