Author Topic: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE  (Read 3306 times)

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Hey everyone,

Its such a strange thing to go mentally from "I cant afford to loose my job" to "technically I don’t need to work any longer”. This has been a LONG process, going on about 5 years. As some of you know, we did live in an offgrid tiny cabin for 2 years. Technically we could move back into the cabin and rent our current house with enough cashflow to live. As tempting as that sounds, and believe me somedays its super tempting, its not something I get excited about. I worry about getting stuck in a rut that is very prohibitive to getting out of, and I like to have options. So I’ve looked into different jobs that might “fill the void” so to speak and allow flexibility post FIRE.

I’ve looked into fighting wildfires, piloting small aircraft, programming, tax preparation, blogging, writing articles for magazines, etc. Firefighting and piloting sound like a blast, however they require being ready at a moment’s notice and accountability when called upon, which is prohibitive to traveling. The others are a little more flexible, but I’m not real excited to do anything computer related on a regular basis post FIRE. So I’ve had these bouncing around in my head for a few years, I’ve even spent the last 2 years training and volunteering with a local fire department. I’ve also logged about 20 hours of flying time and enjoyed every minute of that. But these are tough to get jobs (not that I’m worried about that part) and they wouldn’t allow the kind of flexibility I’m looking for.

Recently, My wife and I decided that we want to move up to Alaska in 2 years. We both like living remote. However, she was concerned about not getting enough socializing. In the past we talked about maybe one day opening a bed and breakfast, but we weren’t into the idea of constantly having people staying with us. Then came a fresh idea the other day that I think might fit the lifestyle we want to live post FIRE.

We discovered fishing lodges that only operate part of the year! My mind was blown, they only operate for about 15 weeks out of the year. That leaves the other 37 weeks of the year to do other things! So for us it sounds like an amazing opportunity to earn some extra spending money, meet some cool people, and live in a beautiful location.

My question to all you entrepreneur mustacians is, given 2 years until we make the move, what can we do in the mean time to start laying the foundation for a future customer base?

I’m pretty knowledgeable in SEO and internet marketing, but who would you contact and network with?

I need help developing a plan of action so when we are ready to open up we already have an audience, that would be my goal. I’ve read a lot about it, I just don’t really know how to do it.

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Side Note:

Part of the reason for this post is to share our progress to FIRE, its pretty amazing. Anyone that tells you it cannot be done is dead wrong. You just have to have a goal and the will power to see it through to the end. I would have never thought I would be in a position to open a fishing lodge in Alaska, debt free no less. Its amazing what you can accomplish when you are free from debt, this would not be possible if we still had car and student loan payments.

2 years, start the count down! : )
« Last Edit: June 29, 2017, 02:21:15 PM by Greenback Reproduction Specialist »
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Proud Foot

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2017, 09:28:36 AM »
I think the first thing would be determining a location and what services you will provide as a fishing lodge. Become extremely knowledgeable on the types of fish in your area, best methods to catching them, best locations to find them, etc. How will they get to the different fishing places from your lodge? Do you know different people who go to fishing lodges in Alaska? If so find out what they like/didn't like about each one.

bwall

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2017, 10:12:51 AM »
Do you know different people who go to fishing lodges in Alaska? If so find out what they like/didn't like about each one.

+1.

What would keep someone from ever going? Or, from ever returning? What makes them return, year after year after year, etc?

Know your customer inside and out. What makes them tick.


SeattleCPA

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2017, 01:43:34 PM »
Assuming you want to make money doing this, I would first look for examples of people who've made this work.

E.g., i'd regularly search on bizbuysell.com to see if regularly fishing lodges come up for sale... and that they typically make money.

Logic here is that there are some "businesses" that people don't actually make money in. E.g., probably many horse stables fall into this category...
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bwall

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2017, 04:51:12 PM »
Assuming you want to make money doing this, I would first look for examples of people who've made this work.

E.g., i'd regularly search on bizbuysell.com to see if regularly fishing lodges come up for sale... and that they typically make money.

Logic here is that there are some "businesses" that people don't actually make money in. E.g., probably many horse stables fall into this category...

Very good points. Anytime I hear of a business for sale that 'runs itself' and 'makes money', I wonder why is it then for sale? "Health Issues" is a common answer to which I said 'yeh, I'd be sick of running a crappy business also' or 'change in priorities in life' and I say 'yeh, I'd want my time and money back, too!'.

I think the best way to start is to try and find a job as a manager of fishing lodge. You can learn all about the business while at the same time keeping an eye out for the other things mentioned in these posts (know the customer, does it make money, what works that you can copy, what can you improve, do you actually like the job, etc.). Then, after you've been paid to learn all these things, you can make a very well informed decision.

GizmoTX

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2017, 05:09:14 PM »
We've gone to a couple fishing lodges in Alaska; both owners live in the DFW area the rest of the year. You would be running a small hotel, restaurant, & providing guides, boats, & maybe air transportation for 4 months out of the year, due to the weather. You'd have to open the place, meaning unbutton it & get it into running shape before the season begins & secure it again when the season ends. The lodges we stayed at have nice informative websites & the owners go to multiple shows during the off season to promote them & book customers for the upcoming season. You'd need to have someone available somewhere with a toll free number year round to field questions & take reservations. You may be up for this, but it's not the completely part time business you envision.

Fishindude

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2017, 08:06:17 AM »
If you want to get into a fishing lodge business in AK, I'm sure there are plenty of fishing lodge owners that would gladly sell you their business.
Hate to burst your bubble, because these are the place I love to go to, but I suspect most of them are nonstop work and losing or break even at best propositions.

The best lodges have owners that are pilots and their own aircraft, otherwise you have to rely on others and hire out this very expensive service.

SeattleCPA

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2017, 09:29:20 AM »
This thought just pops into my head...

There's an episode of the TV show, Hotel Impossible, that has the host helping a fishing lodge owner turn the business around. I think that'd be a pretty good research activity... and only an hour once you find the episode...
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SwordGuy

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #8 on: July 12, 2017, 06:20:03 PM »
Make a plan to make money.

And make a plan to lose money.   This plan is to ensure you don't lose so much money that you destroy your FIRE situation now and forever.

Don't be like my mom's neighbor who, in his early 60s in his retirement, spent his life savings starting up a business that failed.  Now he's in his 70s doing handyman work in the neighborhood hoping to make ends meet.

Greenback Reproduction Specialist

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2017, 01:29:46 PM »
Make a plan to make money.

And make a plan to lose money.   This plan is to ensure you don't lose so much money that you destroy your FIRE situation now and forever.
 

Good point, this is super important. This is basically what I did when I came up with the plan, I do this for almost everything in life, just my nature I guess. I always like to have a backup plan in place in case things donít go right, I find it allows me to take risks that most people wouldnít and has also helped contribute to our success.

We can do this, literally have 0 customers, and still be just fine on our passive income. The business idea helped solve a few issues my wife and I were seeing with early retirement. One being, I wasnít really sure I wanted to completely stop shooting for goals, I enjoy work, but I also enjoy freedom of my time. So, a business that requires full time work for 15 weeks and maybe part time the rest of the year sounds great for me. Another thing was having a little socializing for part of the year, we will be remote, so having people visit for a little while will be nice. Hopefully we will meet some great people and grow a lasting relationship over time. Good marketing practices require keeping in touch with clients and prospects.
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Greenback Reproduction Specialist

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2017, 01:54:11 PM »
Thanks for all the replies, sorry I was little slow with my response.

I think the first thing would be determining a location and what services you will provide as a fishing lodge. Become extremely knowledgeable on the types of fish in your area, best methods to catching them, best locations to find them, etc. How will they get to the different fishing places from your lodge? Do you know different people who go to fishing lodges in Alaska? If so find out what they like/didn't like about each one.

This is a great idea, I can think of at least 5 close friends and family members that do this almost yearly. I will ask them and get some opinions.

Assuming you want to make money doing this, I would first look for examples of people who've made this work.

E.g., i'd regularly search on bizbuysell.com to see if regularly fishing lodges come up for sale... and that they typically make money.
 

I will have to check out this site and see. Purchasing an existing lodge might be a good option if we can find the right one for the right price.
Is it fair to still call it a business if you donít care if it makes money? I mean obviously, I want to earn money when people come stay with us, I donít want to lose money on each client. But there isnít a set number clients I will need to break even. So I donít really care how many we have each year.


I think the best way to start is to try and find a job as a manager of fishing lodge. You can learn all about the business while at the same time keeping an eye out for the other things mentioned in these posts (know the customer, does it make money, what works that you can copy, what can you improve, do you actually like the job, etc.). Then, after you've been paid to learn all these things, you can make a very well informed decision.

This would be awesome and probably shorten the learning curve a whole bunch, save untold amounts of time and money in the long run. Even better if it turns out the person needs a manager and possibly considering selling.

Quote from an Alaskan fishing lodge owner:

"Another question I often hear is "what do you do in the winter, go to Florida?" (destinations can be replaced with anywhere tropical) Although I do like to look at a palm tree from time to time, much of my winter is spent in front of a computer, behind a desk at a sport show, or much of my winter is spent upgrading or upkeep on our lodge. Forty below temperatures, heavy snows, preceded by wet falls runs havoc on our buildings. We are constantly upgrading our lodge with new buildings manufactured by homegrown lumber from local timbers and our on-site sawmill."

I lived in Alaska (Anchorage and Cordova) and you do need to consider the amount of work and cost involved with maintaining and repairing a place that might be in extreme weather conditions 8 months out of the year. You may also be required to maintain any roads to your lodge if they exist unless you use fly-in or boat in exclusively. The cost to fly in or drive in supplies, equipment, food etc - plus housing and feeding a couple of staff if plan to have them - can add a lot to your budget. You'll have to supply potable water, some sort of waste management for humans and trash, and some source of heating oil or propane,  or diesel if you have generators. Costs a lot to get that stuff to a remote fishing camp. If you have to hire a bush pilot and plane or boats to get people to your place you'll have those additional costs as well as need a high level of liability insurance. Anyways lots of little and big expenses plus a very heavy workload on season and some pre-season too.

Thanks for the insight about living remote, I donít remember if I mentioned, but we lived for 2 years off grid in the mountains of Idaho. So I have a good understanding of the amount of work and increase in time and money to complete projects. I would imagine the weather is a little more extreme up there, but we had 5 ft of snow on our roof last year after a good storm and about 2 months of below freezing temperatures. Iím ok with it, I enjoy that lifestyle a lot more than in town. Much slower pace of life, worth every penny in extra expense to get things.

If you want to get into a fishing lodge business in AK, I'm sure there are plenty of fishing lodge owners that would gladly sell you their business.
Hate to burst your bubble, because these are the place I love to go to, but I suspect most of them are nonstop work and losing or break even at best propositions.

The best lodges have owners that are pilots and their own aircraft, otherwise you have to rely on others and hire out this very expensive service.


Iím ok if they donít make much, I donít want to be in a situation where I lose money on clients. But, I figure I already want to live there, so it gives me an opportunity to earn extra cash part of the year.
Finding someone willing to sell for the right price would be great!

Glad you brought up planes, I love planes and flying. Another one of my goals would be to eventually get a float plane if the business does well enough to justify the cost and upkeep. I donít know if you are a pilot, but flying those things are not cheap. I did a quick analysis of the costs and it didnít save but maybe $100 per customer. It didnít seem like to much of a cost savings, and things always end up costing more than you think originallyÖ Not having a lot of experience with up keeping planes, I cant tell for sure if it will be worthwhile. I would guess itís a whole lot cheaper than using a boat in some remote locations though.

This thought just pops into my head...

There's an episode of the TV show, Hotel Impossible, that has the host helping a fishing lodge owner turn the business around. I think that'd be a pretty good research activity... and only an hour once you find the episode...

I will have to look that up, thanks for the tip : )
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JanF

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2017, 04:45:19 PM »
What about running Airbnb or ToursbyLocal? It can be used as a test run to see if it's a viable option

Cassie

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2017, 05:43:16 PM »
My parents had a summer resort in Northern WI for 10 years. They never made any $ even though the cabins were always full because all the $ made went back into improvements for the resort. They worked hard, customers can be real jerks, etc and after observing that as a kid I never wanted to do that type of thing.  Like your idea the resort was only open about 3 1/2 months of the year.

Greenback Reproduction Specialist

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2017, 08:53:24 AM »
What about running Airbnb or ToursbyLocal? It can be used as a test run to see if it's a viable option

I've never heard of toursbylocal, I will have to check that out.

I like the idea of using airbnb as another way to market the lodge online. I guess when I say "lodge", what I really mean is something like a guest cabin on our property. I could also provide things like kayaks, obviously a fishing boat and tackle, maybe bikes, etc. to give someone opportunities to sight see.
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Greenback Reproduction Specialist

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2017, 08:57:06 AM »
My parents had a summer resort in Northern WI for 10 years. They never made any $ even though the cabins were always full because all the $ made went back into improvements for the resort. They worked hard, customers can be real jerks, etc and after observing that as a kid I never wanted to do that type of thing.  Like your idea the resort was only open about 3 1/2 months of the year.

I think I would be ok with the money going back into the "lodge", it will only help to improve our standard of living and keep up our property value. Its more about the lifestyle for us, we wont need the income.

Jerkoff customers is a real concern for me, I'm not even sure I want to market this place outside of our circle of influence. I think we have a great opportunity to only hire on clients from a warm market, and then grow it from there. Honestly, I would have no problem sending someone packing and giving them a refund. I don't like disrespectful people, probably my number one pet peeve.
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Cassie

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #15 on: July 27, 2017, 02:14:39 PM »
The things people did were unbelievable. WE lived in Southern WI and most of our customers came from the Chicago area. The first time you rented from us you had to drive the hour or 2 to our home to view the slides of the cabins/resort and then pick the one you wanted.  They started doing this before season 2 because the first year people were complaining that they were not luxurious enough.  Even in 1960 what did you expect for $45/week no matter how big your family was?  They were advertised as clean, housekeeping cabins.  The location was beautiful right on the lake and each cabin got a row boat for free too. People returned yearly after having the experience once. Lots of nice people too but still plenty of aggravation.

Missy B

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Re: Kicking around the idea of opening a fishing lodge Post FIRE
« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2017, 07:23:32 PM »
{Quote/}.  "Thanks for the insight about living remote, I donít remember if I mentioned, but we lived for 2 years off grid in the mountains of Idaho. So I have a good understanding of the amount of work and increase in time and money to complete projects. I would imagine the weather is a little more extreme up there, but we had 5 ft of snow on our roof last year after a good storm and about 2 months of below freezing temperatures. Iím ok with it, I enjoy that lifestyle a lot more than in town. Much slower pace of life, worth every penny in extra expense to get things. " {quote/}

My point was less about living remotely and more about running a remote business that caters to high paying clientele where you need to not only cater their expectations but also meet local laws and codes to provide your services to your guests. What may be OK for you living remotely may not be for your guests, who may expect a higher standard, or may not meet Alaskan logding laws and regulations for businesses. Also remote Alaska, depending on where your place is,  and remote Idaho can be very different things in terms of ability to get all the things you need when you need them at affordable prices.
This. I doubt there's anywhere in the contiguous US that can compare with Alaska for transportation and supply challenges. Lodges in Alaska are expensive to run and expensive to get to, and the people paying the high price for the trip have high expectations to match. Also, if someone gets jerky about the fact that the food isn't great, or the sheets itch or whatever, it isn't practical to just tell them they can leave if they don't like it. Depending on the plane situation, you might be stuck with them for the full time anyway.

Lots of people have a dream of 'retiring' to run a B&B or campsite or lodge; all the people I personally know who did it said they worked harder and longer hours then when they had a job. Up early with chores and breakfast; up late sorting people out as they check in. You are always 'on'. If that sounds like fun, go for it. But I would give it a over a year first to live through the full seasonal cycle before opening anything. Mild winters do not prepare a person for the reality of Alaskan weather.