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Adventure Travel Specialist

Ken Lee doesn't live life on the edge, but many of his clients are looking to do just that. As an adventure travel entrepreneur, Lee leads expeditions to some of the world's loftiest peaks. But his success is the result of having his business rooted on firm ground.

For Lee, business is truly an adventure and he'd have it no other way. "I love to travel and couldn't afford to go as many places as I wanted. So why not have paying customers help with the costs?" says Lee.

The Spirit of Adventure

Lee started Mountain Adventures in textbook fashion -- by doing what he loves. He has a passion for adventure travel and mountaineering expeditions and found that he needed money to fully realize what the world had to offer.

"The ski bum image that has spread to mountain guides in the U.S. isn't realistic," he says. Lee realized that he'd have to be more than an able mountaineer to make it in the highly competitive world of adventure travel.

He studied wildlife research at the University of California-Davis and is sold on the value of a strong education. His experience, though, is what separates him from his rivals.

Lee has been climbing for over 25 years and is a member of the American Mountain Guide Association and the American Association of Avalanche Professionals.

In the Beginning

Lee was leading rock and ice climbing instructional programs and guiding local trips. He met a person who was leading expeditions, but not instructing.

They merged resources, arranging trips to South America, Nepal and the Alps. But Lee didn't abandon his instructional programs in California and the Pacific Northwest. So even if the international trips were canceled, Lee had a fallback position.

There are over 22,000 adventure travel companies operating worldwide. To make Mountain Adventures fly, Lee had to find a niche. "I felt the adventure travel industry had gone soft and I wanted to offer true adventure travel to exotic and less traveled areas."

With the market identified, Lee set his sights on doing things better than his competition. Mountain Adventures is small, so Lee can guide or act as liaison on most trips.

This personal attention allows every client to have the best and safest experience possible. Lee caters to all experience levels and tastes, offering unusual locations and activities.

"What we're seeing is the emergence of a younger, cost-conscious traveler who really loves nature and outdoor activities," said William Norman, president of the Travel Industry Association, in an article in the San Francisco Examiner.

Lee doesn't need a large outlay of cash to maintain his business. "Most of my overhead is office rent, Internet access, phone, utilities, postage and office supplies."

Each expedition carries additional costs: mules, helicopters, food, fuel, porters, guides, peak permits and park fees can be expected. But those costs aren't incurred until clients are confirmed and a trip is booked.

On the Horizon

"The over-50 crowd is a huge group and many of our trips are just right for them," says Lee. "Younger people are also taking a different look at life than the traditional ideas of the previous generation. They want to be as active as they can."

With all these people embarking on adventures, the timing is perfect for those with the skills and ambition to claim a small slice of the action.

"Mountain Adventures has a fairly small market right now due to the type of trips we offer, but I feel that our market will be growing in the next few years," says Lee.

"I don't think it will ever be large. That's why, no matter what you do, you should be doing it because you like it and not because you want to make a lot of money."


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