1. Tell us about your business.
ALIVE Outdoors is an experiential and outdoor education company specializing in the creation and delivery of customized, meaningful programs for schools and organizations.
The backbone and essence of each ALIVE Outdoors experience is right on our name:
Adventure, Leadership, Individuality, Values and Empowerment.
Through the use of experiential learning and adventure activities such as canoe trips, high ropes courses, dogsledding, etc., our customized programs inspire confidence to embrace challenge in a caring and supportive atmosphere. In a society that encourages competition, we help people to learn the importance of cooperation.
Learning through experience allows students to become more aware of whom they are, and they have the chance to align their behaviour and choices with their values. During all ALIVE experiences there is an emphasis placed on the idea that leadership begins from within—and that personal leadership is defined by all the small actions we do—especially when no one is watching.
Students can develop key qualities such as responsibility, communication skills, healthy decision making, community living, independence and cooperation. Self-empowerment and decision-making skills derive from this type of hands on learning. At ALIVE Outdoors we believe our programs stimulate the development of interpersonal skills, as well as encourage people to be physically active and supportive of one another. In our world of television, computers, cell phones and other unhealthy distractions these skills are extremely important to nurture. These are skills that are vital to life, and they are not necessarily always fostered within the classroom or a corporate environment.
2. How long have you been using QB?
I have been using Quickbooks for about 12 years now. Founded in 2000, ALIVE Outdoors is inching towards it’s 15th year in business, however as a clueless young person who was following a dream and a passion, I had no idea what to do about accounting! I was literally flying by the seat of my pants for the first few years, using a shoebox for my receipts, and making incomplete lists of expenses on Excel. Thankfully, my accountant helped me sort out the mess I created in my naivety, educated me and got me set up on Quickbooks. I have never looked back.
3. How has QuickBooks helped you start, run or grow your business?
Quickbooks has made being a business owner less daunting. ALIVE Outdoors was started based solely on a passion for teaching and learning in the outdoors. I am not someone who is strong with numbers. Simply getting through high school math was a challenge for me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever own a business, let alone be able to do all the accounting myself. Whenever I have to deal with the accounting side of things, I feel vulnerable because it’s completely out of my comfort zone. Quickbooks allows me to do what needs to be done in a fairly simple manner. I know exactly what to do each month to stay on top of things, and at our year-end, I send the backup file to my accountant. I have often thought about having a bookkeeper manage this side of my business, but I always come back to the fact that it’s very informative to do it myself. It allows me to see and track every financial decision that is made, and as a small business owner that information is paramount to our success.
4. What was your first “big win” moment as a business owner? That moment when you said “hey I can do this!”
I cannot remember any one significant moment where I thought, “wow, this might work!” There have been an ongoing series of small synchronicities that I have interpreted as messages that I am on my “authentic path.” There have been chance meetings with people at the right time. There have been countless people who have been supportive through word of mouth. There have been beautiful, heart-felt letters and emails from students after their ALIVE programs expressing how much our trips have been formative in their life.
I think it was around the 5-year mark where I really started to believe that ALIVE Outdoors might actually survive. While it has not always been a smooth and simple ride, it has been a journey that I believe I was meant to take. I am extremely grateful for all that it has taught me, and all the amazing people that it has brought into my life.
5. What is the best advice you could give to someone just starting out?
The best advice I can give to people just starting out is to follow your passion. It will guide you well. Be willing to be flexible in your vision at the beginning and allow yourself to go along for the ride. Have faith that things will fall into place with some serious dedication and commitment. The long hours are worth it. Do not focus on the money. It will come later. Having said that, get an accounting plan right at the very beginning so you don’t end up like I did, sifting through a few years of receipts wondering what to do. Quickbooks literally is a necessity from the get-go, even when you are not making any profit. You need to keep track of all your expenses!
At the end of the day, what is most important is that you do something that fuels you and leaves you feeling like you are living a purposeful life that is congruent with your own values. Good luck.