Connecting people to nature. It’s a simple idea and the genesis for zWORKS member Chris Jackson’s start up, Revival Recreation, founded in 2019. Some might remember the company name when Chris won the “People’s Choice” award at the inaugural zWORKS Pitch Night. A win he calls “proof of concept.”
Chris was first introduced to zWORKS through his close friend, zWORKS Board President and ongoing business mentor Paul Dreier. Paul encouraged Chris to join, so he could utilize the community, resources, and opportunity offered by zWORKS. The membership has proven invaluable to Chris’ journey.
Chris says “entrepreneurship is a lonely endeavor” and discovered the community zWORKS provided him resources needed for the twists and turns (known and unknown) ahead. His business isn’t the traditional tech-related, coworking, zWORKS startup. A retired US Air Force explosive ordnance disposal team leader, Chris wanted to create a glamping experience for the non-camper. His original idea was to simply set up a glamp site for his customers and take it down when they were done.
After retiring from the military, Chris earned his bachelor’s degree in leadership psychology and a graduate degree in outdoor recreation, while also completing the Syracuse University Veteran Entrepreneurship in residence program at Purdue University. This business foundation told him his idea was good, but the question remained: how do I scale it?
Chris consulted fellow zWORKS members including The Growth Coach Bob Paden and TRG Web Design. He formed a board of advisors that includes Dreier and zWORKS member, Jon Sheedy, founder and principal of Bull Capital. Chris says he “leaned on the support of the community to fail fast, learn, and succeed.”
In the fall 2019, he also met with Zionsville resident Hunter Smith, former Colts punter and owner of WonderTree Farm over breakfast. Chris remembers they talked for hours, a conversation that foreshadowed his future.
With fellow zWORKers input, advice, guidance and a small stipend from his People’s Choice win, Chris got to work shifting his business model to develop Glampfitter LLC, a campground outfitting company dedicated to partnering with existing campsites by outfitting glampgrounds nationwide at KOAs and other locations. The 2020 New Year would be the official launch.
In February 2020, Chris brought Glampfitters to the Indianapolis Boat Sport and Travel show where over 100,000 people experienced his Glamp setups over the course of one week. With the assistance of advisory board member’s Jon and Paul, they left the show with over $250,000 in contracts ready to be finalized at the end of March. Startup was feeling successful.
Then bam—COVID19 began closing the country. The orders were cancelled, and Chris was back to square one. What could he do with four glamp setups in a country quarantined during a historic pandemic?
On a whim, Chris called Hunter at WonderTree Farm to see if he was interested in outfitting a few glampsites (Chris’ display merchandise) during the summer. The two met. What was supposed to be a 30-minute conversation turned into a six hour vision-casting session. They discovered a mutual vision: connecting people to nature and the land.
Hunter started WonderTree farm to build something for his family for generations to come. Growing up on a ranch in Texas, he understood and believed in regenerative farming practices. He wanted to create a system with processes to prove how effective farming benefits the land while bringing fresh food options to the community. Chris was ready to focus and streamline many business operations of the farm while bringing people to the site for a glamping experience.
Four glamp sites were set up and sold out at WonderTree farms in 2020. The glamping experience allowed people to experience the farm while gaining insight and education to regenerative farming practices that benefits community, quality of food, and life of the animals. Overnight guests book a site and get to order fresh eggs, bacon, meat and other items to cook (grills included) during their stay.
Chris and Hunter poured entrepreneurial energies into operations by updating the point of sale system, creating business processes, installing new freezers, and managing costs by finding ways to partner with local farmers and business owners.
Ultimately, the two have developed a shared vision for an AgrilPark model, dedicated to becoming a food staple provider for people living in the surrounding 10 miles and creating job opportunities for the community. WonderTree Farm includes Indiana’s first drive-through farmers market that allows community members to visit the farm and purchase fresh meat, eggs, raw dairy and other food items.
When Chris reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, he credits zWORKS saying, “My successes in this community are solely based on my connections at zWORKS.”
About WonderTree Farms
- Located at 2280 US 421 Zionsville
- The glamping season opens April 15. Get rates, options and book a stay on the website.
- The WonderTree Farm Market is open Tuesday to Friday. Hours vary
About Regenerative Farming
- Regenerative farming focuses on building soil health. This allows farmers to invest in their farmland for future generations.
- Regenerative farming is good for the environment. Regenerative farming practices help to decrease CO2 emissions.