Glamping Business Americas | July/August 2022

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he Coal Burned Spoon Sanctuary is an incredibly ambitious project to create a unique, food-focused eco-glamping experience on roughly 500 acres of wild forest in the mountains of western Maine. In February of this year Karen Bolduc, who co-owns The Coal Burned Spoon Sanctuary alongside her husband John Bolduc, finally finished her search for funding, a search that took 547 days. Securing funding is often the most difficult and exhausting part of a project. Will Rusbridge, Editor of Glamping Business Americas, caught up with Karen to hear about her journey and the lessons that she has learnt along the way.

“We knew we wanted a place to showcase and share the beauty and bounty of our gorgeous home state of Maine. We know that there is profound healing to be had in nature, and in food.”

Karen Bolduc

John Bolduc

“When my husband John and I first began our site search 3 years ago, it was a very intentional and deliberate process for us with a clear idea that we wanted to launch a glamping business together,” says Karen. “We knew we wanted a place to showcase and share the beauty and bounty of our gorgeous home state of Maine. We know that there is profound healing to be had in nature, and in food. Simultaneously, we also saw a large underserved market of travelers burnt out with so-called “experiential” vacations, that were really just repackaged goods and services for consumption.” Looking for the perfect location, Karen and John, “bushwacked, hiked, snowshoed and snowmobiled our way through nearly 50 properties.” During this search they saw places that were promising on paper, but in person the land just fell flat. Eventually, they came across some land in Greenwood that, “had everything we

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wanted, plus the magic, a feeling you had in your gut that the land was particularly special, tapped on the shoulder by destiny to be great. It was the unicorn that we had been searching for and we couldn’t pass it up.” Using their own money, they purchased the land and the search for funding to create their glamping sanctuary began. Karen originally thought that they would have to sell equity to fund the project, “We had been told repeatedly that traditional lenders wouldn’t touch a “speculative” deal like ours with a 100-foot pole, so we just accepted that debt-financing wasn’t an option and thus aggressively and diligently went about looking for equity.” Being a self-confessed introvert, who loathes persuasion and selling, Karen found this to be “exhausting and miserable work,” but, “I went through the motions - developed a business plan and pitch deck, had a feasibility study done, and grew our network of high-net-worth individuals. Some reached out to us after we received a little press, some we met attending glamping industry summits around the US, some were friends of family or friends of friends of family, some were active investors met at competitions I pitched in; and each one would lead to another. We met several dozen potential investors this way, and after a year of often discouraging but generally enlightening conversations to try to attract investment on the project one thing became clear: investors won’t invest until you’ve proven your concept on your own nickel first - at least not if your concept is brand new, as ours was.” This was among the biggest problem that Karen and The Coal Burned Spoon Sanctuary went through. Investors like to bet on proven quantities, if it’s been done before, then there is information on what went right and what went wrong; ideas to adopt and pitfalls to avoid. But something new and innovative, no matter how good the idea, comes with risk. “Investors had heard of high-end glamping where butlers serve you in your safari tent and chandeliers light your “rustic” sleeping quarters,