How to Start a Summer Camp

Successful summer camp business owners respond to the needs of their customers and communities by developing curriculum and activities that focus on their specific interests, goals and objectives. Traditional summer camps offer outdoor activities such as hiking, building campfires, and canoeing. Sleep-away camps offer food and lodging as well as trained supervision during physical and educational activities. Day camps do not include lodging and offer more specialized learning activities such as computer science, performing arts and music. Today, there are summer camp programs available for nearly every imaginable purpose, interest and need.

Learn how to start your own Summer Camp and whether it is the right fit for you.

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Start a summer camp by following these 10 steps:

  1. Plan your Summer Camp
  2. Form your Summer Camp into a Legal Entity
  3. Register your Summer Camp for Taxes
  4. Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
  5. Set up Accounting for your Summer Camp
  6. Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Summer Camp
  7. Get Summer Camp Insurance
  8. Define your Summer Camp Brand
  9. Create your Summer Camp Website
  10. Set up your Business Phone System

We have put together this simple guide to starting your summer camp. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.

STEP 1: Plan your business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Summer Camp Name Generator

If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.

When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:

  • Your state's business records
  • Federal and state trademark records
  • Social media platforms
  • Web domain availability.

It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.

Want some help naming your summer camp?

Business Name Generator

What are the costs involved in opening a summer camp?

One of the first and most important costs associated with opening a summer camp business is ensuring that the camp is licensed and adheres to all federal, state, and local regulations. For example, any staff member who works directly with children must undergo a thorough background check. Another substantial startup cost for any type of summer camp business is purchasing the required liability and medical insurance.

The initial costs of opening a sleepaway camp are much higher than opening a day camp due to the cost of the purchase or rental of overnight accommodations. If you don’t own property, there are camp rentals available. Rental costs vary according to the size of the property, the number of amenities it offers, and the number of people it can accommodate.

Costs for any summer camp include staff salaries, utilities, and transportation. Depending upon the type of activities your camp offers, other costs could include sporting equipment, arts and crafts materials, or even veterinary care. Since summer camps provide such a valuable community service, your business may be eligible for government grants or low-income loans that could help reduce your startup costs.

What are the ongoing expenses for a summer camp?

Ongoing expenses include either rent or grounds maintenance, staff salaries, medical and liability insurance, and promotional advertising. For sleep-away camps, the cost of food and overnight staff are also ongoing expenses.

Who is the target market?

Preferred customers of summer camp businesses are people who recognize the value of enriching life experiences. In the past, the most common type of clients were parents who wanted to provide their children with structured and well-supervised physical, educational and social activities during the summer months. Today, summer camps are becoming increasingly popular with adults as well.

How does a summer camp make money?

A summer camp business charges a fee for services that include providing trained supervision, educational instruction, and emotional support. The pricing structure is designed to cover operating costs as well as generate a profit. Often summer camps charge a fixed cost per camp session - which is typically between 2 weeks and 2 months.

How much can you charge customers?

The average cost for a week of summer camp is $1,500. Some exclusive sleep-away camps with established reputations charge as much as $12,750 for a 7-week summer session.

How much profit can a summer camp make?

A summer camp business can be very lucrative. Well-managed camps usually enjoy a profit margin of between 25 to 40 percent.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Whatever type of summer camp business you have, to ensure a steady source of income throughout the year, you can offer specialized day camps on weekends for both children and adults. From arts and crafts to computer programming to learning the newest dances, there are hundreds of enjoyable activities that can attract new customers. The longer you are in business, the more people you will meet who will welcome the opportunity to earn a little extra cash for contributing their talents by presenting a class or seminar.

Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your summer camp is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.

Get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card helps you:

  • Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.

Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to open a summer camp business. In particular, altering a campground may require a campground operating license. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information:

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

State Regulations

Laws regulating summer camps vary from state to state. For example, in many states, all camp employees are required to submit to criminal background checks.

STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

FInd out what types of insurance your Summer Camp needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Summer Camp.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.

Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.

If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.

How to promote & market a summer camp

Creating a website is the best way to provide positive images and detailed information about your camp, as well as collect contact information from potential customers. Brochures that include photos of the various activities your camp offers are also an effective promotional tool. Schools, recreation centers, churches and other locations where families gather are good places to distribute them. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with former campers throughout the year, post information about upcoming activities and offer special sales promotions for new and returning customers.

How to keep customers coming back

The success of a summer camp business depends on building a reputation that inspires a high level of trust. Parents require assurance that the physical and emotional safety and well-being of their children while in your care is your utmost priority. While the internet may provide information about your staff and services, nothing can replace face-to-face interaction. One good way to personally introduce yourself and your new business to the community is by contacting schools in the surrounding area and requesting permission to give a short presentation. Despite the far-reaching marketing magic of internet technology, the most effective form of advertising is still word of mouth from parents of happy campers.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.

There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.

Recommended Business Phone Service: is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.

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Is this Business Right For You?

This business is a good choice for people who love teaching, but prefer a beautiful natural setting to a formal classroom. High-energy individuals thrive on the combination of physical and mental activity this type of business provides. Creative people welcome the challenge of providing fun, interesting, and engaging songs, games, and educational activities for campers. Those who enjoy working with and enriching the lives of children and families experience a high level of job satisfaction within this industry.

Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

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What happens during a typical day at a summer camp?

Day-to-day activities of a summer camp business include:

  • Communicating with past customers about their experiences and potential future customers about how summer camp programs can meet their needs
  • Providing training, leadership and guidance for staff members
  • Ensuring that the grounds and premises are safe and properly maintained
  • Developing educational curriculum and promotional materials
  • Participating in physical and educational activities with staff and clients

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful summer camp?

  • Communication and relationship-building skills are essential. Statistics show that summer camp staff commonly return each year. Achieving that consistency reduces training costs, increases successful teamwork and builds community trust.
  • Market research skills are helpful for keeping abreast of popular trends and developing unique camp curriculums not offered by competitors.
  • Management skills are required for hiring and supervising qualified staff.

What is the growth potential for a summer camp?

Many summer camp businesses are third and fourth generation family businesses. However, the industry has expanded to the extent that franchise opportunities are now available.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Learn from other business owners

Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

How and when to build a team

Unlike other types of businesses, a summer camp business requires owners to have a team in place before opening the business. Depending on the type of camp, team members may include instructors, camp counselors, nurses, and cooks. There are several governmental programs you can utilize to help build your team. For example, one program offers tax incentives for camps that hire veterans.

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