Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kevin Gordon, Owner of Camp Kupugani, located in Leaf River, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We run an intentional, socially progressive program that focuses on child empowerment, celebrating differences, and strengthening individual identity while appreciating others. Our camp is intentionally fun, intentionally empowering, and intentionally challenging. Less than two hours west of Chicago, Camp Kupugani--in separate girls-only and blended (intentionally coed) sessions--provides a multicultural sleepaway camp in a fun atmosphere, uniting children of varied backgrounds and providing them with empowerment and community-building skills so that children aged 7 to 15 expand comfort zones and build character.
Tell us about yourself
A Harvard University graduate in psychology and the Canadian-born son of Jamaican immigrants, I've worked with children for almost forty years. I've been in the camp business since 1990, when I first worked at a girls' camp in Wisconsin. After earning my BA at Harvard, I continued working as an assistant camp director, backpacked across Europe (shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall), traveled throughout Africa, and wrote Not Yet African, a book chronicling my African adventures. While gaining valuable experience at camps from Pennsylvania to California, I earned my JD from the University of California-Berkeley School of Law. I went on to work for a top-100 law firm, where I gained additional expertise in management and organizational psychology. I'm motivated each day, knowing the fundamental difference that a great camp experience makes in the lives of our kiddos (and staff).
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Growing our camp from serving 25 girls for a single two-week session in 2007 to having served almost 2,000 campers across our girls-only, boys-only, blended sessions over the years. And also making similar differences with our Mother Daughter and Parent-Child Weekends, plus our services for rental groups.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Knowing that the buck (both literal and figurative) stops with me. Ultimately, I'm responsible for the decisions that drive the business. As a summer camp owner of a small family-owned business, sleeping 5 hours a night over the summer months can also be a challenge.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Try to capitalize with more money (at least 50-100%) than you think you'll need. Have a strong support system--family, professional, and within your sphere of business.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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