Need advice for starting small ecotourism business

Discussion in 'Starting a Business' started by PSchaefer, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. PSchaefer

    PSchaefer
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    Hello everyone,

    My wife and I are thinking of starting an eco-lodge in Canada, but don’t have very much background knowledge in business. I’ll start with a little background on myself and motivations for wanting to start this business. I will soon be graduating with a Master’s Degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Toronto. I specialized in insects but have a good general knowledge of the natural history of the region, and can identify most local plants and animals. Throughout my undergrad degree I had various jobs in out of classroom teaching environments, including the Toronto Zoo and various day camps and school programs. I have also taken and taught many field courses at the University of Toronto and thoroughly enjoy the outdoors. That brings me to my motivation for this business venture; I would like to put my training and experience to use by starting an eco lodge featuring educational programs for both adults and children (as well as having options for solo adventures for guests who would prefer that). My wife thoroughly enjoys gardening and preparing meals with locally grown produce, so this could be another component of the eco lodge (in terms of both offering programs to guests about local sustainable agriculture and having meals available for guests using produce grown on our land).

    Now for the business aspect. Me and my wife are fairly young (24 and 25), and we both graduated with undergraduate degrees (I continued in graduate school and she went on to an apprenticeship in dog training) but have very little in terms of savings or potential collateral against loans. We currently have no debt, but only about 10K in savings (a small amount, but considerable considering my status as a student [i.e. almost no income] and us living in Toronto).

    So my main question is: is this even a realistic possibility at this stage in our lives? Or should I get a real job and try earning real money for another 10 years before this dream could even begin to be a reality?

    We would be very grateful for any advice about how we could proceed with our plans i.e. potential financing options, additional research we should conduct, courses we should take, etc.

    Thank you,
    Patrick
     
  2. Fergal

    Fergal
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    Welcome to Business Advice Forum Patrick and thanks for posting your business questions here. Well done on having gained such a substantial experience and education, the combination of experience and education will be extremely helpful to you whether you go into business or employment.

    The most significant cost in your venture would probably be the cost of the property where you locate the business. Do you already have a property for it, or would you plan on buying / renting a property should you go ahead with the business?

    Are there any government funded enterprise support agencies in your area? If there are you should have a chat with them regarding any advice and potential supports that they can provide. Some of those agencies also run very helpful start your own business courses that you may be able to avail of.

    Preparing a business plan, would help you to clarify what is involved in your business and to determine if it is something that could be viable for you. The difficulty of writing a business plan is often over-estimated, but it really isn't that difficult to write a very helpful first draft. The links to the Business Plan Templates in our Useful Business Resources / Links thread and the previous discussions on business planning listed below should be helpful to you;

    How to Write a 1 Page Business Plan
    Article On Business Plan!
    Developing a business plan

    Is that helpful to you at all?
     
  3. PSchaefer

    PSchaefer
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    Thank you for those links. They will come in handy when we start planning this venture in earnest.

    Unfortunately we don't own any property, so that would be the most significant expenditure for sure. There are a few enterprise support agencies around, though I am not sure if they are government funded or private. I will have to investigate this as well.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Patrick
     
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  4. Fergal

    Fergal
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    Thanks for replying Patrick. Please do keep us updated on your thoughts and progress.
     

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