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Interview with Victoria Long-Leather – Trailside Discovery Camp

1 November 2019

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Duncan:

Okay, so welcome to another episode of Campfire stories, where we interview successful camp directors who have grown and scaled their camps. I’m joined by Victoria Long-Leather, who’s coming all the way from Anchorage. Welcome to the show, Victoria.

Victoria:
Thank you for having me.

Duncan:
Pleasure. Thank you. So tell us, where did it begin for you? When did you first get involved in the camps?

Victoria:
So it’s quite a funny story, because I was at university in England at Birmingham University and my best friend and I were just walking through the corridor at the right place at the right time and there was a flier on the wall that said Camp America. It was a cultural exchange program and there was a seminar that evening about the connection that you can have. And so me and my friend were like, “Sure, let’s go, let’s go check this out, let’s see what it’s about.” And that kind of led us on a path to both do places in America for the summer on a J1 visa. We were both studying law at the time and it brought us over to America. I got placed with a camp in Minnesota and just fell in love with America, fell in love with the culture and camp kind of changed me. I was quite a shy individual, kind of kept myself to myself and I kind of stepped outside of that realm, grew this confidence through the camp that I was at in Minnesota. So that was my first year of university.

Victoria:
I just kept coming back and on my fourth year of coming back, the camp director that kind of had taken me under her wing at the time, offered me a position to come over for an 18 month visa. And I just loved it. I didn’t go home, so that was seven years ago now. And from the camp that I ran, I worked at a camp in Minnesota and then another one in Waterville, Minnesota and then I moved to Nevada and got a position with Camp Foxtail over in Nevada. It was beautiful, it was in the mountains, everyone thinks of Vegas and kind of the lifestyle you hear of Vegas and it’s more than that. It’s 8000 feet in elevation, it snows. And then an opportunity came up for Alaska. And being in Minnesota through their weathers, being in Nevada, I just took it.

Victoria:
So I’ve been in Anchorage, Alaska for two-and-a-half years and I’m absolutely loving it. I run a summer camp called Trailside Discovery Camp. We do day camp and trip programs and I’ve just taken all the skills that I’ve learned on my adventure here and kind of taken this camp by the reigns and growing it as we speak.

Duncan:
Cool. Hey, great stuff. So currently at Trailside, what’s your role at Trailside at the moment?

Victoria:
I’m the camp director.

Duncan:
Okay. And is that a year-round position?

Victoria:
Yeah, it’s a year-round position.

Duncan:
Right, cool. And what are you currently focusing on? What’s the main role at the moment?

Victoria:
So I took over two-and-a-half years ago from Tom Burek, our previous camp director, who’d been there for 27 years. So I kind of took over from someone that had grandfathered in the program and taken it to an amazing level. And so from there, my kind of goal was we were at capacity, how can we grow it further? And then I kind of also … we kind of looked at growth in numbers, but I wanted to kind of do more than that and not just look at growth as increasing, increasing, increasing capacity numbers, but looking at the program and the quality level that we offer as well. So I kind of have been doing that piece and getting feedback from parents, feedback from campers, feedback from staff and really looking at the quality of the program that we offer.

Victoria:
We specialize in environmental education and so we kind of take pride in doing environmental education topics. And then we have high adventure activities as well, which the kids love. Describing what Anchorage or Alaska becomes during the summer is pretty difficult because it’s a beauty in it’s own that you can only see it to believe it. But with the endless light and the endless sun that we get until two or three AM, we kind of have a lot of time and a lot of resources around us to enjoy Alaska and it’s beauty. So it’s pretty exciting.

Duncan:
Yeah. Nice. I’d love to visit. You’re very close to Denali National Park, right?

Victoria:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I mean the shift for me, the cultural shift from coming from England to America is that a lot of things are really close. Back home, when someone said it’s close I’d think it’s 20 minutes away. But here close is three or four hours away. And that is pretty close.

Duncan:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so having light so late it’s nearly constant daylight, being based in such an amazing place as well, what did you … how did you focus on what the camp was all about? I guess it had an identity when you took over, but then you say you got a survey from the parents, but then what was it that you sort of doubled down on? What did you focus on and what does the camp stand for now?

Victoria:
Yeah, great questions. So my first summer, the great thing that Trailside did is they actually overlapped me and the previous director for a summer. So that summer allowed me to step back a lot and I haven’t … as a camp director I have never been able to do that without being too hands-on and watching everything and being a part of everything. So I took a step back and for that summer I managed to kind of spend a lot of time with staff that had been with the program for many years and kind of hang out with different camper groups. We range from ages four all the way up to 14, so we had to really diversify our program to affect every single age group. And allowing that step back allowed me to obviously see the flaws. And the biggest piece there is that, as camp directors, we have to learn to accept the failures and accept where we may be dropping the ball or some things that we don’t see. So if a parent calls and has a complaint, it’s agreeing with that frustration and then having the willingness of being able to change that.

Victoria:
So I took the next year to kind of absorb all those areas that we could do better at, we can improve on, we can build that relationship, we can increase that partnership. And then the following summer we saw them in play, we saw the quality of the program increase based on surveys to parents kind of asking them that one question score. Are you like to recommend this to other families? We did a lot of community work and got out in the community and kind of spread the joy of the outdoors and getting kids outdoors and into the environment.

Victoria:
And we got a really unique opportunity last year in that Alaska, we actually had quite a big earthquake. And during the earthquake all the schools shut for a week of time and two hours post-earthquake our instant reaction when they shut the schools was, where are these kids going to go? Where are we going to send these Alaskan kids? Parents have jobs, parents have things to do. So we turned around and we launched a … we called it a Break Camp, an Earthquake Break Camp and we just ran a very short week, it was a three day week camp and we got kids outdoors, we got them in environmental education and we reached out to many partners and managed to really drive the outdoor experience there with kids in that unique setting. Because everyone was struggling, everyone was trying to rebuild from the earthquake and it was great to be able to give something back to the community. And if it wasn’t for Trailside and what it had become and the partners that we had through it, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.

Duncan:
Right, right. No, good stuff. So who is the camp for? Or is local market only? Or do you go international? Who attends the camp?

Victoria:
It’s mainly locals, but we do have … during the summer, Anchorage also becomes a conferencing center, so we do have some people that come in for a conference and they want somewhere for their camper to go. Tourists, I’ve had a couple of people that come in on the cruise ship and then they want to go and explore, so they might send their kid. We do some back country camps as well, so they might send their kid with us to go into the wilderness. We do fishing trips, we do bike pack trips, canoeing, kayaking and backpacking trips. So it really depends, but predominantly we are local Alaskans here in Anchorage. We have two site in Anchorage, one site in Palmer, which is about 45 minutes north of Alaska.

Duncan:
Right, right. And how … I suppose who are you answerable to? How is the camp set up? Is it run by a board of directors or is it family owned? What’s the set up there?

Victoria:
Yeah, great question. So Trailside Discovery Camp is part of the Alaska Center Education Fund, which is a non-profit C3. And so we do have a board of directors, Polly Carr is our executive director and she overseas the Alaska center and the Alaska Center Education Fund. So I report to her and then I have a team. I have a couple of part time people that help me out with the admin piece. I am looking for a full time role to kind of help with that support, because it can get very cumbersome over the year. And then during the summer we hire 75 to 100 seasonal staff to kind of help us.

Duncan:
Really? Wow. Okay, that’s a lot.

Victoria:
Yeah.

Duncan:
Gosh. 75 staff. So how many kids are you serving in that time?

Victoria:
So it depends on which site, because we have multiple sites at one time, but if you add all of our site up it’s about 300 to 350 per day.

Duncan:
Oh okay, wow. Okay, nice.

Victoria:
And it’s predominantly a day camp. And so we do have overnight sessions and overnights that we do, but it is mainly a day camp. So it’s kind of that seven to six kind of hours that we do.

Duncan:
Right, right. Okay, cool. So yeah, it’s quite a big team to manage. What are your biggest challenges with that?

Victoria:
Well the biggest challenge is staffing. I love to hire within Alaska, local Alaskans. Last year I did also, because I came from England, work with Camp America and we brought over some internationals. And we do go and we look at local universities or even out of state universities that specialize in environmental education or outdoor recreation. Or science, we’re kind of open to bringing people to Alaska as well. I have lots of teachers that like to work, because they get such a long break off during the summer period. But staffing is definitely a challenge and we run for 12 weeks. Two weeks of staff training or one-and-a-half, two weeks of staff training. So finding people committed for 14 weeks of the summer can be very challenging. And then we kind of trend that our busiest weeks of camp is our first week and our last week. And we’re kind of at that piece right now where we’re at capacity. We have wait lists for sessions and it’s like, now what?

Victoria:
The parents want more sessions, but I don’t want to increase more sessions and decrease the quality of the program. So it’s kind of keeping that level that, oh, I could serve 500 people, but can I serve 500 kids the right way? And it’s kind of building on that.

Duncan:
Right, right. So your challenge is not attracting more kids, it’s just making sure that the quality remains and keeping enough places open for them?

Victoria:
Yes. Yes. Definitely.

Duncan:
Well that’s a nice challenge.

Victoria:
Yeah. And I think from the camp sites I’ve previously worked at too, my goal with them was always to increase the amount of campers that we have and obviously keeping the quality going. But I’ve never run into that issue before that … I’ve had wait lists for certain sessions that might focus on archery or focus in team development, but I haven’t had it where I’ve had multiple sessions have wait lists and then how to make it fair across the board on who gets there. But our registration platform is fantastic and it just really helps with dealing with the income of participants that we have.

Duncan:
Sure. Which one do you use?

Victoria:
CampBrain.

Duncan:
CampBrain, yeah, right. Yeah, it’s probably the one that’s-

Victoria:
And they just released a … yeah, it is. And last year they released the wait list platform and it was fantastic to be able to have that option. So that was super exciting. And then they also do a check in part, so we have some tablets and it’s just a check in and check out with a dropdown button. Obviously we picked up the camper and it made our check in and check out process so much easier.

Duncan:
Yeah, sure. Yeah. Yeah. Great time savers. We’ve looked at quite a few of them. We use a different one actually, but it’s, yeah, such a good time saver and just makes it all flow much easier. So yeah.

Victoria:
Yeah.

Duncan:
Definitely good to use them. Yeah, cool. So I suppose where does that take us? Looking at … I mean I suppose when you’ve got kids, limited places for more demand, I suppose your marketing … I suppose how od you go about the marketing to create that demand? Do you have much competition in Anchorage? Are there many other camps around? Or is this kind of the main summer camp that parents know about? How does it work like that?

Victoria:
Yeah, it’s kind of an odd one here in Anchorage because there are … I’m a huge advocate to get kids to camp. It doesn’t matter which camp that you go to. If you send a kid to one camp for 12 weeks, that’s kind of intense because there can be a little bit of repetitiveness for the camper. So our American Camp Association kind of group that we have here, we’re pretty close, very transparent. So if we’re short staffed, half way through the summer I got really short staffed so I dropped an email out on the group and people were sending over staff my way. There was that kind of working together atmosphere. We have a Camp Fire, we have Girl Scouts, we have Birchwood, there’s numerous camps in town and we kind of run into … parents want to get their kids outside and I think together we all kind of drive that passion of getting kids outside, getting them learning, getting them to meet other people, meet new friends.

Victoria:
But then on the flip side it’s also a daycare piece. Parents work during the summer, parents have things to do. They have lives to run and with schools being out, what is that alternative? So we want the kids to stay at home and watch TV, play on the PlayStations? Or do we want to get the kids outside? And I think that we’re kind of shifting that staying inside realm. I’ve been trying to target that older age group, the age group where you’re old enough to stay at home but you could be going to camp and getting leadership skills and trying to tap into session that are exciting for them, because why do I want to go to camp? I don’t want them leaving going, “Oh, that was such a boring day.” I want them leaving like, “Oh we did this today and I’m super excited about tomorrow.”

Duncan:
Yeah. But you cap at 14, you say? Or is that something you …

Victoria:
So we, yeah, we cap our camp sessions. so we go from four to 14 and then we do a leadership program for our 14 to 15 year olds where they can be … we call them TNT, teacher and naturalist in training, very similar to the CITC program, or the CIT program that camps do. And then once they turn 16 we do hire a certain amount of 16 year olds. We tend to keep that number really small as they have probably come through a whole program and they’re ready to be a staff member at 16. So we hire a few 16 and 17 year olds and then predominantly the rest of the staff are 18 and up.

Duncan:
Right, okay. And you say some kids do come for the full 12 weeks, is that right?

Victoria:
Yeah. And they’re the type of kids who-

Duncan:
That’s intense.

Victoria:
Right, and I actually do call their parents when I see them for that. And the last couple of years I’ve changed the sessions so there is enough sessions for kids to sign up for so they’re not repeating a session. Because we have sessions where they’ll sign up and specialize in an area. It’s all environmental education, but they might be doing RIVQ, which is rocks, ice, volcanoes and quakes. Or they might be doing buzzy bugs. There’s different sessions that they sign up for and some kids were repeating sessions. And I would call those parents and kind of have a conversation with them about how I could shake up their program for them, whether it would be easy for me to just play around with their schedule so that they weren’t repeating sessions.

Victoria:
But then I was also a huge advocate to the parents of telling them which other camps are in town, what other options we have, whether we wanted them to try and do an overnight program, just to kind of make sure that their kid also gets … it’s not just a daycare service, it’s a little bit more than that. We want the kids to get outside and enjoy being there. Because that’s kind of the piece you get in. If you’re in the same day camp for 12 weeks, that’s pretty intense.

Duncan:
Yeah it is. We have kids for six weeks and even that, that seems like a long time by the end of it.

Victoria:
Right.

Duncan:
But 12 weeks. God, I can imagine that’s tricky to plan enough stuff so it’s not repetitive for them and, yeah, they keep doing new things. I’m sure that’s difficult.

Victoria:
Yeah, it can be. So we do luckily have the opportunity to go on field trips and lot and we try and get them out and about as much as we can, especially our older kids, like eight plus. And then our younger kids, we have access to … our property is on BLM land, so we have this permit to have access to the land and there are just acres and acres of forest and terrain and wonderful wilderness to explore. And yes, we’re in bear country, so there’s lots of safety training into that aspect, but the kids have a wonderful time exploring. And then this summer we prayed for the rain, we really needed it, Alaska needed it. We had many wildfires this summer.

Duncan:
Oh right.

Victoria:
And so we did pray for some of the rain, but even on the rainy days, the kids just bring their jacket and they bring their boots and they’re ready to jump in those puddles and have fun in the rain, so that’s kind of fun.

Duncan:
Oh nice one. That sounds awesome. Cool. So you’ve had some experiences on other camps as well where it’s been your focus to grow them. What other experience have you had where you’ve had to really focus on enrollments? You’ve had to focus on the marketing? It says on your notes here you’ve helped turn around a couple of camps and get the enrollments going the right way, so can you pick out one of those experiences?

Victoria:
Yeah, definitely. So when I worked in Nevada we really strived to … people didn’t really see that being 45 minutes away, it was a resident camp and it was 45 minutes away from Las Vegas area. And it was just building that trust with parents, building the trust that it was okay to send your kid to a camp, it was okay … your kid will be safe. And it’s that kind of environment that we’re in now, kid safety and making sure that they can get out and parents feel trust in you.

Victoria:
So I took a long time there, I worked for the Girl Scouts over there and building that trust and building the rapport with parents was just what I needed to do. So with the Girl Scouts you kind of have a fun name and mine was Flipper. So I kind of became this person that went out and about and I might be at Starbucks and someone would be like, “Hey Flipper.” But it’s kind of becoming that … I took that route where I became a personality that got out and about and made connections with the campers, connections with the adults, connections with the volunteers that allowed them to trust the program. And then not be afraid to admit failure. So if I had a complaint from a parent or you hear that a kid gets bullied, you hear those conversations from the trip leaders or the volunteers, it’s kind of accepting that conversation and working together on doing better and moving forward.

Victoria:
And when you’re competing with many camps, that’s the other piece, that there are so many camps out there and it’s like what do the kids get out of your camp? Why should I go to camp? And a big factor is cost. Where the camps are more expensive, they are likely to choose the cheaper camp and it’s trying to find that balance in how do you budget and how do you put a price tag on a week of camp? I know many camps do a little different formula, but getting to that formula is pretty hard when you add in all the overhead expenses and the different pieces. And if you own a property, it’s a little bit different to if you rent the property. So that’s where we’re kind of at now with the camp in Alaska. Do we do a capital campaign and build our own property, or do we continue to rent a site? It’s kind of that level that we’re at. I want to be able to grow, but I can’t push anymore. But could we offer some more year-round programming? What more can we do?

Duncan:
Right, right. Yeah, yeah. Because, yeah, you don’t want to just use the facilities for just 12 weeks of the year, it’s got to be a year-round thing, especially if you buy the place.

Victoria:
Yeah. Exactly. And then we can easily offer programming year-round to schools and stuff and get kids outdoors more, get them more educated and get them those hands-on experiences. A lot of school districts are kind of stepping out of the classroom kind of teaching and making sure that kids do have experiences of getting outside.

Duncan:
Yeah, yeah.

Victoria:
It’s exciting to see.

Duncan:
Yeah. So the camp in Nevada, gaining the trust of the people around you, you say you’re out in the community just kind of out and about, but did you host certain events? Did you host things for the families to come and meet you? How did you get the word out there? How did you get them to know they can trust you?

Victoria:
Yeah, hosting program events, it could be the easiest open house style. We put on a barbecue once, so just put the grill going on and just had people come to us. We made it accessible to all as well, so especially for registration. A lot of camps will have an online platform and not everyone has access to register online, so we would have open house events where people can come in, they can grab a hot dog or a burger and we would help them, register them there and then. We did a little presentation on camp, a presentation on what the week would look like and then we did … they could register there and then with help from us and we’ll get them through those steps. I actually used CampBrain again, I’d just been with CampBrain for quite a while there and it was just easy to teach other people how to use CampBrain. Yeah, that was super successful.

Victoria:
The other piece that I did too for those more nervous parents, or the parents that wanted to give back a little more is, for our resident camp, we did a volunteer part where we would have parent volunteers that couldn’t stay in the cabin with their own child, as that might allow for home-sickness with other campers. But they could be there, they could be on-site, they could be helping in the health center, they could be helping in the admin office. They could be doing different things to still be a part of the camp process. And the parents that did it came back the following year and would also send their kid without them. So it’s building that trust too of helping parents send their kid to camp and being okay with sending them to camp.

Victoria:
But no, it’s super important to get out to the community and I joke around on some of my emails that I send, as you can put the sender name, and I put Victoria Long-Leather, which is my name, but I’m also six foot four and I’m British. So I always put in brackets six foot four, British woman. Just so when they see me around at events and stuff I don’t always have to walk around and say hi. I have parents coming up to me and they’re like, “You’re Vicky.” And I’m like, “Yes.” And they’re like, “You are six foot four” and I’m like, “Yes, I am. I wasn’t lying to you.” And just kind of having that connection as well to parents. And then social media as well. I think it is important to be on social media, having a camp page, having … I used to have when I was with the Girl Scouts, I had a Flipper Facebook account and then here I do have also a Vicky the camp director Facebook account. It gives another way for parents to connect with you as well.

Duncan:
Oh right, okay. It’s just separate from your own profile? You have a sort of separate director’s profile?

Victoria:
Yeah. Separate from my own account. Although I have nothing to hide on either one, but it kind of allows them to see everything I do and then my friends don’t have to see every single camp post of how much I love my job all of the time.

Duncan:
Yeah, that’s quite a good way of doing it. I’ll think about doing that. Cool. So then aside from that, being out in the community, getting people to know and trust you, putting your signature out there so that people could recognize you wherever you are, social media, what else was there to … it says here you doubled the size of that camp in the time you were there, is that right?

Victoria:
Yeah. And that just took … well number one, I had the most amazing mentor that kind of helped me through it and I had that again. I’ve been very lucky in having the support network to … one person doesn’t change that, that’s not just me, that is having the people around me supporting the program. And that becomes … because they believe in the program. And you can’t just make someone believe in it, you have to show them. And typically it comes from people that have been camp directors before. My previous CEO was a camp director, a huge advocate for the camp world and was my mentor and my guiding piece through it all. And then my current executive director, she was beginning through the program. That’s where she started, she started as an instructor for Trailside. And that’s kind of the belief. And the board that we have right now has been fantastic of just believing in us, helping us fundraise, helping us get the budget in order for it all.

Victoria:
And then when I worked with the Girl Scouts, again, we just had the support on staff and the volunteers and the troop leaders to kind of believe in us and I was blown away on how we managed together to make such a success in a small amount of time. And that success kind of transpired to the new camp that I just overtook. We just had the two most fantastic years and I want to continue to grow and I want to continue to improve the education that we manage to offer. And that all comes as a team. And right now it’s just me year round that focuses on Trailside. I have support from finance and communications and different departments and I want to be able to grow that piece so that we have more ambassadors, more people in the program that can help continue to grow it.

Duncan:
Great. Yeah, that’s really nice. Having good mentors early on I think is brilliant. I joined the camping industry just literally kind of thrown in as camp director. I chose it, but I had no idea what it was going to be like.

Victoria:
Oh right.

Duncan:
It’s going to be fine, what’s the worst that can happen? And then the camp got going, we were in a premium camp in Switzerland, overnight and day and families from all over the world and it was just intense. The first week I just thought, oh my God. I had no idea what to expect and I was properly in at the deep end. So it was just kind of like learning as I was going. Yeah, actually, a mentor would have been great.

Victoria:
Yeah, and it’s … yeah.

Duncan:
Yeah, it’d have been a better way to do it.

Victoria:
Right. And I think I’ve just been lucky with having the most amazing mentors throughout the whole journey. And then the other one is not afraid to ask help. If I was struggling or we had something break in camp or we didn’t get the permit we needed, there’s always something. You can never plan for the unexpected and it’s just having that support and those people. We also used a consultant as well. We weren’t afraid to ask for help, we paid for a consultant and the consultant kind of then … they took an even bigger step back and kind of offered suggestions going forward. And that was huge for us to be able to do and, yes, you had to pay some money into looking into it, but having an outsider person come in, they might shatter your dreams a little bit in some of the aspirations, but at the same time they are there to help you to do better. And I think that was super important for us to admit that we needed a little bit of support.

Victoria:
And then our marketing department, when I worked in Nevada was fantastic. We contracted some of it out too and got a beautiful brochure out. And the brochure’s always an odd one for me, because I just don’t know whether everyone likes a hard copy, whether people prefer online, whether they want a big one, a small one, a calendar. It’s just finding that, it’s finding what the parents want and adapting to their needs and just being kind of open to that.

Duncan:
Yeah, yeah. We’ve gone fully digital. I think we’re printing something like 50 brochures this year. We’re just getting away from this horrible end of the year when you’ve still got brochures left and you have to bin them and it’s just like ugh, right, that’s it. Only digital.

Victoria:
Right, yeah. And have you seen it’s working?

Duncan:
Yeah, it’s fine actually. I think people just adapt to you as well. And I think if you just back that up with your values then they’re happy with it. As long as it’s done from kind of saving the environment rather than saving money.

Victoria:
Saving money, right, yeah. No I agree, I agree.

Duncan:
Yeah, it’s interesting with the consultants, it seems to be something more and more common in the camp industry. In fact I work as a consultant now for quite a few camps and it’s really interesting. I was with a camp last week in Spain and it’s fascinating going to other places, just kind of looking around and seeing some things where it’s just so obvious from an outsider going in, which from an insider, if we had someone come and visit us in Switzerland, I’m sure they’d just be able to tell us loads of things because you’re kind of so close to it you don’t see it. But someone coming in just giving a few pointers and things like that can do a lot of good. So I think it’s going to be more and more popular, isn’t it? With getting that advice.

Victoria:
Yeah. And it’s crazy that it is those little things, just watching for those little things. And one thing I tried to drill into the staff and educate the staff on is think from the parent’s perspective. The parent is coming to drop off their kid, their pride and joy, their life. They’re coming to trust you with them. What would it look like to them if you’re on your phone with another staff member to the side? Or if you’re not engaging with that camper? Just kind of having that mindset as well. The staff training really sets the tone for your summer. You could have everything in place and just not the right staff. And it’s … you could never compare one summer to another, unless you have exactly the same staff, but I don’t think any camp can really say that they have the exact same staff every year. And it’s just finding the right staff as well.

Duncan:
Yeah.

Victoria:
How do you guys hire? Do you guys hire internationals as well?

Duncan:
Yeah, we do. It’s mainly an international camp and we get people from all over actually. We get some people from Canada, some people from … most people from Europe, quite a lot of Brits actually. But yeah, all over the place. And the success of the camp is purely down to the quality of the staff who we employ to work on it. And just getting the right balance. And I think it’s exactly right what you say, comparing year on year just is not, you can’t compare two years like that. I think I had high expectations last summer and I was a little bit disappointed at the end. I think it’s just because I was expecting kind of the same things as the year before, but then each year’s different and you’ve just got to play it as a different year each time and kind of … yeah, not get trapped in that sort of expecting huge things and just taking each year as it comes, I think is the key.

Victoria:
Oh yeah. No, I completely agree.

Duncan:
Cool, so-

Victoria:
And it’s crazy, so-

Duncan:
Sorry, go on.

Victoria:
Go ahead, sorry.

Duncan:
Sorry, you go. I was just going to say to summarize then, what would you say were the main lessons, the main learnings you’ve had as a director in several different camps?

Victoria:
I would think that the main lesson is that growth isn’t just in numbers, growth is in the programming, it’s taking the stop, taking the pause and fixing the kinks. And you cannot compare summer to summer and the staff are going to change, you’re going to change and don’t be afraid to admit those failures. I’ll be the first one to put my hands up and say that camp was not perfect, but together we can strive and push forward. And I love the camp community. If it’s part of the American Camp Association, if it’s the Camp Professionals Facebook group that there is, on how willing everyone is to share with each other and just keep that sharing going. Are we really competing with each other? No. We’re all trying to do one thing and that’s educating kids and growing them because they are our future. And we have to do it now to believe in our future and to kind of make the world a better place and to just keep pushing forward, you know?

Duncan:
Yeah. I think that’s a great approach to the industry as a whole. It’s not about competition, it’s all about helping each other get kids and parents to understand that camp experience during the summer is way better than alternatives of just doing nothing, playing games, being stuck on the computer, instead of getting out and about, meeting other people and having a great time. So I think that’s a great way to approach it, that it’s not a competition, it’s about more competition with each other against the beliefs of parents of kids that they shouldn’t be going to camp. And it’s kind of working together to get them to go to camp in the first place. And I think that’s a great mindset and a great approach to it.

Victoria:
Yeah. I think so too. There’s so many opportunities out there and I think the more that we allow everyone to kind of absorb from the world and absorb from each other, I think is a great place. And that’s kind of what got me into camp. I studied law, my degree and my life was going in a completely different direction, but I found something that I believe in so much. And it’s taken me to many different states and I’ve visited many different camps because I love it and I can’t wait to just continue to grow more as a person and to meet like-minded individual like yourself, where we can just kind of share ideas and bounce things off each other and just continue our own realm of what we do.

Duncan:
Yeah, that’s awesome. Okay, it’s been great talking. Is there anything you would have wanted me to ask you, or have we covered …

Victoria:
No, no, I think that this was fantastic. I think … I love talking about camp to anybody. I think that it’s such an amazing opportunity that we do and the jobs that we have an I love it. But thank you so much for today, I really appreciated it.

Duncan:
Yeah, no, thank you. It’s been really awesome finding out about your story and all the tips and tricks you’ve learned over the years in the industry. So thanks very much and, yeah, I hope to catch up with you again some time.

Victoria:
Yeah, thank you so much.

Duncan:
My pleasure. Okay.

Victoria:
Bye.

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