Start an outdoor adventure business by following these 10 steps:
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 guide to starting your outdoor adventure business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
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 much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening an outdoor adventure business?
You'll probably need to pay for one or more licenses. They usually cost a minimum of $100. At the least, this business requires some basic safety gear and first-aid supplies. You can buy a small waterproof medical kit for less than $20 and a larger, more advanced set for about $35. Some adventures call for costly equipment like boats, snowmobiles, or ATVs. To avoid high upfront expenses, partner with a nearby rental business that can supply your clients with equipment at discounted rates.
What are the ongoing expenses for an outdoor adventure business?
You're likely to spend around $800 per year on liability insurance. It may cost more if you engage in more dangerous activities. Equipment maintenance, fuel, utilities, and provisions will add to your expenses. You also need to pay for advertising and/or sales commissions.
Who is the target market?
Numerous vacationers between 40 and 70 years of age sign up for adventure tours. On average, clients are just under 50 years old. This service has gained popularity among men as well as women. Casual customers spend less, but they might embark on longer trips after sampling a short excursion.
How does an outdoor adventure business make money?
These firms generally charge flat per-person fees. Customers make a deposit and pay the full amount at the end of a journey. Customers often tip as well. Depending on your location and the variety of activities you offer, income may or may not be seasonal.
How much can you charge customers?
Prices vary based upon your reputation, amenities, level of customization, and other factors. A lengthy international expedition may cost several thousand dollars whereas vacationers often pay under $700 for local, two-day excursions. Some guides offer quick trips for less than $100 per person. If you normally supply equipment, you could give a discount to customers who bring their own gear. However, you should ensure they have suitable, well-maintained equipment before departing.
How much profit can an outdoor adventure business make?
Companies in this sector frequently have a profit margin of around 20%. Short, basic trips tend to have lower margins while complex, lengthy expeditions yield greater profits.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Try to attract more people for each excursion, but don't let groups become so large that it compromises safety or degrades the experience. On the other hand, you can also boost earnings by charging a special tour fee for one-person journeys. Find ways to differentiate your adventures so they aren't identical to any other company's trips. This reduces the need to compete on price alone. More ideas:
- Learn how to maintain and repair your outdoor gear.
- Ask equipment brands about discounts for professionals.
- Try to take remarkable photographs that you can sell.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. 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 or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your outdoor adventure business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
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?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
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
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
How to promote & market an outdoor adventure business
A well-designed, interactive website is of the utmost importance. Use your blog or social media pages to tell interesting stories from outdoor adventures. Share compelling photos and videos as well. Avoid terms or acronyms that only the most experienced individuals would understand (people who probably don't need guides). Try contacting a local newspaper to find out if the editor will let you write a column.
Consider cooperating with a shop that sells related equipment, such as bicycles, backpacks, or snowshoes. You could promote each other's businesses and possibly let them resell your service. Partnerships with lodging establishments like inns and campgrounds are also feasible.
How to keep customers coming back
Offer a variety of adventures with different lengths and physical demands ranging from easy to challenging. This will help you reach a wider range of clients and give people the opportunity to return for something new.
Remember the importance of basic customer service, such as responding to messages quickly. Give refunds to all participants if a trip goes very poorly and results in a traumatic event like a vehicle accident or serious injury. On the other hand, supply well-made promotional products to satisfied customers. They'll appreciate the bonuses and help spread the word about your business.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start An Outdoor Adventure Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
To succeed in this field, it helps if you crave thrilling experiences and have an enthusiastic, friendly personality. You must not panic or become stressed too easily; guides may encounter emergency situations that demand swift action. This business opportunity appeals to individuals who truly enjoy exciting pastimes like rafting, snowmobiling, sailing, and horse riding. You should be able to tolerate getting wet or experiencing uncomfortable temperatures.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at an outdoor adventure business?
Guides plan trips and oversee clients during tours. You'll help customers enjoy the expedition, learn interesting facts, and avoid injuries. This occupation may also involve preparing food, especially if you embark on lengthy excursions. The work doesn't always take place outdoors; you'll need to perform office tasks like marketing, answering phone calls, and ordering supplies.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful outdoor adventure business?
A wide range of abilities can come in handy in this line of work, such as first aid, outdoor food preparation, and vacation planning. You need to communicate well in person and by phone. Long-term involvement in at least one outdoor sport proves vital. You could prepare by taking an educational course for guides. Another option is to work as an adventure guide for an established company before starting your own firm.
What is the growth potential for an outdoor adventure business?
This sector grew faster than most tourism businesses in recent years. Women's Fitness Adventures is an example of a successful small company. An entrepreneur started the firm in 2013. It arranges hiking and mountain-climbing trips in Australia, according to the Outdoor Women's Alliance. Such businesses rarely establish multiple locations or create franchises. However, they can promote themselves nationwide and attract long-distance vacationers. National Geographic organizes adventures to a variety of international destinations.
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Take the Next Step
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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
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 an outdoor adventure business?
Learn how to identify an assortment of plants and animals. Take the time to memorize some intriguing facts about them. This knowledge will provide you with conversation topics and help you answer questions accurately.
Deciding to only accept cash will slightly reduce your expenses, but this inconvenience discourages many vacationers from using guide services. It's best to take credit cards and consider accepting additional forms of payment.
Clearly describe the physical demands and state a minimum age in every adventure description. Offer details on any waiver requirements, the smallest allowable group size, and what a client needs to bring. The more questions you answer on your website, the less time you'll spend talking on the phone.
Certain undesirable customers could put you and fellow clients at risk or make the trip unpleasant for everyone. Briefly evaluate all of the guests before leaving. If someone has been using drugs or is intoxicated, give them a full refund and politely request that they leave. The same goes for individuals who behave inappropriately or clearly lack the physical fitness needed for an adventure.
How and when to build a team
If you consistently attract more clients than you can serve, you could hire additional guides. They'll enable you to offer multiple adventures at the same time or throughout the week. ZipRecruiter reports that guides earn about $30,400 on average. They must have a willingness to work variable hours. A less expensive option is to hire an assistant who accompanies you on trips or performs office tasks. Try to find a gregarious person with some sort of outdoor recreation experience.