Las Vegas Sun

September 24, 2023

A ‘camp’ for refugees of the recession

Organizer says free event will help people chart their own way to employment


Leila Navidi

Michael Baker, owner of a local multimedia company, is introducing the Las Vegas Valley to LaidOffCamp, a free gathering for people who have left the corporate world and others looking to network and share advice on freelancing and similar work.


What: LaidOffCamp

When: 1-6 p.m. July 10

Where: The Art Institute of Las Vegas, 2350 Corporate Circle, Henderson

Admission: Free

More info:

Beyond the Sun

After seven years working as a multimedia designer for slot manufacturer IGT, Las Vegas resident Michael Baker left to start his own multimedia company. When the economy tanked, he needed to figure out a few things, so he headed to LaidOffCamp in Los Angeles.

The one-day camp, held in May, drew attendees who were self-employed, unemployed or looking to leave the corporate world. They exchanged information on a wide range of topics, including health insurance, legal issues facing startups, personal branding, monetizing skills and expertise.

Baker left jazzed about the contacts he made and will bring LaidOffCamp to Las Vegas as host of an event at the Art Institute of Las Vegas, where he teaches part time.

“There was this overwhelming sense that this is the future,” Baker says. “These people were creating the next phase of employment. They were not interested in joining or rejoining a corporate structure. They were blazing a trail, wondering, ‘How can I take control of what I have?’ ”

With the unemployment rate in Clark County above 11 percent, Baker expects that the camp will pique interest, though he says he can’t guess how many people will show up. Even though the free camps have online registration, many people just walk in that day.

San Francisco resident Chris Hutchins founded LaidOffCamp after he was laid off from his job at a global management consulting firm in December.

The concept is easy. Show up. Express interests and concerns. Break off into smaller discussion groups and exchange information. Drinks at a local tavern follow. Donations are accepted. Sponsors help cover the cost of the space.

Since the first camp in San Francisco in March, the volunteer-driven events have been held in several cities, including Dallas and New York. The camps are free. Information about upcoming camps is posted at and details are available on Facebook.

“It’s a way to help (people) by providing information relevant to their situation,” Hutchins says. “In San Francisco we didn’t have anyone scheduled to talk about raising money for a startup company, but people wanted to hear about it, so we asked if anyone knew anything. Two people did. They led a session.”

Health insurance was another hot issue, Hutchins says: Though there were no experts, there was a room full of self-employed people with health insurance.

Baker, who still has his Henderson-based company, Cascade Multimedia LTD, says the groups are not specific to tech industry types and hopes the Las Vegas meeting will attract people from all careers — construction workers, Realtors, musicians, etc.

“There are a lot of mini industries in Las Vegas,” he says. “There are large groups of unemployed construction workers around. My hope is that it will be a very diverse crowd. This is a community event. The more that is represented, the better.”

Contract work is the future, he says, adding that big companies doing massive layoffs will rely on the “small, adaptive, nimble, cutting-edge groups” and that social networking groups such as LaidOffCamp will be useful.

In its current issue, Money magazine reports that about 30 percent of the U.S. job market consists of independent contractors, part-time or temporary staffers, and the self-employed., a Web site that connects businesses with “independent professionals,” announced this month that more than $200 million in work has been delivered by professionals.

Hutchins, 24, won’t be attending the Las Vegas event. He has been working independently as a consultant and is about to leave the country on a seven-month trip. Hutchins says LaidOffCamp is not a startup designed to make money and that a business model would only tarnish the spirit of LaidOffCamp.

“The goal was not to make money,” he says. “The goal was to help people who were out of work.”

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