Meet Tammi Leader Fuller, Founder and CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of Campowerment, and the woman, who, I swear, changed my life in just 72 hours. She would argue that she just built the (Campowerment) door and I walked through it, but even when I walked out the door back to my everyday reality, she still had and continues to have my back. I just got back from my second Campowerment retreat and I am going back for more in November. What can I say…I’m addicted. Trust me when I say you will be too! Read on as Tammi talks Campowerment, starting over, and why every woman needs this magical weekend in their lives.
A guilt-ridden, stressed out single mom, wondering when and why I signed up for this insane web of a life I had spun for myself.
The Beginnings of Campowerment
I am who I am today because of summer camp, my happy place. In my twenties, after I outgrew childhood camp, I became a Club Med counselor (a G.O.) for grown ups, probably because I am obsessed with the concept of playtime and the joy it brings to life. I think I became a TV Producer because I was a spirited camp girl (truth: I majored in Journalism cuz there was no school on Fridays!), and meeting interesting people and telling their stories was a very cool way to make a living.
In 2005, Harper Collins published a book I co-wrote with five other overworked professional women about how having it all is not having it all, at all. We called ourselves The Miami Bombshells because of all the bombshells we dropped when we first came together as strangers over wine and chocolate, struggling to juggle all that life was throwing at us. When we launched our book on national TV (what a party that was, as all our friends gathered outside in the rain, holding giant signs of our book cover!), it resonated because we were strangers with no past, coming together, without judgement or any history, to support and elevate each other. Together, we came to understand that we’re all the same, carrying those proverbial rocks in our backpacks. We learned, together, that burdens just aren’t as heavy when friends help you lift. After appearing on some TV shows, our website crashed from all the requests from women who wanted to connect with their own tribes of women, just as we did.
And Camp Was Born
That’s how our first, very primitive camp was born. 17 Camp Bombshells later, The Today Show called it one of America’s best girlfriend getaways, but after a few years, we shut it down because BOTH my sisters and one of my Bombshell sisters got breast cancer. Everyone got better (knock wood) and then, the Producers of Menopause the Musical wrote a fabulously relate-able original play based on our book, that we were sure was going to Broadway (LOL). It closed in 2009 after 6 weeks at a regional theater in Miami, and it was time to go back to TV so my kids could eat. I took a big job in L.A. to help create a TV show about changing your life, and began to notice how many fabulous experts I had collected in all my years in TV. Doctors, therapists, trailblazers, authors, and thought leaders with the power to help people shift and let go of all that was holding them back. And that’s when I knew, deep in my soul, it was time to marry this camp idea with the empowering of women who had impressed and inspired me over my 34-year career.
Pulling It Off
In 2012, I went to the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert to figure out how I was gonna pull that off and voila! In my head, Campowerment was born. I wasn’t sure how I was gonna pull it off, but I just did what I knew how to do, treated it as a live TV production, and was blown away by the response. I didn’t realize how badly women need a place to unplug, out in nature, and now,17 camps and more than 3000 happy campers later, we’re off and running, helping women reignite their lives in a hilariously fun, empowering kinda way. At camp. Go figure.
The C.E.O. (Chief Empowerment Officer)
It means I run the company as its CEO-but the other side of my job is to help empower others to recognize their own gifts, figure out what they’re supposed to be doing with this life and to leap without a net into the future they’re dreaming about right now. When that clicks for people, magic happens.
A Family Business
No better people to work with than those with my blood running through them. Building this from scratch was way more fun with my mom and daughters by my side, and every single day, we’re learning something new about ourselves and each other, and what women really want and need. We all bring a different kind of talent to the table, but the best thing we can do some days is try and stay out of each other’s lanes. We have 52 years between us from top to bottom but I am amazed by how easily we communicate and relate to each other. Because we’re in this for the right reasons, to pay it forward, I think that’s why it’s working.
Why not? When I went looking for a camp to go to with my girlfriends, it didn’t exist. That’s all I had to hear…
Why not? We are the ones who are struggling to juggle all that life throws at us today. It’s all coming at us so fast, and our needs seem to always get pushed to the bottom of our to do lists. In the TV world, I had a lot of women in my ear complaining about not being all that happy with the choices they’ve made that landed them there. And so many of them seemed to be searching for their life purpose. So it was only natural to start with women only. We do run co-ed corporate and group custom programs, and we do have a lot of men asking when they get to go to camp. Men often write us in despair, asking for tools to help them deal with newly empowered partners! Patience, we tell them. It’s on the drawing board.
The Typical Camper
They are 21 to 80 years old, and they come from all over the globe. We don’t know what they do for a living because they’re not allowed to share that for the first 24 hours. After the first day, no one really cares anyway. You’ve got to be a pretty cool chick to come to Campowerment and take a complete leap of faith, because we don’t leak the schedule to anyone until just before the bugle blows. This is a challenge for those alpha women who are used to being in control all the time, but they quickly learn that it’s only by making themselves uncomfortable that growth happens. And so they have no choice but to trust us and let go. And that’s when their journey begins.
What Women Come Looking For
Sometimes they come looking for the lighthearted little girl they used to know. Sometimes they come just to laugh, play, bond and disconnect to reconnect with themselves and a sisterhood of women in the same boat, paddling upstream. Sometimes they come to get over or learn how to release something that’s been holding them back. Sometimes they come to bring in a new perspective that had not been available to them before. We like to say you don’t get what you want at Campowerment, you get what you need, though I think it’s fair to say that most of us have no idea what that is when we get to camp!
What They Leave With
Their rightfully earned spot in a very cool tribe of fabulous women. Their mojo. Their confidence. A deep connection to themselves. A plan. And some forever friends.
Choosing the Experts
Every expert has been hand-picked by me. She has to be someone who I’ve learned from—with some kind of a pedigree—someone whose insight blew me away and helped me change something in my life that wasn’t working. We have nearly 100 experts in our arsenal, and a huge waiting list of other gifted professionals who want in. I’m always meeting with new experts, changing up the program. No two camps are ever the same.
When People Think You’re Crazy
Camp is not for everyone. We sleep in cabins together and that can get a little uncomfortable. But that’s when growth happens. It makes me sad to hear women say they won’t come because they don’t want to “rough it” or dig up what they’ve so perfectly covered up in their own lives. Knowledge is power, and our program doesn’t tear people down. It builds them up and gives them tools to help them make their lives better, not worse. When people say they are not camp people, I show them our video. If they still don’t get it, I drop it. They’re just not our people.
On Women Making Excuses
Bottom line? Women don’t believe they deserve this. They don’t want to spend the money on themselves (funny, by the second day, so many tell us we’re not charging enough for the experience) or they think their families or their jobs or their partners won’t be able to manage without them for 3.5 days. The week before camp, we always have a record number of requests from campers who want to cancel for whatever reason they can come up with. That’s why we had to put our strict cancellation policy in place. If we allowed it, most women would likely surrender to the needs of others before putting their own first.
A Wonderful Mom and a Successful Entrepreneur
Thank you! I am finally drinking my own Kool Aid and think I may have finally figured out this work-life balance thing. By making time for me every single day, in between the demands of family and work, I am a better mom and boss. I have a crazy ridiculous amount of energy, which I think you need if you’re gonna blow up your life to follow your dream in your mid-fifties. But make no mistake here. I’m living the dream and count my blessings every single day. For real. Even as my college friends are retiring and I’m working way too many hours a day, every day, to help women like me get happy again.
On The Future of Campowerment
If I told you I’d have to pulverize you!
We All Need a Campowerment Weekend
Campowerment is the only place I have ever been to, where everyone is FOR each other. It’s mind boggling actually. There is not a woman on this planet who wouldn’t benefit from a weekend like this. Every one of us knows someone who needs this. Please, please, please pay it forward and share our video on your social media platforms. The more women we can get to come play with us and re-ignite their lives, the happier we will all be.
BIO: Tammi Leader Fuller is an Emmy-Award winning TV Producer who walked out of the Control Room and into the woods, to help people disconnect to reconnect, find their purpose, and their Tribe. Tammi’s the CEO of Campowerment: sleepaway camp for grown ups, and the power behind a movement that’s equipping women to transform their own lives through the power of play, blended with insight from America’s top Experts. Tammi spent three decades covering network news for NBC News and the Today Show, CBS News, EXTRA, PBS and America’s Most Wanted. In 2005, Tammi partnered with five accomplished South Florida business women — known together as the “Miami Bombshells” — to co-author “Dish and Tell” (Harper Collins), a book of anecdotes to help women understand they are not alone in their struggle to juggle all life throws their way. Tammi’s now running Campowerment with her 80 year old College Writing professor mom and her 28 year old Marketing Exec daughter by her side, giving women of all ages an intergenerational platform to grow and learn and share some of life’s universal lessons, through hilarious laughter and coaching and a roadmap to help them elevate their lives.Three years, 16 weekend retreats and 3000 happy campers later, Campowerment’s getting shout outs from Oprah, MORE, Forbes and Parade Magazines, the TODAY Show, The Hollywood Reporter, LA Times, Miami Herald, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, as the place where adults go to learn how to live better, and figure out what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives.