b'MoreBlackEntrepreneurs,DespiteUnique Obstacles, Strive to Become Park DevelopersnBY JEFF CRIDER Steven and Shellie Green Nathan and Alicia LawsonSteven and Shellie Green, Black entrepreneurs who have been pur-suing their dream of campground ownership for several years, finally brokegroundJan.28onGreens Campground Hideaway in Hender-son, N.C., a 37-site park that they eventually plan to expand to 60 sites. They are part of a still small, but growingnumberofBlack-owned campground owners and developers across the country who are bringing greater diversity to the North Amer-ican campground arena. In fact, Black entrepreneurs are planning to develop at least 15 new campgrounds,mostlyinsouthern states, according to Alicia Lawson, a Black entrepreneur who built Time Away RV Resort in 2021 in Lincoln, Ala., and with her husband, Nathan, has spent the past three years offer-ing free educational seminars and business counseling to other aspir-ing minority park owners on how to develop RV parks and campgrounds. The Greens were among the first to attend those seminars held by the Lawsons, who last year soldtheir Time Away park.We would have never been ableproblems having our loan requestlonger take my calls. Based on her conversations withto develop Time Away RV Resort ifapproved, she said.TheLawsonspersevered,how-an array of aspiring park owners, Ali- we had relied on a bank loan, main- Nevertheless, Lawson said all fourever, and managed to raise funds to cia Lawson believes that construc- tains Lawson, noting that she origi- of their initial loan applications weredevelopTimeAwayRVResort tion could be underway on four ofnally applied for loans online fromdenied once she provided them withthrough other means, including sell-those 15 new Black-owned parks thisfour different banks and spoke withcopiesoftheirdriverslicenses,ing some of their existing residential year with others in the relatively neartheir representatives repeatedly bywhich revealed their ethnicity.real estate. After opening Time Away future.phone.I intentionally withheld our li- RVResortanddevelopingatrack TheLawsonstoldWoodallsLawson says these online lenderscenses until the end of the processrecordofsuccesswiththeirbusi-Campground Magazine (WCM) thatinitially offered encouraging wordswith the hope that our loan would beness,Lawsonsaidtheywerecon-they came up with the idea of offer- afterreviewingtheircreditscoresapproved based on our financial his- tacted by other lenders and offered ingfreebusinessseminarsandand other documentation and as- tory and business experience, shecredit, which they received. counseling to would-be Black parksessing their prior business experi- elaborated. The loan officers gaveNow,shesaid,whenImeet operatorsbecause,intheirview,ences building, owning and rentingme hope that our loan would be ap- with lenders, I share my past experi-thoseentrepreneursfaceuniquehomes. Allfourlenderswereen- proved based on our conversations.ences seeking loans from the four challenges in many communities asthused about our project and gaveThen, after submitting our drivers li- lenders and I tell them, I just want to a result of racial discrimination.us assurances that we would have nocenses,shesaid, theywouldnobe treated fairly. I think it breaks the ice and sets the stage for a more pro-ductive discussion and brings our relationship closer and elicits more honesty or straightforwardness from Despite running into obstacles, black park owners and developers are carving a path in the outdoor hospitality industry. 34 May 2023Woodalls Campground Magazine'