It's Your Business: Camps business goes international

It's Your Business: Camps business goes international

Tom and Julie Monahan put on weeklong specialty camps for kids — and now they're doing it internationally.

Their company is called WeAreCamps.com, and they send crews all over the U.S. and abroad to coordinate the camps.

"Our instructors are normally University of Illinois students," Julie Monahan said. "We have crews going all over the country and going to ... Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy."

The Monahans, who live in Champaign, got involved with camps after buying a canoe/kayak outfitting business in southeast Georgia in 2004.

As Julie tells it, the Monahans didn't know what to do with their two young daughters while running the shop.

"We came up with the idea of an outdoor camp loosely based on 'Survivor,'" she said. "We could spend more time with our children, and it was something to keep them busy."

The Monahans ran the camp for three years in addition to running their store, she said.

Then another opportunity surfaced — running camps for children at U.S. Air Force base youth centers.

The Monahans competed against seven to 10 other companies for that contract, and none of the others had experience running camps for children, Julie Monahan said.

As a result, the Monahans were chosen to run "sideline sports" camps that exposed youth to nontraditional sports.

They began operating back-to-back camps over the summer at bases across the U.S.

After establishing a good working relationship with Air Force family services, the Monahans were then awarded a bid for a soccer camp that teaches skills and fundamentals of the sport.

Upon relocating to Illinois in 2010, they began hiring kinesiology and physical education students from the UI to work at the soccer camps.

Last year Air Force family services sought ideas for new camps, and the Monahans came up with the notion of a science camp. They got a contract to put on science camps on several bases, and were also asked to consider offering archery camps.

The science camps allow students to role-play and learn science through hands-on experiments, while the archery camps teach principles, such as how to stand, set up, string, aim and release.

The Monahans train instructor crews in advance of the camps.

"By the second week of June, we have all the crews on the road," Julie Monahan said.

Now the family hopes to grow the business, expanding WeAreCamps.com to serve other branches of the military and the civilian sector.

The camps give kids a chance to "not be on cellphones and to not be behind an Xbox," Julie Monahan said.

Julie Monahan, who has a background in human resources, training and development, said she and her husband understand how the Air Force works and how to run mobile camps.

Though some camp instructors come from the UI, the Monahans also have hired specialists from South Dakota, Arkansas, New York, Florida and other places as instructors for science and archery camps.

The Monahans' daughters are now teenagers helping with the business. Lauren, 16, has been an assistant science instructor, and both she and Gabby, 15, take part in the final interview of prospective instructors to make sure they work well with youths.

Twist for the Corkscrew

Sherwin-Williams will open a new store in the former Corkscrew building in downtown Urbana.

Jeff Voelker, manager of the current Sherwin-Williams store at 1504 N. Cunningham Ave., U, said he expects the move to take place around the start of the new year, with remodeling scheduled to take place over the next few months.

Voelker said the new store, at 203 N. Vine St., U — across the street from the Schnucks plaza — will be "a little bigger" than Sherwin-Williams' current space at Northgate Plaza.

In addition to supplying paint, Sherwin-Williams sells drywall supplies and fluid applied roof systems. It also rents out pumps and pressure washers, Voelker said.

The store currently employs five, and Voelker said the store may get its own decorative products specialist once it moves to the new location.

The Corkscrew closed its Urbana store in 2014 after 15 years at that location.

More space for Maurices

The Maurices store at Tanger Outlets in Tuscola is substantially bigger now that it has moved to a new location.

Maurices opened June 5 in its new space next to the Lane Bryant store on the south side of the center. It was previously located east of Harry and David's on the center's north side.

Manager Sherry Smith said that with the move, the women's clothing store picked up larger sizes — 14 to 24 — so it now carries sizes 1 to 24.

The store also added employees, partly in anticipation of higher summer traffic, and now has a staff of 12, Smith said.

Maurices is part of the Ascena Retail Group, which also operates Dressbarn, Lane Bryant and Justice at the outlet center.

New digs for Sports Den

So what's up with the old Maurices space at Tanger Outlets?

That's now the home of The Sports Den, a college apparel and sportswear store that opened July 6 in the space between Perfumania and Harry & David's.

The store carries apparel for area universities — including the UI, Eastern Illinois University and Millikin University — plus Tuscola Warriors sportswear and pro sports apparel, said Craig Spencer, who supervises the Tuscola store and a related store in Iowa City, Iowa.

The Sports Den also sells customized apparel, with screen printing done by Den Graphix in LeRoy.

The Sports Den is the latest in a long line of stores founded by Paul Bartlett. One of those stores was Discount Den, which operated several years on Green Street in Champaign's Campustown.

Spencer said Bartlett's first store was a Discount Den in Bloomington, followed by a second store in Normal. That was followed by stores in Bloomington, Ind., and Muncie, Ind., he said.

Today the group of stores includes: Campustown Supply in Normal; Discount Den in West Lafayette, Ind.; The Den Party Store in Kalamazoo, Mich; and The Den in Iowa City, Iowa, he added.

The corporate office, warehouse and screen printing business are all in LeRoy.

The phone number for the new 3,800-square-foot store in Tuscola is 253-4329. The website is thesportsden.com.

Scintillating science

Making science more understandable is the idea behind Scinch, a Champaign-based company that sells products designed to help kids enjoy science.

The products include at-home experiment kits, card games and a book, "Harry the Hydrogen Goes to Space."

The co-founders of Scinch include: Jackie Rankin and Jen Esbenshade, doctoral candidates in inorganic and materials chemistry, respectively, at the UI; John Overcash, a UI chemistry lecturer; and Jackie's husband, Kory, a civil engineer who is vice president of business operations for Scinch.

Jackie Rankin said the company started last November and its first product was a deck of cards.

The first 10 elements in the periodic table — hydrogen through neon — are featured on the ace-through-10 cards, and vanadium, mercury and gold are spotlighted on the jack, queen and king cards.

Each card presents a different fact about the element.

"Harry the Hydrogen Goes to Space" is a 23-page book that explores the nature of hydrogen and how stars are formed.

Also available is a "gases and pressure" experiment kit.

"We've had pretty even sales of everything. The book might be the most popular," Jackie Rankin said.

For a better understanding of the Scinch products, visit the company's website, scinch.com.

Monticello merger

May, Cocagne & King — a tax, accounting and consulting firm with offices in Decatur and Monticello — is merging its Monticello office with Prairie Financial Group, a Monticello tax, accounting and consulting firm owned by David S. Brown.

Brown was named partner in charge of May, Cocagne & King's Monticello office, effective July 1.

He succeeds Alan King, who is retiring after 38 years as partner in charge of the Monticello office.

May, Cocagne & King is relocating its office to 8 Opal Drive in Monticello. The firm can be reached at 762-7717 or 762-3136 or by email at dbrown@mckcpa.com.

Brown, a certified public accountant, has owned and operated Prairie Financial Group for 16 years and specializes in serving farming and agricultural industries.

Managing partner Andrew Thomas said he is confident Brown's background as an adviser and tax specialist — particularly in the agriculture sector — will serve customers well.

The cold facts

The Schnucks supermarket in Champaign will get new refrigeration and freezer equipment later this summer.

A building permit has been issued for about $1.3 million of work at the store, 109 N. Mattis Ave., C.

"Customers at the store will soon notice upgrades in refrigerator and freezer cases" around the perimeter of the store, company spokesman Paul Simon said.

That will include the produce, frozen foods and dairy sections, he said.

"The meat, bakery and seafood departments will all see upgrades of cases," he added.

Simon said the work is expected to begin later this month and take about two months to complete.

"Much of the work will be done at night to keep inconvenience to customers at a minimum," he said.

Simon said the newer equipment will be more energy-efficient than existing cases and will have better temperature control.

When things don't compute ...

Rantoul Press Editor Dave Hinton reports that Computer Repair & More has opened at 111 N. Garrard St. in downtown Rantoul.

Owner Shawn Neil works on both PCs and Macs. He makes house calls, repairs hardware and does virus removal.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and by appointment Fridays and Saturdays.

Neil can be reached at 418-6022 or at shawn@computerrepairandmore.net.

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