Friday, April 19, 2024

How CAMP CEO Ben Kaufman Turned SVB’s Collapse Into A Brand-Building Experience

Ben Kaufman doesn’t want you to forget the fear that he felt on March 10, 2023. That’s when the founder and CEO of CAMP, a national retail chain of “family experience” stores, was shocked to learn that Silicon Valley Bank had collapsed. Suddenly, Kaufman couldn’t access the cash he needed to operate the business. He wasn’t even sure if some of that capital might be lost forever.

So the veteran entrepreneur wrote an email and sent it out to CAMP’s entire customer list. “It was a cry for help,” says Kaufman. “We knew we had a loyal customer base that would maybe support us through the weekend.”

He followed that up with an Instagram post that featured a “BANKRUN” promo code of 40% off and an image of a downcast kid next to lines like “I never liked the bay area” and “this sucks.”

What followed was an overwhelming show of support—with more sales over the following 48 hours than he normally had in a month.

Now that the danger has passed with the government intervention to protect deposits, Kaufman can reflect on what he’s learned from his experience. It gave him a chance to get closer to his customers and the community that CAMP has built. It also made him recognize the vulnerabilities of being locked in to one bank.

“In the early days of CAMP, Silicon Valley Bank was the only bank willing to extend us a line of credit,” says Kaufman. “And one of the stipulations of having a line of credit with them—which, by the way, we no longer had—was that you had to keep all your deposits there.”

For more on the lessons learned from the crisis and where CAMP goes from here, click on the video above.

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