All in: how Sarah Dusek risked everything to build a $100 million glamping empire
“Sarah Dusek started Under Canvass with her husband and by the time she stepped down from a leadership role in the company it was worth more than $100 million,” shares Sam Thompson a Minneapolis business broker and the president of M&A firm Transitions In Business. “Hear how Sarah sold her majority shares to private equity and held onto 25% to be in position to enjoy the second bite of the apple.”
Sarah Dusek and her husband started Under Canvass, which offered large-scale tented hotels (think “glamping”) outside national parks around the U.S.
The business got off to a successful start, and within five years, Dusek had four locations, which were collectively generating $3 million in EBITDA. Rather than sit still, Dusek decided she wanted to grow much larger and raised $16 million of capital made up of a combination of equity and mezzanine debt at a rate of 13%, which Dusek personally guaranteed.
The stress of having her entire net worth tied to her business eventually caught up to Dusek, and she decided to sell a majority stake of her business to a private equity group (KSL Capital). Dusek rolled 25% of her equity and stayed on as CEO. By the time she stepped down from her leadership role, Under Canvass was worth more than $100 million. This episode is jampacked with insights, including how to:
- Use venture debt to finance your growth.
- Avoid a common mistake in raising venture capital.
- Vet potential investors.
- Raise money for your business without giving up equity.
- Jack up the value of your business in the eyes of an acquirer.
- Decide the right time to sell.