Yes folks, August 17th 2019 will be the 10th anniversary of opening Camp Full Monte. Sounds like a good excuse for a party, not that we’ve ever needed an excuse in the past. Have you booked your tent pitch yet?
Seriously though, ten years! You might be expecting us to say “how time flies” but on reflection it has neither flown by or dragged. We’ve savoured the highs and lows and it’s been a bit like watching a child grow up. Every year has been different from the last. Increasingly, Camp Full Monte has developed a character and personality of it’s own.
When we first embarked on our adventure in Montenegro it was a project. A project we were prepared to persevere with for 10 years. So time to take stock.
From a business standpoint it’s not been as successful as we’d hoped but it was never going to make us millionaires. The market for an off-grid, clothing optional, eco campsite was always rather niche. As they often say on the entrepreneur showcase show “Dragons Den”, it is a lifestyle business not a profit making concern. Yes, we’ve been able to cover our living and operational costs when the campsite is open but we’ve had to find ways of supplementing our income during the closed season. Being somewhat younger and more employable than me, this responsibility has fallen largely on Denise’s shoulders.
Whilst escaping the corporate world was always our dream, in 2018, when the opportunity arose for Denise to re-enter this world as a high flying full-time Human Resources Executive, she leapt straight back into it. She’ll reluctantly admit she’s enjoying it (mostly – I’ll leave her to tell you more). This has meant that steering Camp Full Monte towards it’s teenage years has become my primary responsibility.
When you’re a team there is always a level of collective responsibility but roles and responsibilities evolve and inevitably there were aspects of our project that I dealt with and things that Denise dealt with. Provided shit got done, we didn’t each need to know the ins and outs of every task that needed doing. That had to change. I was a little daunted by the size of the task but I needn’t have worried. Sure, there was a learning curve but 2018 saw more satisfied guests, more fabulous reviews and a yet another modest increase in profitability. Denise was around most evenings and weekends and although I was conscious that she deserved the chance to just enjoy her free time and what Camp Full Monte had to offer, it was nice to know she was there keeping her beady eye on how I was doing.
One of my biggest concerns was that, without Den’s equal contribution to the smooth running of the place, the guest experience might change . Some years ago close friends tried to tell us that the unique selling point of Camp Full Monte was not it’s location, not it’s eco-credentials, not it’s friendly community atmosphere or even it’s clothing optional policy, it was, as they put it, “The Steve and Den show”. Modesty and a typically British self-effacing view of ourselves meant we were rather dismissive of this observation. I remember replying “that’s all well and good but how the hell do you market that!”. We subsequently had plenty of feedback to suggest that our friends were right. Very rewarding but how to get that message across? I’m not sure we ever did work out how.
In any event, it was now irrelevant, it was no longer going to be “The Steve & Den show”. Once again, I needn’t have worried. In a quiet evening moment, sitting with a guest on our sofas, bathed in moonlight and listening to the cicadas, he turned to me and earnestly said “Do you know what this place is? It’s nourishment for the soul”.
It brought a huge lump to my throat. I felt like a proud parent who suddenly realised how grown-up their child had become. Yes, in the early years, Camp Full Monte was as much about our passion for what we were doing and providing a memorable holiday experience but it wasn’t all about us anymore.
Camp Full Monte had grown up! It had a character of it’s own. It was good company, it was brimming with love for anyone and everyone. It hugged you. It connected people with each other and with nature. It put people at ease, it made them smile and sigh with contentment.
I realised that, like any parent, your duty of care is never ending. You have to be available to steer your child when they need it. It will give you cause to laugh, cry and worry but after all the years, it’s still your baby. There was no doubt that despite it’s questionable ability to generate hard cash – we couldn’t possibly abandon it!