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What being a camp counsellor can teach you about running a business

(Photo credit: MrsVega/iStock.com)

Jen Wright spent 10 summers going to camp — 10 glorious days in July or August each year for five years as a camper and another five entire summers as a counsellor. These summers were a formidable time in her life, one to which she directly credits becoming an entrepreneur and  the success of her business.

“Camp gave me a ton of confidence in myself. I was the chunky kid and I was short, and that made me a bit shy and introverted,” Wright said. “At camp, people accepted me, despite the fact that I was a bit chubby and a bit awkward.”

The more she went to camp, the more she realized that her “camp self” was her “preferred self” — the one she finally had the confidence to be. “I’ve always been a natural leader but [when I was younger] I got kind of beat down by the people around me. My friends weren’t really the best group of friends. My personality got abbreviated by my environment,” Wright said. Camp is where she discovered herself and also where she found her people.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t have a business degree, but I had my people supporting me.

And that sense of knowing who you are and who you want to surround yourself with is what she has founded her business on.

Wright has been a massage therapist for 12 years. Five years ago, she decided to open her own multidisciplinary clinic. “Not a lot of massage therapists open clinics. I’m not a doctor, I don’t have a business degree, but I had my people supporting me,” she said. “That principle of ‘find your people’ is the success behind the clinic. Camp showed me that was possible.”

A team working at a massage therapist clinic poses for a picture. Three out of the eight members are hanging by bars above the others.

(Photo courtesy of Jen Wright)

Her clinic has massage therapists, chiropractors, personal trainers, and physiotherapists, and the whole practice works because of the team mentality.

Using camp games for team building in the workplace

Wright says her camp background couldn’t be more apparent than in her monthly team meetings. “We do recognition games, passing around the ball and let everyone speak. It’s directly from camp,” she laughed. “Team building is very big for me. We do leadership games, lots of asking questions and getting opinions out loud.”

Outside of being a confidence-builder and teaching her how to work with people, camp also gave Wright the chance to develop practical skills like public speaking and the power of positivity for issue management. For example, if a popular camp activity is cancelled, counsellors need to adapt and remain positive and come up with an alternative that is just as enjoyable.

As an entrepreneur, Wright faces difficult situations in the same way. “It’s about spinning things in a positive manner and putting on a face that you want people to reflect back at you, even if in my mind I’m saying, ‘I don’t have this at all.’”

Without camp, Wright is sure she would have found herself working in the wellness sphere, but doubts that she would have had the confidence to open her own clinic.

“I think of camp as my root. I’m a fun-loving team player and free spirit. And that’s what I have to come back to as an entrepreneur,” Wright said. “I come back to where I was at camp — there was no mask. When I am stuck as a entrepreneur, I have to go back to my root and ask if this is right for me, if it feels like me. If it jives with that person, than I know I am on the right track.”