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Ya See The Darndest Things

Started by Mojo, October 04, 2017, 01:31:09 pm

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I am in Sedalia, MO doing a large RV event. One of the vendors has a setup I have never heard of or seen. He makes solar screens for motorhomes on site at rallys all over the country and then installs them on customers coaches. His is not the first operation I have seen before like this but has to be one of the best thought out ones.

He has a big coach himself and travels with his wife and teenage son ( who is homeschooled ). He tows a large pickup behind him ( 4 - door crew cab ) which has a tall fiberglass cover on the back.
He stores all of his textilene fabric and supplies in the back along with his portable folding sewing tables.

But what was interesting was his machine setup. You cannot use a cheap light weight machine for sewing these solar screens because of the double layer binding so he uses a Pfaff. His machine is mounted to this steel platform ( heavy duty platform mind you ) which has large arms and the entire assembly is bolted to the bed of his truck. The machine and assembly rises up and then out the back end of the pickup bed and then lowers into place. He then sits his tables around the perimeter of the machine and commences to sewing.

It actually is one cool setup. He travels constantly from one show to another and him, his wife and son live life together on the road. Since we started our company in 2006 with a solar screen product line I know the margins in all of these products and they are slim. We dropped our entire screen line due to the market being so crowded and the prices not being strong enough to support staying in that business.

Still I give this guy kudo's for his setup. I have seen traveling sewing stations before but this one is pretty awesome.

I will try and get pictures if I can.



From that description, sounds elaborate.
I personally could not live on the road like that though. I like having a home.


It is a very tough life being on the road. I am on the road about 2 to 3 months out the year split up into 2 and 3 week trips. I admit I travel in luxury in our coach and have plenty of room for living. Our coach is 40 ft long with 4 pop out slides and has everything I need - living room, two flat screen TV's, kitchen, dining, bath, shower, bedroom and office area. I could never do it living out of a suitcase and in hotel rooms.

I still do not like all the travel and being gone from home. I miss the wife and our two knuckleheads ( german shepherds ) and I also miss the house and shop. There are numerous vendors I do shows with who travel in luxury coaches and live on the road. Several do not even have a house but live in their rigs. They do one show and head off to another. They have a lot of down time as the shows are typically not back to back so they lay up at a resort or campground for a week or two, rest, relax and head off to another show. Everything they sell is drop shipped to the venues and excess unsold products carried to the next show.

We have peaked in our current growth cycle and I know the only way to grow bigger is to hit more shows. We are doubling our show schedule next year which will mean more travel and I am not looking forward to it. But my schedule pales in comparison to most of these vendors. One thing that is cool is we do so many shows together that most of us become friends and help each other out.

I just had a custom made enclosed show trailer made for us and bought a UTV type golf cart. This is my first show using it and it has worked out great. Our coach has a big ( fuel guzzling ) diesel and tows it easily. We are doing some outdoor shows next year and this trailer has a concession window so I won't be inside a booth.

Doing the shows we do most vendors have to turn over a minimum of $ 2,000 in 3 days to break even. The costs for the show, travel, special insurance, etc. gets costly. I have seen a lot of vendors go broke and sell out. Most were selling the wrong products while others had too much competition selling the same products. Others simply had no business being in sales. :)

It is a helluva way to make a living being full time on the road. Some simply love the lifestyle. Myself, I could never do it full time.



Very interesting report on this type of business.  Are these type of business people
able to work the full year?  I am thinking the shows are primarily outside and the weather would prevent shows some months.  But, I guess they could do them inside
but it would add to their cost of doing business and the profits are already strained.

It would seem the people hooked on these type of homes would buy off the net
from someone stationed permanently?  I guess measurements and other information
is required and the customer would have to do some of the specifications.

Nope, not for me either.

Good report Mojo,




They work about 9 to 10 months out of the year and go from east to the west coast in their travels. They work a week long show and then may be off for a week before the next show. Much of their time is spent traveling to the next venue. If they get into a scenic area like Wyoming or Montana they will work a show and then hang around for a week enjoying the sights before moving on to the next show. They mix business and pleasure.

Product selection is extremely important. Products that sell on Amazon can destroy your business model. The key is finding a niche product. You will never be able to compete against Amazon. Many have tried and went broke. I can pretty much walk through an event, look at the products and know who will make it and who wont just by what they are selling. Some of the vendors are very blind.

The vast majority of events follow the climate. The midwest and northern areas get the rally's i n the summer months while the South starts picking up the shows in fall/winter months. These shows follow the snowbirds in many respects. When coach owners start loading up their rigs to head South or to Arizona for the winter, the rally's follow ( AZ, CA, TX and FL ). I will be doing numerous rally's in Florida starting in January and then my venues will start moving north. I will go as far as Wyoming in June and July and will be gone for a month and a half doing back to back to back events. This will be my longest stretch on the road. Works out great as I can do 3 of them at the same place during a 3 week span. I then head to Wisconsin where I will be for a week long event and then back home.

During some of these events I will save time and miles and fuel by parking our rig at my sons in Michigan and flying home then flying back to go off and do another event.

There are only two of us awning makers who travel and do events. The rest stay put and rely on the internet. I have found our growth has come from attending these events. Our marketing program dictates both internet for sales and then events for sales and branding of our products. We are in the final stages of signing an agreement with a large international company to rep their products along side our own. The sales from their products will pay all of our expenses for travel and doing the events plus add money to our revenue stream. We will also do some co-op marketing and advertising together.

Our end goal is for my daughter to take over the operations of both companies in the next 2 years and then the wife and I will do select shows together while traveling, sight seeing and enjoying semi retirement.



Sounds like a nice show Chris

Good day