Starting an Adult Summer Camp Side Business

Outdoor wood campfire burning brightly during the darkness of nighttime

Despite the fickle nature of the leisure market, it is still one of the best ways for savvy entrepreneurs to strike it rich. One of the hottest current trends in the industry is the rise of the summer camp geared towards adults. Day and sleep-away camps for non-minors are particularly popular with Millennials — and  Baby Boomers are also discovering the joys of adult-themed camps. If you’d like to launch your own adult summer camp concern on the side, here’s a blueprint for success.

Pick a Niche and a Game Plan

According to recent statistics, at least 1 million adults attend a summer camp every year. Club Getaway in Kent, Connecticut, is a prime example of a thriving adult summer camp. While many camps mimic the “classic” summer camp experience, many others have far more specific themes like military or musical training. To set yourself apart, it’s probably wise to come up with something fairly unique such as a camp for outdoor survival enthusiasts, water sports fanatics or adventure junkies.

Incorporate Your Business Intelligently

Before you do anything, it’s vital that you incorporate your venture, possibly  as an LLC, depending on the laws of your state. Doing so will make it easier to secure things like liquor licenses and other desirables as well as protect you from financial and legal threats down the road. Bringing in an attorney for a quick consultation will be worth it since they’ll be able to help you maximize profits by minimizing taxes.

Lock Down Adequate Funding

Like it or not, launching an adult summer camp will probably be expensive unless you actually own an operating summer camp. You’ll need to rent a location and plenty of equipment to get started. While the traditional credit union is always acceptable, there are other options available. A Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign is another great way to secure the necessary capital. You can use a crowdfunding service to essentially pre-sell tickets, thereby acquiring the money upfront with little or no risk.

Reserve the Right Location in Advance

There are probably at least a dozen places in your immediate area that would be perfect for an adult camp. Securing that location is another matter entirely. You’ll probably need to make a reservation and a deposit months in advance. This requires planning that’s dependent on successfully nailing the steps described above. Some state parks and even Wildlife Management Areas could be pretty cheap to book depending on local factors. Do your research and find a good location that’s open for the right price.

Plan Out Great Activities for Everyone

If you’re running a general adult summer camp, things like archery, bratwurst cookouts, volleyball tournaments and beer pong will suffice. If you want to run a more specialized camp, you’ll need to come up with specific activities that appeal to your clientele. This could be yoga workshops or woodworking lessons depending on your unique business plan. The best way to proceed is by polling prospective campers to find out what they want. Figure it out and tailor your itinerary accordingly.

Hire the Right Personnel to Help Out

Unless your camp has less than a dozen campers, you’ll need a few right-hand men or women to run everyday affairs. Look for local personnel that can fit the bill for a decent price who don’t mind working on an ad-hoc basis. The nightlife and recreation industries will be prime hunting grounds for talent. A few fitness types like local high school coaches or personal trainers are great since they don’t mind getting physical.

Work Out the Sticky Business Paperwork

If you’re going to run this kind of camp, having adequate insurance is in your best interests. This is where the LLC and attorney advice comes into the equation. The easiest thing to do is have your campers sign waivers that give you some protection from lawsuits related to random accidents and make sure your attorney has approved the waiver. Make sure that your business is registered with the state. Contact your local chamber of commerce as well as state authorities to find out about any hoops that you may need to jump through.

Purchase the Required Supplies in Advance

Most adults will go through plenty of beer and happy hour appetizers in a week of fun. Unless you’re outsourcing food and drink to a caterer, you need to buy a lot of “party essentials” at a minimum long before camp begins. If you plan on having water skiing or zip-lining, make sure to have your third-party partners sign contracts early so that you can negotiate good prices. Find bulk discount suppliers online and get a decent storage unit or three.

Spread the Word to Potential Customers

Promotion is the name of the game when you’re launching an adult summer camp venture. Set up a website and use social media avenues like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get the word out. Using LinkedIn articles to reach out to high-earning professionals that don’t mind spending good money on a great summer experience is another option. The point is that you need to build a groundswell of enthusiasm months before the actual event to ensure a solid and profitable turnout.

Execute the Plan and Learn Your Lessons

Running an adult summer camp is a lot of work but also a lot of fun. Don’t get caught up in the festivities and remember that you’re running a business. After the camp sessions are concluded, it’s key that you get viable feedback to make the next one better. Running numbers via an analytics or accounting program is clutch if you want to make your business profitable over the long haul. Identify what works and what doesn’t throughout the proceedings.

Refine the Approach & Repeat the Process

After your first camp session, you’ll need to sit back and assess the results. Figure out where you can cut costs by teaming up with other businesses, thereby maximizing net profits and boosting the appeal of your camps. If you want to make adult camps a long-term revenue bonanza, constantly upping your game is necessary. While it can be taxing to provide others with fun to earn a side income, the remuneration and satisfaction are hard to beat.

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