You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your cave tours business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a cave tours business?
Initial costs include permits for the business, commercial insurance, and administration costs. Admin costs can include everything from website expenses to accounting software. Cave tour owners also need to account for transportation and equipment. Most owners won't need to open an office though, unless planning to operate on a larger scale. They can likely carry any equipment they need in a van and then conduct tours from the location itself.
What are the ongoing expenses for a cave tours business?
Ongoing expenses include marketing costs, insurance, and equipment replacement/maintenance. Owners may also need to pay employees, fix vehicles, and renew their business permits or licenses.
Who is the target market?
The target market can be anyone who wants to explore and learn more about the caves in various parts of the country. The demographic will need to feel comfortable in tight spaces and accept the dangers of moving around in an underground space. For this reason, you may want to market your tours to adults or allow shorter tours for children 12 and over in case a customer panics.
How does a cave tours business make money?
Cave tours will typically charge per person for the privilege of having a guide in a subterranean space. They may also offer special group rates to large parties who want to take the tour together.
How much can you charge customers?
Tours for a cave tour can run anywhere from $15 to $30 per person. You can look to see what other operators are charging in your area before setting prices based on the expertise of the guide and the length of the tour itself.
How much profit can a cave tours business make?
Because the overhead is so low, business owners will likely have a strong profit margin of at least 60%. So if 100 people per week take a tour at $15 each under this model, the business owner will make $900 in profit.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Consider forming member groups for more daring expeditions, or selling merchandise with your business name printed on the products.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your cave tours business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 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.
STEP 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.
STEP 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.
STEP 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.
How to promote & market a cave tours business
The promotion of the business will depend on the purposes of your cave tours. Paid internet advertising and paper flyers in public space (e.g., coffee shops, outdoor supply stores, etc.) will likely be the best ways to get you started. Use professional photos of the interior of the caves you’ll be exploring on the website or on flyers. However, whether you're advertising a glamorous picnic or a death-defying dive, potential customers should be aware of the potential dangers of caves.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
Owners may want to attract customers by offering them a discounted rate for their first trip. To retain customers, the guides should be charismatic and the tours should be well organized from start to finish.
STEP 9: Establish your 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.
Start A Cave Tours Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
People who have a strong spirit of adventure and a passion for caving. Owners should want to share their love of exploration with customers while inspiring them to test the limits of the natural world.
What happens during a typical day at a cave tours business?
The vast majority of time will be spent organizing and conducting the tours. Owners will also need to set aside time to market the business, handle customers, and perform administrative duties (e.g., bookkeeping, scheduling, etc.)
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful cave tours business?
The ideal owner should be an explorer who has already mastered the available network of caves. They should have some degree of emergency training and a strong sense of direction. Ideally, they should also have experience with cave diving in case they want to share their skills or need to use them in the event of an emergency.
What is the growth potential for a cave tours business?
Cave tours are a unique business that can attract thousands of people throughout the year. The growth potential is largely dependent on the natural caves in the area. If the caves are already a big tourist attraction, then a cave tours business stands to grow based on the built-in beauty of the caves. However, cave tours can still become popular even if the formations aren’t the most noteworthy feature in your area. If the tours are planned correctly and conducted by expert guides, then owners will likely find room to grow.
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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.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a cave tours business?
Owners should first want to learn more about what it takes to start a business in their area. Caves may be located on national parks, and business operators may need special permissions to provide tours. There may be a limit to how many people can fit inside a single cave or protection rules that forbid people from certain areas.
Owners should have an idea of how they want to operate their business before they begin asking officials for permission. For example, owners may want to give short tours for those with limited mobility or night tours for customers who want an extra challenge. They'll need to account for emergency situations in case someone begins to panic or is injured during the tour.
Once an owner knows they have the green light, it’s time to research their competition. This will not only give you an idea of potential scheduling conflicts, but it helps you see how to make your business different. For example, you can consider giving lessons to people on how to vertical cave as a part of the tour. Or you can set up private tours where couples can enjoy a romantic dinner underground (if space allows). You can even consider themed events, such as having people dress up as pirates to search for buried treasure.
Now is a good time to check the reviews of other businesses in the area and learn more about how people feel about the current tours being offered. If they’re being given by perfunctory guides who do little more than read off a script, then you can structure your business to provide people with a much more entertaining experience. This tip is especially useful if the caves in your area aren’t particularly impressive, and you need a way to make them more exciting.
How and when to build a team
Owners will likely want to give the tours themselves rather than spending the money on unnecessary salaries. As the business grows, owners can consider hiring additional guides. Look for people who are friendly, personable, and extremely experienced with caves. They should be able to remain calm under pressure, so customers have a better chance of feeling comfortable in an uncomfortable space.