Meredith Madnick is the founder of Camp Helping Hands, which is a unique summer camp program that has all of the usual components of a summer camp (swimming, games, sports and arts & crafts), but there is a service-learning twist to it.
When I first heard about the summer camp & what it had to offer, I found it very appealing & wanted to learn more about how the idea came about. What better way to get the scoop, then to interview the founder of Camp Helping Hands?!
Please meet the latest Real Mom of the SFV, Meredith Madnick!
How/why did you begin your business?
Once I became a mother, a full-time, working mother, I longed for a career with flexible work options. Long hours in the office meant that my daughter had long hours at school, was always in daycare during school breaks, and I was never free to be the mom I had hoped to be.
When my daughter turned six, an idea hit me. She seemed very spoiled, and I blamed myself. She had everything she ever needed and wanted, and I did not want her to grow up entitled and unaware of others in her community not as fortunate as her. I was inspired by my own experiences doing community service and my wonderful summers spent at summer camp.
Working full-time, I needed a place to send my daughter to camp each summer, so I thought I’d find a summer camp that would teach her how she can make our community a better place for the people and areas in need. My research turned up empty, and I quickly learned no such summer camp for children ages 6-12 existed. Given my background in Anthropology, experiences leading summer camps as well as being a camper, and my vast background in service, which includes two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I thought what better business to start than a summer service-learning camp for young children. It met all my interests and expertise, filled a need for child care in the summer, and reignited my passion for work.
Once the idea hit, it quickly developed and took shape. I established Camp Helping Hands, and off I went. For six years, I built Camp Helping Hands while working full-time. This kept money coming in and allowed me to completely self-fund the project. Finally, just this past November, I was able to take the next leap and quit my full-time job. My daughter is now 13, and I am able to achieve a better life/work balance.
As a working mother, what is one tip or piece of advice that you would give to other female entrepreneurs?
Meredith: Find what it is you enjoy doing and see how it matches what you are good at doing. Often, if not always, we discover what we are meant to do because of our children, so it’s important to remember their role in all of it. There will be times you want to give up. You will feel overworked, especially if you are holding down a full-time gig while building your business on the side. But don’t give up, and do your best to think positive.
Replace words like ‘if’ with ‘when’ and ‘hope’ with ‘know.’ There will always be setbacks, but if you believe in what it is you do, others will too. And if you continue to work hard, the customers will come, and things will begin to flourish.
What do you like best about having a business in the San Fernando Valley?
Meredith: Camp Helping Hands is really designed to be anywhere. That’s what I love about it. We built the whole business in the cloud so that we can work remotely. All of us work from home, and that’s what I love most.
Second, to that, I love that the nature of the work requires connecting with so many wonderful community service organizations, it gets me out there, and I get to meet the most interesting, compassionate people. I love meeting with executive directors and hearing about all the good these organizations do for our community.
Then, during the summer when camp is in session, we can see how it all comes together during the field trips. Watching the kids work with our partner organizations is what it really is all about. Makes all of us feel so good about what we are doing, and certainly eases any of the doubt that can sometimes appear.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?
Meredith: Everything – it’s like parenting. People will tell you what it’s like, but you don’t really know what to expect till you arrive there. I suppose I would have been better prepared if I had taken some business courses, specifically in accounting and human resources.
Camp Helping Hands has five locations: Encino, Northridge, Santa Clarita, Thousand Oaks & West Hills. I think this program is so neat because it encourages young people to volunteer & promotes a service-learning education model.
I would love to have my kiddo go to the Camp Helping Hands in Northridge (it’s close to our home) & it is located at Highland Hall Waldorf School! However there are 3 locations in the Valley to choose from, something for every corner of the SFV. 🙂
Camp Helping Hands is offering a 15% discount to Real Mom of SFV readers. All you have to do is use promo code: RealMomOfSFV.
Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. The images shown in this post are used with permission. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.