Having managed a summer camp in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, Curtis and Brooke McFall know the pain of trying to recruit suitable camp counselors. That experience led the Ann Arbor couple to create CampGig.com, an online platform to match camp counselors with camps, which recently won the $25,000 "Best of Boot Camp" prize from Ann Arbor SPARK.
Boot Camp is a multi-week SPARK program designed for entrepreneurs who need help assessing the feasibility of their business concept, building a business model, and finding customers. The entrepreneurs receive mentorship and exposure to potential early-stage investors. Breath of Life, a company that makes an app to help users with meditation and relaxation, won the $10,000 runner-up prize.
The McFalls developed their business idea after talking to other camp administrators and realizing that hiring staff every year was a pain point for all of them. Camp counselors can be recruited through college job fairs or job postings online, but those avenues take up a lot of administrators' time. Alternately, counselors can be recruited through international placement agencies, but Curtis McFall says those are expensive.
"We decided we needed to make something similar to the international placement agencies, but for domestic staff," McFall says.
The McFalls conceived the idea this January and started seeking developers to create the platform in February.
"The concepts were already there with the international placement agencies, but we wanted to tweak and update the concept for our site," McFall says.
McFall says SPARK's Boot Camp was "an invaluable experience," and he was pleasantly surprised at the amount of engagement and energy mentors put into the process. He felt Boot Camp was particularly valuable in the area of finding potential customers.
"Everybody knows this, but you need to be doing as much customer discovery as possible," McFall says. "That's what a lot of Boot Camp participants' success will hinge on."
He says the Boot Camp experience also made him and his wife rethink pricing. Staff can sign up and look at job listings for free, but camps have to pay for a membership. Boot Camp made the McFalls revise their pricing model, how camps pay, and what they get for their fee.
McFall says the cash prize will help his company recruit staff and get more candidates in the system before the McFalls start marketing to camps. The site currently has about 200 profiles, but the McFalls want to have a minimum of 1,000 profiles on the site before doing a marketing push so there is a robust candidate pool for camps to choose from.
"That's what we found out during customer discovery: if we have the candidates, the camps will come," McFall says.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of check presentation courtesy of Jenn Cornell. Brooke and Curtis McFall photo courtesy of Curtis McFall.