Categorized | Shoestring Startup

RAT RACERS ESCAPE NOW!

What We Do

RAT RACERS ESCAPE NOW!Our website, go-rbo.com is the only online marketplace of businesses for sale in resort, vacation and outdoor recreation areas. We currently feature 340 businesses for sale in great beach, ski, mountain and lake towns around the country. If your ideal is to buy a ski shop in Colorado, a surf shop in the Outer Banks, a lakefront lodge in Wisconsin, an historic Inn on Cape Cod, or a fly fishing outfitter in Idaho than our website is the place to visit. We are only place that showcases this breadth of lifestyle business opportunities.

However our goal is to be more than just a business for sale listing service. Our site has an underlying “get out of the rat race and live your dream” theme. To that end we have also created a “Resort Business Community Portal” which provides helpful resources such as articles, links, and a blog, for people who are considering taking the steps necessary to realize their ideal of working for themselves in a place that they love. We aim to help prospective resort area business buyers understand the nuances of relocating to, owning and operating a business, and living in a resort/outdoor community.

Our site is only a listing venue, therefore we are not involved in the transaction and do not seek any type of commission. We merely charge $19.99 per month to list a business for sale on our site and $39.99 per month for brokers with multiple listings.

 

The Inspiration and the Start

The three founders, Brian Lantzy, Sibila Lantzy and Reid Simonton, have all lived in resort/vacation towns most of their lives. We have lived, worked, and owned businesses in Summit County and Winter Park Colorado, Bend Oregon, Shasta and Santa Barbara California, Bethany Beach Delaware, Pompano Beach Florida, and Maui Hawaii. We know resort towns!

The original idea for the site was born eight years ago while I was living in the ski town of Winter Park, CO. I was working as a wine sales rep and my wife Sibila owned a real estate brokerage. I came to understand that all of my customers (restaurateurs, liquor store owners, etc), and in fact nearly every business owner in ski towns, had come from someplace else. They all had wildly different backgrounds and stories as to how they ended up owning a business in the Rocky Mountains. And, at any given time my wife had one or two local business for sale listings that she never knew how to effectively market because, like all realtors, her focus was residential properties.

I also recognized that most resort/vacation areas are too small to support dedicated commercial or business brokers. The norm then, by default, is that people who are trying to sell their businesses list them with a residential broker, whose expertise is not selling businesses, it is selling houses. These businesses for sale wind up just being advertised locally, on the MLS, and on the broker’s websites. This limited marketing approach is not very effective when the potential buyer is most likely from far outside the area. However, I was busy working full-time and attending grad school, and my wife was running a business, so I never got the idea off of the ground.

After finishing school we moved to Bend, OR where I worked for a residential developer and my wife was a realtor when the housing market collapsed. With no hope of finding any type of work in residential construction (or any other field for that matter,) we started looking into moving on and buying a small business in a new mountain town or beach area. We found the searching extremely arduous, which of course made me start thinking about the website idea again. After some Googling, much to my disbelief, I realized that no one else had yet had a similar idea. At exactly the same time our closest friend in Bend, Reid Simonton, who is a computer programmer was laid off; so I pitched the idea to him and he was all for it. So rather than moving we decided instead to stay in Bend and start on the website. That was 2.5 years ago. The project ended up being much, much, larger than any of us had expected as the database/search platform was very complicated and time-consuming to develop…and there are literally thousands of resort markets around the country.

We are totally self-funded and the three partners manage all aspects of the business. We are still operating in the red, but at this point our overhead is relatively low and we expect to be making money by the end of the year. We have considered pursuing funding, but at this point are more focused on implementing the remaining functionality of the site (see below.) If we were to obtain some capital investment it would be used primarily for marketing and PR.

 

Currently

We launched in June of 2010 and currently feature 340 businesses for sale in 41 states. We are averaging about 150 unique visits a day and have seen a solid increase in organic traffic since the beginning of the year. We do not require users (those searching for businesses for sale) to sign in or create an account because we did not want to create any hurdles for use or privacy concerns. We do allow users to create an account that enables them to save their favorite listings or set of search parameters. We are currently working on an automated email alert system that notifies users whenever a new business that meets their criteria is listed on our site. We also are able keep track of the potential business buyers who contact sellers via our website. We currently average nearly one person per day that uses our email contact form, or clicks a “button” to view the seller’s phone number.

 

The Challenge of the Startup

This was the first online startup for all three of the partners, so of course we’ve had our trials and learned a lot along the way. I think the most important lesson we have learned (and therefore advice we can give) is to not ignore the importance of SEO from the very beginning. We had a basic understanding of SEO at the outset, and we did our best to read and learn, and then implement tactics along the way. However, we did not have a clearly defined SEO strategy early on. Content is King and inbound links are imperative, as most people know, but how are you going to generate that original content and get those links? That is the challenge.

In our case we are chasing an extremely long tail in terms of keyword searches. “Campgrounds for sale” and “RV parks for sale” are our most searched keywords, followed by “marinas for sale.” When geographic layers are added one can understand the vast array of possible combinations. For instance, if someone is searching for a campground for sale in New England, consider the possible combinations: 1)Geographic: New England, NE, Maine, ME, New Hampshire, NH, northeast U.S., NE U.S, etc. 2)Next, the business type: campground, campgrounds, RV Park, RV Parks, Camping, etc. Our biggest challenge then is generating enough content in which to insert all of the various keyword combinations that are possible.

 

The Future

It is very apparent to us that we have barely scratched the surface of this market. We have also had tremendous support from resort area real estate agents as they immediately recognize that we are providing a long-needed advertising venue and service. Our goal is to have 600 listings by the end of the year and 1500 by the end of 2012. However, our primary focus right now is to develop the resources and utility of the website. Our purpose from the beginning has been to assist people who are considering making a huge lifestyle change by buying a business and moving to a resort/outdoor town.

We are in the developmental phase of our “Resort Life Network.” We are creating a nationwide network of “local lifestyle experts” (essentially bloggers) each of whom will be responsible for writing about daily life in their respective resort communities. Our goal is to be a very useful resource for potential business buyers, retirees, second homeowners, or people just seeking to relocate. We want to engage the customer long before they are in a position to actually purchase a business and move to an area by providing them with first-hand experience of what it is really like to live in a particular resort town…from someone who actually lives there. We want to help people plan their escape and most importantly, help make the right choices.

The challenge then is to make the world aware of our presence! You can find us on Facebook on Resort Business Opportunities and follow us on Twitter @go_rbo.

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