How Get Outside Started From a Passion for Outdoor Adventures

March 5, 2019, Kyla Steeves
Turn passion into business. Get Outside founder Jenna Nodding on a trek in China.

In the Canadian Rockies, endless opportunities wait for those who love to explore. From mountain biking to ice climbing, there’s an outdoor activity for everyone. But as exciting as it is to be an adventurer, many feel uncomfortable navigating unfamiliar terrain on their own. Luckily, some explorers have become certified guides and turned their passion into a business. Among them is Jenna Nodding of Get Outside.

Curiously, Nodding still holds a conventional job while running an outdoor adventure business. That’s why we were thrilled to talk to her about how she started Get Outside, and manages to balance work with passion.

Turning passion into a business

After tearing her ACL at sixteen, Nodding found her physiotherapist helpful throughout the recovery process. Primarily, he was someone that provided the assurance she needed that everything was going to be okay. Because of his support, Nodding discovered that she wanted to help people in the same way.

Getting her Masters of Science in Physiotherapy at Queen’s University, Nodding moved back to Calgary to work full-time. Seeing that she now had a disposable income and the Rockies in her backyard, she took the opportunity to dive headfirst into mountain sports. All in the same year, she learned how to ski, rock climb, and ice climb. “That was kind of my starting block for getting into the guiding realm,” Nodding says.

While expanding her experience in physiotherapy, Nodding continued to make time for outdoor pursuits. For instance, when she lived in China working for the Chinese National Short Track Speed Skating Team, she also embarked on challenging hikes — including Tiger Leaping Gorge in China and Manaslu Trek in Nepal.

Along the way, her passion opened up opportunities to guide with other companies. On one trip, Nodding led a hiker who expressed how she’d love to get into backpacking but wanted to go with a group she could feel comfortable learning with. This conversation sparked an idea; there was another way Nodding could help others. By taking women on outdoor adventures, she’d be able to give them the skills and confidence to explore more.

When I went into the guiding stream, I always had an idea in the back of my mind that I would end up running my own company.

Jenna Nodding, Founder/Owner and Guide

Starting a guiding company

Group of hikers on an Intro to Backpacking course with Get Outside Adventures.

In September of 2016, Nodding took her first group on a Women’s Intro to Backpacking trip. Although she hadn’t registered her business yet, she spread the word about the experience via Facebook and email. With only one month of advertising, three women ended up joining her on the two-day hike.

Overall, the experience was a success; it was clear that every hiker gained confidence overnight. On the first day, the women were a little hesitant to speak up, but by the second, they were problem-solving with each other. For Nodding, it was incredible to witness this transition, and it validated what she first set out to do.

My style of guiding is that I’m not out front; my goal is to get the women out front. I don’t want them behind me like little ducklings. I want them engaged in making decisions and stepping outside their comfort zone in a supportive environment.

Jenna Nodding, Founder/Owner and Guide

From there, Nodding decided to go for it. She established her business, created a Facebook business page and website, launched more Intro courses and trips in 2017 and started looking for a booking system.

Partnering with local businesses

Once Get Outside started gaining momentum, Adventure Hub reached out to Nodding over email about connecting and working with other adventure hosts in Canmore, Alberta. Interested in the opportunity, she met up with one of the founders to see if their values aligned. Not surprisingly, they did, and so, she decided to get involved.

Essentially, Adventure Hub is a group of experiences providers that share the same goal — to give their guests an unforgettable experience. In one place, visitors can discover multiple things to do in the Rockies. Then, because every provider uses the same booking platform, they can make a booking right then and there.

Being part of this collective meant many things for Nodding’s guiding company. Since Adventure Hub only selects businesses that they trust, getting their stamp of approval strengthened the credibility of her trips. Having a presence on their website expanded Get Outside’s reach. But above all, Adventure Hub provided Nodding with a supportive community that she could bounce ideas off of and consult whenever.

I hold a strong mindset that if you can share and if you can work together, you’re going to be much more powerful than if you try to have a scarcity mindset and keep everything to yourself.

Jenna Nodding, Founder/Owner and Guide

For instance, when it came to choosing a booking system, Adventure Hub played a significant role. Because they were already with Checkfront, it only made sense for Get Outside to sign up, too. That way, if Nodding had any questions, she’d be able to ask them for help, as well as Checkfront’s support team. And whether guests book on Adventure Hub or Get Outside, Nodding would still receive the booking information instantly.

Promoting trips on Facebook

Group of backpackers exploring the West Coast Trail with Get Outside Adventures.

For the most part, Nodding uses Facebook to promote her backpacking and day hiking adventures. On Get Outside’s page, she regularly publishes photos from recent trips to showcase women adventurers and the experiences they have. As well, she tries to share content that she believes her audience will find interesting and useful.

For example, she’ll post information on relevant topics — such as Parks Canada sales or trail closures. These posts typically get a lot of shares, so if anyone new likes them, she’ll go ahead and invite them to like Get Outside’s Facebook page as well.

Moreover, she finds Facebook convenient for introducing upcoming events. That’s where most people discover her backpacking trips. By scanning the list, someone can see everything that’s happening in the next few months, and then choose a date that works for them. All they have to do is click on Facebook’s Book Now call to action, and they’re redirected to the website where they can make a booking.

Balancing work with passion

While Nodding has big plans for Get Outside — like launching Women-Only trips across the world — she continues to work in physiotherapy. That’s because she finds that each business is rewarding in different ways and both professions complement one another.

When she’s out guiding, she gets to be outside, doing what she loves and helping others discover their passion for the outdoors. That energizes Nodding and allows her to work seven days a week. And with her physiotherapy background, she can treat injuries on the trail, as well as teach hikers how to prepare their bodies for a backpacking trip. Ultimately, that makes the experience much more enjoyable for everyone.

But running two businesses still requires time management and organization. Even though Nodding says she doesn’t mind administration work, she loves that Checkfront’s automation allows her to be a little more hands-off with Get Outside. Instead of having to go back and forth with correspondence, and worry about collecting e-transfers, she can rely on Checkfront to send customized emails and manage payments.

On top of that, she likes that the booking process covers everything in one sweep. Visitors can find information on the website, book when they’re ready, and rent any gear they don’t have —  like sleeping bags. That means Nodding can relax knowing everyone will show up prepared. At the same time, she can forgo administration work over the weekend and take time to recharge.

Having a booking system set up where guests can just pay with their credit card and be done with it has been really helpful. It just smoothed things out substantially. It makes a big difference.

Jenna Nodding, Founder/Owner and Guide

Tips for new tour operators

Backpacker looking at mountain view while on a trip with Get Outside.

According to Nodding, it’s important to know your motivation for starting a tour business first and foremost. There’s going to be moments that are time-consuming, frustrating, and overwhelming, but you can overcome those challenges when you have a deep meaning behind what you’re doing.

Also, creating an outstanding guest experience is everything. Over the last couple of years, Get Outside has received positive feedback all around. Guests love that they don’t have to worry about planning — the trips are organized for them. They can learn in a comfortable environment with guides that are understanding rather than condescending. And of course, they get to see beautiful scenery while having fun exploring with a group.

Finally, it’s beneficial to build relationships with others in the tourism community. Similar to backpacking, it’s challenging trying to run a business solo. You need like-minded individuals who know what you’re going through, can help when needed and are great at offering encouragement and inspiration.

We’re never islands. I have the people at Adventure Hub to poke with questions, and I have wonderful guides that I can call up if I need assistance on projects. Having those people around me have allowed Get Outside to grow to what it is today.

Jenna Nodding, Founder/Owner and Guide

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