Close your eyes, take a deep realizing breath: try to recall the last time you were able to roam outside barefoot or cannonball into an icy lake sans cell phone and surrounded by your closest buds. For most of us, those memories, if we have them at all, are quite fuzzy since they most likely took place ages ago. Rashad, Ron, and Shequeita Frazier want to bring those grainy memories into focus with new adventure company, Camp Yoshi, launched in 2020 and aimed at creating experiences where Black and brown folks can connect with nature in a safe, trusting environment.
Meant to conjure up the idea of a whimsical fun place, Camp Yoshi was founded by brothers Ron and Rashad Frazier, and runs with the help of Shequeita Frazier, Rashad’s wife. With both extended trips and long-weekend style microadventures, the team aims to remove traditional barriers and make each outdoor experience as comfortable and welcoming as possible.
Partners like Snow Peak and it. Vanishes provide guests with all the gear they need, restaurant quality food and drink is prepared by Rashad, a professional chef, and itineraries are well-scouted and appropriately vetted. By design, Camp Yoshi is for guests of all experience and comfort levels.
While the two brothers grew up in North Carolina with a penchant for the outdoors—“we joke that we spent pretty much everyday in the summer in swim trunks and a life jacket,” says Ron—the company's approach is also informed by Shequeita, who brings a different perspective. “I am like the poster child that’s definitely afraid of camping,” she tells us over a recent call. But that’s changing, and with Camp Yoshi, she sees an opportunity to inspire others to become more comfortable outdoors, too. “Through my experiences I am reaching out to our target consumer and telling them they belong here.”
The warmth and joy of days spent outside in the closeness of loved ones, is the same experience they work to recreate for folks who sign up for Camp Yoshi. The benefits of such positive, intimate environments has become even more apparent during the pandemic.
“Last year was the year of the pivot. The world is upside down, so you have to figure out what you really want to do. The timing was just perfect, having more free time to think of ideas and see what was available,” Rashad says of when the call to, formally, start Camp Yoshi became too loud to ignore. Since launch, coverage of the first initial trips has been hard for us—and many others—to ignore, too.
"Amazing food, amazing textures, amazing cocktails, and locations that are flat out amazing. It’s all about the element of surprise with Camp Yoshi." - Shequeita Frazier
While all of Camp Yoshi’s 2021 trips are currently booked up, the team is still hard at work refining those itineraries to ensure one-of-a-kind experiences—and dreaming up new ones for 2022. “We’ve been focused on trip planning and have made it a point to reach out to various partners and local outdoor organizations,” Ron explains. During the crew’s most recent trip to Sedona, Arizona the time was spent training staff and ensuring everyone continually stays prepared for the unexpected.
Keep reading to learn how transformational experiences with nature turned into a thriving business and the astoundingly simple, yet motivating, advice Rashad, Ron, and Shequeita have for Black folks yearning to get outside.
How would you describe Camp Yoshi in one sentence?
Ron: Adventure travel to get Black and brown folks outside.
What can someone expect from a Camp Yoshi experience?
Shequeita: Amazing food, amazing textures, amazing cocktails, and amazing locations that are flat out amazing. It’s all about the element of surprise with us.
Camp Yoshi is known for bringing campers to epic locations. How do you scout and find the places for each of your trips?
Ron: A lot of it is word of mouth, but for most part, a lot of the spots we’ve been to before, and said it would be dope to bring other folks there, too. We’re really big on not going to spaces just to be there—we’re there to interact to talk and meet with folks.
Rashad: We’re always thinking about how can we maximize the views and the adventure without being stuck in the car the entire time.
Can you tell us a bit about your first transformative experiences with nature growing up?
Rashad: We grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were lucky enough to have a family home near a lake, right outside of Charlotte where we would spend most of our summers, family reunions, weekends. It was our first experience at summer camp and was unapologetically Black.
We were doing fish fries and having reunions up there. This was a place that was an escape from the norm. It was a raw outdoor space with access to water and kids' imagination and it was just a free for all.
Shequeita: I am from Richland, South Carolina which is the low country. My dad was a big fisherman, and so I grew up on the boat with my father. I didn’t understand Ron and Rashad’s passion for the outdoors because I’d never been camping. I was like if it doesn't have a cabin, I’m not going.
For me, the most transformative experience was during COVID—we’d been living in Portland, Oregon for six months, and in June Rashad and I decided to take a road trip to Montana. My son wanted to stay in an RV and I agreed, and I think that was my first experience dipping my toes in.
When and where was the first time you realized you wanted to share your love of nature and the outdoors with other Black folks?
Rashad: Ron and I had talked for years about doing some kind of adventure trip but I don’t think everything got aligned until this past summer. Like oh, we can take people to remote places you would never go to before, and have good food. It just all kind of made sense.
Shequeita: I took to Instagram as a way to stay in touch and show people that I was safe and that [the camping trip] was so beautiful. It was like the more I was on social media talking about it and showing people, the more people were messaging me and asking questions. Initially starting from a place of concern then transitioning to damn, I want that too.
Tell us a bit about your career backgrounds? Did you ever think you’d end up as entrepreneurs getting Black folks out and enjoying nature?
Ron: I’m a lawyer by training and I work as a consultant right now. Rashad and I have always been really big on community so we wanted to make that a big part of this as well. Let’s bridge some of these gaps and make the outdoors more accessible.
Rashad: I'm a chef and have a catering company in New York City. I help amplify company’s brands through food with creative cooking. With COVID happening last year, I thought about a pivot and doing this adventure thing with Ron.
"Disconnect to reconnect. When I go outside, I come back as a better person." - Rashad Frazier
Shequeita: I’ve spent the last 17 years of my career in retail, on the buying and planning side. Right now, I’m currently at Nike but have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. My passion is in strategy and making sure that three to five years down the road we have sustainable business strategies in place.
What has been the more inspiring and stunning place you’ve visited?
Rashad: My favorite was hitting a place in Northern Arizona outside of Flagstaff, part of Lake Powell. You can’t really maneuver it the traditional way, but if you can navigate those routes you can get to some epic stuff. Like this manmade lake that has these really crazy funky rock formations. So doing stuff like that shows you it might be a little hard work to get here but the reward is so worth it.
Ron: This summer in Colorado, I was coming back from Oregon heading east with my two boys––they were seven and four then. We did some of the Alpine Loop and to be in some of those big, big mountains and to have my two sons with me was just a transformational moment. They were a part of the adventure, and part of the fun was they were helping to choose the route and the itinerary.
Black and brown folks have such a complicated relationship with America’s land. Is there any educational aspect of the trip where folks can learn more about the land they’re occupying?
Ron: We envisioned this from the start to be about community. Just like there are rules in your community there are rules in these communities, and we have to be respectful of that. We also want to make it so that we can all continue to enjoy these spaces. Period.
We want our folks to also learn by getting some muscle memory by getting out there using your hands and feet and hopefully you learn some good lessons that you can apply either in your own community or if you go out camping with your friends and family.
Nature can be a great teacher. What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned from being out in nature?
Rashad: Disconnect to reconnect. When I go outside, I come back as a better person. Having that time to be fully present and focus on what’s in front of you, you really get to come back more balanced. It’s an energy that you can’t get anywhere else.
Shequeita: It’s just a stark contrast from the day-to-day—we’re always in a rush and have things we want to accomplish. But when you’re there nothing is a rush and yet you’ve accomplished everything. You start thinking things through in a different capacity because you have the space and energy to do it. It’s the no hurry zone, yet I can still get stuff done.
What advice do you have for folks who want to start to experience the outdoors but not sure what to do or might be a little scared?
Ron: Just go! Don’t overthink it. Start with a small walk or a hike.
Rashad: Do it on your own terms with no ego or bravo.
Shequeita: Tell them about me!
How can folks get involved and learn more about the amazing things Camp Yoshi has coming up?
Rashad: I would highly suggest folks subscribe to our newsletter ASAP because we’re going to release our 2022 schedule in the coming months.
Shequeita: And we’re almost tripling the number of trips! The other thing is that we’re going to have to expand the team. People of color, and even allies in the space, that experts in the outdoor space, hit us up. We’re looking for people to partner with and to join us, especially people of color and women.