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Outdoor Economy

The Millennial Generation Holds the Future of the Outdoor Economy

The future of the outdoor economy is going to be largely determined by the “Millennial Generation” and their interest in the outdoors. It will be critical for outdoor entrepreneurs to take time to learn how the next generation views outdoor education, trips and travel in order to prepare for the trends.

Girl Contemplating

Who are the Millennials?

Definitions and names for the Millennial Generation vary. The name “Millennial Generation” usually refers to people born between the 1980s and early 2000s (also called Generation Y). Millennials are often discussed in general as individuals in developed countries that have grown up immersed in technology and have experienced dramatic changes in the economy. Some studies have shown that the rising cost of education and living expenses may have caused many to return home to their parents for a period of time which has led some media to refer to them as the Boomerang or Peter Pan Generation. Studies have also shown that a large number of Millennials often look for flexibility in work and social responsibilities. Millennials are also characterized as confident, self expressive and open to new ideas.

Although these sweeping generalizations may be true for a large segment of the Millennial Generation, studies have shown that they are far from a homogeneous monolith. There are wide variations in individuals of the same generation within immigrants, minorities, geography, gender, economic status and those with and without children. One thing is certain, this generation is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Guy in Canoe

Millennials and the Outdoors?

For most Millennials in developed countries, computers, smartphones, and social media have become part of their daily lives and has shaped their view of the world. Many youth that have grown up with an indoor, plugged in lifestyle tend to be hyperconnected to social networks and often feel disconnected from the natural world. A study by the Nature Conservancy shows that 88% of American youth say they spend time on-line every day while less than 40% participate in hiking, fishing, or natural areas on a weekly basis. Research by IDEO for the “Retail of the Future Project” has shown that many Millennials refer to the “outdoors” as places near their home where they can interact socially. Still, there are numbers of Millennials that have enthusiastically taken to outdoor recreation. Numerous reports show that Millennials are more interested in experiences rather than collecting things. Out of the millions of people who participate in outdoor activities, the largest groups were Baby Boomers and Millennials. Studies show that a large number of Millennials are interested in adventure travel, especially with friends. There are strong groups of young outdoor enthusiasts such as Outdoor Nation (ON), a non-profit founded by a community of Millennials who are dedicated to reconnecting members of their generation to the outdoors by hosting summits, awarding grants, leading outdoor outings, and working with youth.

Why should outdoor entrepreneurs be interested in Millennials?

Millennials are currently the largest generation of consumers with more than 80 million in their ranks.  There is a tremendous opportunity for outdoor entrepreneurs to grow the outdoor economy instead of competing for market share.. They are larger than the Baby Boomers and 20% larger than Generation X. According to a recent report by Barkleys, Millennials currently make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases and have a combined purchasing power of over a trillion dollars. Their influence on the outdoor economy will be larger than anyone else in the next century and cannot be ignored. They can easily get hooked on adventure and exploration once they have been exposed to it. There is huge, untapped potential to reconnect this generation to the world that they have inherited. Outdoor entrepreneurs that address the needs and motivations of Millennials will be in the best position to succeed.

Why should Millennials be interested in the outdoors?

Outdoor education can help develop skills that are highly sought after in the job market. According to a 2011 study, companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on outdoor experiential education designed to develop leadership skills, teamwork skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills and trust (Brymer, Gray, & Cotton 2011). Many companies are seeking individuals who are environmentally literate to develop new innovations in science, engineering, and technology. The field of “Biomimicry” has also been gaining considerable momentum over the last century. Outdoor recreation itself is a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to grow rapidly as one of the largest industries in the world. Also, numerous studies have shown that physical activity in outdoor settings can greatly improve one’s mental and physical well being. There are opportunities to connect with the outdoor community of vibrant individuals who tend to live healthy lifestyles and have a well-developed awareness of the world. Outdoor recreation is also a whole lot of fun where one can build lasting memories with people they care about!

How to reach Millennials?

Although there are large variations in the Millennial Generation, there are some things that are fairly consistent. Getting online and social media savvy is a must. Studies show that Millennials often plan ahead for travel and look to their friends and social networks before purchasing. Price and convenience tend to play the largest role in their buying decisions according to some studies, although quality and service remain high priorities. Opportunities to connect with friends and family in a meaningful way are important to most Millennials. Unique experiences that are fun and enjoyable are appealing to them. Millennials are more likely to align themselves with companies that support a cause they believe in than any other generation before them. They are well informed and able to conduct research at the touch of their fingertips. Also, educating parents on the benefits of outdoor recreation remains important not just for the Millennials who have moved back home under the influence of their parents, but also because many Millennials have become parents themselves. A 2012 study showed that the 31 million Millennial parents tend to be conscious of health, the environment, social causes, saving money, and raising kids with strong family values.

The main thing to remember when reaching out to this generation is to speak honestly and conversationally do not insult their intelligence. It will be important to communicate the mutual benefits for the outdoor economy and for the Millennial Generation and the generations that they will influence.

 

Ref:

Live Science:  Millennials Generation

Barkley: American Millennials 

Nature.org:  Kids in Nature 

Outdoor Industry Research Files

Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

Biomimicry

Outdoor Nation

Outdoor Industry 

Benefits of Environmental Education

Experiential Training for Leadership Development

Adventure Travel News: Outdoor Retail

Entrepreneur Magazine: If You Want Millennials to Love You, Market to their Mothers

 

Growing Opportunity in Outdoor Recreation: 6 Key Strategies for Outdoor Entrepreneurs

6 critical strategies for outdoor entrepreneurs to benefit in the growing outdoor economy

When I started kayaking and leading nature tours in South Carolina, I worked for the only outfitter on Shem Creek. We led occasional tours out to the harbor and back without seeing another kayak. Over the first several years, there were a couple new kayak operations that came and went out of business like the tides. In the last 6 years, there has been an explosion of new outdoor businesses on the waterways. Today, that same creek is filled with kayakers and stand-up paddleboards with multiple tours daily. Paddling outfitters have sprung up all around the outlying areas as well. Now, an increasing number of motorboats are offering eco-tours and bird watching adventures.

Whitewater Kayaker sideways

You would think this increased competition would have hurt the outfitters that once ruled the waterways? Think again! Every kayak outfitter that I have spoken to (about 8) has experienced an increase of 15-30% in business in 2013. The business has been able to thrive even through the worst of the recession.

This increase is not untypical. Outdoor recreation often does well when times are tough. Most outdoor businesses have experienced an increase in trips, travel and retail through 2008-2013.

Not every business makes it despite the surge in demand. The margins of the business can be pretty tight when you factor in equipment, guides, insurance, maintenance, rent, and other expenses. In a competitive market, your customer service better be stellar. It is easy to get overwhelmed and over promise. If your reservation system is not organized, you may have clients showing up unexpectedly and not have the time or resources to serve them. It is too easy for them to just go up the street to your competitors.

If you are in a market that is not as competitive, you will still need to forge ahead and set a precedent. Once you get established, competition is likely to follow. It requires excellent organizational skills as well as marketing skills to stay afloat. Your business can live or die by the people answering your phone as well as those leading the trips.

Qualified guides are also an issue. This is usually your main product. The right guide can make a dreary place come alive, while the wrong guide can make a spectacular place dull. This requires training and impeccable social skills.

The outdoor businesses that are able to develop systems that allow them to stay ahead of the game, maintain the morale of their employees, consistently provide a quality product, while maintaining control of their cashflow are the ones that survive. In a seasonal business, it is important to plan ahead.

Here are a few key things that help outfitters survive:

Have a clear idea of who you intend to serve

Knowing what type of client you attend to attract will make a difference in the product you deliver, the people you invest in, and your entire marketing strategy. The adrenalin junkie is very different than the serene wildlife watcher. Are you going to offer easy day-trips or longer multi-day adventures? Having a clear idea of your ideal customer is an important place to start. Ask yourself: Who am I meant to serve? Then spend some time finding out all you can about them and how to attract them.

Clearly define yourself

Why would anyone choose your business over everyone else? What is it that makes your business unique? This is something that most outdoor businesses fail to do. They look at their competitors and offer the same thing. Everyone thinks they have a superior product than their competitors, but very few can define it or prove it. No one wants to hear how great you think you are. Customers want to know how you are going to give them the best experience that meets their needs better than anyone else. It is important to be specialized and focused on what you do well. Too many businesses try to fight it out in copy-cat manner. There is plenty of business for everyone and together everyone achieves more.

Know what you expect from your employees

There was a time when I helped to interview potential new guides for a kayak company. We considered whether we should focus on those with the most kayak experience, naturalist skills, or personal skills. It turned out, the new hires with the best kayaking skills tended to be the most difficult to coach and were increasingly critical of the company constantly comparing it with others they had worked with. The ones with the best personable skills were open to learn and eventually became excellent kayakers and naturalists. Some did not work out either way for one reason or another. It has always been a philosophy of mine to allow someone to show themselves in the first 30-60 days. Some will show themselves right away. Some are slow beginners and eventually become superstars or grand failures. Some come to the table with everything and then break away. One important thing to do is to be upfront for what you expect. Have a written policy. This helps in times of trouble. The more prepared you are the better.

Create a fail safe reservation and scheduling system

The reservation system is the information hub in which the whole business revolves. That is the interface with the customers, the guides, and the marketing team. Everything flows in and flows out through the office. You must put systems in place to be sure you are prepared for who comes through your door and ready to deliver the best service possible to suit their needs. Put safeguards in place to catch errors and double check the schedules for guides and equipment. This is key for your success. The more diversified your business is the more important it is to keep accurate records.

Keep an eye on the cash-flow and plan for the future

In a seasonal business it is important to know how much you are taking in and how much you are paying out. People need to get paid on time if you want to keep up morale. You will need to have the right amount of inventory to provide for your clients A good credit account can help when things get tight, but you need to be careful that you don’t over use it. Cash flow will make or break you. It takes a long time to build a reputation, and an instant to wreck it.

Create a measurable marketing strategy

Where are your customers coming from? How are you reaching them? What is the strategy to get them to your door? What is their impression of your company? Most outdoor companies become advertising victims and base their marketing on what ever salesman calls to offer them the best story. This not a good strategy. A well thought out marketing strategy is one that is run with organized campaigns that can be measured. Often it is a good idea to run two simultaneous campaigns with slightly different strategies or wording to help measure what is working. A lot of time and money can be wasted on marketing that does not produce results.

Manage risk and prepare for the worst

Many a good outfitter has failed suddenly because of one mistake. It is critical to operate with the high regard for safety. Be ready with a clear action plan and a written policy to handle tragedy. In our line of work, there is a lot that can go wrong. Use the off season to conduct drills and training. Make sure you have adequate insurance.

These are just a few of the key strategies that make the difference if an outdoor business will be successful or not.

Lessons from the Mountain: Outdoor Education for Entrepreneurs

Mountain Morgue

 

Lessons from the Mountain

One of the best places to contemplate is on top of a mountain.  There are so many things that can be learned and applied to one’s business and life from the process of climbing a mountain.  Those that hike with their mind open learn different things from the journey.  There are several schools and education programs that use outdoor skills to teach team building, leadership and life lessons.

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from climbing a mountain.  About 7 years ago, I climbed Mount Whitney with Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen.  (Mark Victor Hansen is a speaker and famed co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for The Soul” series.  Robert Allen is a renowned author, entrepreneur and real estate guru).  We climbed together with a group of entrepreneurs on a trip organized by my friend Werner Berger, who is a business strategist who once broke the record as the oldest man to climb Mount Everest.  Our group had been watching Mark and Robert speak and teach from a stage over the prior weeks where they were very comfortable.   The hike to Mount Whitney was the first time we had the opportunity to interact in a situation where we all had to overcome challenges together in unfamiliar, treacherous territory.  We learned a lot about each of our strengths, limitations, and the value of teamwork.   It does not matter how much fame and fortune you have attained, when you are crossing a steep, snow covered slope that drops thousands of feet off a cliff, everyone is on the same playing field.  The view from the summit made it all worth it.

Robert Allen often uses his experience of a previous dangerous hike he had taken as a lesson to illustrate the following:

The best fishing holes are usually found in the most difficult to reach places. Those that do what it takes to make the trip and overcome adversary, reap the benefits.

A few lessons that I took from the experience of climbing Mount Whitney were:

Be prepared
It is easier to get somewhere if you know where you are going.  It is smart to study the terrain you will be hiking and get a rough idea of what you are in for.  Make sure you have the right supplies and are prepared for emergencies.  You should also have an idea of who you will be climbing with.  A plan can help you avoid some real problems and help you have a much more enjoyable experience.  If things don’t go according to the plan, be ready to improvise with good judgment.

Keep steady and be persistent
The secret for reaching new heights really comes down to putting one foot in front of the other.  Learn from those who have come before you to chart your course.  Then keep chugging along with dogged persistence.  If you work as a team, your strengths are multiplied.

Bring a good guide
A competent guide is invaluable to help you avoid the common pitfalls and danger zones.  They can help guide you through the rough areas of the hike and get you to the summit a lot easier than if you were to go it alone.   There are many people that are willing to share their experience.  It makes sense to listen to them.

Expect ups and downs
There may be some really steep, arduous cliffs to climb as well as some easy plateaus and dips.  The trail to the top is full of challenges.  Be prepared to meet each one.  Realize that it is all part of the process.  Each time you overcome a challenge, you emerge stronger, wiser, and closer to your goal.

Enjoy every part of the journey
The great beauty of the climb is all around you every step of the way.  Everywhere you look there is something fascinating.  All the ups and downs have something to teach you.  Don’t forget to enjoy yourself along the way.

Take advantage of the opportunities to gain a new perspective
Each part of the journey offers a different perspective.  The terrain, plants, and wildlife often change during an ascent.  You will get to see a different part of the mountain and gain a new understanding if you take time to absorb it. Once you sit on top and look back down over the vast peaks, take time to contemplate what you have done and enjoy the moment.

The natural world has so much to teach us.  I hope you find strength and enlightenment climbing your own personal mountains and share your experiences to help others.

 

Top Scientists, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs look to Nature for Inspiration and Guidance

 

creepy toad foto
Who is the most influential educator in the world?

There is no one who has taught more people or created more things that we often take for granted. She has taught every one of the greatest scientist from Aryabhata to Albert Einstien. She showed André-Jacques Garnerin how to make a parachute and taught the Wright Brothers how to fly. She showed Ben Franklin electricity, taught Alessandro Volta how to harness it, and showed Nikola Tesla how to transport it. She has been responsible for the first sparks of fire to the modern match. She is the mother of all inventions from every industry from agriculture to drinking water.

 

Yet she has often been ignored, taken advantage of, and abused.

Now, top scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs are once again looking to her for guidance.

Even billionaire, Sir Richard Branson looks to her for advice on how to direct the many companies of the Virgin Brand. He calls her the “Original Entrepreneur” and insists that it is crucial we learn from her if we are to continue to enjoy the wealth that we have derived from her for hundreds of centuries.

Companies like Boeing, have sent their top engineers to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast to study her in order to come up with solutions for better aviation design. Nike and General Electric have also looked to her to create more effective products and systems.

She is teaching scientists and engineers from the Sahara desert project how to harness energy from the sun and grow food using saltwater in one of the world’s most hostile climates. Projects like these could lead to reforestation of deserts and new ways of sustaining struggling communities.

Mother Nature has had over 3.8 billion years for research and development to come up with innovative systems and designs that are extremely efficient and create zero waste. She is open to teach anyone who is willing to take the time to study with her.

Are we taking time to study?

As people in developed countries spend more time in front of electronic screens, it becomes more important to find opportunities to help them learn from the great educator that lies right outside in the natural world. That is why it so important to create opportunities for young people to learn from her.

More companies are recognizing the value of studying nature as a means for developing systems and design even though it is often counter intuitive for their workforce. Not only can new products and services be developed, but also systems of building a more harmonious relationship between nature and business. As Branson puts it, “…we must recognize the value of the natural assets on our balance sheets” .

In addition to traditional education, we should encourage students to re-learn how to ask questions and look to the great educator of nature for answers. They can then use what they learn to develop new technologies and systems, learn how to profit from her abundance and at the same time find ways to take care of her as she ages.

These are the critical thinking skills that innovative companies will be searching for.  How we use what we learn from the lessons of mother nature will determine our future.

Pay attention because class is in session!

 

_____________________________

 Richard Branson:  Mother Nature, the Original Entrepreneur

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/4282197

http://saharaforestproject.com/projects/qatar.html

http://www.edinformatics.com/inventions_inventors/

What is Environmental Education by Definition?

There are many definitions for environmental education depending on where you look.

Although definitions may vary, there seems to be some common agreements to what it is and what it should be.

Environmental education is often thought of when teaching about the environment and conservation.  Sometimes it is referred to as experiential learning outside and may include things like outdoor classrooms, outdoor adventures, and outdoor recreation.  It also often refers to learning about natural processes in the classroom.

This video is a compilation of various definitions of environmental education from some leading organizations and authorities.

 

What is your definition for environmental education?

Please leave it in the comment box below.

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