Sometimes a leap of faith is all a budding entrepreneur needs to find their dream job.
For Beth and Larry Muschinski, that meant quitting their lucrative day jobs in Wisconsin and moving the family down south to pursue ownership of a property for campers and RVers. Beth, a former employee at a trauma two medical center and Larry, employed 35 years as a toolmaker at a large factory, knew they were taking a risk leaving their stable jobs to try their hand at new business ownership. Despite their 22 years of experience camping and RVing across the country, the Muschinskis recognized the leap of faith they were taking to leave their comfortable careers behind in pursuit of their passion.
With no prior small business experience, the couple spent some time getting to know other campground owners who belonged to the Family Campers and RVers Club, even staying with friends who owned a site in Illinois. There, Beth and Larry saw firsthand what ownership was like and those same friends referred the Muschinskis to the Frog Hollow Campground listing. A quick visit in January of 2002 revealed the location was ideal for a successful campground — it was situated directly off the interstate, halfway between Memphis, Tennessee and Jackson, Mississippi.
Closing the deal required a little self-education for Beth and Larry, neither of whom had previously bought nor sold a business. The timing of the purchase added another wrinkle to the process.
“We were looking at the beginning half of 2002, just a few months after 9/11 occurred,” says Beth. “On top of being first-time buyers, we weren’t even sure people would want to travel during that time or how the state of the country would affect list prices.”
An avid camper who had visited 27 states by the time she was 13 years old, Beth looked to an experienced campground broker for advice. The Muschinskis attended a local workshop run by Darrell Hess & Associates, a well-respected campground and RV park consulting and brokerage firm, where they learned how to negotiate a fair price. Beth even drafted the contract for the final sale. She also developed a business plan for the campground, which included how to grow revenue, price user rates and attract new campers to the site. Financing the sale required the couple to sell their house up in Wisconsin, but by the end of April, the 49-site property belonged to them.
“We actually got lucky when it came time to close,” says Beth, looking back on the purchase. “Initially, we were told it would take more than six months to finalize the deal, but we had two banks vying for our mortgage almost immediately.” In the end, the Muschinskis finalized the transaction in six weeks.
Sixteen years later, Frog Hollow Campground continues to find success and has played host to guests from all over the world. As campers themselves, Beth and Larry knew what customers were looking for in a campground experience. Instead of handing campers a map of the grounds at check-in, the Muschinskis personally escort guests right to their campsites and show them around the facilities. They’ve also opened up Frog Hollow to long-term construction workers who are unable to camp directly on State Park property. As a result of their hospitality and attention to detail, the Muschinskis have enjoyed an increase in occupancy year over after year and an approximate 50 percent return rate on their snowbird customers.
Just as all good things must come to an end, however, the Muschinskis have set their eyes on retirement and are ready to exit small business ownership. The Muschinskis initially listed their campground with a realtor, but they weren’t attracting as many potential buyers as they had hoped. Frustrated with the lack of interest, the Muschinskis ditched the realtor and listed Frog Hollow on an online marketplace themselves, where they’ve seen at least 10 inquiries for additional information from buyers all across the country.
Looking back on her time as an owner, Beth says she wouldn’t change a thing. “I’ve never regretted moving south and owning this campground,” she says. “Was it intimidating? Definitely, but any new job can be intimidating until you can get comfortable.” Above all, the Muschinskis strongly believe if you really want to do something, then do it. “Don’t waste time thinking about business ownership,” Beth advises. “If you do, you’ll just think about it to death and will be sorry you didn’t ever jump on the opportunity if it passes.”
Diving headfirst into any new business opportunity raises a number of unknowns, but entrepreneurs won’t know if they will succeed unless they try. With the right amount of grit and passion, first-time owners can successfully navigate the for-sale market to find the business that suits their lifestyle and goals. “Life is an adventure - live it to the fullest,” Beth says.