Caroline Matthews & Connor McCarthy – Acquiring Youth Summer Camps – Ep.116

My guests on this episode are Caroline Matthews and Connor McCarthy, a husband and wife team running an investment firm called Canyonlands Funds that acquires youth summer camps from Maine to Florida. Both are extremely passionate about the outdoors and met on a trip to Bhutan while getting their MBAs at Stanford. After working in private equity for a few years after graduating, they decided to become entrepreneurs in the outdoors and have acquired two summer camps to date.

Their strategy is one of the most unique and interesting I’ve maybe ever come across as I haven’t heard of anyone else investing in used summer camps. Their business model is pretty interesting, and naturally we spend a lot of time diving into how it works.

We also talk about challenges in running summer camps, how they decided to raise capital and find great investors, strategies for finding and building great teams, and why Levain’s Bakery in New York City makes the best cookies in the world. Enjoy the episode.

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Caroline on LinkedIn

Connor on LinkedIn

Canyonlands Fund

Levain Bakery


(3:56) – Caroline & Connor’s background and starting Canyonlands

(7:43) – What made you decide to pursue private equity & tech before building Canyonlands?

(9:33) – What were some skills you developed before starting Canyonlands?

(11:35) – What business models did you consider when developing the company?

(13:19) – What is the financial model backing the company?

(16:35) – What are some ways you’ve leaned on your board for feedback?

(20:17) – What is the business model for a Summer Camp?

(27:23) – How do you find a great Camp Director?

(30:37) – How are you measuring results through qualitative data from campers?

(33:55) – What is the hardest data to track?

(36:47) – How difficult is it to buy a camp and install a great reputation and values if it doesn’t already have them?

(39:08) – What are some levers and options for growing a camp?

(41:29) – What have you learned about pricing in your business?

(42:47) – Do you have any plans for a punch-card or subscription type model?

(45:31) – How do you go about sourcing camps to acquire?

(51:03) – What’s the dynamic like being business partners and married?

(54:35) – What college class would you teach if it could be on anything?

(55:55) – What strongly held belief have you changed your mind on?

(56:46) – What’s the best business you’ve ever seen?

(58:18) – How would you describe Levain Cookies to non-East Coast people?

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Oberle Risk Strategies– Oberle is the leading specialty insurance brokerage catering to search funds and the broader ETA community, providing complimentary due diligence assessments of the target company’s commercial insurance and employee benefits programs. Over the past decade, August Felker and his team have engaged with hundreds of searchers to provide due diligence and ultimately place the most competitive insurance program at closing. Given August’s experience as a searcher himself, he and his team understand all that goes into buying a business and pride themselves on making the insurance portion of closing seamless and hassle-free.

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