If you enjoy working with kids and have some free time on your hands, you might consider starting your own summer camp. As a camp owner myself, I can tell you it's very rewarding work but challenging, too. Sometimes parents and kids ask me how I got into the summer camp business and what it takes to start one. If you want to start your own camp, great! The more opportunities for kids to have safe and fun camp experiences, the better.
In order to start a camp, and successfully run one, you need to be an extremely organized and detail-oriented person. In a camp environment, things happen at a hectic pace and you need to be able to think on your feet, react to situations with confidence and make decisions quickly. But that doesn't mean you don't need to plan your camp in advance. Advance planning, from how to execute your activity program, to staff hiring strategies, to business planning and more is fundamental requirement of running a successful camp program.
Before you start your own camp, I STRONGLY suggest working at one (or two or three or four) before you going out on your own. This way you can learn the ins-and-outs of the business. I assure you, if it looks easy from the outside looking it, it's NOT THAT WAY AT ALL. Running a camp is a very detail-oriented, time-consuming business with many potential pitfalls if you don't have the proper experience. When you have the proper experience, you will know how to handle potential situations that might come up before they actually do (and they will come up).
What kind of "pitfalls" am I talking about? Well, there's lots of potential risks when you run a camp. Among other, three of the most prominent are: 1) camper health and safety, 2) employee health and safety, and 3) your own liability.
You must eliminate risk as much as possible with an effective risk management plan. Your number one job should be to make sure the kids who attend your camp are safe at all times. Everyone needs to be accounted for at every given moment. Work with a reputable insurance company who understands the summer camp business and its inherent risks. Form and maintain solid relationships with your insurance agent(s) and attorney(s) who are well-versed in camps and recreational businesses.
Here is a list of links I complied for your reference to help you get off on the right foot with your new summer camp:
- American Camp Association - How to Start a Camp
- Parenting.com - Start Your Own Summer Camp
- Ask.com - How to Start a Summer Camp
- The Tutor House - Start Your Own Summer Day Camp
- Indestructibles - Start Your Own Summer Camp
Please pay special attention to the first link (the American Camp Association or "ACA") above. The American Camp Association is a professional association for camp owners and people interested in running their own camps. The ACA is a recognized authority on "everything camp" and a very valuable resource as you start and run your own summer camp for kids. Good luck!