Shea Dokter is an interior designer by trade. Together, she and her husband/business partner, Mike, have experience flipping houses. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the two of them put a lot of stock into the appearance of their camping units.
This was the case even before the couple was renting RVs. “We started with tent camping, then I bought a pop-up and renovated it,” Shea tells us. “We have a background of real estate redevelopment—aka flipping houses—in the greater Detroit area, so I wanted to put my skills to use on a dated pop-up. We quickly found that with two children and two dogs, a pop-up was not as functional as we wanted, so I ended up selling and generating a 200% return.”
At this point, the couple was on the lookout for a hard-sided trailer that would offer more room and ease of use. Not only that, they needed it to be rentable. “We decided to start an RV rental company because we had one of those life moments where we needed to pivot,” she shares. “COVID-19 really put a damper on our businesses. My interior design business and my husband’s teaching and speaking engagements were all canceled for over a year. Camping was a big part of our life, and we wanted to buy a camper anyway, but acquiring a unit as an asset made more sense than just buying a unit for the family to use.”
Enter Bubbles, the bunkhouse trailer. “We chose Bubbles because it was the most tolerable interior package that I could find that wasn’t a 22-week manufacture lead time,” explains Mrs. Dokter. “In my line of work, appearance is a big deal, and we looked at camper after camper, and most were dark and dreary and I just couldn’t do it.”
It turns out Shea’s good taste paid off. The Dokters listed their RV right after purchasing it in the summer of 2020 and immediately found success. “We had our first confirmed booking on Bubbles within a week,” Shea recalls.” We quickly added a second unit and that had its first booking mid-September, and we operated from August through October of 2020 with 18 successful bookings, bringing in over $5,000.”
At this point, the Dokters have 4 units listed and around $12,000 in bookings confirmed for 2021, with more rolling in all the time.
Wondering how the couple found so much success? They did have some advice to offer those who are new to the rental business. “Our primary concerns when listing our RVs were ensuring we could offer something in demand and desirable to the market we wanted to target,” Dokter tells us. “The advice that I would have for anyone looking to start an RV rental business would be to ensure you aren’t selling yourself short. Yes, you want to be competitive, but you also are running a business. Don’t be so worried about what your competition is offering, but rather what you can offer and how you can be different.”
Her second piece of advice? Vet your renters! “Vetting the renter is a HUGE part of the work you need to put in,” Shea explains. “There are circumstances that are just simply not good fits for us. I view Outdoorsy as a ‘tool,’ and we utilize the tool to maximize our returns. Outdoorsy can reach larger markets as far as advertising goes, and I view that as invaluable. But as the owner, it’s our job to ensure the renters are a good fit and that they have the best camping experience. If we all do our part, it’s a win-win for all parties involved.”
Clearly, Shea and Mike have done quite well with their business so far. However, they aren’t done yet. “We’ve always tossed the idea around to create an outdoor brand, but the timing was always off,” confides Mrs. Dokter. “So when 2020 hit and then there was no time like the present, we needed to act and do something. Camper rentals are only the beginning of what we plan to do.”
All About Shea and Mike
Favorite morning beverage: “Red Bull for me, and coffee for Mike.”
Favorite campsite meal: “Too many to list, but we really do love putting a protein and veggie in tin foil with cream of celery soup over the fire. (Burger patty, onion, potatoes, carrots and a small spoon of cream of celery soup on top.)”
Music you like to play on the radio: “Ahhh, music. Mike has a very eclectic collection of music, so anything goes. His go-to’s are the Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows. I prefer classic rock.”
Best game to play on the road or at your campsite: “I could list games for days, but our favorite family games are corn hole, Kan Jam, Euchre, and cribbage. There is also a water game that we love. It’s Bottle Bash, but we put the poles in the water and play in knee-deep water. Camping is a huge ordeal in my family so our games get pretty competitive. Some weekends we do a double elimination tournament style.”
What’s your Outdoorsy spirit animal? “Spirit animal for me is a squirrel. It seems silly, but every time we are camping and I see squirrels in each direction, I turn. My husband would be a wolf. We are a Siberian husky family and we have two, so anything husky or wolf-related always has our attention.