The Business Venture Of Ken Stamps And Navitat Canopy Adventures

Environmental consciousness and education meets adrenaline-inducing adventures – that’s the gist of a canopy tour. There are currently hundreds of canopy tours all across the world. Originating out of a need to study the diverse animal population residing in the upper canopy level of forests in Costa Rica, biologists rigged an assortment of platforms, cables, and zip lines to make this possible. It makes sense that this thrilling experience has been modified to fit into an eco-tourism business model. With hundreds of canopy tour adventures all across the globe, we at BossStart felt a need to find out more about this interesting market.

Enter Navitat Canopy Adventures:

Ken Stamps, the now CEO and managing partner of Navitat Canopy Adventures, was, in 2008, a landscape architect in Detroit. It was then that Ken decided it was time for a career change.

“I was in the architecture industry for almost 28 years as a business owner and the director of a very large national company, so I was used to growing a business, managing employees, and creating a vision. I had actually started a new consulting division within our company and had grown that across the country. However, in 2008 it really was time for a change – coming from a personal standpoint and also from an economy standpoint. I was aware that my nephew owned a company in Colorado and had become renowned as the leading canopy tour designer/builder in the country. He and I had begun talking about owning and running our own canopy tour. I approached him with the idea that I would find property and he and I would build a canopy tour together; and I would ultimately run it.”

“When we started our business we decided that we wanted to create a true ecological experience – very similar to the original roots of the canopy tour industry. The Costa Rican version of a canopy tour is conducted in the rain forest and is a really amazing ecological experience. The industry, in the last five years or less, has really been concentrated more on the ‘thrill-ride’ experience. When we started Navitat we believed that we had to find a spectacular piece of property in NC and chose the site we’re on now specifically because of its ecological/environmental beauty and uniqueness. I’m not aware that any other canopy tour operators in the country have done that. They’ve all developed canopy tours on surplus properties they own that may, or may not, be all that special. Then they focus more on that thrill ride aspect of the experience and less on combining it with a deeply engaging environmental educational experience which is what really sets us apart in the industry.”

“We opened for business in May of 2010. It’s been a pretty exciting time opening a business in North Carolina. I enlisted the assistance of several family members and we all partnered together to create a vision for what we wanted to build here in Asheville. We’ve have had a blast getting off the ground and running for the last year and a half. It’s been a very successful year.”

The Adventure Plan:

“A lot of planning was involved. The first step was to create our vision for the organization and to find what our brand’s strengths were going to be. We decided that we were going to focus our brand on five key strengths:

  1. We were going find spectacular pieces of property and build really innovative and interestingly designed canopy tours on those properties.
  2. We were willing to invest the money to design things that really were industry leading.
  3. We were to have the absolute highest quality of safety systems available in the industry.
  4. We were going to hire a staff that was totally committed – particularly the guide staff.
  5. We were going to have an educational program to give people an experience where they come away not only feeling thrilled but they think, ‘Wow I really learned something different and I see the world in a different way. I understand Appalachian culture in a different way and I understand how this area fits into the Blue Ridge Mountains ecosystem’.”

“We started with that vision and then everything we did was consistent with its execution. We planned our administrative, marketing, and operational systems to support and consistently fulfill that mission.”

As part of the plan, Ken insists that Navitat is driven to become a national brand – the ‘go-to’ guides in the canopy tour industry.

“We’re in the process of expanding across the nation. Right now we are constructing a canopy tour just outside of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains, or what’s called the Angeles National Forest. We are also very close to an agreement to build a canopy tour on St. Thomas Island and the US Virgin Islands. We are also talking with people in Florida, Louisiana and several other locations about the canopy tours. We have a state-of-the-art approach for canopy tour experiences and we are aggressively searching for additional properties. Again I’m not aware of any other company in the country that is doing that.”

The Adventure Push:

“We are very heavy this year into social networking. We do online advertising. We participate tremendously with charities and through various auctions to be recognized throughout the neighboring communities. In fact we’ve just crossed 100 organizations that we’ve donated free tours to for fundraising purposes – that’s a great way to get our name out. We have a very aggressive PR campaign. We’ve been mentioned in USA TODAY, NY TIMES, and ABC NEWS all last year.  They ran stories on us in addition to all the local and regional publications in the southeast. So we’re very aggressive. Our website is huge. I would term it as kind of a ‘360 degree marketing campaign’.”

Navitat Wrightwood Teaser Video from Navitat Canopy Adventures on Vimeo.


Navitat Canopy Adventures

As with any business, assimilating to the natural environment and the community around you is crucial. Ken understands this.

“We wanted to be very careful with the people of Barnardsville and we wanted to make sure we were being a good neighbor to the residents so we’ve tried very hard to be careful in everything we’ve done to be sensitive. I’m not sure that’s really an obstacle but its something we concerned ourselves with. We didn’t want it to become an obstacle. We wanted to become an integral part of the community and we’ve been welcomed in every aspect here in Asheville – it’s amazing. I am encountering some obstacles growing the company nationally in terms of permitting. Some regions are more difficult than others in terms of getting them permitted for the use we want.”

“People doing things on cables in trees is not a new idea at all. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of camps with elevated ropes courses. So that industry is pretty established. It’s the evolution of that industry into our canopy industry that’s new.”

Lastly, we asked Ken to share with us advice he had for entrepreneurs reading his story:

“Be passionate about your vision and build a team that you believe in. Nurture that team so they’re also passionate about the vision. It’s not complicated and a number of clichés apply. I don’t think I could say anything that hasn’t been said many times before by many people; but for me, it’s having a vision that you believe in and building something that revolves around that vision.”

To learn more about Ken Stamps & Navitat Canopy Adventures, please visit:





About the Author: Daniel Ballard

Daniel is a Writer and Entrepreneur. He is Co-Founder/Main Author/Editor of BossStart and Co-Editor/Featured Author for BossStart's sister site, PauseStart, launching early 2012

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3 Comments + Add Comment

  • […] Check out the article to learn more about how and why Navitat came to be, and to read about the five key strengths of the Navitat brand. […]

  • Ken, his nephew, and partners are building a top-tier brand and an amazing experience with great sensitivity to doing things the right way. Navitat brought it all together from day one – I was there and enjoyed and exerted every minute of it!

    • Robert, thanks for the comment. Navitat is definitely an outstanding brand and company. I am excited about the growth for Ken and the team. Keep checking back for more stories and successes.

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