Start a survival school by following these 9 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 survival school. 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 a survival school?
- Location -- Zero to $100 a day for camp or more. This cost will be dependent on where your sessions take place. If you use property you already own, there’s no out-of-pocket cost in this area, but you might otherwise have to deal with private property owners or public lands.
- Transportation -- A few hundred dollars or less to $1,000 or more. This expense depends on where you conduct your classes. If they’re held on your own or neighboring property this cost is minimal and might only involve expenses to get you to and from areas where you’ll conduct free intro programs or otherwise solicit business.
- Certification training -- Zero to several thousand dollars. Certification as a wilderness survival instructor is a good way of gaining credibility in your field. But you might not see it to be necessary if you have significant experience in wildlife survival.
- Gear -- Several hundred dollars to $2,500 or more. This can include such camping basics as tent, backpack, mess kit, knife, axe, and first aid kit. Additional gear will depend on your location and the type of training you’ll provide.
- Logo, website and other marketing communications tools -- $200 or more. Websites and social media accounts can he had for free or very little cost, but invest in a logo and site design that supports your image of professionalism.
- Legal, licensure and insurance -- Several thousand dollars. Liability insurance is critical, especially if there’s a distinct possibility of calamity. For instance, if your camp takes place during harsh weather (Canadian winters or desert training), or if there’s the threat of bears, poisonous snakes, fast-moving water, sudden storms, etc. Be sure to discuss this with a lawyer too. Also, ask your lawyer about licensing needs. For instance, will you need a food license if wilderness trapping or hunting and food preparation are part of your curriculum?
What are the ongoing expenses for a survival school?
Your largest and most consistent costs will likely be expenses related to your survival curriculum. This might include transporting students to and from select locations, supplying them with gear or specific kinds of equipment, or hiring assistant teachers or other guest speakers to cover all of the material planned out for that day's class.
Who is the target market?
Your audience could range from serious outdoors enthusiasts to groups merely looking for a unique form of weekend recreation. But all will want to spend time outdoors and learn more about nature and their relationship with the outdoors. Be sure to adequately describe courses and expectations to avoid disappointing attendees.
How does a survival school make money?
You’ll charge participants either a per-day fee for workshops and weekend training, or a predetermined course fee for classes that are ongoing over a period of time.
How much can you charge customers?
Your audience expects to pay at least $100 a day in most parts of the country. This fee is in addition to students’ responsibility for transportation to and from the site and, usually, food (unless trapping or eating off the land will be part of the curriculum).
How much profit can a survival school make?
That’s highly variable, depending on the number of classes you run and the amount of students you have enrolled. Some school owners run their enterprise on a full-time basis while others combine it with work as farmers, guides or other outdoor pursuits.
How can you make your business more profitable?
The longer you’re in the business the more credibility you’ll have as a wilderness expert. If you have a knack for writing, consider authoring books on the subject. Offer your titles for sale on your website or take them along on your courses.
Also consider hiring yourself out as a guest teacher with larger survival schools, such as Sigma 3.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Survival School Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
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 survival school 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.
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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a survival school 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, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For 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.
Informed Consent Agreement
It is recommended to provide clients with informed consent agreements to decrease legal liability and encourage transparency. Here is an example of one such form.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional Informed Consent/Release of Liability form for your survival school 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.
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.
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How to promote & market a survival school
Use all available digital tools to attract new students. This will include a website and quite possibly such added properties as a Facebook Group, blog, and social media presence on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and others. Take a good digital camera along to your outings and be sure to post photos of happy and engaged students on your website and social media. (Just be sure to get the students' permission first).
How to keep customers coming back
You’ll figure out how to draw an audience based on the demographics of your market. For instance, sell the concept to school boards or Boy Scout/Girl Scout groups if you’re seeking young people.
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.
Start A Survival School 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?
Your first and most immediate skill must be a love for and depth of knowledge in outdoorsmanship. You should also have an innate ability to teach and to encourage students to share your passion for nature and wilderness survival. Depending on the specific direction you take your business and the ecosystems of your area, you might also require knowledge of first aid techniques, survival trapping, plant and animal identification, harsh weather survival, or other kinds of outdoor survival skills.
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 a survival school?
You’ll likely find yourself spending about one-third of your time on marketing and promotion, one third on typical business-related endeavors and one-third actually out in the field with students. Typical responsibilities can include the following.
- Communicating on social media and creating and implementing other means of getting your message out to prospective students
- Contacting property owners or public lands officials to schedule courses
- Booking classes and answering questions from prospective students
- Presenting seminars and workshops at coffee houses, libraries, civic centers, and other locations to inspire camp sign-ups
- Conducting on-site training programs that could last from one to five days or longer
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful survival school?
It’s critical that you have ample outdoor and wilderness survival experience before you can teach it. If this is a skill set that’s in your background, consider earning certification as an instructor from a credible program, such as this one from Sigma 3 Survival School.
What is the growth potential for a survival school?
Survival training has become a big business since about 2012. This level of acceptance from the community means that more prospective students will know about it and seek classes, but it might also mean that you’ll find stiffer competition in the field and constrained revenue.
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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.
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 survival school?
The business can go into so many different directions that it’s imperative to start by writing a business plan. This will help you not only refine your idea and figure out exactly what (and where) you’re going to teach, but also to identify your audience. It’s a very different experience to operate a summer day camp for grade-school children than it is to run a week-long stringent session in harsh climates for safety forces or military.
Once you’ve found your specific audience, run a few “soft opening” courses for family or friends to safely map out your concept. From this you'll be able to identify unexpected challenges or obstacles and find areas of training that have the greatest impact, whether positive or negative.
How and when to build a team
As you meet avid wilderness survivalists, consider recruiting them for your business to either go along and help you run individual classes or to lead classes alone as you expand your curriculum. You also need to have more assistance if you’re leading groups of kids.