Editor’s Note: This story is part of the 50 Businesses, 50 Solutions series that aims to highlight how business leaders across the state, from mom and pop shops, to large corporations have adapted to meet the challenges and disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus in the hopes others may be able to replicate these ideas and innovations
When Louis DeAngelis and Tyler Weller, both of Plymouth, co-founded Effortless Adventure last year, they wanted to make camping easy and accessible. They began renting out camping gear, with about 90% of their clients coming from Massachusetts to visit the White Mountains.
“We were helping folks who are more new to outdoor experiences get outdoors and go camping,” DeAngelis said.
After a successful first season, the duo planned to expand their operations during the summer of 2020, offering guided tours to popular destinations in the Whites, teaching people how to engage with outdoor activities like rock climbing or kayaking. Then, the pandemic turned that business plan on its head.
“The guided approach that we were taking was essentially going to be getting groups of strangers together from the greater Boston area,” DeAngelis said. “Unfortunately, not a good idea anymore.”
It started to become clear to DeAngelis and Weller in early April that they wouldn’t be able to offer guided experiences this summer. Then, they realized that they may need to tap into a whole new customer base, as out-of-state visitors were restricted under Gov. Sununu’s stay at home order. As of early June, many campgrounds still had questions about reopening, particularly to out-of-state guests, DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis and Weller created a new plan for 2020 on the fly. They decided that they would focus on their bread and butter — camping gear rentals — while also expanding into digital itineraries. Now, customers can purchase a package through Effortless Adventure that includes all camping gear, a campground reservation and a digital itinerary with a theme like waterfalls, swimming holes or local breweries that have beers available to go. The packages cost $215-$300 for a two-night package, which includes camping gear and a site rental. Everything is delivered without any interaction, using storage lockers in Plymouth.
While Effortless Adventure won’t be seeing the 30-40% expansion that they were hoping for in 2020, the self-guided adventures have allowed DeAngelis and Weller to keep the business afloat, while opening a new revenue stream for the future.
“This has had us look really hard at the things we’re offering,” DeAngelis said. “These self-guided adventures are a way to serve customers now and to scale in the future.”
With some people cautious about out-of-state travel, Effortless Adventure has focused marketing on southern New Hampshire residents, who have no restrictions on travel within the state, DeAngelis said. They’re hoping that with other lodging options uncertain for the summer, and air travel limited, more people will give camping a try.
“We’ve had tons of inquiries for folks who haven’t gone camping before,” DeAngelis said.
Although guided tours have a higher profit margin, DeAngelis believes there will be a demand even after the pandemic for self-guided tours of the Whites. Some people want to have the privacy of camping and hiking alone, while still tapping into local knowledge of the White Mountains, he said.
At 26 and 25 respectively, DeAngelis and Weller are knowledgeable about technology, which let them quickly pivot to digital itineraries for their customers.
“Utilizing the phone, we were able to put something together in a fairly quick amount of time,” DeAngelis said. “Age was an advantage in sorting that out.”
But in other ways, DeAngelis wishes he had the experience of older entrepreneurs, who have weathered the challenges of economic downturns and unexpected disruptions.
“We haven’t had to deal with something like this before,” he said. “We’re learning as we go.”
From sole proprietorships to large corporations, we want to hear from all New Hampshire business leaders who’ve found solutions to their Covid-related challenges. Tell us your story here. A reporter may follow up for a future article in this series.
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