If you'd love to take some time to be at one with nature but you just can't squeeze a stop-and-smell-the-roses experience into your hectic schedule, give Troy Hemingway a call. The 30-year-old entrepreneur will cater a soup-to-nuts camping expedition for you and your friends. All you have to do is show up.
"From personal experience, I know camping can sometimes be a nightmare, and some people say there's no way they would ever go camping, but this way, they will," says Hemingway, whose San Diego company, Camping Pros, hosts small and large groups at campgrounds throughout Southern California.
Roughing it has never been so easy. Hemingway and his part-time team of five provide all the camping equipment, which they set up and take down for clients. They also prepare three meals a day, do all the cleanup, and arrange games and activities. Clients don't even have to bring pillows or marshmallows: Camping Pros stocks all the extras.
A veteran camper, Hemingway got the idea while working for a company that catered corporate picnics and special events. "I took the skills I learned there and combined them with my hobby," he explains.
Five years ago, Hemingway used $10,000 of his own money to buy tents, sleeping bags and other camping essentials, such as lanterns and flashlights. While continuing to work at his full-time job, he began arranging camping trips for friends. Now he hosts weekend and longer stays for corporate groups, family reunions, birthdays and special retreats for about $89 per night, per person. "Our biggest challenge is tailoring each camp-out to different groups' tastes and personalities," he says.
Although he's a member of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau and sometimes participates in local trade shows, Hemingway believes his best marketing device is his site (http://www.campingpros.com).
Hemingway still works 15 hours a week for FedEx and should gross $30,000 from Camping Pros this year. His next steps include catering camp-outs for families too busy to plan their own trips, and extending the geographic range of the campsites he uses.