Meet Your Merchant | On the river with IRIE Rafting, a California Benefit Corporation
Special to the Sun
What: Irie Rating Company
Location: 11253 Brockway Road, The Rock
Erik pushes off the bank of the Truckee River and immediately feels at ease.
The feeling of river beneath raft is familiar and comforting. The initial push from shore is the promise of a good whitewater day to come.
A love affair with rafting began on the Rio Grande many years ago and brought the young man to the lower Truckee River, where he guides rafting trips down the scenic canyon.
“I really like bringing people out and showing them something they’ve never seen before,” he said.
Erik Anderson partnered with IRIE Rafting Company’s founder and owner Frank Wohlfahrt in 2012, who also first put a paddle in the rapids of the Rio Grande.
“I first rafted with a youth group when I was 13,” Frank said. “It changed my life. I’ve been rafting for 36 years.”
Frank started IRIE 20 years ago to keep on river rafting and give something back to his community. After 15 years of working as a guide for other companies, Frank noticed many were simply profit driven. Giving back a percentage of his profit margin and the mission of being a Benefit Corporation lit his desire to begin IRIE Rafting Company.
CALIFORNIA BENEFIT CORPORATION
This year IRIE has achieved the impressive classification of a California Benefit Corporation.
Frank’s company is the first rafting company to have the classification and the first Benefit Corporation in Truckee Tahoe. The distinction is difficult to obtain, with requirements such as a 10 to 15 of the company’s gross earnings to be put back into the community. Patagonia, the clothing and apparel company widely known for their charitable contributions, was the first company to be named a Benefit Corporation.
“I think that is an ethical idealism that I’ve had my whole life,” Frank said. “I feel that I have lived a super privileged life and it is our responsibility as people to give back. I guess I don’t believe in making money for money’s sake.”
On July 9, IRIE will throw an anniversary/birthday party for the rafting company — and for Frank’s 50th birthday. The event will take place at Fifty Fifty Brewing Co. at The Rock in Truckee and will benefit a local charity.
“We’ll have a great time, but also be partying for a good cause,” Frank enthused.
Before and after the party, the guides at IRIE will be on the water, doing what they can’t get enough of: guiding guests down the area’s rivers. Both men relish in sharing their passion for different rivers and their rapids, and for nature and the love of being outdoors with their clients.
“You’re there for your guests’ experience,” Erik said. “You’re there for them — not for yourself.”
FOR A GOOD CAUSE
Twice a month IRIE hosts what they call a Benefit Day.
The company chooses a different charity or nonprofit and donates an entire day’s proceeds to the organization. All guides and the drivers work for free and organizations like The Gateway Center; Project Go, based out of Reno, Nev. or Adventure Risk Challenge, a youth leadership and wilderness education nonprofit, keep the money.
“There are so many worthy projects out there,” Frank said.
IRIE plans to have five or six benefit days this season on the lower Truckee River, a Class II-III trip from Boca Reservoir to the Floriston take-out.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Frank chose the name IRIE because it stands for Isolated Rivers, Incredible Experiences, but also is a Jamaican salutation that expresses happiness and well being. The word holds special meaning for Frank.
“We felt that rather than have a generic name we could choose a name that reflected what we wanted to do with the company,” Frank said.
Like any business, Frank reminds people envious of his job, there are logistics, planning and a lot of behind-the-scenes details that take place.
“Yes, it does seem like it’s all fun and games, but there are work aspects to the business,” Frank said. The rafting guide admits the administrative part of the business “took some getting used to” although he is enjoying it more each year.
Another misconception, Erik said, was the idea that because of the drought there is not much water for rafting. Rivers are still flowing and IRIE looks forward to another year of full rapids and trips on the lower Truckee, Middle Fork American and more.
Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.