Start a wilderness training 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 wilderness training 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 wilderness training business?
Start-up costs range from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on your experience/certifications and what necessities you already own. The following should be considered when budgeting for your investment:
- Training and certification — While you may have a great deal of experience in this field, certification will help you gain credibility.
- Location — Some wilderness instructors choose to hold classes on their own land while others rent out space for a daily fee.
- Transportation — If you hold all classes on-site, your out-of-pocket expenses for transpiration will be fairly minimal.
- Equipment — You will need to supply all your students with the right gear.
- Licenses and insurance — Work with a licensed insurance agent to ensure every aspect of your business is covered. Work like this could result in injuries, so it’s important that you are covered against any legal liability.
- Website and marketing — There are many free website tools available on the market today. Just make sure your branding, website, and social media presence supports your brand.
What are the ongoing expenses for a wilderness training business?
Aside from insurance and marketing, you will spend most of your monthly budget on curriculum-related expenses. This includes special gear and equipment and food, lodging, and transportation for longer courses. You may also incur freelance fees or payroll expenses for classes that include teaching assistants or guest speakers.
Who is the target market?
Your target audience will ultimately align with the types of courses you offer and their level of difficulty. Adequate and transparent descriptions of all courses will help avoid confusion and ensure students get the most out of your training. You may choose to target a particular age and skill level, or you may choose to offer courses for the whole family. Be sure to look at your content to determine your target market.
How does a wilderness training business make money?
Depending upon the coursework you offer, participants will be charged a per-day, weekend, or weeklong fee. Class fees should cover the cost of all materials and, in the event of longer courses, food and lodging.
How much can you charge customers?
The amount you charge will range anywhere from $100 to over $1,000 per person, depending on your experience, the course outline, and the duration of the course.
How much profit can a wilderness training business make?
Much like your ongoing expenses, your annual profit is tied directly to the specifics of your business model. However, due to the specialized skill and training involved in this business endeavor, a well-marketed wilderness training school has the potential to generate significant annual profits.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Your credibility as a wilderness expert is directly tied to your business’s success. To maximize profits, you will need to work consistently to establish a name for yourself within the community.
Consider authoring books on the subject and writing guest blogs on related websites. Attending conferences and acting as a guest speaker will benefit you in two ways — you will earn extra income and advertise your business simply by being on the roster. If you own and operate off your own land, you can also rent out your space to other survivalists when not using it for your own coursework.
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 wilderness training 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.
Federal Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a wilderness training business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a wilderness training business business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
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.
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 a wilderness training business
Industry leaders report significant success marketing directly to recreational clubs, associations, and businesses. Approach your local Boy Scouts chapters, hiking clubs, forest service, adventure groups, fire departments, and police forces. Provide them with educational literature regarding all that your training school has to offer. Offer free presentations outlining the survival skills that your school teaches. These seminars can be held at your local churches, libraries, community centers, and schools.
While in-person marketing on a local level will prove beneficial, you will also need to develop an online presence. Your website should be educational and include an informative blog that solidifies your role as an authority in outdoor survival.
How to keep customers coming back
When packing for a class, be sure to include a digital camera. Snap action photos throughout the course and use those to create a social media presence (be sure to ask your students for permission prior to using any photos). When asking for feedback, ask happy customers if they would write a review for your website and social media pages.
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 A Wilderness Training 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?
Have you spent years outdoors learning what it takes to survive off of what the land has to offer? Do you enjoy sharing your passion for nature and teaching others what you have learned through your experiences? If so, a wilderness training business may be right for you.
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 wilderness training business?
While you might expect your days to be spent outdoors teaching your craft, it’s important to remember that this is only one aspect of launching and managing a successful business. Industry leaders recommend applying the rule of thirds — one-third of your time should be spent on administrative duties, one-third should be spent marketing, and one-third dedicated to teaching and preparing coursework.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful wilderness training business?
The foundation of a successful wilderness training business is extensive knowledge in the art and science of wilderness survival. Trainers should be experienced in outdoor survival in a variety of settings and are encouraged to train with different instructors and through several educational institutions. Not only does this ensure a well-rounded skill set, but it will also assist in developing your curriculum. Certification in Advanced Wilderness First Aid is also a must.
While this solid foundation is critical, you will need additional skills to achieve your business’ long-term goals. To pass your knowledge on to your students, you will need to learn and develop basic teaching skills and produce engaging and informative lesson plans. If public speaking isn’t your strong suit, consider taking a course through Toastmasters International.
Because this is a highly-competitive industry, a basic understanding of how to build a business is strongly recommended. Even the most experienced survivalist in the world could run their business into the ground without proper marketing and financial planning.
What is the growth potential for a wilderness training business?
Due to consumer interest in outdoor activities and survival-focused reality television shows, wilderness training has experienced a surge of interest over the last decade. Because this is a highly competitive market, entrepreneurs considering embarking on this business venture are encouraged to conduct thorough research to identify industry needs. With coursework designed to fill in any industry gaps and a targeted marketing strategy, trainers have the potential for significant growth and profits.
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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 a wilderness training business?
While there is much room for growth and profit in this industry, experienced trainers encourage newcomers to plan for slow growth. Like most new businesses, it may take two to three years for your business to be profitable. Do not get discouraged.
The number one mistake made in this profession is trying to do too much. It isn’t necessary to teach everything about outdoor survival. It is, however, necessary to teach proficiently. Start small, offering a few courses that target specific skills. At the end of each class, ask for feedback. Use this information to improve current courses and learn which classes should be added to your school’s curriculum.
How and when to build a team
The wilderness survival community is a tightly-knit group of individuals. Consider recruiting those you meet along the way who possess skills that could complement the courses your school already offers.