Start a whitewater rafting business 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 whitewater rafting 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 a whitewater rafting business?
Average start-up costs can be as low as $10,000 and as high as $50,000. You’ll need to buy the rafting equipment (including safety gear), secure a license, and purchase liability insurance. In addition, you’ll need some sort of facility to house the equipment in. While you may be able to get away with shelter as basic as a large shed, you may want to spring for something large enough to accommodate more traditional business features (e.g., bathrooms, snacks, etc.) You’ll also need to account for the salary of the staff.
What are the ongoing expenses for a whitewater rafting business?
The major costs will be staff salaries, equipment maintenance/replacement, lease/mortgage payments, and liability insurance.
Who is the target market?
The target market can be huge for whitewater rafting, especially in tourist cities. Families or visitors looking for activities while on vacation will make up a large portion of your profits, but you may also receive business from die-hard water rafters who are looking to challenge themselves on the next big run.
How does a whitewater rafting business make money?
Whitewater rafting businesses charge customers to either rent their equipment or take their tours. Equipment may include anything from kayaks to helmets, usually lend out per piece rather than as a package. Tour prices typically include all the gear a customer would need plus a tour guide, so owners will price the excursions based on demand, labor, and cost of equipment.
How much can you charge customers?
Whitewater rafting trips in the most popular areas can charge up to $50 or more for just a short run down the river, and hundreds of dollars for an overnight trip. Look to your direct competition to find out what the going rates are for different types of outings.
How much profit can a whitewater rafting business make?
While equipment and staff salaries can be pricey, the profit margins for whitewater rafting can be huge. Your exact margins will be determined by the demand and the quality of equipment you use but can be as high as 50 – 60% or even more. If you give 5 trips a day at an average of $100 a run, you can make as much as $500 – 600 a day.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Renting out additional water equipment or selling gear can make your business more profitable. Even offering t-shirts, snacks/beverages, or specialty photographs can significantly contribute to your profits.
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 Whitewater Rafting Business 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 whitewater rafting 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.
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 barrel making 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.
Certificate of Occupancy
A Whitewater Rafting business is generally run out of a storefront or small house. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a Whitewater Rafting business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your Whitewater Rafting business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
To avoid liability and potential lawsuits, a Whitewater Rafting businesses should have their clients sign waivers.
An example of an appropriate waiver can be found here
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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Use a Premium Logo Maker
How to promote & market a whitewater rafting business
Local and internet advertising will be the best way to market your whitewater rafting business. Major search engines like Google will display your ads to people who search for whitewater rafting in your area, or you can use television or radio to get your name out there. You can also consider offering half price or even free trips when first getting started to attract customers.
How to keep customers coming back
In addition to safety and excellent guides, you’ll need to have an efficient way to book customers, give them their equipment, and pick them up. Customers are looking for every last detail to be taken care of so they can just relax and enjoy themselves on the river.
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 Whitewater Rafting 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?
Those who love showing people a good time outdoors. Whitewater rafting is made for the adventurous, but not everyone realizes that they don't have to be an expert paddler to successfully steer. A good owner makes whitewater rafting accessible to practically anyone and finds a way to deliver a quality experience no matter the odds.
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 whitewater rafting business?
The majority of the day is spent scheduling tours, completing river runs, and transporting customers to and from their destinations. Owners may give the tours, coordinate supplies, interface with customers and employees, or manage schedules.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful whitewater rafting business?
Those who are trained in rafting will likely do well in this business. While it’s theoretically possible to hire trained staff and managers to take care of the day-to-day business, owners should understand how rivers work before choosing their employees. Owners should also have people skills to successfully interface with both staff and customers.
What is the growth potential for a whitewater rafting business?
Growth potential can be solid for a whitewater rafting business — it's a fun activity that can never be outsourced. While there may be saturation in certain areas, owners may be surprised at how they can create demand in more rural areas just by offering a quality product.
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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 whitewater rafting business?
Safety is going to be tantamount to your success. Not only will safety limit your chances of getting sued in the case of accidental injury, but it will also make your customers far more likely to try your business over another's. All employees will need to be certified in CPR, general first aid, and river rescue techniques. Your staff will need to stay cool under pressure and be willing to handle all kinds of customers if you hope to generate good word-of-mouth.
Owners should look at what’s being offered in the area they want to target before deciding on the types of packages they want to offer. They may even want to give tours in their spare time to get a better sense of the market (not to mention their own guide skills.) Some whitewater rafting companies will offer outings by the hour or the length of the river course. They may offer overnight packages where everyone gets to eat and camp at the bottom of the river. Visit your ideal location repeatedly and talk to fellow business owners to get a sense of the etiquette on the river too. Park rangers and authorities can give you great information as to the potential barriers that stand in the way of your business.
All guides should have plenty of ongoing safety training to keep their skills sharp and passengers safe. But one of the smartest things an owner can do is hire guides who are flexible while on the river. You may want a guide to be more daring with certain groups and more conservative with others. It’s this kind of extra attention to detail that can make it easier for a whitewater rafting business to make a name for themselves when they’re first starting out. Finally, find out what the most popular equipment in your area is so you have a good idea of what customers are looking for.
How and when to build a team
You’ll need to hire staff immediately unless you’re giving limited tours on a part-time basis. Preferably, you’ll be hiring experts in rafting, but this may be difficult to find in what’s usually considered a seasonal job. At the very least, you’ll need to hire people who are strong swimmers and willing to learn the art whitewater rafting.