Career & Business

#TheProof: Carmen Narancsik Runs A 7-Figure Rafting Business That's Only Open 4 Months Out Of The Year

July 26, 2022

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#TheProof is a series that celebrates the success of our community. We can’t be what we can’t see, which is why we proudly feature our students from across the globe who’ve made their dreams a reality. 

Carmen Narancsik is the epitome of living the dream. She took a brave leap — leaving societal expectations and her “real job”  behind — and now runs a wildly successful rafting company in the beautiful mountains of Golden, British Columbia.

Pay close attention to this Q&A and you'll learn how Carmen:

  • Left the safety of her “real job” to follow her passion and create a life she loves.
  • Bought an outdated pre-existing business and turned it into a thriving, modern empire.
  • Leveraged the power of great copy to share the joy of rafting — and increased her bookings by 183%!

Was it always your dream to be an entrepreneur?

I didn't think of myself as an entrepreneur at all. Not only was running a rafting company never part of the plan, but I didn’t even know what adventure tourism was! I grew up in a little farm town and I'd never been exposed to adventure tourism really.

You didn’t go straight into rafting though — you were a teacher for a while?

After I graduated from university, I spent three years traveling and working around the world. Everywhere I went, I’d find myself drawn to the mountains. I think I knew deep down that I wanted to be in the mountains, but after three years abroad, I felt a lot of pressure to come back to Canada and “get a real job.” So I got my teaching degree.

Did you feel excited about teaching?

Not at all. I just didn't want to do it. I thought I'd allow myself one winter in the mountains in British Columbia and then I would go and settle into my teaching career. So that's what I did. I flew across the country to BC and even though I didn't know anyone and didn't have a job lined up or much of a plan at all, I knew I wanted to figure it out.

What happened when you got there?

As soon as I got here, it felt really right. I knew that I was content here. I met amazing people who were living an active, outdoorsy lifestyle, and I started to settle into that lifestyle as well. That first winter turned into summer and then turned into another winter and I liked working seasonally. I liked that I was outside and being very active and I felt very happy. 

And this was around the time you met your partner, right?

Yes, Ryan. He was also involved in the tourism industry. At that time, he’d been a raft guide for about 10 years.

He found out that the owner was looking to retire and that Glacier Raft Company would be put up for sale. We thought it could be a really good challenge and a big adventure for us to take it over. And so we decided to go for it.

Did you have any entrepreneurial experience at that point?

No. Even though we didn't have business training, we thought of it as an opportunity to stay in the mountains and to keep living a lifestyle we both really loved and to pursue our passions and create something that was our own. 

That’s so brave!

We figured that if we knew how to row a boat down the river, then we’d know how to run a rafting company. But obviously that's far from true. Rafting is such a small part of what we do as business owners, but that was the start of our journey really.

Tell me about the original Glacier Raft Company. 

It's completely different from the business we own today. Essentially, we just bought a few rafts and some old buses and wet suits and a river permit. But it was small. We didn't really make any money with it hardly at all for the first few years. It started small and it's been this huge journey and we transitioned it into something really special.

What was the first year or two like?

We were just trying to keep our heads above water. We didn't grasp what it meant to run a business. We had to learn everything — admin and bookkeeping and taxes and all of that stuff. 

The original Glacier Raft Company needed some new energy put into it, so we spent the first few years streamlining, organizing and bringing our vision to life. 

What were some of the first changes you made?

One of the big ones was getting the business online. It took several years to get all the pieces in place, but Glacier was an entirely pen-and-paper business when we started. Bookings were done over the phone, we wrote them down, manually processed the payment, manually sent every confirmation email, then added them to a giant laminated wall calendar where we’d use a dry erase marker to keep track of every guest on each trip for each day of the summer. Waivers were paper, bookkeeping was manual, thank you emails were sent individually, payroll was all done by hand….

Oh my goodness. That sounds like… a lot.

Thinking back on it now, I can’t believe we used to do things that way. Now, everything is online and integrated. I have a number of softwares and cloud based systems that have streamlined and simplified everything we do.

How did you learn how to do all this!?

We’re still learning! I learn things every day and I think that’s a process that never ends. I learned A LOT from B-School and The Copy Cure and I learned a lot by diving in and having no choice but to figure it out.  

Tell me about your decision to join B-School.

It was a few years into running Glacier. I had a lot of ideas and ambitions, but I had no idea where to start. I still didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur and I hadn’t had any business education, which meant I was feeling a lot of fear and doubt. I wanted to feel confident in my decisions and I was hoping that B-School would give me that foundation.

And did it?

Since working through the exercises in B-School and doing the homework, everything started falling into place. I went from a business that wasn’t making any money to running a seven-figure business today.

That’s incredible, congratulations! 

I would definitely recommend B-School to anyone who’s thinking about it. Before B-School, I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur, but now I’m running a seven-figure rafting business that’s only open four months of the year. If I can do it, you can do it too.

What do you think was the big turning point for you?

In B-School Marie says, “It’s not about what you sell, it’s about how you position and package it.” We had an amazing experience to offer the world, but our packaging (in terms of our copy and media) was super junky. 

I was as new as you could be going into B-School and now I feel comfortable with all aspects of our business — creating and updating our websites, content creation and marketing, payroll and bookkeeping, partnerships and merchandising

Why did you sign up for The Copy Cure too?

I knew we offered an amazing service, but it wasn't being conveyed on our website or in any of our marketing material. Our copy was generic — it sounded the same as every other rafting company. It didn't have our own voice and it wasn't inspiring.

Because what we offer is so much more than rafting. It's about being here in this beautiful place and trying a new adventure, spending time with family or friends, doing something that you really love. I wanted our copy to represent all of those aspects and I wanted people to feel how much we love what we do and how much fun people have when they're here with us. 

And that's what I was hoping to get from The Copy Cure.

Plus, after taking B-School I knew that if I got half as much out of The Copy Cure, then it would be hugely worth it.

What was the first thing you changed?

I changed everything! I went through every page of our website. I updated everything. 

Tell me about your results!

Our bookings went way up. The number of guests we've had rafting over the last five years has increased 183%. We started getting busier and people even commented how much they liked our website.

Our bookings went way up. The number of guests we've had rafting over the last five years has increased 183%. 

It’s been 10 years since you bought Glacier. What’s different today?

10 years ago we owned a few rafts and some old wetsuits and buses. We rented an old warehouse for our rafting base, and ran smaller trips inconsistently. We were hardly profitable — if at all.

Today, we’re the only rafting company in Golden. We’ve acquired the two other local companies to grow Glacier into the only rafting outfitter in town. We own a beautiful property for our rafting base with a ten-room lodge and Bed & Breakfast. Everything about our operation is more polished and professional.  

What’s your favorite part of running the business?

The people. We are a family here. Most of our staff come back every year because they love what they do and they're passionate about what they do. We all get along so well and like hanging out with each other.

It's experiences and quality time with people that you care about, that's what makes me happy.

And it’s a seasonal business! We only run from the middle of May till the middle of September.  I was able to build a business around my passion for the outdoors and being outside and getting to share that with other people. I have freedom in my schedule, time to spend outside, and I take a month off in the fall to travel.

Marie likes to say that, “The world needs that special gift that only you have." What does that mean to you?

It means staying true to yourself and having the courage to follow your heart. It means making decisions based on what will bring you joy even if it goes against societal expectations.

Because I followed my heart to be in the mountains and surround myself with nature, I've been able to create a life for myself that I really love. I've also been able to build a business where I get to create experiences for other people where they feel joy, excitement, and that they're valued when they're here. 

When you stay true to yourself, that's when you're able to really show up for other people in a big way too.

That’s beautiful Carmen, thank you. See you on the river!

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