Social Enterprise is ‘a thing’ now but it certainly wasn’t when we kicked off 15 years ago. When we started talking to people about our concept, the most common question was, ‘so are you a business or a charity?’
Fifteen years feels like a lifetime for us as we have lived and breathed Camps since day one. In the big scheme of things, it’s not so long though and it’s amazing to see how far the social movement has come. Top universities are teaching social enterprise alongside the more recognised mainstream business courses and most importantly consumers want to engage with brands that stand for something.
Understanding the story of a brand and being part of the journey is now a big part of buying into any company that balances its need for profit with its commitment to causes. Balance is key, you must be serious about commercial success and equally committed to the good stuff.
If you want to be different and look for fresh ways of living your life, then it’s inevitable that you are going to go through a lot of trial and error. Failure truly breeds success if you have the stomach to keep getting back up and are ready to stay flexible and honest enough to learn and evolve from your mistakes. We have made some shockers over the years but there’s no short cutting experience.
We always knew what we wanted to achieve with our camps. Improving the lives of the people that host us has always been paramount and once you make that call, you sign up to looking after the environment, the wildlife and everything that makes an impact to the communities.
The tough bit was working out how to make it pay. If Camps isn’t financially sound, then we achieve nothing. In the early days, we struggled to get this right and were constantly compromising the company to live up to our philanthropic commitments.
Amongst some of the important decisions we made, there are some that stand out. We have always ignored the competition. We make a point of focusing on what we do and how we can make it better. It means that we charge a price that ensures the sustainability of everything we stand for, not influenced by the temptation of quick returns which invariably mean compromise.
We also created The Camps Foundation, a fully registered charity that shares a unique relationship with the business. We use our company resources on a not for profit basis, our staff and network of committed ex clients and friends to raise funds. Camps International covers all administrative costs, salaries, etc. Every Foundation dollar is spent on our projects. The Camps Foundation is our way of demonstrating our unwavering commitment to the wide range of projects and activities that have been developed by Camps International since 2002 and encompasses all our corporate social activities.
Over the course of this year we will reflect on some of the key moments in our story, the ones that have shaped us and on which our culture is built. If I am honest it is as much for us as anyone but hope you enjoy sharing our journey.
Explore our Volunteering Programmes to see the Camps effect in action.
Learn about what it takes to juggle global challenges in a day in the life of a Social Enterprise CEO here