3 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Launching My Camps

Ask a TimberNook provider about his/her professional development and current career track, and they are likely to weave a unique story. While no two providers share the same situation, they all have an entrepreneurial spirit and a distinct passion to provide creative outdoor experiences for children that engage the mind, body, and all of the senses.

Providers are also bound to run into similar challenges as they get their camps up and running. We asked Cellissa Hoyt, executive director of Growing Places, an active learning childcare community, and also a TimberNook provider and a past contributor to Balanced and Barefoot, to share a few things her team learned along the way—things she wishes she had known before launch.

1)    Invest in a strategic and long-term team.

You’ll most likely start with one TimberNook trained provider and a small support staff. Be strategic in deciding who from your team will attend training. And remember, the entire team needs to live and breathe TimberNook core values—as the provider you will need to deliver this direction if your staff is not directly TimberNook trained.

It’s vital that the person you select to attend training is committed to your business and the provider role. Communicate with him or her prior to training. Be open and honest about your business goals—and also take time to listen. Is there a chance he or she might leave shortly after training? Perhaps she’s eyeing a different position in your organization where training will not benefit her? And, while it is a tough conversation to have, be clear in communicating that once trained, a provider needs to honor her commitment to your business, and leaving to start a new non-TimberNook camp is discouraged. Consider whether a non-compete agreement makes sense for your situation.

If you take into consideration your team’s personalities, strengths, and personal career goals while you structure your business, and get the difficult conversations out of the way, you’ll be prepared to launch your camp with a stellar team supporting you.

2)    Create, share, and live your business plan. (And give the skeptics a front row seat at camp.)

For Cellissa, a partnership between Growing Places and TimberNook made sense right from the beginning, but she had to convince her team that aligning their well-established name with a fairly new business was a smart decision for their bottom line and their brand.  

Cellissa, using her business background and TimberNook tools, created an optimistic but realistic business plan with conservative growth goals, and she found herself referring to this document consistently. She presented it to her team during the initial decision phase, used it as a roadmap during the first year of TimberNook camps, and referred back to it as she shared the numbers with her team following year one—numbers that surpassed her original targets.

And, while a well-developed approach is essential, it’s also recommended that a new provider invite any lingering skeptics to camp to experience the magic for an afternoon. Cellissa did this, and adults were teary-eyed with belief watching children engage organically with the TimberNook curriculum in the great outdoors. Kids flourished—they initiated their own activities, were at ease to collaborate and create, and clearly illustrated meaningful play—digging deep to think critically and problem-solve.

Combine a savvy plan with a glimpse of real TimberNook play to ensure business success and support for your camps.

3)    Be open to other TimberNook inspired changes—they’re probably for the best.

TimberNook programming blended seamlessly with Growing Places’ early-childhood emersion curriculum and encouraged Cellissa and her team to do even more. Soon, TimberNook ideas found their way into classrooms and teacher plans—the partnership was a perfect fit.

The organization, having researched classroom colors and materials prior to partnering with TimberNook, was encouraged to make a leap. They replaced a majority of brightly colored classroom toys, tools, and decorations that over stimulated the senses of young children with alternatives inspired by nature. TimberNook pushed Growing Places to go bigger and dig deeper. While ultimately a Growing Places decision, the idea was sparked by TimberNook and a realization that color and material greatly impact child development and experience.

Be open to changes that result from incorporating TimberNook ideas into your business and life. Don’t hesitate to ask Angie (TimberNook’s founder) and her team for advice and answers to your questions along the way.

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