On this week’s episode of Can Do: Lessons from Savvy Montana Entrepreneurs, host Arnie Sherman talks with Kampgrounds of America President Toby O’Rourke, the first woman president in the company’s 56-year history.
KOA got its start in 1962 in Billings, Montana when the sight of travelers heading west on Highway 10 towards the Seattle World's Fair sparked the imaginations of a group of business people. Noticing the numbers of people overnighting by the side of the road, they created a campground along the Yellowstone River where, for $1.75 a night, travelers could pitch their tents near a picnic table, fire ring and a hot shower.
KOA adopted a franchise structure, and the number of campgrounds across North America exploded. It's still based in Billings, where O'Rourke, herself a native Montanan, oversees a company whose focus remains providing clean, safe, inviting places to stay for tent and RV campers. Today, plenty of KOA campgrounds also serve as destination resorts, featuring their own parklets, organized bus tours to nearby attractions, access to wifi, and more.
Listen and learn on this episode of Can Do: how the recreation industry is evolving; how to create a feeling of community among your many franchises; and what role technology will play in the future of outdoor-focused businesses.