While this picture may just look like I’m off on a biking adventure, it is really me testing out an idea I had to lead biking lunch tours up at Lake Tahoe in early May. In early April I had been accepted as a part time biking tour guide in Haines, Alaska. Then two weeks later, my assistant who had been with me for nine and a half years gave her two weeks notice. So I felt I needed to stay focused on my main business and stay in the lower 48. I had made a friend in the winter who was watching my dogs who was leading snow shoeing tours in Tahoe and she loved the idea of doing biking lunch tours with me at Tahoe. I was disappointed I would not be doing the bike tours in Alaska, and looked into leading bike tours that included a gourmet lunch at the lake. This was where the idea of “Five Star Picnics” was born.
As many ideas do, this one expanded to being like a 1-800-flowers idea but for picnics. I researched the possibilities for doing this, did a five force analyis on the whole idea, and then realized, yeah, fun idea, but no, I’m going to take a pass on this one. It would be too easy for a large specialty grocery store to copy the idea and put all my efforts to waste. The picnic biking idea would require a commercial kitchen and a level of oversight that would make the business onerous. If I was already in the food service business, this would be a nice extension service. But I have made a conscious choice not to be in the food service business. I’m more about cooking lessons, cook books, and menu designs/planning for the events we run – rather than being in the food delivery business.
I did learn some new things about event planning and promotions tools that exist on social media that make it much easier to do business start up. I also learned that in a resort town like South Lake Tahoe, it’s still the relationships you need to cultivate with the conceirges at the area hotels that can make your specialty tour business work more than how well you can craft a clever social media campaign. Since I don’t have a huge presence in Lake Tahoe, that also made it more difficult to get something like this off the ground.
I am very grateful I’ve had extensive seasoning in business start up so that I can run with an idea for a little while and bail on it – feeling glad not bad. I recognize how hard earlier versions of me had to work to get Cheetah Learning to the stable mature business it is today. And I’m grateful that Cheetah Learning continues to be such a strong, viable business, even with losing a key player that was critical for it’s operation.