How to start a business if you love the great outdoors

Posted: 2nd May 2016

If the idea of sitting behind a desk day in, day out fills you with horror. Don’t despair you can still start and grow a successful business, where the only uniform is a pair of wellies and your inspirationwood comes from the nature all around you. Obviously it depends on what your skills are; if you are a garden designer, a builder or an equine expert your skills are perfect for an outdoor business. But even if your skills are not so clearly defined you can still find a business idea which means you spend the majority of your time in the fresh air, we are sharing a few here:

Lead wildlife walks in your local area

Firstly identify a niche. There are lots of walking experiences in any area so you need to identify your unique selling proposition (USP) to differentiate your business from the others. See walking-uk.com

  • Make your walks an adventure
  • Brush up on your knowledge of local curiosities or wildlife
  • Develop an entertaining and confident style (it’s more than just a walk)
  • Collaborate with other local businesses by offering themed walks, maybe food tasting at local producers or restaurants along the way or a dawn chorus walk with breakfast.
  • Find new customers by engaging with other local groups such as youth or sports clubs to introduce wildlife walking to non-traditional customers
  • Tie the experience in with fitness or friendship to give it a health kick with a difference feel
  • Invite local journalists and photographers along for the walk for some great publicity and use social media (particularly Twitter) to give a live commentary of your walks and photographs of the wildlife to all your followers.

*Top Tip – Research insurance required and make sure your walkers are clear about rules, dangers and behaviour.

Capitalise on open-air photography

If you are a keen and creative photographer you have all the skills and equipment to turn your hobby into a business – you just need some customers. Lovingly produced photographs capturing the great outdoors and a rural idyll are always in great demand and to boost your product sales you can offer beginners outdoor photography courses.

  • Offer customers a range of options, from the entry level; unique handmade greeting cards which give customers an affordable taste of your art, to art canvasses or atmospheric prints and finally bespoke commissions. Customers have the opportunity to “trade up” if they like the products.
  • Promote your products in places that match your images; Country Fairs, Farmers Markets and Local Fetes are all affordable and attract the right customers. Don’t neglect online sales though; it’s a crowded market but a simple Blog or Facebook page will create interest and allow you to build up a database, chances are customers buy one card, they will buy more.
  • Create an interest in the changing local wildlife with a regular Twitter Hashtag # session letting enthusiasts post what wildlife they can see from their window, garden or office – hopefully encouraging some to take their interest further and book a course.
  • Upload your newest photographs and create an online poll, encouraging your followers to vote for the next images to make it to print – they will be delighted if they pick the winner (and probably buy).

*Top Tip – Your images are unique and precious – they are your business to you so don’t forget to protect them, have a look at the British Library IP guidance.

Create products from hedgerow ingredients

A natural and local skincare or home perfume range is a really compelling sales proposition; people don’t want to think that they are filling their lives with harsh chemicals. You don’t need specialist equipment, just imagination, some knowledge about safety and combinations, a bit of training and some recipes.

  • Keep the natural theme by using rural and local images, with simple branding and packaging to reflect the product.
  • If you are using existing kitchen paraphernalia (better still retro) make sure you capture the images; the simplicity and authenticity is part of your brand.
  • In your marketing material frequently mention your ingredients, where they come from and what they do. Along with your vision: organic, natural, local, cruelty free, vegan.
  • Customers need to be confident in your skills and ability so never miss the opportunity to highlight your qualifications and understanding of botanical techniques.
  • Be clear about your values and motivations and dovetail this through the products and the brand – it is an important message and will attract customers.
  • Use nature and the great outdoors to drive your business and tell your story, it gives boundless opportunity to offer different products and services as the seasons change.  Immerse yourself in the local nature and environment, it defines your brand.
  • Run tester sessions with family and friends over a period of time using video and photography to record the results then upload to your website completely un-photoshopped  it’s the ultimate testimonial.

*Tip Tip – Your family and friends can use as much of your skincare products as they like but before you actually sell them you must meet cosmetic legislation and labelling laws and must have your product tested and approved by a certified assessor. Contact your local council trading standards office or see gcstm.co.uk/ (Guild of craft soap and toiletry makers).