How holiday businesses stay lucrative year-round
Name: Shmuel Yosef Davidsohn
Business name: Chaverim Youth Organisation
Years in business: 30 years
Busy season: Summer camp and winter camp
Location: We’re based in Golders Green, London, but we serve boys all around the country
Position: Executive Director
How did you get started?
I started with a very small Melaveh Malkah for around 15 to 20 boys. Then I tried a winter day camp — we had about 30 boys. From there things grew quickly. Summer day camp was a new concept in the area, but people went crazy for it. After a few years, we decided to create an overnight summer camp. It’s gotten bigger and better every year. Between all our programs, we service between 800 to 1,000 boys per year.
When do you start preparing?
Once someone walked into the office right after summer camp and asked what I was doing. I told him, “Working on winter camp… and I’m about to send out emails for next summer already too.” We start preparing for summer camp right after winter camp ends, and we start preparing for winter camp right after summer camp ends. And besides all the other logistics, we don’t own a building, so we’re always looking for a venue to house our camp.
What’s it like at peak season?
Very busy. We bring in extra staff, and we’re working non-stop.
When is downtime?
From after summer camp until Rosh Hashanah, it’s quiet-ish, but even then, I’m busy with camp, sending out newsletters and mailings.
What do you do the rest of the year?
We keep going. We organize a get-together every Thursday night where we serve cholent and kugel and bring in different rabbanim to speak, and we have a few shabbatons during the year. I’m also licensed to supervise boys who are working toward the Edinborough Award, an English youth award program. They need to engage in extra physical activity and expedition training, and we’re on the field, supporting and training the boys. We also work with the schools and provide mentors.
How do you make it work parnassah-wise?
Camp isn’t a profitable endeavor, but I really believe in what I do. There are hundreds of boys counting on us and our programs. We rely on fundraising to keep camp going. We work endlessly on funding, going to local trusts, and launching local appeals and Charidy funds.
Personally, I also work as a charity consultant for other companies, and I work in security for the kehillah.
How do you staff the business?
We have three chief employees — myself, a youth director, and someone who runs the office. We also have a huge volunteer base of madrichim and mentors, whom we can call on as needed.
What do you make sure to do in your off season?
I go on holiday with my family.
Things you didn’t know about the business before you started:
The issues involved in working with today’s youth are constantly changing; last week’s challenge and this week’s challenge can be completely different. Fifteen years ago, most boys didn’t have cell phones (not even kosher ones). Now everyone has one. Fifteen years ago, we were worried about boys smoking. A few years ago, it turned into vaping. The boys are exposed to so much that nothing is really surprising anymore.
Recommendations for someone who wants to enter the business:
Go in with an open mind, don’t be judgmental, and treat every young person with respect.
Most memorable customer:
Some of my boys come from really challenging backgrounds, and I worried how they would end up. Baruch Hashem, today many of them are happy and productive, married with children. That makes us proud.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 892)
Oops! We could not locate your form.