Erik Barstow, Rattle River Lodge, NH
A Mountain Getaway to Reflect and Connect
| Erik Barstow
Erik Barstow joined the Marines at 19 years of age and spent four years in the military police. After environmental allergies caused him to leave the military, Erik became a correctional officer across the river from his home state of Wisconsin and attended the Minnesota School of Business. An avid photographer known for his striking landscapes, Erik tried wedding photography as his first entrepreneurial venture, but did not find it very satisfying.
In October 2013 a friend asked Erik to drive to Maine to pick him up, an event that changed his life. On the way home, they stopped at the lodge Erik now owns and he fell in love with the peaceful location. Erik decided to return and spent three summers working at the lodge before the owner asked if he would like to buy the business, and Erik said yes. The purchase turned out to be harder than Erik imagined since banks were not impressed with the P&L of the business. Fortunately, a family friend, a former veteran himself, stepped in to become a silent partner and on May 1, 2017 Erik officially bought the business and set out to make it his own. He renamed it Rattle River Lodge and Hostel after both a river and a trail that connects to the 2,200 Appalachian Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine
Rattle River Lodge
| Rattle River Lodge, Shelburne, NH
Rattle River Lodge is in Shelburne, NH, in the White Mountain National Forest in northern New Hampshire. The lodge property abuts the Appalachian Trail and during the peak season of mid-June to mid-August as many as 20 hikers a day find a welcome place to stay. Erik and his staff of five live in tents on the property during the summer to free up as much space in the lodge as possible. Running a hospitality business for hikers is all consuming. Guests not only want a clean bed, showers and an Internet connection, but need to have laundry done, rides to town for food supplies or medical care, and a place to relax after a difficult hike. The lodge offers a variety of housing options with king, queen, single and bunk beds and a beautiful backyard with a pond, patio, picnic tables and firepit. Guests interact with each other and create what Erik calls “trail magic” by sharing stories of their challenges and talking about random acts of kindness on the trail. As guests reveal what they are hoping to bring away from their journey, Erik has learned that people hike the mountains for many reasons.
Wounded Warriors stay at the lodge as a group and Erik hopes more veterans’ groups will find his lodge a safe place to hold their programs. Erik had his own experience with being disabled when a serious case of Lyme disease threatened his ability to walk, but he was lucky enough to recover. Inspired by people with disabilities who come to hike sections of the Trail, Erik would like to start a hikers’ mentoring program to encourage more people with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors. He says “The mountains are not just for people with perfect physically fit bodies. A sunrise or sunset can change your life.”
Erik is working to build business in the off-season and would like the lodge to be a center for outdoor education. He has been doing cross-marketing with other hostels along the Trail and listing on Airbnb to appeal to winter hikers, skiers who can drive to near-by resorts, and amateur photographers who are attracted by the natural beauty of the location. In 2017 Rattle River was voted the #3 best hostel on the Trail.
How Did CWE and the VBOC Help?
Erik found CWE through the Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) which gave him advice about financing the business and offered mentoring advice on growing the business.
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
- Focus on the positive. Every person and business have challenges, but these issues are small when you see the problems others face.
- Take care of yourself. When you work for yourself it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind. To have momentum in the business, you need to have energy yourself. Give yourself love and attention.
- Never be afraid to ask for help. Find a solid mentor with concrete advice and listen.