When people ask Rachel Bredemus what she does for a living, she usually responds with: “Have you ever seen the movie The Parent Trap? Well, that’s what I do.”
For the last 25 years, Rachel and her husband Terry have owned Camp Birchwood; an all-girls summer camp hidden deep in the woods of Northern Minnesota. Sitting on 400 acres of wilderness, Camp Birchwood is dotted with charming log cabins connected by intertwining wood chip paths. Follow these paths and you’ll stumble upon the 25+ activities the camp offers including mountain biking, rock climbing, campfire cooking, archery, riflery, and arts and crafts. Past the dining hall and shower house, you’ll find the sailboat dock nestled in the sandy shore of Steamboat Lake, where campers spend time swimming, water skiing, tubing, canoeing and kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing.
Opened in 1958, Camp Birchwood has been owned and operated by generations of the Bredemus family for more than 60 years. In her time as director, Bredemus has experienced a fair share of reactions to her unique career.
“I would say the responses I get are mostly positive, but it also feels like sometimes they don’t take me seriously,” Bredemus says. “To some people, it sounds more like a ‘hobby’ job than a legitimate career.”
One common misconception is that Bredemus only works during the summer months.
“That’s always one of the first questions I get asked: ‘Well, what do you do in the winter?!”
However, the winter months are some of the busiest for the Bredemus family. Working out of their home office in Lawrence, Kansas, the couple spends the off-season hiring staff, communicating with camp families, promoting at camp fairs, and getting everything ready for the following summer. In these winter months, Bredemus tries to create a work environment that feels distinctive from her home life.
“I get up every day and try to get to ‘the office’ by 9:00 a.m.,” Bredemus says. “I usually do my hair and makeup and I wear something real, like I don’t go in my pajamas. For me, that helps me feel like I’m actually going to work. When you work from home it’s so easy to get distracted, and before you know you can end up doing laundry and cooking dinner instead of actually working on the business.”
Although there can be distractions, Bredemus says there are also benefits to working from home.
“I think a lot of people really think being your own boss is ideal,” Bredemus says. “And the flexibility, that is amazing. I don’t know how well I would do with a 9-5 job because flexibility is just such a commodity and I’m lucky enough to have a lot of that in my life.”
While being your own boss comes with benefits like flexibility, Bredemus says that the job doesn’t come without sacrifice. Since Camp Birchwood is so closely tied with their family identity, the Bredemuses are always careful to present themselves in a way that reflects camp values: even when that means sacrificing certain parts of self-expression. In an effort to be conscientious of their image, the couple refrains from doing things like sharing opinions on Facebook and putting political candidate signs in their yard. Bredemus says that it also comes down to the overlap between their business and personal lives. She remarks that many of their friends are also their clients: parents who send their daughters to camp year after year. This crossover of personal and work life has influenced the way Bredemus markets camp.
“A few years ago, I realized that I wasn’t conveying the magic of camp the way I wanted to. Camp is all about being authentic and rooted in the truth, and I felt like I wasn’t able to do that when I was ‘selling camp’. I felt like I had become commercial instead of just speaking the truth.”
Today, Bredemus says camp is all about teaching and empowering young women to become leaders.
“Camp has become a little bit less built on the idea of a traditional sleep-away camp image, but more on how we’re changing girls’ lives and how we’re changing the way girls work with one another.”
Due to the impact of COVID-19, Camp Birchwood has had to adapt its structure for Summer 2020. While changes are still underway, Bredemus hopes to open camp for its scheduled second session in early July. Learn more about Camp Birchwood for Girls by visiting their website at www.campbirchwood.com.
Cass County, Minnesota
Disclaimer: In an attempt at full transparency, we disclose the author is a current employee of the Bredemus family. This post is not sponsored by or paid promotion for Camp Birchwood for Girls. All opinions are those of the author individually, and not of Camp Birchwood for Girls or its affiliated companies.