A family fishing from a canoe

Grow your own outfitters, take advantage of your natural resources

Our latest Survey of Rural Challenges said natural resources are our best rural assets, but you don’t have enough outfitters to take advantage of them as tourism development.

Here’s how you can grow your own outfitters. 

  • Gather Your Crowd to attract groups and organizations that want to help
  • Build Connections to borrow equipment and acquire insurance 
  • Take Small Steps by splitting the tasks among different businesses and organizations in the community.

Both Deb and I visited Eastern Kentucky last year. I visited Estill County, and Deb was in Jackson County. We each shared a version of this process to help get tourism ideas off the ground. 

Kathy from Jackson County wanted to start her own outdoor business but she only had one side by side ATV to use. Then another person offered a canoe for Kathy to rent out. This started a conversation around the room of how she could start now, using what others offer and they would help her too. 

In Estill County, we sketched out the steps to grow their own outfitter for river and forest recreation. Here are some of the key steps: 

  • Talk to an outfitter in a similar area from the surrounding communities. Ask lots of questions. 
  • Find local outdoor recreation groups. Their members might be good potential operators. 
  • Consider covering startup costs with Sponsor-A-Canoe with local business logos or wraps. 
  • Cover insurance costs by finding a sponsor or getting a discount through the chamber or organizations like the American Canoe Association. 
  • Break up all the parts of the business and find a person or group to manage or run each part. One group might own the canoes, another has a trailer and can handle payroll, another might volunteer for part of the work during startup. 

It’s not as traditional as starting all at once with a business plan and lots of debt, but it’s more of the rural approach. We’re used to making do and making things work. And isn’t that really the essence of being Idea Friendly? 

Keep shaping the future of your town,


Canoe photo (CC) by CC Chapman