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Old 06-01-2009, 06:37 PM   #1
AggiePhil
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Default Wanting to Start a Segway Tour Business--Looking for advice

Howdy all. After an incredibly enjoyable Segway tour while on vacation in San Francisco, I'm wanting to explore the possibility of opening up my own tour business in my area. I live in a beautiful central Texas city with a major historic university that thousands of students, parents, and visitors trapse across on foot every single day. Without going into a bunch of flowing linguistics, it really is an IDEAL place for Segway tours.

So with that having been said, what are some of y'all's ideas and suggestions about someone who is brand new to the game looking to start a touring company? I realize that the overhead to buy a fleet of new machines will be considerable, and I'm assuming that liability insurance will also be considerable (though I don't know just HOW considerable). Perphaps that would be a good starting point for discussions...
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Old 06-01-2009, 10:01 PM   #2
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Talking The starting point should be...

Why do you think that your area is a great place for a successful Segway Tour? Your thoughts and reasoning are paramount...

So much is involved in starting a Segway Tour business, please do yourself a favor and don't rush to hang the shingle. It could be a very costly mistake. Good luck...
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Old 06-01-2009, 11:05 PM   #3
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Oh, I'm in no hurry to get things started. My wife and I currently have very rewarding jobs but we would love to cultivate a family business where we are our own bosses.

In short, as I'm currently envisioning it, I would offer tours of Texas A&M University which is the 7th largest American university with an enrollment of 48,000 students. The school's 130 year old main campus here covers 5,200 acres, to give you an idea of its size. So needless to say, there is a lot of history, a LOT to see, and a LOT of ground to cover. Parents and prospective students come to the campus all throughout the year to get a feel for things and see if the school is right for them (or their child). Also, with the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum and numerous other events related to the university, there are always a lot of visitors in town.

Currently, the only campus tour option is a free walking tour offered by the university. Honestly, the tour sucks and it certainly doesn't help that it requires lots of walking in the 100+ degree (F) Texas heat. About the only thing the tour has going for it is that it's free. Another thing that happens is that students who are going to be incoming college freshmen arrive all throughout the summer for New Student Conferences, which is essentially orientation. They come with their families and attend numerous meetings with advisors in addition to getting a feel for the layout of the campus. I speak from personal experience when I say that oftentimes the parents tend to skip out on the "getting to know your way around campus" portion due to physical factors (namely, mobility and endurance problems). When my parents came with me for orientation back in 2000, they had significant trouble getting around (dad's got bad knees, mom's hip gets to hurting her) and had to leave most of the exploring to me and my sister (who was also an incoming freshman). So looking back, if a Segway tour had been an option, we would have been all over it for a way to get a good look at the entire campus without wearing the parents out in no time.

Although our campus isn't a "walking campus" (meaning that no vehicular traffic is allowed inside the campus), there ARE a lot of buildings that you really just can't get to from a vehicle. And of course, the parking situation is a nightmare. So you're really only left with the option of walking or riding bikes. At least...currently.

Me, my grandfather, my father, my brother, my sister, and my wife all went to A&M. For that reason, I've got [what I consider to be] a great appreciation for and knowledge of the campus and its history. Although this will only help in starting a tour company, I think it's definitely a good first step.

So maybe that'll help a bit to explain some of the reasons why I want to offer tours here and why I think they would be a big hit with visitors and residents alike. Shoot, maybe college students will want to take their dates on tours. Or student groups that are looking for a fun outing and a way to learn more about their campus.

One thing that I'm really clueless about though is how much insurance usually runs for a Segway tour company. I would imagine that aside from the cost of equipment, insurance is probably going to be the largest expense. Florida, can you offer some insight into the insurance situation for Segway tour companies?
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Old 06-02-2009, 01:15 AM   #4
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Can you get permission from the University to conduct for-profit activities (and Segway use by a tour company) on campus?

Seems like I'd get that answer (in writing if possible) before I spent a dime on getting hardware.

When you can get permission for both those items, then do your research on business licenses, taxes, etc., as well as try and get quotes for insurance (at the limits rerquired by state and local laws (as well as the University). get an idea of suitable locations to run the business out of (and find out average rental cost, as well as phone, electricity, water, and so on).

Get information on what your employee costs will be (wages), including having an accountant check your books (you don't want to screw up paying taxes, missing utility payments or forgetting tax withholding). You may have to cover the employees health care and so on as well (depends on where you are and how much they work - most good employees would rather get benefits). *you can do market research by asking similar sized businesses those questions, but be sure and explain that you are thinking of developing a business plan - don't tell them it is for a school project or something like that, they'll remember if you were less than forthright.

Find out what the cost of the Segways will be, plus helmets, locks, advertising, signage, credit card machines, licensing from Segway, cash register, money pouches, paper, pens, etc. (million more little things here)

You want to be able to realistically be able to figure out your costs, then figure out how many rentals you will need to make that much money. If the number is really big (i.e. lots of rentals daily/weekly/monthly) to break even, you'll be taking on more risk. Segway rentals are also very seasonable (dead of winter will see less rentals, if any, and in summer there will be less students but maybe more tourists).

I would try and get as much data as you can about establishing a business in your town (do you need a license? do you need to join a chamber of commerce or downtown business association?) Do you need approvals to establish the business at all? Do you need to hire a lawyer?

Segways are almost the least important part of the equation (I know - blasphemy on this forum, but I'm talking business) as far as your success or failure.

I'm not even scratching the surface here, look online or locally on how to write a business plan and that will give you more information.

Don't get discouraged, and good luck.

Chris



Quote:
Originally Posted by AggiePhil View Post
Howdy all. After an incredibly enjoyable Segway tour while on vacation in San Francisco, I'm wanting to explore the possibility of opening up my own tour business in my area. I live in a beautiful central Texas city with a major historic university that thousands of students, parents, and visitors trapse across on foot every single day. Without going into a bunch of flowing linguistics, it really is an IDEAL place for Segway tours.

So with that having been said, what are some of y'all's ideas and suggestions about someone who is brand new to the game looking to start a touring company? I realize that the overhead to buy a fleet of new machines will be considerable, and I'm assuming that liability insurance will also be considerable (though I don't know just HOW considerable). Perphaps that would be a good starting point for discussions...
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Old 06-02-2009, 09:19 AM   #5
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Default Talk with some successful tour operators

We have several very good ones on here. Bvelke has a great tour in Gettysburg PA and has had to deal with a number of issuses that you will also be dealing with.

Talk to both Segway Authorized Tour operators as well as independant operators to get input.

Like any business, this is no just walk in and then go to the bank with all the cash operation. There is a lot of hard work involved, and if you are not a people person, this may not be the best business. You have to like people, as you will get all kinds who come to you and expect you to make the next two hours of their lives the most wonderful ever.

Think big but take little steps until you get your self-balancing wheels under you.

Best of Luck!
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Old 06-02-2009, 09:44 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the encouragement guys. What is the deal with "Segway Authorized Tours" vs. Non-authorized tours? Also, what does it take to become an authorized Segway dealer?
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:15 AM   #7
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Default Segway Authorized Tours

Are only Segway Dealers can offer Segway Authorized Tours. They have to follow specific guidelines set by Segway.

Does it really make a difference? In my oppinion not really, other than they get a fancy sticker for their door and that they can use the term.

Contact Segway to find out more about being a dealer. It reguires a number of things to be a dealer, a specific purchase quota, specific business protocol, and other things. But you do have access to things in the world of Segway that you do not as a non-dealer, but there is also alot of responsiblity and additional costs associated with being a dealer.

My advice would be to set up your business plan for your Segway Tour, and start there. If you like it, then think about being a dealer. You may want to talk to some of your local dealerships and see if you could be a sub dealer for them, before you venture out on your own.
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Old 06-02-2009, 11:56 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrostyEOD View Post
Can you get permission from the University to conduct for-profit activities (and Segway use by a tour company) on campus?

Seems like I'd get that answer (in writing if possible) before I spent a dime on getting hardware.
I've actually been thinking about this a lot. Luckily, as a police officer, I think I have a fairly good idea just what the university could and could not do about Segway tours being offered on campus. Essentially, our traffic laws in Texas (which also apply on campus since it is a public institution) allow EPAMDs (Segways) to be operated on sidewalks, in bike lanes (which we have a lot of here), and sometimes even in the main roadway (main lane of traffic). With those laws on my side, I really can't think of much that the university could do short of something like a general Segway ban on campus. And I'm not sure they could even do that since Segways are classified as EPAMDs. Of course, I would want to conduct myself and my tours in a way that wouldn't come close to pressing my luck. I would want to speak with officials at the school first and tout my proposal as an attempt to be an ambassador for the university (all the while admittedly making a profit for myself). I'm going to try and talk to a couple friends that work for the University Police Department here in the coming days about any problems they might foresee or experiences they've had with Segway operation on the campus. I'll let y'all know what I learn.

I'm still curious about insurance costs though...
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Old 06-02-2009, 03:59 PM   #9
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I wouldn't even consider doing a Segway Tour at any university without both their blessing/endorsement (which you will need to have any real long-term chance of business success) and a partnership set up with the university to have direct access to 'every' prospective/active student and their families. I would make sure that every person 'checking out' the campus sees it on my segway Tour. I would happily hand over a piece of my business income for that customer access.

Otherwise, I understand your personal attachment to the school, but just a Segway tour of a university (even Harvard) would not be a great location as a 'tourist attraction'.
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Old 06-02-2009, 04:21 PM   #10
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So far, I have spoken with the University Police Department and an official at the University Business Office. Both were very encouraging and said that they couldn't think of any problems that the university would have with someone offering Segway tours of the campus. The man at the business office is going to speak with another office that handles contracts just to double check but said that he didn't see anything wrong with it at this time and thanked me for seeking the university's approval before going forward.


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Originally Posted by Florida Ever-Glides View Post
I wouldn't even consider doing a Segway Tour at any university without both their blessing/endorsement (which you will need to have any real long-term chance of business success) and a partnership set up with the university to have direct access to 'every' prospective/active student and their families. I would make sure that every person 'checking out' the campus sees it on my segway Tour. I would happily hand over a piece of my business income for that customer access.
I agree about needing to get the university's blessing, and I am working on that, but it's somewhat difficult with a university of this size simply because there are numerous offices that could potentially have a say in the matter. And getting the blessing from one office might not necessarily communicate to other offices that you have received said blessing. Like I said, I'm working on that though.

I really like the idea of setting up a partnership/contract in order to increase the customer base. However, I'm not sure that would be something I could get into right at the start. Again, with a university of this size, I get the impression that they are extremely picky about who they partner with and what company names they will put on anything that also bears the A&M logo. I would just assume that they would only agree to partner with a company that was established, had a history of success, and was not a brand new upstart company. Again, only an assumption (that I am in the process of confirming or disconfirming), but from the whispers I've heard around town, this is most likely the case with A&M.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Florida Ever-Glides View Post
Otherwise, I understand your personal attachment to the school, but just a Segway tour of a university (even Harvard) would not be a great location as a 'tourist attraction'.
If I may, why do you think that the university campus alone would not support a Segway tour business? Like I said, A&M is the 7th largest school in the nation, covers 5,200+ acres, and brings in TONS of visitors, sports fans, students, and prospective students on a continual basis.

Thanks again folks for all your advice and input!
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