30 years ago, Woodland Resort in Devils Lake, North Dakota, was nothing but cattle pastures and farmland. The grandparents of Kyle Blanchfield had purchased and lived on the farmstead off the shore of Creel Bay since the mid-1940’s. In 1988, Kyle’s grandparents were no longer interested in taking care of or owning the land. That’s when Kyle and his parents, who had grown up in the area their whole lives, decided to purchase the land and transform it into a resort from scratch.
They transformed the 70-acre farmstead to a spacious campground facility and replaced the old barn with a full-service bar and restaurant and thus, Woodland Resort was born.
Throughout the years, Kyle and his team has evolved Woodland Resort into the only full-service facility on Devils Lake. With a unique variety of lodging accommodations, seasonal and overnight camping, a full-service restaurant and bar, a full bait and tackle shop, a fish and game cleaning station, boat and fishing equipment rentals and services, a swimming beach, and much more, Woodland Resort attracts families, fishermen, hunters, and tourists from all over the Midwest. To accommodate and take advantage of the four seasons North Dakota experiences throughout the year, Woodland Resort offers guided fishing and hunting packages year-round in addition to their other services. Whatever it is, they work to take care of and meet the needs of all their customers. “Our mission is to out-service our competitors,” explains Kyle.
Kyle doesn’t see other resorts in the Devils Lake area as Woodland’s primary competition, but fishing destinations such as Canada and Minnesota.
“The consumer is demanding better facilities and better services,” Kyle added. “Everybody in that realm of outdoor experience that’s really succeeding is “upping” their game. They are making and building better facilities.”
With a mission to out-service their competitors, Woodland Resort was determined to do the same.
“Once we proved to ourselves that we could operate at a busy level throughout the different seasons, we really started to plan how to take this to the next level,” Kyle began. In 2013, Woodland Resort started surveying their guests and asking them how they could improve their accommodations and services. After almost two years of research and planning, Woodland Resort proposed the construction of a new, three-story, 25,000 square foot, multi-purpose facility that would serve as a resort office and store, and add 10 more lodging units. It would also serve as a meeting place for guided hunting and fishing excursions, a lobby for guests checking in, and a meeting room for corporations or other organizations. This would be one of the biggest projects Woodland Resort would undergo so they wanted to be sure to take their time, do their research, and plan it out as best as they could.
This is when Dakota Certified Development Corporation (now Dakota Business Lending), in partnership with Ramsey National Bank and Trust in Devils Lake, came in. By utilizing the Small Business Administration 504 loan program, Woodland Resort was able to develop a financing package that would allow them to continue to provide high-quality service to their guests as the facility was being constructed.
“Dakota CDC (now Dakota Business Lending) was fantastic to work with,” applauded Kyle. “They helped shepherd us through the process and were very encouraging but also very realistic…which is exactly what you need from a lender.”
Not only that, but the community was great to jump in and help Woodland Resort with their expansion project as well. “We underestimated how much work it was going to be to clean everything…We were pushing time and then people and neighbors just pulled up out of the blue and offered to come and help. That says a lot about the community and the people in it,” Kyle praised. Along with the community, Kyle says a lot of the appreciation should go towards his wife, Karin. “Karin is a major part of the success of the resort and the best business partner a guy could ask for. I’m very lucky!”
Despite the high water, flooding, and many other challenges that have been thrown at Kyle and his team throughout the years, Woodland Resort has continued to rise to the top in the tourist and fishing industry. The resort was named 2017’s “Outfitter of the Year” from huntthenorth.com and North Dakota Travel Tourism Industry Leader in 2012.
“Every business is going to face a period of time where they have some really tough challenges. At the end of the day, you just have to persevere, put your head down, and get through it,” advised Kyle. “That’s what we did.”
Kyle also strongly recommended doing as much researching and planning as possible before undergoing the start or expansion of a business. “Be realistic about your potential for your facility…it needs cash flow and you have to pay the bills. But don’t be too conservative and not do it either,” Kyle counseled. Ultimately, he advises to try to build the project that is going to be the most successful for the person.
Kyle wakes up every day with a renewed passion to serve his customers and to provide a fun and memorable experience for all who stay at Woodland Resort. “I love to show off Devils Lake. I’m proud of our area and I’ve grown up in it my whole life so it’s a special place. It’s fun to share that with others,” Kyle says beamingly. This outweighs any obstacle Kyle and his team at Woodland Resort face. “When you’re working around a lake and being around great people, it’s pretty hard to beat that.”