Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Val Sloan, Founder of Camp Wonder Wander, located in Hohenwald, TN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Camp Wonder Wander is a nature immersion retreat space on 17 acres with 500 ft of Buffalo River frontage in rural mid-south Tennessee (southwest of Nashville) catering to those interested in a disconnect to reconnect experience for individuals, families, or other groups (business or social). Remote workers can stay in our pit-stop program for 2 or 4 weeks to experience life on a homestead away from the hustle of contemporary society. Artists, writers, designers, or other creative spirits can spend time in our residency program working on their passion projects at whatever stage they may be. Experience life close to nature with hands-on opportunities to get in the garden and feed or hug the donkeys. Choose from a variety of add-on options such as a guided Forest Therapy session or art/nature workshops such as traditional cyanotypes. Schedule a sabbatical-style retreat with graphic design instruction to help with your self-directed projects or revamp your portfolio.
Tell us about yourself
I was a tenured professor of graphic design and decided to walk away from that 20+ teaching career in academia to change not only my own lifestyle to be closer to nature, but to offer others a similar experience without the larger commitment of diving in as a landowner. Struggling in a toxic work environment and in an industry that only has job openings once a year requiring you to relocate, I began to ask my inner child what maybe she wanted to do with the rest of our life. I kept returning to the positive memories I had growing up in Girl Scouts being close to nature and investing time with animals. I thought I was a city girl but got bored with the same old thing of the contemporary consumer culture. I absolutely adore living more remotely, being a caretaker of many animals and the land, and assisting people in their creative, personal journeys as we cross paths in this lovely, magical place that continues to grow organically. I am motivated every day to make an impact and to accomplish things small within the larger goals.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I have taken on a giant challenge all on my own and on my terms as an arts entrepreneur. Seventeen acres, multiple dwellings and structures, and many animals, including 13 donkeys and 30 chickens, is a massive undertaking as an art project on many levels. I have created a unique space to host people from all walks of life. When I see people engaging in their surroundings, having shifts in their creative work or personal lives, or even asking to return, I feel I have made a positive impact.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Financing your dreams is very difficult to break the barriers of the corporate and banking system. Being creative in budget and bootstrapping as a start-up also means developing patience and ingenuity.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Not everyone you share your ideas with will understand or even be encouraging. Finding resources and mentors to help you in the areas where you may lack skills is important so that you aren't getting overwhelmed by doing everything. Being motivated by your passion and vision of your own quality of life is an inner strength that can help you sustain through challenging times, yet being adaptable will help you navigate the path.
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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