Glamping Startup Under Canvas Serves Up a High-End Hotel Experience Under the Stars

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Sarah Dusek is Cofounder and CEO of Under Canvas, a pioneer of the “glamping” — glamorous camping — industry, and a lover of all things travel. Under Canvas offers a luxury camping experience right outside of an expanding portfolio of U.S. national parks. With high-end amenities including king size beds with luxury linens, en suite bathrooms, and a daily housekeeping service, it’s the perfect option for people who want to be immersed in nature without roughing it.

Sarah Dusek and her Under Canvas Cofounder and husband Jacob Dusek are both former overseas aid workers who eventually began to feel that their work wasn’t making enough of an impact on a macro level. They decided that building an innovative business with a positive mission would be a more effective way to generate positive change the world. The idea for Under Canvas is based on Sarah and Jacob Dusek’s shared belief that being outdoors changes people’s lives for the better. By making the great outdoors more accessible, Under Canvas is able to provide more people with access to a life-changing experience.  

Under Canvas Glamping, Glacier National Park

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Name: Sarah Dusek

Company: Under Canvas

Job Title: Co-Founder & CEO

Currently based in: Bozeman, Montana

Originally from: United Kingdom

Your superpower: Relentlessness and persistence — I never give up!

One thing on your bucket list: Visiting Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina/Brazil.

A woman in history you admire & why: Mother Teresa. She had an incredible gift to look into people’s eyes and see value, worth, and love. She could see things no one else could. She had a vision and made it her mission in life. She was true to who she was, and she believed she could accomplish incredible things just by touching one life.

A current woman you admire & why: Oprah Winfrey. She has obsessively encouraged women to be the best version of themselves, which is something all women need to know they’re capable of.

Quote/piece of advice that you live by: “Our obstacles are our greatest opportunities.”

under canvas
Jacob and Sarah Dusek, Founders of Under Canvas

What inspired you to start Under Canvas?

We had a vision to bring the safari experience to the United States. We set out to be a bridge for people who could never imagine going camping, or people who thought that they’d never have an outdoors adventure. We wanted to make the outdoors accessible in comfort and style.

What are you and Under Canvas doing to make history today?

We are pioneering a whole new industry in the U.S. —  the “glamping” industry! We are leading the way into a new genre of the outdoor experience, reimagining what sustainable/experiential travel looks like, setting new standards regarding how much water and power hotels need to utilize, and creating new, innovative designs that wow our guests!

What is one thing you have accomplished through Under Canvas that you are most proud of?

There are a few accomplishments I’m very proud of. (1) Creating four incredible glamping destinations to date that provide wonderful guest experiences. (2) Building a company that will do almost $20 million in revenue this year after starting from nothing just seven years ago. (3) Using 87% percent less water than a standard hotel. I’m also proud to have over 200 staff who have embraced this journey with us to create the most incredible adventure travel company.

What is one project you are currently working on that you are most excited about?

We have three new Under Canvas locations opening in 2018: Mount Rushmore, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains. I’m very excited for those!

Inside of one of Under Canvas's glamping tents

What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry today?

The need for standardization. Guests should be able to easily and quickly know what to expect, and figure out what the best experience is for them!

What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?

I foresee people spending more money on experiences than material things. I believe this will become even more of an emphasis as we look to disconnect from our technological world in order to reconnect with each other.

What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced while building Under Canvas?

As a bootstrapped company, our greatest challenges in terms of growing the company are often related to being short on funds. It was incredibly stressful to constantly have to juggle the ins and outs [of our cash flow] as we stepped into new ventures, We had to believe that our new ventures would succeed, even when we didn’t necessarily have all of the funds required [to make it work].

However, we never let ourselves be limited by what we had in the bank. We never let our bank account balance dictate our future. I’m a firm believer in the phrase, “If you build it….they will come!” We’ve never looked at an opportunity and thought, “We could do that [because] we have plenty of resources to make that happen!” We’ve had to face constant challenges and lack of funds, but that never stopped us from thinking beyond where we were [at that moment]. Persevering against all odds and pushing against barriers [to success] has been a constant theme of our business journey!

What were you doing before your current role?

I spent my early twenties working for nonprofit organizations in Africa and the Far East. I’ve always been a pioneer at heart, so I dive head-first into new, unchartered territory, trying to make something new happen!

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?

Never give up. If you believe in yourself, you can move mountains!

Are there any great resources you have discovered that you would like to share?

The EY Winning Women program is an incredible resource and networking opportunity for women entrepreneurs.

Fun fact about yourself:

I like to journal every day!

For more on Under Canvas:

Website // Instagram // Twitter // Facebook // YouTube

If you are interested in job opportunities or partnerships with UnderCanvas, click here.

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