Our latest Survey of Rural Challenges said natural resources are rural communities’ best rural assets, but most places don’t have enough outfitters to take advantage of them as tourism development.
Here’s how rural people like you can take small steps to grow into outdoor outfitters.
- Gather Your Crowd to attract groups and organizations that want to help
- Build Connections to borrow equipment and acquire insurance
- Take Small Steps by splitting the work with different businesses and organizations in the community.
Both Deb and I visited Eastern Kentucky last year. I visited Estill County, and Deb was in Jackson County. We each shared a version of this process to help get tourism ideas off the ground.
Ask around, others may help
Kathy from Jackson County wanted to start her own outdoor business but she only had one side by side ATV to use. Then another person offered a canoe for Kathy to rent out. This started a conversation around the room of how she could start now, using what others offer and they would help her too.
Small steps to take now
In Estill County, we sketched out the steps to grow their own outfitters for river and forest recreation. Here are some of the key steps:
- Talk to an existing outfitter in a similar area from the surrounding communities. Ask lots of questions.
- Find local outdoor recreation groups. Their members might be good potential operators, partners or customers.
- Consider covering startup costs with Sponsor-A-Canoe with local business logos or wraps.
- Cover insurance costs by finding a sponsor or getting a discount through the chamber or organizations like the American Canoe Association.
- Break up all the parts of the business and find a person or group to manage or run each part. One group might own the canoes, another has a trailer and can handle payroll, another might volunteer for part of the work during startup.
It’s not as traditional as starting all at once with a business plan and lots of debt, but it’s more of the rural approach. We’re used to making do and making things work.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.