How this couple went from traveling the US in a camper van to selling camper van conversions on Instagram for up to $90,000

Louis the Van
Louis the Van’s Louis build.

  • Two months after Seth and Scarlett Eskelund began #VanLife full-time, the US shut down.
  • The couple headed back home and started their own camper van conversion company aided by social media.
  • This business affords them the flexibility needed to go back into van life once the pandemic is over.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Many of us remember exactly where we were when we first realized COVID-19 was about to jarringly disrupt our lives.

For Seth and Scarlett Eskelund, the realization hit when they were in Sedona, Arizona, a 29-hour drive from home on the East Coast. The couple had just begun their full-time #VanLife journey two months prior, a goal they had been working towards since early 2019 when they first purchased a used van to turn into their own tiny home on wheels.

“It was pretty devastating for both of us,” Seth Eskelund told Insider in an interview. “It was a long time in the [car ride back home] to sit and think about it and go down Interstate 40 essentially the wrong way for what we had prepared for.”

levii the van 1
Louis the Van’s Levii build.

However, a glimmer of hope came out of this disappointment. Along the drive back home, the couple decided to pursue their plans of buying another used van to convert into a camper, an idea they had already been toying around with.

“We wanted something that would keep us connected to the van life community,” Scarlett Eskelund told Insider in an interview. “We knew we wanted this in the long run. We figured we’d do something that kept us connected to the community as a whole.”

This decision then turned into Roah (pictured below), the couple’s first camper van conversion after returning home during COVID-19. The moment they completed and sold the van, the duo returned to the road and began heading up to Canada for the summer.

Louis the Van's Roah build camper van
Louis the Van’s Roah build.

But as we all know now, the Canadian border closed, and the couple was again forced to return home. That was when they decided to convert another van, this time out of leased warehouse space. And as the cliche goes, the rest is history, and the couple has now built five vans, including the personal camper that’s been with them since the start of their van life journey.

“We joke that we’re just continually forced into this in the best way possible,” Scarlett Eskelund said.

Converting and selling vans is a necessity

QUIN the van 1
Louis the Van’s Quin build.

“If we don’t sell these vans, it’s over, not just for the business, but … we would have no money to get back out on the road and travel,” Scarlett Eskelund said. “Luckily I don’t think either of us harped on that too much, because I think if we did, we definitely wouldn’t have gotten into this.”

The pair’s 12 to 18-hour workdays grant them a rapid turnaround time. The first van they built in the warehouse, pictured below, was completed in 20 days – partially because the couple needed the financial support – and sold in three weeks.

QUIN 2
Louis the Van’s Quin build.

Ironically, that van was the longest it has ever taken the couple to sell a finished van. Their “list-to-sell” time normally sits at around two to three weeks, which Seth Eskelund says is “pretty quick.”

Relying on public interest after a van has been completed – instead of doing custom builds – may seem risky. But so far, this business decision has paid off with the help of the couple’s YouTube and Instagram presence, which have almost 70,000 subscribers and 21,000 followers, respectively. All of the couple’s buyers have found their vans through Instagram, where the Eskelund’s will do daily check-ins on their in-progress vans.

Within two to three weeks after a camper van sells, the pair will have another used van in the garage, ready to convert again.

Their pricing methods aren’t an industry-standard, but that’s the point

levii the van 2
Louis the Van’s Levii build.

The Eskelund’s camper vans have been a hit with customers because of their prices, according to the couple. Their tiny homes on wheels can range from a weekend warrior van to a built-out unit with a shower and toilet. But no matter the amenities, the couple aims to price “very fairly” and below the current market rate, which can often run high.

Camper van conversion companies and RV makers have seen a boom in sales as more people have turned to road travel during COVID-19. But as a result, the camper van market has been price gouging, sometimes to the tune of an additional $60,000 to $70,000 compared to 2019 prices, according to Seth Eskelund. But when pricing their own vans, the couple doesn’t want to take this route, and instead opts for a price tag that’s less than the general market.

From the start, the couple’s goal was to convert vans to give them something to focus on during the coronavirus pandemic. The point was never to become wealthy from the business: instead, they wanted to break even or just make a small income.

“It’s a lot more than just a business and money for us,” Seth Eskelund said. “I would say we are as personally invested in the vans as we are in the business, and maybe that’s not smart from a business perspective on us, but that is who we are.”

QUIN the van
Louis the Van’s Quin build.

The pair factors in several aspects when pricing the van, including its mileage, the cost of purchasing the initial used van, and build specifications. This then leads to a price range of anywhere between $30,000 to $90,000, which is far cheaper than builds from companies that have an almost $300,000 tag.

There’s also the added bonus of ad revenue from their YouTube videos, which allows the couple to subsidize their prices while educating the public about how to DIY a camper van.

“Obviously there is demand and a lot of supply as well, but I think that’s been a factor in why we sell quickly because we really do try to price as fairly as we can,” Seth Eskelund said.

As Scarlett Eskelund describes it, this is both a lifestyle and a business, giving the couple fluid “accessibility.” When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the pair will continue their business for as many months out of the year as they would like. For all the other months, they’ll resume their #VanLife dreams.

“It’s a means to an end,” Scarlett Eskelund said. “It allows us the ability to do what we really want to do.”

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An RV subscription company just raised $37 million. Here’s how it plans to grow ahead of the expected summer travel boom.

Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts.

  • RV membership company Harvest Hosts recently received a $37 million investment from Stripes.
  • Harvest Hosts’ program allows RV travelers to stay overnight in locations like wineries and farms.
  • Joel Holland, Harvest Hosts’ CEO, explains how it’ll navigate the summer travel boom with this new investment.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Harvest Hosts, an RV membership company that gives RVers access to “unique” overnight stays, has found success during COVID-19, and a new almost $40 million investment will allow the business to continue its fast growth ahead of the predicted summer travel boom.

Road travel vehicle manufacturers specializing in RVs, camper vans, and trailers saw a huge spike in sales during 2020 as COVID-19 stopped would-be travelers from flying and cruising. However, these makers weren’t the only travel-adjacent companies that benefited from the coronavirus pandemic: from May 2020 to December, Harvest Hosts’ membership base doubled in size, the company says.

Prior to this, the company had already been growing fast due to the millennial #VanLife boom and retirees interested road travel. But when COVID-19 hit the US, “everything went into hyper-speed,” Joel Holland, CEO of Harvest Hosts, told Insider in an interview.

Read more: How the coronavirus pandemic will permanently change the transportation industry, according to 23 industry leaders

Harvest Hosts’ expanding business eventually caught the attention of Stripes, leading to its $37 million investment in the RV membership company. Stripes previously invested in companies like GrubHub, Reformation, and Refinery29.

“We look to back ambitious entrepreneurs who are delivering amazing products, and it became clear as we spent more time in the space that Holland is building a really special product for RVers,” Chris Carey, a partner at Stripes, said in a press release. “His vision for the company is something we are excited to be part of.”

How it works

Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts.

Harvest Hosts’ appeal is in its straightforward membership model. Members can tap into the company’s network of over 2,000 locations – known as “hosts” – across the US for overnight RV stays. The company’s hosts encompass a wide range of destinations, including breweries, farms, golf courses, and wineries, the latter the most popular option.

There are several stipulations to the membership program. For one, members must have a “fully self-contained RV” with a toilet and wastewater tanks. RV travelers are also required to notify the hosts ahead of their arrivals and are discouraged from staying longer than the allotted 24-hour overnight stay.

Annual memberships start at $79 for the classic package. This price then jumps to $199 for the classic package plus access to golf and country clubs. Overnight stays don’t come at any additional cost, but Harvest Hosts encourages its members to spend money at their destinations in order to support the local hosts.

“We keep our membership costs low because we want to encourage people to take the money they’re saving and spend it with the local businesses,” Holland said. Currently, about 60% of its members are retired, and over half have a six-figure-plus disposable income, making them a “powerful buying force,” Holland explained.

Last year, Harvest Hosts’ members spent over $25 million at the visited locations. Holland projects this will grow to $30 million this year, which translates to an additional $15,000 for winery-based hosts specifically.

Harvest Hosts has grown quickly. This is how its new investment will help

Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts.

The company’s rapid growth has been a constant for several years now. From 2018 to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvest Hosts’ membership base grew ten times, and this growth only continued to accelerate through 2020.

According to Holland, new members began flocking to the company through the summer – as expected – into the winter. Travel normally hits a lull during winter, but the inverse happened for Harvest Hosts: interest in January and February 2021 were so high, the number of members spiked 400% compared to last year.

Now, the company is anticipating a massive summer travel boom, and consequently, the potential for further growth with the help of its new financial cushion and Stripes’ resources.

“Everything in this industry seems to be moving fast,” Holland said. “We want to make sure we can keep up, and the funding will help us do that.”

According to Holland, this $37 million investment will help Harvest continue the growth of both its host and member communities, all with the goal of becoming “the trusted resource for RVers when they’re looking for a place to stay.”

To do this, Harvest Hosts is now using the money to boost its location catalog from a little over 2,000 hosts, to 3,000 hosts by the end of the year. Looking even further ahead, the company is “racing to 10,000,” Holland said.

Along with this host growth, the Harvest Hosts is also building out features like improved “route planning tools” and a new reservation system meant to ease the hosting process.

“The faster we can get more hosts onboard, the better for our members and these small businesses,” Holland said. “The more we scale, the better everyone does, so I’m excited to [do so] as quickly as possible, and that takes money. “

Are you a travel industry employee or have a travel industry story to share? Contact this reporter at bchang@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

This company created a $25,000 RV travel trailer designed to be towed by an EV like a Tesla

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

  • Polydrops unveiled the P17A, a travel trailer that can be towed by electric vehicles like Teslas.
  • The P17A has been an enormous hit since before it was publicly unveiled.
  • The trailer ranges from $24,990 to $36,140 depending on the add-ons, which includes a kitchen module.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Travel trailer maker Polydrops – which designs its tiny homes on wheels to look like spaceships – has taken a new approach to road travel vehicles by unveiling a trailer that can be towed by EVs, including Teslas.

The first Polydrops trailer was designed in 2017 and unveiled two years later. Since Polydrops’ conception, vehicles  have revolutionized and become increasingly electrified, and the travel trailer maker is now following this electrification lead with its own EV friendly towable.

Polydrops has always been known for its uniquely shaped, futuristic looking travel trailers, and this new unit is no exception. But unlike any previous model, the P17A is the “first travel trailer in the market designed for an EV,” and has been tested using a 2018 Tesla Model 3, according to Polydrops.

The P17A has since been a hit with the public since before it was officially unveiled.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

“We are getting an enormous amount of emails through our website,” Kyunghyun Lew, Polydrop’s founder, told Insider in an email interview. “We’ve sold to the local customers even before we officially launch the product, and one of them purchased it only with the 3D rendering images.”

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Like other road travel vehicle makers, Polydrops saw a boom in popularity following coronavirus-related lockdown measures.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

However, it closed its sales soon after to meet its orders and to create the P17A and the upcoming P21X, the latter a larger trailer model, according to Lew.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

The trailer has reduced air drag, rolling resistance, and weight to make it more EV friendly, according to Lew.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

During a test road trip from Los Angeles to Lone Pine, California, a 2018 Tesla 3 Long Range rear-wheel-drive towing the P17A logged 306 watt-hours-per-mile, according to Polydrop.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

As a result, the 2018 Model 3 could travel 245 miles on one charge even while towing the P17A.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Of course, this range varies per electric vehicle and model year, but on average, an EV towing a P17A has an energy consumption of 298 watt-hours-per-mile and a range of 251 miles, according to Polydrops’ website.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Source: Polydrops

The aluminum trailer has an aerodynamic shape, allowing the electric vehicle towing the 1,200-pound trailer to save some energy.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Now, onto the general basics of the trailer. The P17A uses foam core and aluminum for its structure and has batteries integrated into its floor.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

These batteries then supply between 2.4 to 12-kilowatt-hours of energy.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

This battery system also accompanies the solar panels, which then in turn supply between 260 to 520-watts of solar energy.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

The 2.4 kilowatt-hour battery can be upgraded to 4.8 or 12 kilowatt-hours for $2,000 or $8,000 respectively.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Similarly, the 260-watt solar panels can be boosted to 520-watt for an additional $800.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

A fully upgraded Polydrops trailer can last off-grid for six nights.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

“It is a freedom to stay anywhere, work anywhere,” Lew told Insider.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Elements like the upgraded suspension allow the trailer to travel smoothly.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

The trailer stands at about 13.5 feet long, six feet wide, and 5.3 feet tall. The interior width is 4.5 feet, which is bigger than the previous Polydrops trailer model.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

This allows the unit to fit a full-size mattress.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Power may be limited, but the insulated trailer still has amenities that make it comfortable to inhabit, including a heater and air conditioner.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Polydrops’ decision to run the entire HVAC system using battery power was inspired by customer feedback, especially from Tesla drivers, according to Lew.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

According to Lew, the P17A is Polydrop’s “most advanced” product yet with its temperature control system and insulated structure, both of which make it weather-tolerant.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

There are also interior outlets, including USB ports, to power up any other necessary tech.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Interior LED lights brighten up the space for nighttime camping.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

There are also several storage units throughout the tiny home on wheels, including a small closet with a clothes bar.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

No need for a campfire meal: the trailer can be upgraded with a kitchen add-on for $1,850.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

This add-on gives the P17A a refrigerator, an induction stovetop, a sink, a utensils holder, and storage units, including ones for fresh and greywater.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

The kitchen can be accessed from both inside and outside the trailer, which means there’s no need to crawl outside for a midnight snack.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Don’t want to bring a portable speaker? You can upgrade the P17A to include Bluetooth speakers for $500.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

The trailer can range from $24,990 to $36,140 with all of the most expensive add-ons included.

P17A travel trailer polydrops
The P17A travel trailer.

Read the original article on Business Insider