Following a decade of service in the army, Tristram Mayhew worked at General Electric, where he was offered the position of head of communications. Mayhew did not take the job, however, and quit instead to launch his own business, Go Ape. His friends thought he had gone bananas (pun intended).
With his wife Rebecca, Mayhew approached the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Health and Safety Executive, and the Forest Commission, all of which loved the idea. The treetop adventure business opened only a few weeks later, with its first site in Thetford, England. Now with 25 sites, Go Ape has attracted millions of people who are looking to break out of city life, even if just temporarily, by flying from tree to tree via tire swings and zip wires.
Despite its early success, Go Ape did hit a few bumps on the road, including delays in planning permission which almost led to Mayhew losing all of his instructors. To save the company, he decided to borrow money from his mom.
“If I hadn’t done that, we’d have gone under,” he admits.
Mayhew quickly learned his lesson and hired a finance director. With a better business and administration strategy, Go Ape was turning profits by its fourth year and opened more locations.
Go Ape has also improved its safety plan since its inception. The company’s strict staff training program was created with the help of veteran climbers and takes worst case scenarios into account.
Today, Go Ape earns about £1 million in profits yearly and has over 400 employees. And while providing treetop adventures remains its primary service, Segway scooters and mountain bikes have been added for visitors who prefer to stay earthbound.
In 2011, Go Ape opened its first site in the United States, and with its popularity, Mayhew has no plans of stopping there.