Summer Camp Business – Getting Started

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Before you start your summer camp it is important to understand the type of camp you are going to be. Hopefully you’ve done your research and have identified a gap in the market. If not, do your research and ensure there is enough interest in your type of camp. ‘There may be a gap in the market, but there may not be a market in the gap’.




Speak to parents, do some questionnaires and try to draw up interest in your service before you even begin. This will give you some momentum heading into your business venture and you will be solving a problem at the same time. Businesses are generally started to provide a solution to a problem – so know what the problem is and how your going to solve it?

In this article, I am going to focus on the following 3 types of camps:

Day Camps: This is a non-residential full-day course for unaccompanied children and teens. Day Camps typically run during weekdays from Mondays to Fridays and offer a varied programme consisting of sports, creative or adventurous activities during the day. Camper arrival and departure times vary but usually involve a starting time between 9-10am and a collection time between 4-5pm. Day Camps are mainly provided for young people living within the local catchment area of the venue. Some camps offer a transport service for campers from a wider area. Age groups from 4 years and above.

Sports / Activity Courses: Specialist programmes teaching a single activity or sport. These courses usually last 2 or 3 hours per day, for either a single or a progressive course over 4 or 5 days. Specialist courses are led by fully qualified instructors and coaches. These type of programmes are often supported by sports centre and activity specific specialist centres (e.g. watersports, equestrian etc). Age groups from 8 years and above.

Multi-Activity: These programmes involve several activities rather than a specialist one. Generally multi-activity programmes involve anything from 4 to 6 activity sessions per day, with activities  lasting between 60-90 minutes. These type of sessions provide an introductory lesson or ‘taster’ experience in a range of sports, adventure, creative, personal development and arts activities. Age groups from 4 years and above.

I recommend for your first camp, you start small (less than 40 campers) and gradually develop over time. This allows you refine your operations and if you do discover any mistakes they are easily manageable. The first couple of camps allow you to raise your profile, review feedback and keep improving your camps reputation in the local area.

If you are providing a camp for children under 8 for more than 3 hours a day, then you will need to register with your local children service department and will be required to have an OFSTED inspection to ensure you maintain the minimum staffing and operating standards.

The Out of School Alliance website provides some good information on this and provides more great tips on setting up your camp.

The other 2 types of camps are:

Holiday Playschemes: Providing activities and childcare services on non-residential full or part-day basis. supervised childcare for unaccompanied children and teenagers. Playschemes are typically organised and run by voluntary organisations or local authorities and operate to break even or in most cases at a loss.

Residential Camps: These involve unaccompanied children attending a camp for a week at a time. Some camps accept, campers from as young as 5. During these camps, children and teens are supervised 24/7 in a secure residential environment such as outdoor activity centres or boarding schools. These usually combine domestic with overseas campers. Group leaders or camp councillors usually take care of pastoral and welfare needs while activity instructors provide activities – specialist courses or multi-activity. Camps typically run from Saturday to Saturday with an end of camp review on the Friday. Age groups from 5 years and above.

Operating a residential camp requires a big budget, something you won’t have initially. Maybe after two or three years of operations then you can move into that market, but right now you don’t have the money or the experience to compete with the big boys that have been doing it for years. Stick to basics and grow over time.

Camp Name

A camps name is its first introduction to the public. It should provide an insight into what you are offering. This is done by creating a name that is clear and concise and has at least one word in the name, which suggests what type of camp you are and your camp theme.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What type of camp are you? (specialist, activity, day camp etc)
  • What age are you marketing towards?
  • What will you offer at camp? (activities, computers, filmmaking, environmental programmes etc)
  • What sets you apart from the competition? (Also known as unique selling points)

Once you have answered these, you should be in a better position to come up with a few names and understand your business branding.

Hopefully, you have a list of names… fantastic! Put the list down, leave it overnight and then come back to it tomorrow and make a decision on your top 5 names with a clear head.

Domain Name (Otherwise known as Web Address)

Once you have a list of names, the next step is to check for domain availability. Your website and social media profiles will be a vital for marketing and selling out your camps. Your website will act as a brochure for parents encouraging to book their child into your camp. It will also provide information on camp procedures, schedule, activities, staff, and safety and anything else you can think of. Securing your domain name is essential!

Important note:

  • UK Camps, try to get <yourcampname.co.uk>
  • Other Nations, try to get your local domain.

It is also wise to try and pick up your .com domain as well, as this protects your brand name and stops people from piggybacking your brand value.

To check whether a domain is available. Visit GoDaddy, type your required domain name and click to search– if it’s available then purchase it and you’re done

Logo

So you have a name you’re happy with and you have registered your web address (domain). The next step is to create a logo. If you’re just starting out and you need a simple design then I recommend going to fiverr.com and pay someone just $5 dollars (get 6 different people to create a logo concept for $30 and then select the best one).

If you have a bit more money to play with then I recommend using 99 designs. For $149 you’ll get around 10-20 logo designs to your specification and you decide on the best one. You can also give feedback and rate each design. Once you’re happy with the design, authorize it and you have yourself a logo. If you’re not happy with any of the design concepts then 99 designs also offer a money back guarantee.

When getting someone to design your logo, think about the following:

  • What you want your logo to say about your brand?
  • Any colours you want to represent your camp?
  • Also, search the internet and provide a few examples of logos which you like and provide these as inspiration sources for the designer.

Website

Having a website is vital for marketing and camp sales. I could write a whole article on this subject alone but will try to keep it short.

You have two choices here, you can pay a designer to provide you with a five page website which can be expensive. An alternative is to use an online website builder such as weebly which allows you to do it yourself.

Using weebly is very simple, all you have to do is select a template, add your company information, write some copy about your camp and add a few images and you’re set. You can register with them for free and setup a website in less than 3 hours!

If you have the budget, I highly recommend going pro or at the very least the starter package, as this allows you to have an online booking system with 0% transaction fee. The pro package will cost you $20 (about £13) per month which includes everything! Either way you can setup your website for an extremely low cost.

Be sure to include the following information on the website:

Home

This will be your primary landing page for your website. The idea of the homepage is to get visitors to explore your site further and find out more about your camps. Try not to fill it full of copy – save this for your information pages. The key with this page is to summarise key information and make it easy to navigate and friendly on the eye (add a couple of pictures).

Stay well clear of distracting backgrounds and keep it simple (a plain white background works best)

Try to summarise the following on the homepage:

  • What – What you do including activities, special events etc
  • Who – Who’s the camp for? What age group? Type of camper?
  • Why – Why they should sign their child up for camp? What do you do which other camps don’t? What are your unique selling points?
  • Where – Where does it take place? Is the location safe and secure?
  • How – How much does it cost? How  to book your child for camp?

About

  • Information about you and why you started your camp.
  • Safety information such as insurance policies, safety standards, risk assessments and operating procedures.
  • Staff information and recruitment procedures including background checks, training, qualifications and experiences.
  • Special discounts including bring a friend, sibling and referral schemes.
  • How to contact you with any questions and how to book.

Camps

Information about each camp you are operating.

  • Date of Camp
  • Venue
  • Cost
  • What’s included
  • Activities
  • Schedule/Programme
  • Special Events
  • Camp Contact Number (Duty Phone)
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • What to Bring

Contact

Online contact form, your business address, email address and telephone number.

Book Online

Make it easy for parents to book their children into camp.

Register your Business

Decide on your business structure. You have 3 choices in the UK, these are:

Sole Trader

The most common business structure for people starting out is to operate as a sole trader. This means you own the business and you work alone or employ other people. You are liable for all aspects of the business.

Limited Company

You can setup a private limited company for your camp. When starting out you must appoint people to run the business and incorporate with companies house (you will act as a company director). Instead of you being liable for all your business dealings as per the ‘sole trader’ structure, your company is liable as it’s a separate entity and there is no risk to your personal assets.

Even if you decide to operate as a sole trader for your first year (or more) it is a good idea to register the company name anyway to protect your brand.

You can register your camp name in less than 10 minutes for around £30-£40. Your company will remain dormant whilst you operate as a sole trader. When it comes to filing your company accounts, file them as a dormant which is easy to do.

Partnership

With a business partnership, you’re running a business as an individual but all partners share equal responsibility for the business and its operations.

Find out more about starting and operating a company in the UK

Open a Business Back Account

Opening a business bank account is a pretty simple process. It is recommended that you keep your personal and business accounts separate, which will allow you to manage your money more effectively plus it looks more professional for your business.

Your best bet is to visit a couple of banks, speak to their business team and make a decision on your best option. Once you have opened your business account, deposit a £100 to keep the bank happy and you’re set.

Next Article

In the next article I’m going to give you more information on how to get started with information including: Budgeting, selecting a venue, insurance and writing a programme.

In the meantime, if you have any questions then email me or use the comments box below. Likewise, feel free to share your own experiences of setting up a camp below.

Action Plan:

  • Do your research and speak to parents about what they’re looking for.
  • Use the research to identify a gap in the market and think about your own experiences to determine your camp type.
  • Identify 5 potential names for your business and research these names to ensure other companies aren’t operating under the same name.
  • Purchase your camp domain name through a domain registrar.
  • Look at other holiday camp providers branding, decide on what you want from your own camp branding and get a logo designed.
  • Register your company with companies house to protect your business using an online service.
  • Map out your website, write your web copy, purchase stock photos and create a website for free using weebly or source a designer.
  • Open a business account and deposit around £100 to start.




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