The First Feminine RV Firm CEO on Bringing Extremely Luxurious to Land Journey
January 11, 2021 6 minutes to read
In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips, and insights from real entrepreneurs who compete in the business battle on a daily basis. (The answers have been edited and summarized for the sake of clarity.)
Who are you and what is your business?
I’m Geneva Long, Founder and CEO of Bowlus. We are an ultra-luxury RV company with modern technology and exterior design with Art Deco roots from the 1930s. We have reinvented the luxury RV approach to better align it with the yachting industry in terms of innovation and material quality than the traditional RV industry. All of our products are handcrafted and we also produce bespoke models in addition to a robust customization program.
What was your inspiration for this product?
My first association with the Bowlus brand came about a decade ago when my family restored a classic Bowlus Road Chief and took it on a 3,000-mile road trip across North America. We stopped at Modernism Week in Palm Springs, California, and South by Southwest, Texas, and I was impressed with the special response from everyone who saw the Vintage Bowlus. Since I was studying business administration at the time, I was entrepreneurial and thought when people reacted: “Could this be a new company?” It occurred to me that luxury overland travel could be a new segment of the motorhome industry. From there, we prototyped the modern bowlus and updated it to a vintage look using modern technology. This has never happened before in the motorhome industry.
Related: How this 18-year-old high school student built a 6-digit social media consultancy
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking for funding?
Do whatever business you want. I wanted to keep the company pure and I didn’t want outside influences to take something from something that I knew was special. For example, if we had accepted debt financing, we might have had to follow the traditional RV industry product cycle, which we didn’t want. We wanted to add innovation when new technology emerged, not according to a preconceived calendar schedule. We also wanted to have personal relationships with our customers and if we had accepted the funding we would have had to follow the path of other brands in the RV industry that are not in the luxury industry and therefore do not have the personal connection with their customers. We may also not have been able to have bespoke models the way we do. So don’t be afraid to build a prototype in your own garage or start your business plan independently and without outside influence.
What was your biggest challenge during the pandemic and how did you move to overcome it?
Bowlus is a company that traditionally holds face-to-face meetings to create designs for custom projects. Our biggest challenge this year was that we couldn’t accept personal appointments. Fortunately, we had spent nine years creating a virtual experience for people who couldn’t travel to our California headquarters but wanted to place orders and discuss customization options. So we already had this remote ordering option. We also had to protect our employees so that even people who wanted to come couldn’t get in – it was the first time we had to close our doors to customers for personal appointments. We were very fortunate to have had the foresight to develop multiple channels for working with customers.
I think the traditional RV sales model had an even more difficult year because that model is based on instant gratification – where people come to a showroom today to buy, to take a trip next week. My advice is to be flexible in working with clients so you don’t get stuck in one mode. That way, you can pan around easily to find alternatives.
Related: This Entrepreneur is Building a Platform to Inspire the Next Elon Musk
Where do you see this company in a year? In five years?
Bowlus’ goal is to always be innovative. The company wants to maintain its position in the luxury land travel segment and to do that we need to keep abreast of what the industry has to offer, as well as what customers are asking for in luxury products. Because we are working so far in advance, I am pleased that we are launching new products in advance that will include other industry firsts. Five years from now, I hope to continue to lead the RV industry with innovations that reflect the way luxury country travelers experience adventure.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
For me, the word “entrepreneur” means creating part of an industry or defining a new industry with new ideas. It’s about moving forward with new ideas. We thought there was a luxury RV market, but that category didn’t exist yet. And we believed that a nostalgic product could be improved with new technology that would satisfy luxury customers by giving them the technology they want in all aspects of their lives.
Describe your corporate culture and how you helped shape it.
The culture at Bowlus is strongly influenced by people who are drawn to nature and who are motivated and proud to deliver an excellent product to their customers. Bowlus makes luxury handcrafted products, so the staff is extremely diverse when it comes to job description, ranging from salespeople to artisans and artisans. But the common denominator that we have found in all of them seems to be that our employees are people who are interested in adventure and the outdoor lifestyle.
Related: He built Netflix for music creation
Is there a specific quote or saying that you use as personal motivation? Explain how it inspires you.
“Nothing is as American as our national parks.” This is a great quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt who is closely associated with our national parks and who has expanded the National Park Service. It’s a fitting quote too, as it dates back to 1934, around the time the first Bowlus travel trailers crossed the country creating outdoor experiences and memories for a new generation of Americans – which we hopefully did with the Re. – Introducing the Bowlus brand for the 21st century.