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BASECAMP Cards – The Next Big Thing

A JA Company Program participant from Okanagan Mission Secondary in Kelowna is truly “the next big thing.”

JA Student Company BASECAMP Cards executives Maya Gay and Rachel Birrell

JA Student Company BASECAMP Cards executives Maya Gay and Rachel Birrell

Maya Gay grew up skiing, hiking and backpacking with her family, activities which inspired her to launch Basecamp Card Co., a Kelowna, BC-based company which started when Maya joined JA Company Program. She partnered up with her friend Rachel Birrell and together they came up with Basecamp Cards, a deck of playing cards with ice breaker questions to encourage conversations around the campfire.

Initially interested in creating a material-intensive camping shoe they invented, they quickly realized they would face many challenges including a lack of resources if they wanted to stand a chance against their competitors at the Okanagan School District’s Dragons Den Young Entrepreneurs Competition.

So they started thinking about people, rather than products, and thought about some of their best outdoor experiences. They came to the realization that most campers bring a deck of cards with them as they are lightweight, versatile and can be a fun way to pass the time out in the wilderness.

They designed the questions such that they require more than a one-word answer— the kind that might move players to put down the cards and start chatting instead.

To make sure they had great conversation starters, the pair surveyed their fellow classmates during brainstorming sessions. “Our classmates got really sick of us asking them whether they wanted to change gender every time they sneezed or not be able to tell the difference between a muffin and a baby,” Maya says. It took the pair about a month to solidify the questions and design the cards on Adobe Photoshop

By the time they received the initial run of 36 prototype decks to submit to the Dragons Den judges, they had already sold out.

They quickly submitted another order for 500 decks which also sold out, mostly by word of mouth. “I think people enjoy it because it’s so simple in such a technology-based society,” says Maya.

As sales expanded, they tweaked the cards and the business, adding the beautiful watercolor background painted by a friend of Maya’s family and improving the quality of the materials.

Suddenly, Basecamp Cards wasn’t just the winner of the First Prize of $1,500 and Best Trade Show for a prize of $500. It became a real business. Basecamp Cards Co. was also awarded JABC’s Ledcor Regional Company of the Year Award in 2015, and Maya also won a trip to the JA Next Generation Leaders Forum sponsored by The Keg Spirit Foundation.

Maya then bought out Rachel and partnered with her 19-year-old brother, Aidan. The success hasn’t stopped for Basecamp Card Co.: Maya and Aidan were accepted into The Next Big Thing (TNBT), which was co-founded by Ryan Holmes, President & CEO of Hootsuite and Meredith Powell. TNBT brings together hands-on training, coaching, and professional services to accelerate youth entrepreneurs aged 17-25. Youth are connected with relevant mentors, learn essential, technical and business skills, and are introduced to a wide network of investment and business community leaders.

Aidan has been in Vancouver for the past six months, taking office space at the Hootsuite headquarters, networking and kick-starting the business.

Both Maya and Aidan plan on going to university next fall and though Maya says they aren’t sure what the future of their business will bring, they hope to get into larger retailers internationally.

Currently, Basecamp Cards are sold online at and at Mountain Equipment Coop and other smaller local businesses.


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