Technology has revolutionized how we book accommodations, order food, and hail rides—so, it's astonishing that the guided travel industry has remained largely untouched by these advancements.
Stuart Jordan and Ben Roberson, sharing a deep passion for the great outdoors, uncovered this gap in the market. Their love for fishing brought them face-to-face with the outdated and cumbersome methods of booking guided trips. They realized that there was a pressing need for a user-friendly platform that could help travelers discover, book, and review outdoor adventures efficiently.
This realization became the spark for Guide Book, a venture born during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a blend of hard work and a dose of serendipity, they set out to modernize the guided travel industry and make it accessible to all. Guide Book is their mission to connect people with the natural world through innovative technology.
In this Q&A, the company’s co-founders Jordan and Ben share their insights into their journey, the challenges of revamping a traditional industry, and their vision for a future where anyone can easily connect with the great outdoors through Guide Book.
How did you become interested in fishing?
Growing up in Kentucky often allows young people experiences in the outdoors that are not possible in other places. We both spent a lot of time at the lakes, creeks, rivers, and hills of Kentucky as kids. Because of these experiences, we both got into fishing and hunting at a young age with their dads and family members and eventually developed outdoor passions of our own.
In college, Ben got into flyfishing and quickly realized that it would be a big part of his life. He traveled all over the country and world fishing with his wife and eventually became a Guide on the Cumberland River.
Stuart got into the outdoors as a way to spend time with his family in the outdoors. As he got older and more plugged into the corporate world, he found that fishing was an excellent way to take his mind off of his busy schedule, unplug, and refresh. It was great for his mental health and took him to see and fully experience some awesome wild places (usually without cell phone service!).
So many industries have been changed by technology over the last decade. However, guided outdoor sports is one segment that was somehow left in the stone age.
What inspired you to co-found a company?
As a fishing guide, Ben saw the problems guides had running a business firsthand. They were running business much the same way that guides did in the 1980s. The lack of technology was frustrating, and he knew there had to be a technological solution to bring this industry into the modern age. He reached out to Stuart who he knew had a passion for the outdoors and was somewhat business-minded to discuss what a solution might look like. The idea was born in the midst of the COVID pandemic around a campfire with friends. Over a few weeks and a few beers, we fleshed out our idea, put together a business plan, and put together a laughable deck to explain what we were thinking to people who might be able to help. As we presented it, people just kept telling us, “Yes”. People helped with their time, resources, and networks. You always hear that founding a successful business is 90% luck and 10% hard work. We always thought that was just modesty, but as we founded this business we found that to be 100% true of our business. As a result, we hope we can give back with our time and resources and share what we have learned with other founders in the future.
Tell us about your team: Who’s on it, and how did you meet?
Ben Roberson and Stuart Jordan – From Louisville, KY! We ran in the same circles for years. While we knew of each other, we never really connected until a mutual friend who knew we were both looking for something new in our careers told us we needed to get together.
Perry Azevedo – From Wenatchee, WA. He is one of those guys that said “yes” early on. We were connected to Perry through the same friend that connected us. Perry had a background in web and app development with a real focus on UI and UX. He loved our idea and came on as a co-founder to help us build out our tech.
Alyx Parks – From Ontario, CA. Alyx was another awesome find for the Guide Book team. Her father owns a guide business, and she has been a guide, and host on a popular fly fishing show. She also has an amazing mind for customer service. We reached out trying to recruit her to list her guide services on Guide Book, but instead, she quickly started throwing great ideas at us to help us improve our product. We knew we had to have her as part of the team and brought her on as our Director of Customer Experience.
Where do you see the guided travel industry headed in the future?
15 years ago it would be totally normal to book a bed and breakfast by searching Google or from a referral of a friend. Now you couldn’t imagine doing this without Airbnb. Consumers of these services want to see pictures, read reviews, and book now. So many industries have been changed by technology over the last decade. However, guided outdoor sports is one segment that was somehow left in the stone age. But as a younger generation of more tech-savvy guides and outdoors people emerge, there is a real need for our solution. We hear daily from our interactions with guides, “I really need this,” or “I thought of this too and I am so glad someone is doing it.” We are really excited to make this dream a reality for so many people and bring this industry into the modern era.
What does success look like to Guide Book in the short term and long term?
Short term we want to be a place that helps fishing guides run more efficient businesses and helps anglers learn, plan, and enjoy their time on the water. Long term we want to be a platform that not only helps anglers, but participants of all sports get outside and stay outside.