After meeting Betsy Wiersma, it is not surprising to find out later that she is known for her “Big Idea” thinking and what one could call “ROI: Return on Ideas.” Wiersma grew up in the Midwest and possesses the down-to-earth values, with which often individuals from this part of the country are credited. These and a dynamite imagination. I would also say you would find her charming but it is the combination of these character traits that are in play, as she opens an important door for women in Colorado.
In 2006, Wiersma, a published author and entrepreneur, founded CampExperience ™, an annual educational retreat for women. This fall it will take place at Cheyenne Mountain Resort and Country Club in Colorado Springs from September 19-21. To quote Wiersma, “A Camp (getaway) to Experience NEW people, places, adventures, and connections to support amazing women of all walks of life to enjoy the ride and live life BIG! A camp……like the kids go to, but more for relaxation.”
That was almost ten years ago. Fast forwarding to today, Wiersma has opened a door for women to not only participate in an annual 2 ½ day retreat somewhere beautiful in Colorado, but to also learn, connect and give back. This year, two charities with strong histories and track records in empowering women, Project WISE and Dress for Success Denver, will benefit from grants derived directly from the net profits of the CampExperience™ year-round activities. Registration is still open for the 2014 2 ½ day retreat. It costs $995 per camper to register. While for many of us, that is no small investment, this might be a good time to tell yourself, like the L’Oreal ads say, I’m worth it. Consider asking an employer to offer this benefit to you for your professional development, to even sponsor the retreat, and there are even payment plans available.
Who is Betsy Wiersma?
After years of service leading the national events industry on the President's Council for the International Festivals and Events Association, the Advisory Board for Special Events Magazine and with ISES, the International Special Events Society, the woman whose great boots are featured here created Wiersma Experience Marketing, her own consulting and event marketing company based in Denver.
Author of many books including the event text book, Exceptional Events: Concept to Completion, Wiersma's seminars provide event producers and marketers across the globe with everything from basic tips to complex case studies. As an international speaker and trainer, Betsy has spoken in Italy, Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Scotland, Jamaica, Spain, and Australia, as well as cities throughout the U.S. Wiersma is also the winner of three worldwide ESPRIT Awards for event excellence. A Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP), Wiersma was also the first inductee into the Colorado Meetings and Events Magazine Hall of Fame as Best Events Planner.
While these are all prestigious accomplishments, Wiersma seems to place the greatest value on her family, married to Doug Lane and the mother of a young daughter in middle school. She is a graduate of Purdue University. Not only does she lead the CampExperience™ programs, she also authors a blog called SpeakLife. SpeakLife is designed for ideas, insights and ah ha moments to speak into the lives of readers positive energy, good vibrations and memorable tidbits. Guest bloggers are experts in their own worlds and offer wisdom and connection to people, places and products to help Colorado women.
What follows is my interview with Wiersma earlier this month.
What made you want to become the founder and CEO of CampExperience™, after your marketing career?
CampExperience™ is 2.5 days of education, inspiration and connection for incredible women of all walks of life. This is the conglomeration of 30 years of my career and uses all my gifts to their fullest. It is my life reinvention after adopting a 1-day-old baby girl in 2002, and choosing a life as a “work-at-home” mom in Englewood, Colo. It is my servant leadership to women of all ages as we live life to the fullest and make a difference every day for others
What sets CampExperience apart from other women’s retreats and year-round convenings? How many women currently participate in the 2 ½ day September retreat?
We get 170-200 “Campers” and our slogan is “I like nature just don’t get it on me!” We host Camp at luxury resorts. In 2014 and 2015, we will be at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs.
CampExperience™ is a “sisterhood by choice” and includes a year of events and activities. Women are invited to our CampConnections monthly business building groups at the Southeast or West side locations, our social connection events that we call “Girlfriend Gatherings,” and our two other very special events: The March 12th Business Building Workshop and the May 16th MiniCamp. CampExperience™ sponsors are committed to helping women grow their businesses and their lives. These ingredients make the Camp network uber productive for participants, even before the CampExperience™ annual retreat. And these friendships and business partnerships last forever.
What makes you passionate as a woman about helping other women in your community to make connections and to achieve philanthropic goals at the same time?
I love to connect women to their purpose and passions. And I love to have fun in life’s journey. So Camp lets me create themes and activities every year that continue to feed the guests’ souls, and to show them the gifts they get when they give to others.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve addressed since establishing CampExperience™?
The challenge is that my heart keeps inventing more to do and more fun to have and more ways to give. My pocketbook has to pay for it!! I have to stay strategic in choosing the most impactful activities using my CampCommittee and our new Camp Ambassadors.
The biggest accomplishment?
I am so proud of the nearly $250,000 cash, 30,000 pounds of donated goods and over 1,000 hours of donated time that have supported women’s charities in our eight years of Camp. But behind the scenes is supporting each other through parenting crisis, health issues, aging parents, divorce, and all kinds of life issues. Again, the sisterhood is the magic.
What questions or ideas have been raised so far for you since 2006 when you started CampExperience™?
Everyone wants me to tell Oprah about Camp. They say I should franchise it and take it across America. Both suggestions do not work due to my personal commitment to have one amazing event in Colorado that is for Colorado women, and being home in Englewood for my family.
What was surprising or compelling in your view?
I am so different in my 50’s as far as I am so committed to focus on family and not fame. I just want to enjoy “the journey” and make friends with super cool new people, devise new ways to support women and have fun!
You are a mother of a daughter. Would you comment on the impact, if any, you’re being a mother had on your choosing to start CampExperience™?
Camp is here because of adopting our daughter Sarah. I redesigned my life to be a “work at home mom,” so I can be at the breakfast table every morning and drive the car pool every day. Camp is a full-time job done on a flexible work schedule. And it is a family affair as my husband Doug Lane and Fastlane Productions is a Presenting Sponsor and my biggest fan. Our daughter Sarah Lane does the video welcome every year.
What is the “So What” of the work you’re doing now, if you were to look ahead into the next decade? Would you like to see other communities elsewhere in Colorado, or even in America, replicate this model of experiences for women to connect with one another?
I am inspired that 15 volunteers and a big idea have had $250,000 positive life impact in the world. The “so what” is we made this up -- we created something not like anything else out there. By our own research, we saw a positive effect on the lives of over 1,000 women. To see the 2012 research, click here. (The research from 2013 will be posted shortly.)
Better than a poke in the eye.
Do you volunteer in your community? If so, what do you enjoy doing the most, in terms of community service?
Camp is my volunteer activity except for Girl Scout Troop 3978 which I have led for the last five years.
You have seen the report on the 2013 status of women and girls in Colorado published by the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. What challenge facing women in our state most surprised you and why?
I cannot believe the “Cliff Effect” and how getting ahead means falling behind. I am excited to support our Camp sponsor the Women’s Foundation in educating women about their findings. At Camp in 2014, we plan to show their video and share the true, uplifting stories of the Project WISE women featured in the Losing Ground: the Cliff Effect documentary.
If you saw a newspaper headline 5 years from now that meant your work had been successful, what would it say?
CampExperience™ Sisterhood and Events Model Continues to ROCK the Lives of Women: Colorado Social Entrepreneur to Host Nationally Sponsored Seminars for Teaching Creative Strategies for Social Agencies to Support Women
This Valentine’s Day, as we celebrate the emotions of love and passion, it is worth looking at celebrating the special loving connection women often experience when they gather to learn and the passion of social entrepreneurs and philanthropists like Betsy Wiersma.