Entrepreneurial Stories – Fatpacking
Steve Silberberg is the founder of Fatpacking, a business that combines his passion of backpacking and fitness.
Steve, tell us in your own words about Fatpacking and why you got started
Backpacking is my passion. For years, my vacations consisted of backpacking and hiking. Whenever I’d return to my corporate job, I noticed that my pants were looser, I felt fit, and was stress-free. After doing this long enough, I began thinking that others would like to reap the fitness benefits of backpacking, not to mention enjoy the incredible beauty of the wilderness backcountry that few ever get to see.
So about 5 years ago, I assembled a group and took them on a backpacking vacation. Metrics were taken to see if hiking really did affect weight and body composition. After a 2 week trip, it became clear that there was a causal relationship between backpacking and fat percentage. So I left my corporate position and started taking people Fatpacking (http://www.fatpacking.com) to get in shape and lose weight.
Like most businesses, there were struggles in the early years. Any time weight loss is involved, there is extreme competition for clients from leviathan weight loss companies. Even generating awareness and reaching potential clients is like hanging a small sign out in a sea of fog (analogies are not my long suit).
Business improved for the first few years, but the recession hit and almost closed the doors. Things began to improve again in 2010, but they’ve never quite turned the corner. However, Fitpacking is about to enter into an option situation with a production company for a reality show which will hopefully come to fruition and solve all the awareness problems we now suffer.
Fatpacking has provided me (and my guides) with an incredible quality of life, but is unfortunately no way to begin an invincible financial empire.
What were the obstacles to starting your business (educational requirements, certifications, licensing, insurance, etc.)?
The biggest obstacle was (and is) the naysayers. It’s just amazing how many unsupportive people you run into. I don’t think they all mean to be that way, but finding potential problems makes people think they’re helping out, when they’re actually being discouraging. I am a certified Wilderness First Responder, certified in CPR and Basic Life Support, certified Leave No Trace Trainer, and certified Food Handler. I also must obtain permits for each National Park or Forest in which we operate. I don’t find these to be big obstacles.
How did you find suppliers/services you needed to get started?
I’ve been backpacking for many years, so I already knew where to find suppliers and services. However, I have found a wealth of useful information from the fine people of the backpacker.com message boards.
Everything came out of my savings.
Is this a full time business or a supplemental income?
It’s full time in-season, March-October. During the other months, I supplement the business by software contracting, although I continue to work on the business during those times as well.
What advise would you give others?
Sell, sell, sell. Or find someone who can sell. It’s vital. You can figure out the rest.
How has your lifestyle changed from being an employee to becoming a business owner?
I have much less money now, which means I don’t go out as frequently or to the nicer places I used to go to. Plus, I’m traveling all the time so maintenance around my house suffers. Friendships are more difficult too. On the other hand, I’m in much better shape given that I’m always hiking. My quality of life is also much richer.