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The Power Of Knowing What You Want: How Sarah Dusek Led Under Canvas From Near Disaster to a 32x Multiple of EBITDA Exit

Case Story

2012 was on track to be the best yet for Sarah Dusek and her husband, Jacob.

The couple founded their glamping company, Under Canvas, in 2009 to bring the African safari experience to adventurers in the United States. Their dream was about to become a reality — Under Canvas was set to open for their first season on ten acres of land six miles outside Yellowstone National Park.

Sarah was ecstatic. The business was about to be up and running after she and Jacob had “bootstrapped the company from zero.” As the camp filled with glampers clamoring for a once-in-lifetime glamping experience, Mother Nature had other plans. A storm ripped through the camp and flattened every last tent.

Huddled in the car with her three-year-old and nine-month-old, Sarah looked out at the scene.


“I thought, ‘this is it,'” she says. “We’re done. Nobody is ever going to stay with us again. Nobody is ever going to take us seriously. There is no more Under Canvas for us.” But, despite that fear, Sarah says the most bizarre thing happened in that moment that gave her the resilience to stand back up.

Guests started working with staff to get the tents and accommodations back in order. By 11 p.m., Under Canvas had been reassembled.

Years later, that moment still sticks out to Sarah as one of the most pivotal in the Under Canvas story. In a moment of catastrophe, Sarah says the Yellowstone storm had given the couple something invaluable, “the extraordinary courage to press through and find solutions to problems.”

Sarah and Jacob continued on.

From 2014 to 2016, Under Canvas grew revenue from $1 million to $8 million. Sarah knew she needed help if Under Canvas was going to turn an even BIGGER profit. If their company was going to be in every national park in the country and beyond, Sarah and Jacob would need financial backing to grow faster.

Sarah purchased a copy of Make BIG Happen on Amazon in 2016. Then, she contacted CEO Coaching International and started adopting the Make BIG Happen Rhythms with the help of coach Sheldon Harris.

In 2018, Sarah attended CEO Coaching International’s marquee community event, the Make BIG Happen Summit. It changed everything.

That year, every Summit attendee received a glass plaque with the words “What do you want?” etched on it.

“I looked at that thing for three days, and for the first time, I started to really ask myself that question,” Sarah says. “Yes, I’m building this company to grow it. But what is it I really want?”

In her soul-searching, Sarah arrived at a number that became her singular focus.

Sarah Dusek with Coach Sheldon Harris after her BIG exit, just a year after clarifying her vision.

Working with Sheldon and later Partner and Coach Cynthia Cleveland, to help her work through nuanced issues women entrepreneurs face, Sarah refined what she wanted to achieve through Make BIG Happen Rhythm 1. She set an annual growth target through Rhythm 2. Then, she broke it down into the initiatives, activities, and KPIs she and Jacob would have to achieve to make their BIG goal a reality. From there, the couple executed with discipline through the rest of the Make BIG Happen Rhythms.

Within a year, Sarah and Jake sold their company for a 9-figure sum at a 32x multiple of EBITDA.

From the chaos of that stormy evening in Yellowstone and inspiration at the Make BIG Happen Summit, Sarah found a BIGGER outcome than she ever thought possible.

“What do I want? There was huge clarity,” Sarah says. “Just from one simple question.”

Under Canvas_Square_600x600

THE PATH TO EXTRAORDINARY RESULTS

  • Sarah Dusek’s dream to create a glamping business almost came crashing down before it started, but early troubles gave her the resolve to keep going.
  • After deciding she wanted to plan for an exit, Sarah purchased Make BIG Happen on Amazon and contacted CEO Coaching International to find a coach.
  • When she attended the CEO Coaching International Make BIG Happen Summit in 2018, Make BIG Happen Question 1 resonated with Sarah – “What do I want?” By asking herself that question Sarah decided on a number she would shoot for.
  • Working with Coaches Sheldon Harris and Cynthia Cleveland, Sarah set her sights on an annual growth target and remained laser-focused on where she wanted to go.
  • Less than a year later, Sarah and her husband, Jacob, sold their company for a nine-figure sum at a 32x multiple of EBITDA.
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Case Story

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