Why Get Up And Go Kayaking is a Top New and Emerging Franchise Justin Buzzi saw an opportunity to create a business offering clear kayak tours, and now he's offering adventurous franchisees the opportunity to jump on board.

By Tracy Stapp Herold

This story appears in the September 2023 issue of Start Up.

Since launching in 2016, Get Up And Go Kayaking has racked up hundreds of millions of social media views, thousands of five-star reviews, 20-plus franchises in Florida, and now earned the No. 33 spot on Entrepreneur's Top New & Emerging Franchises list. Owner Justin Buzzi explains how it all got started.

What's your background?

I got my marketing degree from the University of Central Florida and was kind of pursuing a rap music career, but I ended up working for the Golf Channel in Orlando, first as a client support person, and then as a pricing analyst. I started Get Up And Go Kayaking while I was working there, so at night I would give bioluminescent tours where the water lights up as you paddle over it. I would get home around 3 a.m., be the weird guy washing off kayaks at 4 a.m., get to bed at 5 a.m., and then have to wake up and get to work by 8 the next morning. I did that for two summers, and then thankfully the business was at the point where I could quit the full-time job and focus on giving tours. But I think my music career helped me understand branding and marketing, and the Golf Channel job helped me learn the corporate side of things.

What inspired you to start to Get Up and Go Kayaking?

In the summer of 2016, my then-girlfriend (now my wife) and I tried to go to a state park in central Florida, and when we got there it was already at capacity. There was a long line of cars — hundreds of people — being turned away. We tried calling several other state parks and springs, but they were all completely full, too. I hadn't realized how much demand there was for outdoor recreation in the springs here in Florida, so it got me thinking maybe there was a way to fulfill some of that extra demand. And I had seen the clear kayaks online, and thought it would be cool to see the water and aquatic life under you. So two weeks later, I got a loan from the bank and started the business up. I wanted to be the first to market giving tours in clear kayaks, so I just hit the ground running — or rather, the water paddling.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now and take this quiz to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

What led you to start franchising?

Toward the end of 2017, we started going viral on Facebook and Instagram. Business went from being pretty slow to being completely booked, and I had a lot of customers asking if we had other locations. I just had two locations — which I still own — but I realized there was a big demand for more. And I also wanted to give the opportunity to friends and family, and anyone else out there in a similar situation as I was, to start their own business and do something fun and enjoyable. So now it's cool because many of my family members and friends have become franchisees throughout Florida.

How are you getting the word out about the franchise opportunity?

Social media is really where we've tried to get the attention of both customers and potential franchisees. Our company has over 300 million views on social media. I'm now starting to post more content around franchising on my LinkedIn channel, so we've seen a couple of leads come in from there too.

One of our franchisees was listed as the number one outdoor activity to do in the entire world on TripAdvisor, so we've gotten a lot of cool press opportunities from that, and I always try to mention the franchising side of things. We even appeared on an episode of The Bachelor, where they did a hometown date on my tour at Rock Springs.

Do you plan to expand outside of Florida?

Yeah, that's really the next big step for us is getting people outside of Florida to join the franchise. We've got a few lined up now, in Texas, Arizona, Tennessee, and Hawaii. I'm really excited to start going outside of Florida and take the brand to a whole new level.

What are you looking for in your franchisees?

People who are adventurous and who understand customer service. I love owner-operators because no one's going to care more about their business. So I love when an owner wants to start out as their own tour guide so they can learn to give the tours, which then helps them with hiring and training later on. And what's better than getting to kayak in beautiful places and share those experiences with other people?

Related: These Are the Top 10 Recreation Franchises to Buy in 2023

Tracy Stapp Herold

Entrepreneur Staff

Tracy Stapp Herold is the special projects editor at Entrepreneur magazine. She works on franchise and business opportunity stories and listings, including the annual Franchise 500.

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