How to start a summer camp business

Editorial Team

5 min read
Group of kids working on activity

If you like sunshine, laughter, kids, and planning fun activities, then starting a summer camp could be the right opportunity for you. In addition to helping your campers build childhood memories, make friendships, and gain useful skills, you’re also providing an invaluable service to working parents who need childcare throughout the summer.

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Starting a summer camp business can be financially rewarding, with many programs seeing a profit margin of 25% to 40%. However, proper planning is essential if you want to make your camp a success. This article outlines some of the most essential steps required to launch your business and welcome your first group of campers.

How to start a summer camp from scratch

From day camps to sleepaway camps, every program is slightly different. Moreover, each state and municipality have unique codes and regulations. Below are some of the most common steps you’ll likely have to take when starting a youth camp.

1. Register your business

First, make your new business legal and legitimate. We’ve written a longer article on how to start a small business, but registering your new business normally requires:

  • Choosing an incorporation structure, with sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, general partnerships, and corporations being the most common types.
  • Verifying name availability, since two businesses in the same state and niche normally can’t use similar sounding names. If the name is available, grab it before a competitor does.

2. Design a camp program

Starting a summer camp business involves designing a general curriculum for your program. Obviously, the logistical needs of a sleepaway camp are very different from the needs of an urban day camp or afterschool program. Similarly, working with young kids is very different from working with teenagers.

Either way, you need to decide what kinds of activities you’re able to offer with the resources at your disposal. Creating a great summer program takes money, staff, facilities, and even the right level of demand. This planning also needs to factor in what you’ll do with those resources when not in use. If your overnight camp includes horseback riding lessons, for example, what do you do with those horses during the non-summer months?

3. Find a location for your camp

Choosing a location for your summer camp depends on the type of program you’re designing. There are summer camps that organize nearly all of their activities off-site at local attractions – such as museums, amusement parks, and nature centers. If transportation is involved, however, be prepared to invest in vans or buses, fuel, maintenance, insurance, or rental fees.

4. Research health and safety protocols

Just as restaurants must go through food safety inspections, your camp will likely need to pass building codes, fire safety regulations, and other types of municipal permits.

Note that the above safety regulations aren’t specific to the location. They also apply to the activities you offer. For example, swimming pools often require trained lifeguards. Whether urban or rural, most facilities that cater to children also need various types of insurance to legally operate.

Your local city hall is probably the best place to begin researching how to start a day camp and what types of health, safety, and insurance requirements apply to your situation.

5. Hire and train staff

Most daycare organizations and summer camps are required to have multiple staff members based on the number of children in the group. Depending on the type of program, your employees may need specialized training and certification in first aid and CPR. Note that if yours is a seasonal program, you may have to go through the hiring and training process annually.

6. Determine a way to accept payments

Running a summer day camp can be fun but chaotic, especially during drop off and pick up times. You’ll need an easy, fast, and secure way to accept payments. That’s where our POS systems can help. They can securely process the full spectrum of cash, checks, credit cards, debit cards, and contactless mobile payments – whether on-site or online.

Our payment solutions also include electronic invoicing and recurring billing – both of which can help automate more of your operations so that you can focus on showing your campers a great time.

7. Create a frictionless registration process

While the kids are the “customers,” it’s ultimately the parents and guardians you’ll need to market your offering to.

Here are a few tips to help you start:

  • Create a truly frictionless registration process that makes it as easy as possible for interested parents to sign up or at least request information.
  • Market your new summer camp so that first-timers are aware of what you’re offering.
  • Use exclusive discounts and loyalty programs to generate repeat business. This customer engagement functionality is already built right into every Clover POS system.

Get ready for a fantastic summer

Launching a business will have its challenges. This is as true when opening a restaurant as it is when starting a summer camp program. With our business management and payment solutions, you’ll have the tools necessary to begin generating sales and start turning first-time campers into repeat summer visitors.

To learn more about our complete range of POS systems and payment solutions, contact a Clover Business Consultant today.

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This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.