Why a Smaller Company is a Better Choice

John Dockendorf17 Apr, 2019
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The right summer enrichment experience can be a defining experience in a young person’s life, and creating these special experiences is why Bold Earth exists. To this end, under our new ownership, we have structured Bold Earth to maximize our ability to consistently deliver life-changing experiences for teenagers. We pride ourselves in being a small, personal company that limits total student enrollment to ensure meaningful relationships with our families and control the quality of our trips. Plus, small small group sizes (10–13 students) lets us organize fun and truly unique adventures, visiting regions that larger companies (with multiple departures and dozens of participants) are unable to access.

When Bold Earth was founded in 1976, most similar companies had limited enrollment, too, as teen travel programs started to take off. However, these days, so many travel companies—which at first glance might seem small and personal—have become much larger, mimicking mainstream adult travel companies. This is a significant departure from our summer camp origins.

How a small company benefits student experiences

Teen travel companies that operate multiple sessions of dozens of different itineraries hire hundreds of staff members, many of whom are still in college. This can greatly lessen the magic of a student’s experience: As companies grow, it’s easy to shift from a student-centered focus to instead pouring time and energy into systems, logistics, and itineraries. Sure, students are still impacted by beautiful scenery, new cultures, and giving back through service, but the potential for a powerful group experience and formative relationships with mature role models is significantly diluted.

In the last decade, Bold Earth almost went the route of larger companies—our enrollment soared (which we feel is a testament to our trip leaders’ success in providing student experiences), but we began to feel the detriments of the downfalls mentioned above. In recent years, we’ve actively resisted the opportunity to grow because we know how it changes the dynamics of a close community—something we care deeply about and upon which our foundation is built. When you get too big, you lose what you love: the great, inclusive communities of kind peer groups. Trip leaders begin to feel more like employees than partners, and students and their parents feel more like customers than friends and family.

Our trip leaders truly stand out from the rest

For summer 2019, with a staff pool of just 40 trip leaders—80 percent of whom have been with us for multiple summers—we are able to bring a continuity in leadership and expertise, a distinct caring for every single student’s success, and local knowledge that lets us make every trip fun and special. Simply put, this summer you will find no other company with this level of trip leader retention or experience. Bold Earth trips are staffed not by college students simply eager to experience their own trip—rather, we have adept, professional trip leaders, passionate about giving their middle or high schoolers a life-changing, unforgettable experience.

Because of the maturity and experience of our trip leaders, we have the flexibility to fit the needs of each group and take advantage of spontaneous opportunities without missing out on everything that’s already scheduled. Trips operated by younger, inexperienced college students tend to be more focused on checking the boxes on more rigid itineraries, with less emphasis on group dynamics.

The Bold Earth difference

In some ways, the difference between Bold Earth and larger companies can be compared to the differences between a 2,000-student university and a 30,000-student university: You may not have as many course options at a Davidson College or St. Mary’s as the Ohio State University or Texas A&M. But at the small colleges, after even your first week, you can’t help but have been positively impacted by the intentionality and personal nature of the experience. With smaller class sizes, you form close relationships with both professors and peers, both of whom have a direct impact on not only your learning, but also the person you become. Bold Earth trips stay with students long after they end. More than just exotic destinations to check off your bucket, it’s the true community experience that makes our trips so impactful and fun. Our students come home at the end of the summer having the most memorable trip of their lives, ready to take everything they’ve learned and gained from their experience to home, school, and beyond.

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