Late last year our friends at the Trail Town program organized a workshop about running a small business focused on trails, rafting and the booming outdoor recreation market.
We know there is a lot of interest in West Virginia at the moment around recreation entrepreneurship. So here’s a recap of the lessons learned.
The panelists were:
1. Work together to offer more; no business is stand-alone anymore.
- All of these business owners already knew each other and had worked together to promote the Great Allegheny Passage trail (GAP) as a destination and to give people a better experience. For example:
- Tom sees cyclists at the beginning of their trip and gives them a drink token to use at Eric’s tavern, about halfway through.
- Sandy partners with local restaurants to offer a half or full day paddleboard rental, complete with bag lunch.
- Sandy and Tom refer customers to each other, encouraging people to spend more time in the area.
- Develop a “preferred partners” list of other area attractions and services; bonus points if your list addresses the entire length of the trail, not just your immediate area.
- Even if there is no direct, obvious way to work together, it’s better to know who else is out there so you can refer customers when they ask.
2. Say “yes”; what people ask about could be a new line of business for you.
- All of these business owners started new lines of business saying “yes” to their customers first and then figuring out a way to make it work.
- Eric runs shuttles to Fallingwater for GAP cyclists even though it’s not an outdoor adventure sport.
- Sandy offers retail even though she had planned on doing rentals only when she started.
- Tom increasingly does more trip logistics and trip planning services (shuttle service, booking accommodations, etc.) even though his runs a bike rental shop.
3. People want a local experience. Find ways to give it to them.
- Make sure you have info on other things trail users can do in any trail segment, whether it’s a restaurant to visit, a B&B to stay in, or an attraction (this relates to knowing who and what else is out there).
4. Think of the “buts” and eliminate them.
- Imagine your customer saying, “I want to, but…” and then address those “buts”.
- Make it as easy as possible for your customer by eliminating as many reasons as you can for them to not do whatever is going to make you money (rent a bike, buy a paddleboard, plan a long trip, etc.).