Startup Business Lessons I Learned from Camping

Common sense camping advice, tips, and tricks you can apply when working at any startup business or new venture.

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Annual Girls Weekend
Smiling from the Yosemite National Park Overlook, these five women and life-time friends mean business. (Copyright, Dana Young)

Every year, a core group of Cal Bear Tri-Delta gal pals and I go camping with our families. Sometimes we go deep into the woods and other years we backyard or glam-camp in the heart of the South Bay. From Sacramento and Tahoe to Shasta and Yosemiteno matter the location, our annual adventures keep us coming back for more year after year.

I recently noticed that, similar to the very valuable All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten book, our camping adventures provided useful business lessons that I applied while working at various startups. Here are some of my favorite tips and insights.

  1. Always be open to new ways of looking at things!

    At our last campout, we were packing up our bags and rolling up our tent. I glanced over to see my friend Pamala (Senior Director, Customer Success at Cleo) placing fabric softener sheets in between various layers of her tent. She said this was something she used to keep her tent smelling fresh when stored in the off-season (and a great tip from her Burning Man travels). This was an “aha! moment” for me. Keeping an open mind allows you to generate fresh ideas and a new perspective, especially when you are working with a new business venture. It allowed me to do as my favorite Yosemite T-shirt reads: “Think Outside.” Tip: the “Bounce” type fabric sheets also work great in hiking shoes.

  2. Get out of your comfort zone!

    The Fowlers (Glen and Alicia) are wonderful at making sure we all try a new sport, game or physical challenge wherever we pitch our tent. To a beach camping trip, they brought a skin boardperfect for our shoreline spot. As a stand-up paddler and novice surfer, I figured I might be semi-decent at using a skin board. It was tricky, I tried it, and am glad I did (minus the bruise I got). Trying new things and taking risks is an important part of working at a startup endeavor.  I also came away with the confidence and a reinforced “Yes, I Can” attitudethough I am going to stick to my SUP!

  3. Teamwork is key—there is no “i” in camp!

    Have you ever tried to put up a 10-person tent solo? Suffice it to say that working with a team makes the task infinitely easier, and certainly helps you get your fireside cocktail more quickly for the camping happy hour. At a startup, it’s important to remember that every member of your team really is a critical part of your business success. Collaboration is key. Like putting up a tentit’s important you are all working towards a common goal. FYI, my favorite camp cocktail is an Old-Fashioned Pioneer (recipe below courtesy of wideopenspaces.com). Cheers!

  4. PLAY!

    Our camping trips are never short on the fun factor. From playing banana-grams to badminton, we laugh until we cry. It’s the main reason we keep coming backthat, and the Old-Fashioned Pioneer, which our camping cohorts, Amy and Steve Martin, have truly perfected! While some may think that play is just for kids, this could not be further from the truth. The kid in all of us needs to play, especially in the world of startups and new business initiatives. Play is a great way to fuel ideas and solve problems. Playing helps to relieve stress, tension, and conflict. In addition, playtime helps us get to know co-workers better. Play should be an integral part of any startup!

I’d love to hear your lessons learned—go ahead an add s’more (yup, I said it)!

**Old Fashioned Pioneer Recipe. Combine a few shots of bourbon in a cup with a healthy dollop of maple syrup. Pour in a little club soda and “you’re in business.”