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Customers of skydiving businesses receive access to the complete experience, either in tandem with an experienced jumper or solo. The entertainment package includes the airplane ride, all equipment, landing site—also known as the dropzone or DZ—and the leadership/coaching of a jumpmaster. Other products or services might also be offered through the business, from parachute training before the jump to photography or video production of the jump.
Skydiving businesses are also sometimes known as dropzone businesses or simply DZs.
Who is this business right for?
Most people who would consider starting such a business are experienced jumpers, but that’s not mandatory. You should, at a minimum, feel comfortable convincing partners or investors and officials of the wisdom of your plans and your skydiving business’ value to the community.
More than anything, potential owners should have passion for the activity—because that’s how most of your repeat jumpers feel about skydiving.
What happens during a typical day at a skydiving business?
While your friends and family might think of ownership of a skydiving company as being exciting work, it’s really a serious business. Here’s how your typical day might be consumed.
- Hiring pilots or communicating with the day’s pilot as to availability of a fueled and ready plane
- Conceiving new discounts and package deals to spur sales, and promoting those deals via the company website and social media
- Paying bills for airplane rental and fuel, airport landing fees, payroll, etc.
- Supervising parachute packing and meeting with the day’s customers to provide support and reassurance (especially to first-time jumpers)
- Serving as jumpmaster for the day’s jump if that responsibility won’t go to an employee
What is the target market?
Your customers are adventurers—or at least want to be seen that way. They can be of any age or gender, but younger (20-45) males are the most common demographic for this type of business.
How does a skydiving business make money?
The main source of revenue is the initial instruction and jump fee, which can start at $250-$350 range or more for tandem jumps with an experienced skydiver. Add-on products and services can generate additional revenue, from DVDs of the jump to commemorative t-shirts and advanced jump training for certification.
What is the growth potential for a skydiving business?
Word of mouth and repeat customers are key to your business’s success. Student jumpers will bring their friends if their first jumps are positive experiences. If you can keep more experienced jumpers loyal to your business, they’ll jump with you as often as their budgets allow.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful skydiving business?
In addition to having hundreds of hours of skydiving experience under your belt, you should have the patience, diplomacy and perseverance it will take to find investors and convince airport officials and community leaders of the safety and value of your operation. Many see skydiving as an extreme sport and will express concerns about legal liability in the event of accidents.
Registering and certifying your business can be complicated, so you should be detail-oriented. You can go here for regulatory and legal answers.
And finally, you and your people must be able to inspire the confidence and trust of your customers, many of whom will be skydiving for the first time and perhaps second-guessing their decision while in the air.
What are the costs involved in opening a skydiving business?
Skydiving business owners have reported starting up operation for as little as $10,000, but that’s usually when they already have their own airplanes and pilot’s license and can recruit volunteer jumpmasters. That’s a pretty barebones operation. More typical startup costs are much higher, and can include these elements.
- Licenses, certification and legal costs -- $5,000
- Airplane and liability insurance -- $6,000
- Multiple rigs and gear -- $40,000
- Pilot, fuel, maintenance and plane rental or purchase – $50,000 to $100,000-plus to purchase small Cessna
- Sales and marketing -- $1,000
With startup costs as high as they are, it may be best to look into investing options. Considering the dangerous nature of this activity, though, confident investors may be hard, but not impossible, to find.
What are the steps to start a skydiving business?
Once you're ready to start your skydiving 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 skydiving 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 skydiving 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.
Recommended: Fizzle.co 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 a skydiving business?
Remember that your add-on products and services can sometimes be more profitable than the basic fee you’ll charge for a tandem or solo jump. For instance, while it costs relatively little to provide a DVD of the experience (a second jumper with a GoPro camera strapped to a helmet and basic editing software and skills) your customers might eagerly pay $180 or more for documentation of what’s perhaps a top bucket-list activity.
How to promote & market a skydiving business
Use your website and social media to draw interest. See if coffee houses and bars will allow placement of your business cards, and consider advertising online where your target audience hands out or on billboards near your airport location.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
You can generate first-time and repeat business by providing discounting on the usual rate. Run limited time specials in social media and package rates for several jumps.
How and when to build a team
At the very least, your business will need two people—the pilot and jumpmaster. You can only serve in one of those capacities, so you’ll have to hire the services of the other even if you keep your operation small. As your business grows, you might want to add staff to conduct skydiving instruction classes, pack parachutes and undertake sales and customer service functions as revenue allows.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Several federal licenses and permits must be obtained before you can operate this type of business. Pilots must be licensed, and there are other regulations for the operation of aircraft for commercial purposes. A list of these regulations (Federal Aviation Regulations) and permits can be found at the following sources, here and here.
In addition, certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a skydiving 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
- It is strongly recommended to have customers sign a liability waivers. Here is an example of a skydiving waiver.
How much can you charge customers?
The sport is recognized as being expensive, and for many of your customers it’s a lifetime dream, so rates can be placed high (and must be since your costs are significant). You can see from pricing information at Chattanooga Skydiving Company and Skydive Tecumseh that student tandem jumpers can pay several hundred dollars for initial training and the first jump.
Additional fees are often charged for videotaping the jump, a cost that can add at least a few hundred dollars more to the transaction.
What are the ongoing expenses for a skydiving business?
Your largest ongoing expense is likely to be plane fuel and other expenses related to your air costs. One business owner spoke of spending $200,000 a year on fuel, but your costs will be highly variable depending on your annual number of days of operation and flights per day as well as prevailing fuel costs, which can rise and drop unexpectedly.
As your business grows, you’ll also encounter the cost of hiring employees for such duties as packing parachutes, conducting training classes and generating sales. These positions might also be filled by experienced skydivers who’ll work for free jumps.
How much profit can a skydiving business make?
Profitability is highly variable depending on your location and business model, but here’s an interesting web article on how one very small skydiving company stayed in the black.
How can you make your business more profitable?
In addition to the add-on charges, consider making the most of your customers’ after-jump celebrations such as by opening a drinking establishment or snack bar on your premises.
Some skydiving businesses hire out their planes and skydivers for promotional purposes, such as for festivals, groundbreaking ceremonies, new business openings and television commercials.