Early on, Ed Metzendorf knew he was on to something. After a career spent counseling, directing, and eventually opening up a startup based on camping, Metzendorf saw a desperate need for flexible, single-gender summer camps in Westchester. In 2015, he opened his first Next Level Day Camp for girls in New Rochelle and hasn’t looked back — opening up a second successful camp for boys just last year.
“Right after I launched [the first camp]…there was such excitement about the concept,” he says. “The community was so excited to have a camp where they knew the girls would have a chance to develop their self-esteem and confidence.”
For Metzendorf, a little social media advertising and a healthy dose of word of mouth was all it took for the camp to take off. “Next Level Camp for Girls averaged 70 campers in 2015 and rose about 60 percent in its second summer to nearly 115 girls each week,” he shares. The concept arose from Metzendorf’s own experiences with the pros and cons of camping.
“When I was growing up at summer camp in the ‘70s and ‘80s, full-summer camps were the only option; but working professionally in camp-related businesses for two decades, I saw that what parents really wanted were shorter sessions and flexible registration policies, especially around Westchester, where families are typically balancing a variety of different options and travel plans,” says Metzendorf.
The camps’ programs are designed to help children learn and practice skills such as independence, leadership, and conflict-resolution “while having fun in single-gender camps, where they are free from worrying about what the opposite gender is thinking about them,” explains Metzendorf. “That freedom can be very empowering for boys and girls alike, and parents want that for their children.”
This empowerment has certainly hit home with a wealth of Westchesterites. “When the Boys’ camp launched in the summer of 2016, it also averaged about 70 campers in year one and is on pace to grow about 60 percent in year two,” notes Metzendorf, who believes the market for clientele within the county remains one of the driving forces behind the camps’ success. “I was very fortunate to have great growth over the last year—and I think that is the best indication that Next Level Day Camps is really filling a need in Westchester,” he says. “Revenue grew about 250 percent from year one to year two.” Metzendorf also stresses that his staff serves as the “secret sauce” in making his camps such a success.
Next Level locations offer traditional day camp activities such as skill-based individual and team sports as well as various electives including cooking, CrossFit, radio broadcasting, and others. Flexible sessions allow for full or half-day enrollment, for one or more consecutive or non-consecutive weeks throughout the summer, with an average weekly cost of $675 for girls and $655 for boys. Half-day sessions cost approximately $530. It is this flexibility and ability to tailor programs and enrollment to individual clients that, Metzendorf feels, makes his camps stand out from others in the area.
“My main focus right now is balancing quality and growth. I am always very concerned that we continue to manage the personal relationships and attention to detail that has helped Next Level Day Camps become a first choice for many families in the 914 area,” says Metzendorf. “We have been offered numerous expansion opportunities, and we are exploring options that will allow us to serve more children with the same high-quality staff and programs. Our goal is to open additional locations for both boys and girls over the next few years.”