Start-up costs range from $5,000 to upwards of $25,000-in fact, those who've tried this say you're risking failure if you don't have at least $25,000. Keep in mind that your dream may not pay off right away, and you might have to shell out a lot more for marketing than you expected.
There are plenty of other start-up issues to consider as well, such as your own industry experience (or lack thereof). Travel entrepreneurs advise you to work at a tour company before venturing out on your own. Otherwise, like Josh Cohen, you'll face big problems.
In 1991, Cohen, 26 at the time, used his credit cards to start what was to become InnerQuest Wilderness Adventures in Sausalito, California. Then he ran into a series of speed bumps: Someone had already claimed his business name, and it was costly to change it; his first ad in an adventure travel magazine flopped due to a malfunctioning toll-free number; plus, he hadn't figured out how to turn his outdoor personal-growth courses into a year-round business. Eventually, he had to put most of his profits back into the business to try to keep it going-all $100,000 of it-and it still wasn't enough: By 1997, the early debts forced him to reorganize under bankruptcy laws.
But the painful lessons learned made InnerQuest's financial reorganization very successful, and Cohen, now 35, has added ecotours in Belize and Costa Rica during most of the year, taking groups into the deep rain forests where most tourists never venture.
Tim Vanderhoof, 32, took industry experience one step further. Despite having spent much of his life "in every facet of the travel industry here and abroad," he figured he could still use some mature help. He split the costs, risks and ownership with Nancy Johnson, who had 20 years more experience, and in April 1999, they formed AlfresCo Corp., a Seattle company that provides adventure programs for corporate training.
Vanderhoof and Johnson also planned a slow rollout to work out the kinks. "Our mantra is 'underpromise and overdeliver,' and when I assess a project, I add 50 percent to the time I expect to be able to finish," Vanderhoof explains.