Today’s guest has been river rafting for over two decades. After running into the owner of a river rafting company while skiing, the opportunity presented itself to buy his way into owning a river guide company of his own.
With his wife by his side, he’s here to talk about riding the waves of being a first time business owner and sharing stories of enjoying the beauty of nature in some of America’s national parks.
Please welcome Tyler Callantine.
- 0:31 – All about Tyler Callantine
- 2:48 – Tyler Callantine’s Journey
- 7:41 – Early Stage of Business Advice
- 10:47 – The Difference in the Product and Service
- 13:14 – River Rafting Safety 101
Learn more about this guest:
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Tyler Callentine. Thanks for jumping on learning from others. How are you doing? Doing good. How are you doing today, demon? Yeah. Well, I appreciate you jumping on you and I, uh, we met face to face, um, before the whole world exploded. We grabbed some coffee together, so nice to jump on virtually with you again.
Yeah, it’s been a long time. She certainly feels like it. Yeah. Well, why don’t you tell our listeners what, what your abbreviated background is? We’ll dig into it more deeper. Um, so tell us what, what we’re gonna learn from you today. All right. So I, uh, been a river rafting guide, whitewater rafting trips for, uh, 27 years now.
And 11 years ago, uh, my wife and I purchased a dinosaur river expeditions and have been running our own. Own company that offering whitewater trips for last 10 years now, but purchased 11, 10 summer, who’d been running her own trips and. So cool. You’re going to be our first, um, outdoors, you kind of person on the show.
So I got a couple of questions for you, but not until I ask you question number two, which is what do you suck at? Tyler? What do I suck? Yeah, that’s a great question. Hey, yoga. Yeah. Very flexible. Do you try or is it just not even your thing? How do you even make thing? All right. Well, you mentioned your wife, um, is with you at the company.
Is she into yoga? Is that where your exposure to it comes from? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Out or river rafting guide. Why don’t you, I mean, it sounds pretty self-explanatory but why don’t you elaborate on it a little bit? All right. So we’re based in Vernal, Utah. And we do, we have trips from, uh, just a one day trip on up to five days.
So it kind of depends on what people are looking for. If they want just something quick, an introductory type trip. They’ll usually choose a one day. Um, if they’ve. Got a little experience or even no experience. And they want to go for a longer one. They’ll choose a four or five day trip with us. Um, and those trips are on the green river and the Yampa river, a dinosaur monument.
And then our day trip is out of flaming Gorge. So they’ve got some cool different options there. Yeah. So, so for people that aren’t familiar with those, the, you know, I’m, I’m kind of local, local ish to our Tyler’s at, um, the, so these are state parks, right? Uh, both that federal kind of national parks national parks.
Yeah. So 27 years ago is you’ve been in this for that long. How did you get into this to begin with what’s the origin story? So my grandpa, my mom’s dad, he had started going on river trips here out of the Vernal area, clear back in the 1930s, 1940s. So ever since I was little, I’d been around it, him talking about it, going on short little trips here and there.
And so I’m kind of always knew about it. And then as I got older and, you know, found out that guiding. Outdoor recreation was, uh, a job opportunity. Then I started to, to dive into it more and got hired on, uh, with my first guiding job when I was 20 and fell in love with taking people on adventures. And I’ve done it ever since.
What type of style of boats or devices or whatever, you know, back in the thirties, what type of things are we? What type of equipment are we talking? Back in the thirties would have been pretty rustic wooden, wooden boats, homemade. Um, everything would have been definitely either homemade or salvage type materials that they thought would work good for Cohen down whitewater rivers.
That’s what I was thinking. Something kind of old school. Yeah. Um, so at what point on this journey, did you meet your wife? Cause you’re you and your wife are, are kind of. Partners and the whole deal we originally met God 20 plus years ago at obese. And, um, when Utah was getting ready for the Olympics, I worked for, uh, salt Lake Olympic committee, us ski team, helping prepare for, uh, the Olympics at Snowbasin and she was on ski patrol and we shared a common locker area.
And then, um, Kind of went separate ways and then reconnected all 13 years ago because of skiing and stay in touch at all. Or you just, you kind of bumped into each other again, later bumped into each other later. Yeah. Totally disconnected for all that time and then ran into each other on the internet and Hey, let’s grab a beer and.
Were that’s cool. I wonder if you and I crossed paths because, uh, when the Olympics were in salt Lake, I was working at a radio station. And so we were doing a bunch of promotional events for, for the Olympics. So 11 years ago, you get the opportunity to buy dinosaur river expeditions was how did that opportunity present itself?
The former owner, Tim Burton’s, he, uh, was getting to a point where he was starting to look at retiring. He owned several small businesses in park city and, uh, a restaurant in this river company out in Vernal. And, um, we reacted to my paths, crossed at a so based in skiing one day we had coffee with them and, um, he just casually mentioned he was trying to sell and so on our way home from skiing.
And I just dashed. Jen, what do you think? Should we look into it? See what he. How much he wants what he’s offering. And she said, yeah, let’s do it. And so we reached out to him and did you know who he was before then? Like, were you skiing with him or you just kind of ran into him in the lodge? I knew him before forehead.
We actually added to the lodge, but I knew him from, um, working, uh, closely over the, over the summers, previous summers. Just cause guiding community kind of tight knit in smaller, smaller towns, everybody knows each other and works together quite often. Did you have, have any business experience before that or was this kind of like trial by fire trial by fire?
For sure. What managed a river company company I’d worked for before as the operations manager? And so I, there was some of the logistical type stuff I was very comfortable with, but the business end was brand. What was one of the biggest, um, areas that you kind of had to learn the most? You know, it’s probably where I would say we’re still learning in the marketing and technology realm, that area it’s just constantly trying to figure out how to market appropriately and.
Get our most bang for our buck. Yeah. So the majority of our listeners are kind of early stage entrepreneurs or small business owners. Um, is there anything that stands out through the process of when you acquire the business and kind of in those first few years that looking back, maybe there was something that you wish you could’ve known or some advice you could offer to somebody that’s maybe in that early stage position now.
Um, you know, probably the best advice we got early on was hire the experts to do what they do best. So if you’re not an expert accountant, hire an accountant, if you’re not an expert website designer, you know, hire the experts and just get out there, do things correctly the first time around. So you don’t have to.
Circle back and fix your mistakes. And that was probably the best advice. It probably cost us a little more upfront on a few things. Um, but paid off huge dividends in the long run. Yeah. What type of, as you’ve gone through exploring different types of marketing, what, where have you found your best bang for your buck or where’s been, where have you got?
Cause I know you recently hosted like a state of Utah things. And so were you able, why don’t you explain what that was and then were you able to leverage that for your own benefit for some marketing angle? Um, yeah. So the state of Utah, the Utah travel and tourism office, um, they’ve been. Adjusting the marketing for a tourist destinations in Utah, from the national parks to smaller state parks and national monuments.
And with that, they’ve been focusing in on, when you go visit these lesser known places, hire a local guide, local outfitter. And, um, so they started with some stuff in Southern Utah, like the bears ears, national monument, and, um, some areas down in that part of the Southeastern corner of the state. And then when they, uh, moved up to dinosaur national monument river running was, um, something they wanted to highlight for dinosaur national monument reached out to us to, to be the local outfitter as they marketed, advertised the monument.
So what came out of it was, um, a full layer, I shouldn’t say full length video. Um, four minute video on river rafting on the green river. And that was with us. And then they created a whole bunch of mini clips for like Instagram, Facebook, you know, a little 15 to 30 seconds snippets and, um, the, the full length video, um, Initially had tons of traction when it first came out.
I think it’s now over a million views on the board minute video seen that. Yeah. That was pretty quick that it hit that it was a couple hundred thousand, not too long. Yeah. Um, and then I’m not sure how the little mini snippets are doing, but it’s been really helpful as people watch those videos. Um, It draws them into the idea of going with somebody locally owned and operated rather than the big mega corporations that are out there offered rafting trips.
Why don’t you kind of touch on that? What’s the difference in the product and service that. Those two different providers bring to the table. Thank your, um, you know, your bigger operations are, I would say more disconnected to the, to the area, the employees and the customers, um, you know, CEOs and general managers are typically, um, At the home office, which is, could be, you know, hundreds, if not thousands of miles way, depending on where they’re located.
So yeah, we’ll satellite offices that, um, you know, are operating just, you know, over a few month period may through September and, um, everybody kind of transient in to the location to work. We’re we’re here, you know, full time. We hire a lot of local, um, people to, to run our trips, drive our shuttles. Um, and then, um, be in smaller.
You’re definitely more connected to, to the guests and the employees were you. We took meet every guests that goes on a trip Jenner. I interacts with them on the phone and in person and. What type, what type of guests are we talking with? Like give us a breakdown. Uh, obviously your customers are going to vary quite a bit, but like who’s river rafting most ideal for what type of people do you tend to serve the most?
You know, we. We get everybody from, uh, you know, fairly young, to pretty old, really athletic to, you know, not that athletic. Um, if I was gonna just say an average clientele would be, you know, kind of middle-aged with teenage children, um, that are somewhat athletic, wanting to be outside, recreate. You guys just say kind of an average group, but that’s definitely not the case.
Um, we’ll get and own that summer. We already have like three trips of a more senior aged people that are interested in being outside. And yeah. What are some of the basics that, cause there’s, there’s obviously the exciting part of. River rafting, but then there’s some safety precautions you gotta take.
Like, what are the safety one? Oh one kind of things. Or even if it’s not necessarily directly related to safety, but just setting expectations. What do, what are some of the basics people need to know before they jump on a river rafting tour? You know, at the start of each tour, um, the guide staff will give a pretty detailed safety orientation for the trip.
Um, kind of detailing out how to wear the life jackets appropriately. Um, Go over a lot of the, what ifs, if something happened, here’s what you need to be aware of what you need to do. Um, and it’s, it usually it’s a day trip. It probably takes about 10 or 12 minutes. It’s a, multi-day takes probably half hour to cover these kind of basic safety things.
And then throughout the, throughout the trip, especially a long trip before a five day trip, you’re kind of reminding people. Of these different safety precautions throughout the trip, especially at like bigger Rapids and more hazardous sections. What’s the biggest difference, obviously, length of ground and length of river that you cover between the one and five day trips.
But what’s, uh, what’s some other differences between like the quick in and out one day or is in the long ones on like the one nature trip. It’s a. Um, our, the section we do for one day trips for flaming Gorge dam to a place called little hole on the green river. And it’s the little mellower trip. Uh, it’s mostly scenic mild Rapids.
So it’s perfect for like little kids. Um, first timers that are really scared, nervous, and then the extended trips. Um, you’re going to get into some bigger whitewater, um, gonna be camped out. The camping along the river. So you’re sleeping in tents, sleeping bag on the ground. Um, Everything comes with you on the trip.
So all the clothes, food gears on the, on the rafts and goes with you on those longer trips. How little of little kids are we talking that you’re cool with joining on these, even the mellow trips, any age, you know, on our four and five, eight trips to, depending on water level, uh, we’ll go as young as six or older five-year-olds, um, kind of, depending on.
Time of year and what their previous experience level is. Um, the day trips we’ll typically we’ll go as young as four. Um, if the parents are comfortable with that and if the water level isn’t too, too high and too Swift. So when you’re doing these trades, you’ve obviously done a bazillion of these. What never gets old.
Is there always like one part of the trip that you just always love and look forward to even having done this a million times, you know, that are overall always pretty amazing. Um, the scenery is probably the one thing that never gets old. Um, these river canyons are just incredibly gorgeous. And even though I’ve seen a lot of the stuff, hundreds and hundreds of times, it never.
Never gets old the scenery itself. Yeah. Do you have a S a story that stands out something unique you saw, whether it was wildlife or just, uh, uh, an extreme circumstance that unfolds, Ooh, extreme circumstance, something totally memorable,
calm, nothing that jumps out at me right away. So many different experiences over the years, have you had somebody come back to you years later and then just talk about like how amazing their experience was. May maybe a customers stand out moment that kind of their moment stands out for you because of how big of a deal it was for them.
Um, that’s happened quite a few times. Um, when my, my first summer as a guide, it might’ve been my second summer. Um, some grandparents brought their grandchildren and they for one day trip and the experience was so great or, um, that golfer 15, 16 years, they continued to just come back every summer, bring different relatives and friends and, you know, they just totally fell in love with it.
And it was all from a. One day trip with their grandkids. Do you, do you recall, um, the farthest distance that you remember somebody traveling from to come in and do it a guide with you? I’ve had people from all over the world, Europe, Asia, so yeah, Germany, Japan, little of everywhere. Little of everywhere.
Yeah. People definitely. Come a long ways to see Utah. Why don’t you kind of explain to our listeners that aren’t familiar with Utah? What is dinosaur national Monu? So does your national monuments, um, managed by the national park service? It’s uh, go over 200, almost 250,000 acres. Um, covers part of it’s in Colorado.
Part of it’s in Utah, up in the Northeastern corner of Utah and its main attraction is the dinosaur fossil quarry, the wallet bones. That’s what most people come there to see these dinosaur fossils. Um, but it has two big rivers that come down through the center of the monument, the green river and the Yampa river.
So that’s probably the secondary draws people coming there for river rafting trips, and then kind of like, like most, uh, national parks in the West. It’s got tons of great CME, kikes and campgrounds, and it’s a pretty, pretty diverse national park that. Utah. Yeah, that’s cool. I’ve, I’ve taken my family down there a handful of times and the rock, the, the fossil wall is pretty cool.
So, uh, I’ll probably slaughter the story, but from what I remember, it’s the gentleman found a long time ago, found some Cory or, uh, was coring it out and started find a bunch of fossils. And so they excavated a bunch, but then they wanted to preserve this big chunk. So they actually. Built this glass casing building right into the edge of this wall.
So the wall you’re looking at is legitimately a wall of fossils. That’s still the raw land that they built a glass casing around. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. The wall of bones is what everybody calls it. Yeah. Is that, is that like the local phrase for it? Or is that what other, what, but it’s kind of the generic.
Yeah. Everybody. Yeah. And it calls it the wall of bones. Yeah. Well, cool. Um, well, Tyler, I appreciate you jumping on learning from others. I want to give you the last few moments to talk listeners, how they can find out more about you. So we have a website, dinosaurriverexpeditions.com. And that’s got all the information about our rafting trips and great States, uh, all that.
What if, what about, um, we also have a really active Facebook page and Instagram profile for dinosaur river expeditions and both of those kind of get updated every couple of days with, uh, cool photos and special deals and all of that great stuff. And when Tyler says cool photos, he. Means legitimately cool photos.
How do, how do, what maybe the last thing we touch on is that video. You’re talking about the state of Utah travel office. Um, what could they search? I know it’s on YouTube or do you guys have that on your home patient? All right. It’s on our home page. Yeah. Okay. So dinosaur expeditions, check that out. It’s a super cool video.
Like Tyler said, it’s, it’s got some link to it, but it’s, it’s not too long. It’s short and sweet then. Um, awesome action footage in it. That’s pretty cool. Tyler Callentine. Thanks so much for jumping on with me. Thank you, David. Appreciate it.