Although 37 North Expeditions LLC formed at the beginning of 2018, it was only a few months ago that the owners of the outdoor tour guide company determined they had more than a hobby on their hands.
“April 2019 is when we say we became a business,” says Danny Collins, who co-owns the company with wife Cristina Bustamante. “We stopped just testing things out. We really started to know our clientele.”
The first trip for 37 North Expeditions – a name inspired by Springfield’s latitude – was a hike held in April 2018 during an unexpected ice storm. Bustamante says the couple frequently called the Missouri Department of Transportation for road conditions prior to venturing on the trip, which ended up a success. The company has since held around 200 trips year-round.
The adventures are primarily in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, with Springfield, Branson, Bentonville and Fayetteville serving as pickup and drop-off locations. Participants book reservations for the trips with 37 North, and the company takes care of transportation to and from the sites, as well as equipment rental.
Activities include hikes, horseback rides or floats, followed by visits to wineries, microbreweries and other destinations. An October venture will take participants to pick apples at Murphy Orchard in Marionville after a 2-mile hike at Roaring River State Park.
Most are one-day trips, with prices generally $40-$80 per person.
“We are not trying to be attractive to the extreme adventurers,” Collins says. “We’re going to be attractive to the people who don’t really know they could go do this kind of stuff.”
Aside from the health benefits of the trips, Bustamante says they also serve as community-building opportunities for the participants.
“It creates this really cool community-for-a-day kind of thing,” she says. “That’s one of the main things we want to create, is not only a business, but also a community that is based on the outdoors and how great of a place we have surrounding us.”
Some overnight offerings are starting to pepper the schedule. Professional instruction for stand-up paddleboarding, fly fishing, kayaking and cycling is being added to the company’s menu, and Collins says international trips are being planned for 2020.
The owners are seeking to build on 2018 revenue of $21,000. Not bad for a side venture.
Both owners have day jobs: Collins as a developer for The Vecino Group LLC, and Bustamante as a development planner with Green Circle Projects LLC.
“We do 37 North every single night and every single weekend,” she says. “It’s still at the point where it’s small enough we can handle it. And it’s not enough that either of us can jump in full time.”
Guiding the way
For the first six months in business, Collins and Bustamante were the lone guides. Today, a group of 10 guides, who operate as independent contractors, also lead the trips. Guides typically are paid between $100-$200 per trip, with Bustamante noting 37 North paid out around $1,500 to its guides in July, an average monthly expenditure.
“It started getting to the point where we needed the weekends to do the planning and logistics part of it. We still guide, but not as often as we’d like,” she says, adding they’re generally on trips once a month.
The couple does all the scouting for trails, and Collins is the first backup in case a guide is unable to make the trip.
Collins estimates the couple invested $10,000 in 2018 to get 37 North off the ground, mostly into marketing and the company’s website. In January, they spent $30,000 for the purchase of a passenger van to cut down on vehicle rental expenses, which is around $200 per trip.
Whether with Kirbyville-based 38 Paddle Co. LLC or Springfield-based 4 by 4 Brewing Co. LLC, Collins says partnerships serve as a viable way to spread the word for 37 North. The company rents paddleboards from 38 Paddle Co., while it connects with 4 by 4 on events such as trail cleanups. The brewery supplies trash bags and gloves for participants who then receive discounts on beer afterward.
Danielle Shimeall, co-owner of 4 by 4 Brewing, says Collins approached her company about collaborative opportunities in spring 2018, which has led to multiple trail cleanups in Sequiota Park. She says the two companies have collaborated around 10 times since last year, but adds there’s no financial arrangement in place.
“They tend to think the same way we do,” Shimeall says. “We knew they were a company we wanted to work with.”
Getting the chance to see a lot of the Ozarks through their company, the 37 North owners are convinced people don’t need to visit Colorado or Montana to get out in nature.
“The beautiful landscape, those amazing waterfalls, those amazing bluffs exist here,” Bustamante says.
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