Ep. 39 — Meet Miranda Peterson, who quit her corporate job to launch her own yoga tour

10 minutes with Miranda Peterson of Namaste in Nature . Miranda offers yoga tours and yoga hikes in Asheville, North Carolina.

Miranda Peterson sat down with Tourpreneur Podcast Host Shane Whaley and told us how she gave up her corporate job, went on sabbatical around the world and came home to build a yoga tours business in Asheville.

Miranda walks us through how she tested her idea to see if there was a demand for yoga tours in Asheville.

We also discuss some of the challenges she has faced since launching her yoga tours business including why she moved from FareHarbor to Peek and we learn more about her marketing and OTA strategy.

Miranda hits the nail on the head here. This is why I decided to call our podcast Tourpreneur, most of us are entrepreneurs in tours/activities and are wearing so many hats in our business.

This episode and interview of Tourpreneur@Arival is presented by Checkfront. The booking platform trusted by over 5,000 tour and activity operators around the world. You can start your own free 21-day trial over at Checkfront.com.

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Links and Resources Mentioned on This Episode of Tourpreneur – the podcast for tour operators.

Interview with Miranda Peterson of Namaste in Nature. Full transcript.

Shane:                    Welcome to Tourpreneur at Arival presented by Checkfront. Today we’re joined by Miranda Peterson. How are you Miranda?

Miranda:               I’m great. How are you?

Shane:                    Fantastic. What is the name of your tour?

Miranda:               My tour is called Namaste in Nature.

Shane:                    How’d you get started with that?

Miranda:               Well, I quit my corporate job a couple of years ago and I decided to go on a sabbatical. I’m doing air quotes here and that included going to India, doing my yoga teacher training. That included volunteering throughout Asia, South America, and that included hiking around the South Pacific through Asia, Europe, and South America. When I came back I was kind of trying to figure out what to do after I just had these amazing experiences and it dawned on me that I could create kind of a similar experience for other people.

Shane:                    Fantastic. And when was it you got started?

Miranda:               I started in 2017.

Shane:                    2017.

Shane:                    One of the questions we get a lot on Tourpreneur is I’ve got this great idea for a tour, but I don’t know if anyone’s going to book it. How did you know there would be a demand for your tour?

Miranda:               Well, I kind of tested it, so I recommend starting slow, definitely testing the concept. I had a full-time job during the week. I was still using my skills in marketing and graphic design with a company. I had kind of a steady paycheck and I experimented with this idea of combining yoga and hiking with mountains and waterfalls in Western North Carolina. I would test it on Saturdays on the weekends and once I started getting people that I didn’t already know, I figured it was a good concept. Then, I just kind of grew from there. The next year I got permits and I hired a team and I did the website and the branding and social media and just really decided to go with it.

Shane:                    What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of working in the tour industry?

Miranda:               Oh my gosh. The people that I can help, so this is both people that I can employ. I have 10 other guides that do yoga hikes for me in Western North Carolina and the yoga market in Asheville is very saturated, so it gives them another opportunity for income and getting a return on the investment because yoga teacher training is not cheap. I also love meeting the variety of people that come on my tours. When I started, I was really expecting a very narrow kind of niche customer, but it’s really been a big variety. All ages, all states. I’ve had a few international, all ethnicities, all just so much more diverse than I ever thought. I’ve even had people who have never done yoga or meditation before or have never hiked before and come on these hikes because they read the reviews and they see the pictures of other people and they’re like, “Oh, if they can do it, I can do it.” I really like making these things more accessible.

Shane:                    I think that’s an excellent tip because I often get scared when I see a hiking tour. I’m like, “Oh yeah, I want to go and see whatever, but I’m scared of how tough the hike is going to be.” Certainly with yoga, I’ve tried yoga, I’m not the most supple of people, so I think it’s a great tip if you show photographs of people of all shapes and sizes that are on the tour.

Miranda:               Absolutely. It’s authenticity as well. We’re not staging photo shoots and showing people that you would see in a Lulu Lemon ad or for a yoga studio or something. They’re actually people that are on the tour and it’s their authentic experience.

Shane:                    What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your business so far?

Miranda:               Oh, there have been several. The first that comes to mind for me personally, was weather anxiety. Since it is an outdoor experience, I was always checking apps and always worried about the weather and worried about the rain ruining people’s experiences. But then it happened a few times. We had tours in the rain, people didn’t melt, thankfully. Actually, some people had a great time. They’re like, “That was so much fun. This is going to be a great story.”

Miranda:               And then it dawned on me that the weather is also kind of part of the experience and part of the yoga because we can’t control it. We can only control how we prepare for and react to it. That’s been a learning experience for me and I think for other people as well. Of course, if it’s unsafe, like lightning, thunder, we’ll cancel. Making that call has been kind of tough. When do you cancel? How far in advance? Because the weather can change so quickly, especially where we’re located in the mountains. That’s been my personal anxiety, but I’ve been working on it for sure.

Shane:                    What does your distribution mix look like? So are you working with OTAs? How are you bringing in business for your tours?

Miranda:               Yeah I am. I’m on a few OTAs. I don’t get a ton of bookings, which I’m not complaining about because they take 20%. I do get about 15 to 20% of my business from Airbnb Experiences.

Shane:                    Nice.

Miranda:               That’s worked for me because I have a particularly unique experience, which is great for the platform. Then the rest comes from my website. I focus a lot on SEO. Also, worked with my local CVB, the Convention Visitors Bureau and the TDA, which is the Tourism Development Authority. Just really networking, meeting other businesses, using all the resources that they have available has really helped my business.

Shane:                    Yeah. I see your social media updates quite often in my feeds. Also, you write blog posts, correct?

Miranda:               I do, yeah. I have a weekly blog and this… I kind of have four pillars that revolve around that either me and my story or nature or things to do in Asheville. What was the other thing? Oh yeah, yoga and mindfulness content. We kind of go through different things. I have some exciting stuff coming up on the blog and some social media engagement. We just have fun and interact and I kind of think of what would I want to see on somebody’s social media feed. What would keep me engaged? And I’m starting to work into more video content as well.

Shane:                    Fantastic.

Shane:                    What booking platforms you use?

Miranda:               Currently I use peek.com for my bookings.

Shane:                    What was it about Peek that made you go with them?

Miranda:               Well, I actually switched from FareHarbor to Peek.

Shane:                    Right.

Miranda:               And that was a really hard decision to make, but there were just some features that I needed and…

Shane:                    Such as?

Miranda:               Well, one was kind of private versus public bookings. I get a lot of private requests and I had just kind of emailed my former platform with the same or called and emailed several times with the same question. It just wasn’t getting fixed and it was the middle of the season and I called a few other companies that used Peek and they recommended it and they seem to have the things that I needed. I did some due diligence. I did some research before I switched and I’m kind of finishing out the season with them, but I’m still open to others. They’ve been pretty good, but there’s just so many choices out there. It can be hard to pick one.

Shane:                    Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. No, it is tricky. For Tourpreneurs in waiting, so those of our listeners who want to launch a tour business or an activity, they’re a little bit nervous with a lot of risk. What would you say to them is one thing that people don’t realize about running your own tour business that surprised you the most?

Miranda:               Wow. Well, I guess expect the unexpected, which is very vague, but specific examples, just ways that customers would react that I would never even expect. Don’t expect to have the perfect tour every time. Expect things to go wrong. Really, that’s where you learn the most is when things don’t go exactly your way. One example I had, when you have a group and we meet at the trail heads, so people are coming in different cars and meeting us there and one customer’s there and the other group was about 10 minutes late. They let us know they’re on the way. This one customer freaked out, stormed off, demanded a refund instead of waiting 10 minutes for the rest of the group to get there. I would have never expected that kind of reaction and that was an interesting thing to deal with and I just didn’t even want to deal with it. I just gave her a full refund and I was like, “Good luck.” She clearly needed some yoga and meditation and nature in her life, but learn from that and other experiences along the way.

Miranda:               Just keep learning. Take on the challenges. It’s going to be hard, especially when you’re starting out and you’re doing everything. You’re doing the customer service. You’re doing the bookkeeping. You’re doing the social media. You’re doing the marketing. It can be hard, but just keep an open mind and keep learning and growing and using resources like this to keep yourself inspired and to grow.

Shane:                    Absolutely. How do you keep up to date with trends? Because if you think of social media, there’s something new every week. There’s a new algorithm change. How do you personally keep up to date with everything?

Miranda:               Honestly, the Tourpreneur email brief, the daily email, that’s been super helpful. I scan it every day and click on the things that I’m interested in or that are relevant to me. I also have some Google alerts set up for things that are specific to me or my area or my business.

Shane:                    Right.

Miranda:               So, I’ll get emails about that. And that’s a good way to keep involved. Also, for my own business, so if I get any press hits or media hits, although there’s a namaste technology company that I keep getting emails for, I’m not interested, but so it’s not 100% but yeah… And audio books and other podcasts, just anything that keeps me learning and growing.

Shane:                    Because you put me onto How I Built This. Right?

Miranda:               I did.

Shane:                    You recommended it. I love that podcast.

Miranda:               Me too.

Shane:                    And I get green with envy because I’m like, “I wish I could produce a narration like that.” And he has a whole team behind it, right?

Miranda:               Yeah. Well now, I mean I see that too. I hear other Tourpreneurs and I’m like, “Oh man. They’ve scaled their business so much and they talked with Kelsey Tonner and other people and other businesses in my area.” It keeps you going forward, right?

Shane:                    Yeah.

Miranda:               You say, “Oh, they did it. I can do it too.” And it’s really, I use it as motivation, I think.

Shane:                    Yes.

Miranda:               Like, yes, I will be there one day. It’s possible.

Shane:                    It is possible. Where can people find you online?

Miranda:               They can find me at namasteinnature.com. They can book a yoga hike in Asheville. We also have our weekly blogs there and you can sign up for our newsletter. I’m going to be doing some retreats and also I have a lot of videos online. We’re going to be filming yoga videos in nature.

Shane:                    Fantastic.

Miranda:               So, people can interact with us before and after the actual experience.

Shane:                    Wonderful. Thank you for joining us.

Miranda:               Thank you, Shane.

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