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Michigan Couple Turns Adventure into Success with KOA Campground Ownership

Mark and Karla Lemoine, a dynamic couple from Michigan, have made headlines after being featured on CNBC Make It. 

Trading in the stability of traditional employment, they embarked on an entrepreneurial journey that transformed their lives while boosting local tourism in the Benton Harbor area.

Previously holding secure positions within the Michigan state government, the couple chose to take a leap of faith, swapping their solid income for the opportunity to control their own destiny. Avid camping enthusiasts, Mark and Karla elected to plunge headlong into the world of business in 2016, with the purchase of the Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Holiday campground.

The $1.6 million investment saw them sell their house and dip into their life savings, a move that today seems like a masterstroke as the campground’s current valuation stands at an impressive $6 million. The Lemoines’ daring decision now serves as an inspirational testament to their courage and business acumen.

Nestled in the tranquil setting of Benton Harbor, Michigan, between the bustling cities of Grand Rapids and Chicago, the Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Holiday campground had been welcoming guests for 42 years prior to the Lemoines’ purchase. Mark and Karla saw a promise of potential in this old charm and decided to breathe new life into it.

“We saw the wear and tear of working for corporate America on Mark and on our family dynamics,” Karla said. “Now, owning our business, we’re the bosses. We create and manage stress. For us, it’s a healthier lifestyle. People think a steady job, a steady paycheck, and a good employer is security. Mark had been through a couple of downsizings in his career, and I think we just realized you can’t always count on [those things]. We decided to take control of our own future, our own destiny.”

Upon acquisition, the campground witnessed a series of renovations and enhancements. The Lemoines initiated changes that improved guest comfort and experience, upgrading the bathrooms, revamping the camp store, and introducing a café. But it didn’t stop there.

As seasoned campers themselves, the couple understood the rising demand for advanced recreational vehicle (RV) amenities and glamping units. Consequently, they added new accommodations, including RV Sites with KOA Patio™ and unique glamping tents, thus elevating the camping experience for their guests.

Mark described this transition as a “midlife reset where we just punch the button and did everything very different.” Their collective efforts and dedication have not gone unnoticed. Coloma/St. Joseph KOA Holiday has been recognized for its excellent service and visitor satisfaction, reflected in its net promoter score (NPS) of 91 for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. The couple’s success is also underlined by a remarkable growth in the campground’s performance, registering an 18% increase in nights and a staggering 77% rise in registration revenue since 2019.

Their innovative approach to traditional camping, and the unique blend of entrepreneurial spirit and industry knowledge, have earned Mark and Karla the coveted KOA’s “Rising Star” award, the highest recognition for new campgrounds within their first five years of ownership.

Today, the Lemoines continue their dedicated efforts to further enhance their campground. They view the thriving business not just as a source of income, but as a cherished asset, even a retirement fund, thereby underscoring their long-term commitment to their venture.

Featured image from Kampgrounds of America, Inc. 


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Hi, you might find this article from Modern Campground interesting: Michigan Couple Turns Adventure into Success with KOA Campground Ownership! This is the link: https://moderncampground.com/usa/michigan/michigan-couple-turns-adventure-into-success-with-koa-campground-ownership/