Success Stories

The Gorge

The Gorge Zipline in Saluda, North Carolina, is known as one of America’s “steepest and fastest zipline canopy tours.” Perched on the edge of the beautiful Green River Gorge, this treetop tour takes guests soaring on a descent into the gorge, enjoying breathtaking views and heart-pounding speeds along the way. Countless accolades and five-star reviews for “The Gorge,” as it is affectionately called, have amassed since first opening the doors in 2013.

Even Businesses “Grow Up”: A fresh team takes success to a whole new level.

Sara and Tim Bell, owners of The Gorge (and also Green River Adventures, another AAC client) had developed an absolute gem: A high-energy adventure business that not only delivered excellent guest experiences day in and day out, but also one that well-reflected the core values so important to the couple. Fun, upbeat, never relenting on quality and customer service, The Gorge’s reputation was built – in very large part – on the reputations of the business owners themselves. The idea of entrusting their business to someone else? Almost unimaginable. And then AAC came along.

During the pandemic shutdown of spring 2020, owner Sara Bell found herself reflecting on next steps for their mature business. Though she knew its full potential had not yet been entirely unlocked – there were many ideas and opportunities on the horizon – she was, simply put… burnt out. Ready to move on from the day-to-day operations she had managed for years, Sara reached out to the Applied Adventure Team and together they developed a win-win partnership.

A Brand Enhanced

In small communities especially, word-of-mouth drives businesses. And word-of-mouth is, in large part, influenced by the leaders behind a business and the staff they employ. Having created a much-loved brand for the Saluda community and beyond, it was a “non-negotiable” for the Bells that The Gorge brand be stewarded by a like-minded team; one that would not only maintain the brand they had worked so hard to build but would also enhance and further mature it. And that’s exactly what the AAC Team has done! From developing and launching a shiny new website to extensive development of retail products, online presence, and more, The Gorge brand – with all its fun, “pop,” and personality – is strongly represented in all team members and is reaching more people than ever.

Staff Secured, Community Strengthened

For operators based in smaller tourism-driven communities, seasonal staffing is often a key limiting factor. Without plenty of highly qualified and trained staff, tour inventory is limited. Quickly after forming our partnership with The Gorge, Applied Adventure invested in the purchase of property and two homes in Saluda. Not only do we commit to our clients, but we also commit to the communities they (and now we) serve. Offering staff housing has proven instrumental in allowing us to attract and retain a full roster of highly qualified personnel at The Gorge. Additionally, it has served as a clear signpost to locals that Applied Adventure is not an intrusive “outsider,” but rather, a trusted partner personally invested in the local community.

Significant Revenue Growth

When a business has been successful – and quite profitable – for nearly a decade, it’s hard to imagine that substantial growth can be unlocked just by bringing in fresh minds. But it sure can! In our first year operating The Gorge, annual revenue increased by more than 20%. In the years since, we’ve continued to build on this growth. Through strategic marketing planning, particularly in unleashing our skilled Digital Marketing Team, we’re attracting new customers to The Gorge each day. We’re excited for the future of The Gorge and confident that the best is yet to come!

“When you’ve started an operation like The Gorge from scratch, it’s easy to believe that you’re the only person who could run it successfully. After 8 years in business, the pandemic shut us down for about 3 months. During that time, I realized how much of my children’s lives I was missing and how much the stress of operating an incredibly complex business had taken a toll. 

I had experience working with members of the AAC team in other capacities in the industry and felt confident that they were the best choice for managing The Gorge. Damn, was I right! 

Their team made the transition seamless and fun. They worked so well with our long standing and seasonal employees that there was zero turnover. They hit revenue marks I never thought possible. They have maintained excellent, proactive communication. 4 years later, I have nothing but gratitude for the AAC team. I’ve got a more balanced life and a reliable stream of income from something that I can still be proud of but don’t have to stress about all the time”

Sara Bell | Owner, The Gorge Zipline