Building a new business
Starting a new business from scratch is both exciting and incredibly challenging. I’ve looked at all sorts of bike-related businesses, from bike share to making bike accessories to opening a retail store. I needed to find something that I could do with a minimum of capital (which I learned means very different things to different people. I was thinking a startup cost of under $2,000).
The fun parts of the tour business for me are important to keep in mind:
Doing the tours and meeting visitors to town. Folks who come here on vacation genuinely love the town, and it’s refreshing to talk to them and share what I’ve learned about its culture and history.
The creative stuff… writing the tour itineraries, to creating a brand identity, building the web site, designing the rack cards. Coming up with crafty, environmentally conscious marketing materials and creative ways to really make the tours a unique experience.
I’d originally though the bike tour project would be the simplest to get up and running, but it’s more complex than I anticipated.
Behind the scenes there’s so much more that has to take place before the first tour happens. The business needs to make at least some money to be viable, so the cash flow projections and pricing need to be sorted out. Doing the market research to understand who my customers will be and who my competitors are. Identifying where to advertise and other businesses to partner with. Filling out lots of forms. Coordinating licensing requirements with the state, town, and Cape Cod National Seashore. Figuring out insurance requirements and trying to explain the business to insurance reps. Finding a booking platform and exploring how to get on key web sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.
I’ve managed to find a number of folks to delegate a lot of this to so that I can focus on the things I enjoy.
So here’s some of the fun stuff:
The water bottle! Everyone who goes on a tour will get one of these nifty made-in-the-USA-from-recycled-plastic water bottles. Why? It’s an opportunity to talk about water in a town that’s surrounded by water on three sides.
Drinking water is a precious resource here. Some of the trivia:
There’s only one aquifer under Cape Cod for all 15 towns.
Our water gets piped here from wells in Truro (that’s one of the major reasons the Pilgrims didn’t stay in Provincetown in 1620!).
Our drinking water has no fluoride added.
The town’s Recycling Committee has been installing public water bottle filling stations throughout town, so no one needs to buy bottled water.
Town Meeting has passed bans on plastic bags, plastic drinking straws, and single-use plastic cups and take-out containers.
The rack cards! These are the ubiquitous things you see all over the place promoting businesses here in town. I gathered a ton of cards this fall from other businesses and set out to make something distinctive that wouldn’t be too garish nor too subtle. It needed to have a solid call to action while still providing some level of detail. But it also needed to be something that could sit in a rack all season (or two) and not become outdated.
I’ve taken tons of pics around town over the years, but I learned that using photos of people without a model release is bad. I looked into using stock photos of people riding around town (and there are a lot out there), but they were kind of dated and the cost was out of reach. So my initial design with happy people on bikes had to become photos of bikes and local landmarks.
i’m still tweaking the design, so it will likely change a bit before it goes to print. Right now the front (shown here) is general info and the back goes into more detail. I left pricing off since these need to have a long lifespan.
I found a printer who can print 4x9, double-sided, full-bleed, full-color cards on recycled, matte stock. Yay!
That’s it for the moment. There will be much more to come as I wade through all of the puzzle pieces to kick things off. The big focus for the upcoming week is finalizing the booking system so I can start booking folks on these fun bike tours around town.