The Build Cycle Podcast #011 – Chasing Epic’s Steve Mokan

Founder Steve Mokan’s exposure to adventure travel came from his side gig as a photographer for gear brands and ski resorts, so he took the things he liked from those experiences and created Chasing Epic. As a mountain bike tour group leader, he’s taken a unique approach to bringing a team together, using existing guides to streamline the startup process and working with brands to ensure his customers have all the gear they need for a stellar riding vacation. As a bonus, he’s pretty good at taking pics of them while riding, so everyone goes home looking and feeling like a pro with the pics to prove it!

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

  • 01:46 – How Steve’s side gig as a photographer led to creating Chasing Epic.
  • 07:20 – Why he decided the photography business didn’t have the same potential as a guide company.
  • 08:30 – A little about market size and the competition.
  • 10:10 – Staffing and each person’s role before, during and after the rides.
  • 14:20 – How they create custom rides to meet their customer’s needs and schedules.
  • 16:30 – How they get and provide bikes for the riders, plus other income opportunities
  • 19:00 – Some of the first steps to launching the business and working around seemingly massive obstacles.
  • 21:40 – Startup costs, equipment and structuring to differentiate.
  • 30:30 – How they market to reach customers, and why that’s one of the hardest parts of the job.
  • 34:00 – Scheduling events and a shift in strategy to ensure trips are full.
  • 38:20 – How they determine group size and equipment size requirements.
  • 42:12 – Pricing for standard trips versus custom trips.
  • 43:50 – Equipment partners, why he chose them, and what they provide.
  • 48:50 – Steve’s advice for anyone wanting to do something similar? Focus on the experience.
  • 49:50 – The processes, tools and systems he uses.
  • 54:20 – Their first order was a nail biter.
Chasing Epic founder Steve Mokan has combined existing 3rd party services with experience curation and related services to create a complete mountain bike tour guide service.

POST GAME ANALYSIS

What I found most interesting was Steve’s use of existing guides to create his trips. This helped him quickly overcome one of the biggest and potentially most expensive hurdles while also instantly gaining local knowledge. By contracting with existing outfitters, he’s able to offer rides in multiple states and focus on creating the overall experience rather than learning the trails in remote areas.

Another interesting aspect is how they’ve differentiated the experience by using upscale lodging rather than camping, and catering the food rather than cooking out. That creates more of a premium experience that will appeal to a different clientele than the tour companies that set up camp and grill out in the desert. Not that one is better than the other, but it’s a point of differentiation that allows them to target a different subset of the mountain biker population. For your business, how can you differentiate your offering to appeal to an underserved segment?

For anyone wanting to create and sell a curated experience, there are a lot of other great little lessons in here to provide food for thought. Things like scheduling, quantity of events, add ons, custom events, etc., all give plenty of ideas to help you create your own special events and find your place in the market. Another important note was how the brand name equipment partnerships don’t just benefit the brands with additional exposure, it also helped boost the credibility of Chasing Epic by association.

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