Some entrepreneurs-like Kroll, who has spent much of his life soaring like an eagle-are able to jump right into this business. However, there are obviously other considerations. "You also need to know how to be a proper [businessperson] and how to charge and properly serve the client," says Stephenson.
"It's rare you'd talk to someone in the business who has an MBA, but it certainly helps," adds DePanfilis. "There's a new breed of owner out there now."
Whatever the breed, an up-and-coming hang-gliding entrepreneur has a few options as far as getting involved in the industry, be it selling gear, opening a pro shop or a flight park, or offering lessons or excursions. According to DePanfilis, one way not to go is equipment manufacturing, as Orange, California-based Wills Wing Inc. and Altair in Draper, Utah, have had a stranglehold on the industry for years.
The concept of flight parks-designated areas for gliding and other recreational activities-has taken off, too. Typically, these resort-like spots are found in parts of the country where there are no training hills or mountains for gliders to take off from. DePanfilis points to 44-acre Lookout Mountain Flight Park in small Rising Fawn, Georgia, as the ultimate example of a full-service flight park and school.
|"Just because there's a possibility that someone might get hurt does not mean that we should legislate the possibility of someone having fun."|
As for Kroll, he's content knowing he's not only started a profitable business, but he's also successfully cut through plenty of political and legal red tape to make his the first business of its type to offer tandem flights to the public in the Bay area. Such struggles can spell the end for a non-business-savvy hang glider.
"It was like a miracle," laughs Kroll, who also won the FAA over, "not only that I was able to convince the Marin County politicians to side with me over the protest of their own lawyers who were saying no, but because I convinced them I was right.
"Just because there's a possibility that someone might get hurt does not mean that we should legislate the possibility of someone having fun."