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In Their Camp – Growing Future Women Leaders Every Summer: Sunni B. Markowitz

Sunni Markowitz dreams of summer all year long. The founder and Executive Director of Camp Lantern Creek in Montgomery, Texas, has been dedicated to giving kids a voice for much of her career. Among her many past accomplishments, Sunni was an advocate for special needs children and a fundraiser and board member of various organizations, including Girl Scouts of America.  sheBOOM recently spoke with her to learn her philosophies on the role of summer camp in shaping girls into confident young women and future leaders.

At camp, they learn self-esteem, teamwork, and even how to use power tools and change tires. S’more empowerment anyone?

How long have you had your business? 
We are going into our sixth summer.

Revenues (if you’re comfortable sharing) or some key statistics?
We have grown from enrolling 40 girls for three weeks during our first summer to more than 200 girls for five weeks in just five years.

What compelled you to start Lantern Creek? 
I have dreamed of owning/running my own camp since I was ten years old. Summer camp helped shape me into the woman I am today. I think summer camp is an essential way for girls to learn independence and how to fail while in a safe environment. We empower young women to maintain their self-esteem, build leadership skills and try new things. And we encourage them to “speak out” whenever they can.

What were you doing prior to that? 
I have a Master’s in Education and have worked in research, educational advocacy and educational curriculum. I love to watch a child learn something new!

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a summer camp owner? 
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is also what I teach at camp: believe in yourself and even if you fail, keep improving!

What was your highest point?
This, right now, is my highest point, but I will continue to climb.  I don’t see any limits anymore.

Lowest point? How did you power through it? 
The low point was ending a lifelong relationship with a business partner. It was very difficult to accept that I could go it alone. I got through it with the encouragement of other women business owners who encouraged and mentored me.

What are you seeing as trends among the girls you meet (especially in relation to entrepreneurship)?
One thing that disturbs me right now is that young women feel they have to ask permission to even ask a question. What, as a society, are we saying to them that they don’t think their ideas, solutions, or points of view are valid?

What advice do you have for other women interested in building careers in the summer camp industry? 
Don’t be afraid to buck the system and most of all, stick to your mission.

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