This is a follow up story for Envi Adventures. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 5 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi there, my name is Corey Rust and I started Envi Adventures in Troutdale, Oregon. Never heard of it? I’m surprised. It’s a sprawling metropolis of just over 16,000 on the eastside of Portland. Now, if you’ve ever been to Portland and driven into the Columbia River Gorge to see Multnomah Falls, you’ve gone right by Troutdale, or maybe you’ve even stopped at one of the several fine dining establishments such as McDonald’s or the Country Pride diner at the TA truck stop.
So, if you’re new here and don’t remember what Envi Adventures is (we don’t blame you), we are a year-round scenic air tour operation that provides airplane flight tours above some of Portland’s and Oregon’s most famous landmarks like the above mentioned Multnomah Falls, Mt. Hood, and Portland itself.
While we offer seven different tours, 80% of the flights we do are in the Columbia River Gorge and people from all over the world want to see the waterfalls from the air. The gorge has consistently been the bread and butter of our operation. And when I say ‘all over the world’, I really mean all over the world; in places that I never ever dreamt would come to visit us.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since our last visit, I think the biggest news is that we added another airplane, a Piper Cherokee 6 with room for 5 passengers, to our fleet allowing us to increase our capacity, lower our prices, and increase our reliability for when an airplane goes into scheduled required maintenance. We’re pretty thrilled about it.
If you have an idea and think you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere and see where it leads you.
We also did a little rebranding by simplifying our logo and giving it a more minimalistic and clean look. We’re pretty happy with it and updated the airplanes with the word ‘envi’ in that font so most everything is consistent from start to finish.
In June, we also shifted from Wix as a website host to have a Wordpress website which has been a really nice transition in the sense that it’s faster to load, more user-friendly, and looks a little more professional.
2019 was a really good year overall. Our revenues were up 7% over 2018 and we saw a 10.88% increase in the number of completed flights and 27.14% increase in the number of passengers we flew with! The increase in passengers has to do with adding an additional airplane with a higher capacity and we also add a new tour that has been pretty popular since adding it late last year.
One thing that we started doing was hosting events such as a summer kickoff we co-hosted with a non-profit called Dollar For (definitely go check them out! They're doing amazing things for people). It was open to everybody and we had different vendors participating in the event, we had a raffle, took people flying for $15 per person, and raised money for a good cause. We were maxed out on attendance and saw some pretty awesome results.
It was great to see new faces and people experience flying for the first time, and because of that, we’ve seen a healthy number of those people come back and take longer flights with us.
Earlier I mentioned a new tour that we call ‘Stumptown.’ This flight was designed to be an introductory flight at an affordable price point and also provides a night flight option! The flight goes over Downtown Portland and with prices starting at only $29 per person, it’s become really popular and it’s a really fun flight for us to do. We’re hopeful that as we start getting into spring and summer, this flight will continue to be a popular option.
We also did a giveaway on Instagram where there were 3 winners and each winner was allowed to bring a friend on a flight adventure that we took. On August 29th, we loaded both planes up and originally we intended to fly to the Oregon Coast, but due to weather, we shifted our route to the east and flew toward Sunriver. Of course, as we descended toward it, a storm cell decided to hang out right over the Sunriver Airport so we diverted to Bend, Oregon instead. The flight was an absolute blast, and the views were amazing. Flying past the cascade mountains at sunset was an incredible sight and the exposure generated was excellent...and the people we took had fun too– we think.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Staffing has always been a challenge. In the beginning, I always thought I’d just need 1 pilot and they’ll do all the flights. Wrong! I learned 3 years ago that’s a stupid expectation. I’ve always had a cluster of pilots to draw on to fill in the schedule, but people want to go on vacation, or they have family obligations, or they get ill...which are all very valid excuses. So always having more than I “need” has been essential, and even then, with 4-5 pilots on the roster, I’ve run into trouble getting flights scheduled. It’s all worked out in the end, but those sorts of things are the things that make my head spin.
2019 was a pretty great year overall. There weren’t any major hiccups or issues and the only thing that kind of sucked was our maintenance bill for the year which was pretty hefty, but it all worked out and just comes with the territory. I learned that I’m really bad at estimating how much maintenance will cost, so I don’t even try anymore. So when the bill comes, I begrudgingly accept it, pay it, and move one. It’s the cost of doing business and it’s one of those items that you absolutely can not skimp on or ignore. I know of some operations that do, and that’s a terribly scary thought.
We were able to set up some new partnerships with Get Your Guide (which is still in the process of being sorted out) and locally with other businesses and hotels like the Jupiter Hotel and Tea Bar. We’ve found really great success in unconventional partnerships and that has really helped to diversify our audience, so we’re really grateful to them and to all of the other places we currently and have partnered with in the past.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I’m excited for what’s to come in 2020. Portland is pretty well established as a market for us and continues to steadily grow at a manageable rate. There are times that I wish we were a tad busier but then there are times when I wish we were a little less busy. So it all equals out.
In terms of what we offer in Portland, we’re pretty set on the tours we currently sell. They’ve proven themselves and none of them are underperforming in any way where we feel like they need to be cut. Because of that, we have started to set our sights in other locations and create partnerships to expand the Envi brand elsewhere. So hopefully that starts to gain some traction and we’ll see what happens!
For this year, my goal is to continue to steadily grow and maintain a healthy amount of business. And, by the way, for January of this year, our revenues were up 151.87% year over year. So if that is any indication, and with January historically being our worst month every year, then this year will be pretty good. I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but that growth is a motivating factor for sure.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I’m not much of a reader. In fact, my favorite book is Weiner Dog Art: A Far Side Collection by Gary Larson...so that being said, it’s kind of a big deal that I read Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. It totally changed my thinking process on how to organize and manage finances for my business, and personally. The best part is, it’s an extremely simple concept that people have been living by for a very long time. I highly recommend reading it; also ‘Weiner Dog Art.’
As for Podcasts, I’m a big fan of Chris Guillebeau Side Hustle School. They’re quick listening, and can sometimes be very motivating.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I don’t want to pretend like I know much because I don’t think I do and I’m not that smart. A lot of the success of Envi has been due to the tremendous efforts of other people and for that, I am extremely thankful. If a product has merit, and a product is exciting, then other people will get excited about it and talk about it.
Even if your product is tax services, if you do a good job and your clients are excited about that, other people will get excited about it too. I think the biggest thing that I have to remind myself is to not compare myself to other businesses; especially businesses in different industries. It’s so easy to get discouraged by the ‘success’ of others, but you should be proud of what you create. Whether you’re making $1 or $1 billion, you’re still making money from something YOU created. That’s monumental and should inspire anybody to just make a go of an idea.
I think we live in a cultural mindset that if you’re not pulling in 6-figures, then you’re not successful. And maybe that’s true, but I think it’s crap. Success is subjective, and my definition of it and of failure I hope would be very different from everybody else's.
If you have an idea and think you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere and see where it leads you. If you don’t think your business is growing, tweak something and see if that changes things a little bit.
Accept your failures and learn from them. I’m skeptical of instant success. At some point, I feel like that instant success will come crashing down because when hard times come, they don’t know what to do because they’ve never had to deal with it. Failure sucks, but it’s really important so that you can appreciate your accomplishments.
If you started a business and you’re seeing results, you’ve proven at least one person wrong, and that is something to be proud of.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Not necessarily hiring anybody right now. As I mentioned earlier, we’re looking at different locations to expand, so if you’re feeling entrepreneurial, have access to an airplane, and think where you are is a good place for air tours, then we should chat!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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