App developer wants families to make outdoor memories

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 1,517 views 

Fayetteville-based app Explore Eden will offer custom recreation and camping experiences on privately-owned land in Northwest Arkansas when it launches in October.

Owner Stuart Collier, the founder and principal broker for Fayetteville-based real estate company Collier & Associates, said the app is in its final development stages and will be similar to Airbnb. He expects it to launch on Oct. 4 for Apple and Android devices.

“There’s not another product out there that does what we’re doing because we are curating and individualizing these experiences,” he said.

Collier explained his vision for visitors of the mountain biking capital of the world: Visitors would be picked up in a Sprinter van, taken to their campsite, and have a mountain bike dropped off so they could explore the nearby trails.

From a basic level, the app has competition on listing platforms from which people can lease property, but he said they don’t offer to create these individual experiences. Through the Explore Eden website or app, users can book outdoor experiences tailored to their interests.

The website and app will also allow hosts to list their properties, and Collier said he’s seeking more hosts. While the existing website doesn’t allow users to book properties, more than 160 interested guests have signed up. Interested hosts also can sign up on the website, Collier said. When it launches in October, the app should list about 1,000 acres among 12 landowners comprising about 20 campsites in Northwest Arkansas.

“We’re heavy on users and light on hosts,” he said. “We need more hosts for all of these users that are in the pipeline. It’s a great opportunity early on for these hosts because we’ve got this funnel of users.”

He explained Explore Eden as a complementary offering to campgrounds throughout the state but more private. He added that people have struggled to find open campground spots, especially for recreational vehicles, since the onset of COVID-19.

“If you do get a site, there’s no privacy,” he said. “We’ll be offering legitimate privacy for people.”

He noted that state parks have done a great job to allow people to experience the outdoors but alone have not met people’s desire to enjoy the outdoors. More is needed, he added.

“It’s time that the private landowners come to the table, make money and allow for a shared use so everyone can enjoy beautiful property,” Collier said. “And you get these experiences that last a lifetime, and that’s what we’re trying to do is curate these memories.”

Collier established the business in April after he purchased 10 acres along Osage Creek, west of Elm Springs. He improved the property by adding a picnic table and lawn games and offering it to friends for camping.

He explained that he’s always loved investing in land. While it’s an excellent long-term investment, it isn’t a great short-term investment, except when using it for growing crops or cattle grazing. And that’s labor-intensive, he noted.

Stuart Collier

But as more friends asked to camp on his property, “I thought, ‘Gosh, I could cash flow this thing,’” he said. “If I could make money off of this raw land that’s otherwise just a dead asset, for now, everybody can.”

That led him to develop an app that can provide landowners with income for their otherwise stagnant asset, he said.

“We went from that very basic level to now curating experiences for people,” he said. Campers without the necessary gear can still experience the outdoors or add to their experience. That could include glamping, Sprinter van rentals or a bike drop-off service, he noted.

Campsites range from having everything provided to low-impact sites, such as an 80-acre site near Devil’s Den State Park requiring people to bring their gear. Excluding add-on features like a Sprinter van rental, he said campsite stays would range from $50 to $300 per night.

“We want to try to provide opportunities for the different levels of outdoors people,” he said. “If you want to go out and be on significant acreage over by Devil’s Den, that’s cool. It will look very different than on my property. It’s super close to Elm Springs and three minutes from Walmart. We want to try to provide a little bit for everybody.

“It’s really a land share program, so it doesn’t always have to be camping,” he added. “You could do family reunions. You could do birthday parties, under the stars, cooking s’mores, having a fire pit for your kids.”

He explained that Explore Eden would allow everyone to experience privately-owned land.

“You’ve just got a few people who have all the money, have all the land, and it’s like nobody else can enjoy it unless you’re rich and buy a bunch of land,” he said. “My goal is to have this shared economy where not only can landowners benefit, but then people can enjoy what others have in regards to outdoors and land.”

People, especially young families, have wanted to experience the outdoors, but he said the barriers have been too high. Collier explained that they might not have a tent or gear and would need to navigate the state parks system to see if space is available.

“What we’re going to do is lower the barrier where more people feel less intimidated to enjoy the outdoors,” he said. “We’re going to do that by giving detailed pictures, marketing. We’re doing drone [footage] and covering all the marketing for the first 20 hosts. We’re giving a good indication of what that property is going to be when they get there.”

Jana Reishus, co-owner of Little Sugar Farm in Jane, Mo., said 80 acres of the 376-acre farm along Little Sugar Creek is dedicated for glamping, and she has plans to list the business on Explore Eden. Reishus said she’s an experienced user of Vrbo and Airbnb and learned about Explore Eden on social media.

“With the glamping, I think it will fit in with what they’re doing,” she said. “I, of course, love local things, and they’re from Fayetteville, so I decided to give them a call and get on their platform.”

Reishus, and her husband, Paul, opened the glamping business last year. It has seven campsites with tents on platforms, and they include various features, such as electricity, beds and air conditioning. Other business amenities include a deckhouse with four bathrooms, two outdoor showers, a 1,200-square-foot deck and a kitchen.

Collier said he plans to have about 150 properties in Northwest Arkansas listed on Explore Eden before looking to expand the business into other cities. After it’s established here, he plans to expand into Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn.; Raleigh and Durham, N.C.; and possibly Austin, Texas.

Explore Eden has three employees.

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