Wenxi and Pat both crave adventure and traveling. The two young entrepreneurs never saw the typical 9-5 job in their cards and wanted to find other ways of making a living. After all, Wenxi has always been interested in a very minimalistic and free lifestyle. She isn’t one who likes to be weighed down by everyday things like work, bills, and other commitments. Wenxi has a part-time job while Pat is a full-time student. When their schedules sink up and they have the chance, they enjoy traveling, but they also know that nothing lasts forever – eventually the vacation will end and they have to go back to their regular every day lives. Wenxi dreams of waking up in unknown locations with breathtaking views with no schedule to follow and no date of returning home. The vanlife really intrigued the couple because of how minimalistic and easy it is. It gives them the opportunity to travel, be on the go, and have a roof over their heads at night – all on their own time.
“Full-time vanlife is something I am working towards, but it is not something I can afford to do at the moment,” Wenxi explained. “But that didn’t stop me from daydreaming about vanlife and looking for converted van sales anyway. It’s like window-shopping for your dream life online!”
If it weren’t for Wenxi’s late night and early morning window-shopping, her and Pat probably wouldn’t be business owners right now. Wenxi was up all night when she scrolled on a Craigslist listing for VanVenture. The listing stated that the deal would include 2 converted vans and everything the current owners had built up until that point. The original owners of VanVenture were looking to sell the business because it wasn’t growing the way they had planned. They both had full-time jobs and didn’t believe the return they got was high enough for all the time and effort they put into the business. So, they posted up their listing hoping that it would catch someone’s eyes. It did. And it was Wenxi. It was 5 AM, but she didn’t hesitate to wake up Pat to tell him about the listing. They agreed that the offer was definitely a sweet one, and they were considering the idea of possibly following through. Later that day, they brought up the idea to Pat’s family while they were all at a family gathering. Pat’s family supported the idea of them possibly buying a business. But the couple didn’t really give it too much thought because they weren’t taking it too seriously yet. They talked about it more on the drive back home and realized they were out of their league – they needed professional advice.
“We were hesitant because we didn’t know the first thing about owning a business,” Wenxi admitted. “We didn’t know how to look at the books, we didn’t know how to judge the deal, we didn’t know if it was going to be profitable.”
Wenxi and Pat started off by asking their accountant friends for help looking over the books. It was pretty unanimous across the board – everyone told them that it was a bad business move to invest in the vanlife. Their friends explained to them that it just wasn’t worth it, the costs for maintenance were just too high and the return wouldn’t be high enough. Their friends were focused strictly on the facts and previous numbers. And Wenxi didn’t blame them. On paper, the business didn’t seem worth it. Vanlife wasn’t mainstream at the time, and it was 2 months into the pandemic – were they really going to start a business venture during such unprecedented times? Still, Wenxi and Pat saw potential in the business, since they planned to use the vans for personal use if they weren’t booked.
With the overwhelming amount of “no’s” they got from friends who analyzed the books, with time, Wenxi and Pat started to also lean towards no. It seemed that their dreams of the vanlife would have to wait a little bit longer. VanVenture really put Wenxi and Pat on their toes, but they pretty much already came to the realization that it wasn’t going to happen for them. Still, they wanted to see the vans in person anyway. Their peaked curiosity and love for converted vans is what ultimately led them to be business owners. Wenxi and Pat went to see the vans, knowing they weren’t even considering buying anymore. But the moment they stepped into the vans, they knew they had to get it. Wenxi shares that when she hopped in the drivers seat, Pat probably saw her pupils double in size. The look they gave each other confirmed that they were both on the same page, it was a full 180, they wanted VanVenture for keeps.
Wenxi and Pat decided to look past all of the “no’s” and go with their gut feeling. They took into consideration the fact that their friends have never owned a business, had no experience in the RV rental industry, and didn’t see the personal gain from owning VanVenture. The two had to think and act on the deal fast, because someone else was eager to go through with the buying process of the business as well. It was then they knew that they were making the right decision. Their biding competitor was a sign to them that this business deal was a good one, you know the saying, you don’t know how bad you want something until someone else has it! At first, they tried to negotiate the selling price, but their competitor put in a bid for the previous owners’ exact asking price. At that point, they had little wiggle room to negotiate, but at the end of it, Wenxi and Pat became the new co-owners of VanVenture in July 2020.
“We figured we are still young, we can afford to make mistakes, we can recover,” Wenxi said remembering their thought process at the time. “Even if we lose everything and start back at square one, we can. We don’t have a family, mortgage, or other big bills we need to worry about, so we have a lot more freedom to take risks and make mistakes.”
To Wenxi and Pat, VanVenture was more than just their business to make an income. A big deciding factor in buying the business was the fact that they were interested in the vanlife already and wanted a van for themselves. It seemed like a dream come true to have two converted vans that they could use for personal use, while also using them as another stream of income. It seemed foolish to them to pay someone else to rent their van for a few weeks, when they could invest that money into owning their own. So many people told Wenxi and Pat that VanVenture wasn’t a good deal and they would be better off if they started from the ground up to build their own vanlife empire. Their friends recommended this because it would be cheaper than what they paid for the business, and though that was true, Wenxi and Pat disagreed that starting their own business would be a better idea. They saw the value in the existing brand, and took it for what it was.
Wenxi explains that taking over an existing business and learning their techniques on what worked and what didn’t saved her and Pat the headache of trying to figure it out for themselves. VanVenture already had a good reputation on Google Business, rental platforms, Yelp, and other rating sites. On top of that, the previous owners were going to teach Wenxi and Pat everything they needed to know to run the business smoothly – sharing with them what they have learned and tried in the past. By having the previous owners guide them, they would be skipping the trial and error period all together. This is another reason why Wenxi didn’t look too deep into the their books, because the previous owners were only in business for 3 years and feeling out the process. Wenxi and Pat had the opportunity to skip the awkward start up phase and use their new knowledge to build up the business.
Since the couple had a deep yearning to purchase their own van to travel, this made buying the business so much easier. Of course they hoped and planned for the business to be successful, but if it wasn’t, they would personally “win” either way. If the business didn’t work out, they would just use the vans for personal use for their own adventures. Having this win-win mindset made the business venture less stressful and more exciting. They were eager to start their training from the previous owners. Training took place 2 times a week for 4 weeks total. The previous owners showed Wenxi and Pat everything from beginning to end. Some training nights were focused only on cleaning, which is not underrated especially during COVID. Having a step by step training process really helped the couple transition into being the new owners. Wenxi was thankful for this process because it made it so much easier to own a business without any prior experience. To this day, Wenxi and Pat still keep in contact with the previous owners. One of the previous owners even cosigned one of his vehicles with them, a great way for them to expand without investing a lot of money for more vans. Wenxi and Pat appreciate that they have built friendships with the previous owners of VanVenture because they can learn a lot from them.
Being business owners was something completely new to the two. Pat is a full-time student, and has yet to have a 9-5 job. At the moment he is balancing school and their business ventures. Wenxi graduated college a few years back, but has only had part-time or remote job. Luckily, her other job is remote and she controls her own hours. Something that really surprised Wenxi was how “easy” it was to own her own business. Not in the literal sense, since running a business takes a lot of time and hard work, but she was surprised how smoothly it went to take on a business. She always thought that she couldn’t have her own business until she “had x, y, and z” under her belt. Now, she sees that it was just her and Pat making a conscious choice to pursue something they were passionate about. They didn’t have the prior experience, and just like VanVanture, on paper, it seemed like they bit off more than they could chew. But they know now that it’s just a matter of stepping up, gettting out of your comfort zone, and taking that chance.
“We started off 2020 in a very different position,” Wenxi shares. I felt stuck, unsure what my next moves were. . . I was unmotivated and worried that I wouldn’t end up following my passion of branding and experience creation. The opportunity reignited a fire for the both of us to continue pushing and chase for what we want. We were honestly on cloud 9 for the whole month that it took to finalize the sale, and it didn’t stop there. There are still moments where we say : Damn, we own a business. Life isn’t bad.”
They knew that they were taking a huge risk by buying a business in the middle of quarantine. However, with Shelter in Place Orders, businesses shutting down, people working from home, and other factors like travel bans, Wenxi and Pat knew that they couldn’t be the only ones itching to get out. Especially with people working remotely, not having to come into a physical location, and working from the comforts of their own home, now “working from home,” could take place ultimately anywhere. Suddenly, the vanlife industry started to gain popularity since people wanted to travel but were more cautious about public places and hotels. COVID really helped VanVenture once Wenxi and Pat took over the business. People were working from home and being cooped up with their families. Suddenly, people had more time with their loved ones and could finally cross things off of their bucket lists. At the same time, parents are burnt out from having their children bored at home and doing online schooling. And with more people booking their vans for trips, Wenxi and Pat make sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize everything in the van once it is returned. They follow the CDC guidelines and clean with a bleach mixture, and switch out all gears and linen after each rental.
“Recreational vehicles are the go-to options for traveling during COVID since you do not have to go from hotel to hotel,” Wenxi shared. “You can avoid coming in contact with others and avoid highly touched surfaces. You’re just in your own pod, touching the same stuff and bringing that stuff with you. . . Travel will always be in style, and now people have their eyes set on a new way to travel.”
When Wenxi and Pat first took over VanVenture, the company’s reputation on platforms were already highly rated. But their reputation on Outdoorsy brought in most of their costumers. The couple started to use Facebook and Instagram ads to bring in business on slower months, and they started to see an increase in clientele. With the help of ads, VanVenture started to receive more and more reservations. Because they knew how the previous owners were advertising the business, it made it easier for them to play around with other options and test out what worked, what didn’t, and what brought in new customers.
Diving into VanVenture actually lead to Wenxi and Pat starting up a second business. SCVLE Management is a “marketing and lead generation company aimed towards connecting van conversion companies to clients who are interested in building their next dream home on wheels.” SCVLE Management came about when the two started to dig deeper into the vanlife community. They quickly realized that there was a big gap between renters, builders, and those who were interested in living a life on wheels full-time. The two vanlife enthusiasts wanted to bridge that gap and give a space for others in their community. They are excited to explore and test out their business ventures together to hopefully bring in other different streams of income. Wenxi and Pat are excited to see where they can take SCVLE Management once it is fully established. They are predicting that SCVLE Management will end up being a bigger company than VanVenture, but their top priority at the moment is their vanlife services. The original plan was for Wenxi to leave her current part-time job, but ever since SCVLE Management was created, she groups her duties under the business, giving her the opportunity to work on branding and marketing. By using the skills that they already know and to merge it with something they are personally interested in makes it that more rewarding. Aside from traveling, Wenxi loves branding and marketing, and thought it would be a great idea to merge her two loves together.
How Wenxi and Pat determine what they offer with their businesses really comes down to putting themselves in their customers shoes. They think it is key to having a successful business and product. Wenxi loves to browse on Outdoorsy and Airbnb, analyzing their listings and seeing what she likes about it, dislikes, and what it makes her feel. Seeing other listings helps her see what she would want as a customer, ultimately tweaking what they offer on VanVenture. After all, seeing the disconnect between everyone in the vanlife community is what led to SCVLE Management – they created what they wanted to see and use as a customer. It’s also a plus that the van enthusiasts were interested in the community already – they know what they would want in a van / rental, and want to offer the best experience to their customers. If the opportunity for VanVenture never came up, Wenxi and Pat still had plans to eventually convert and build a van for personal use. The passion for the vanlife has always been there, and they feel really lucky to be doing business in something they truly love, since not a lot of people can truthfully say that.
They are also thankful that VanVenture and SCVLE Management is not getting in the way of their relationship. Owning a business with your significant other can either make or break a relationship. Wenxi admits that she was a little hesitant to start a business with her partner because she tends to take full control – not worrying about what other people have to say. Luckily, Wenxi and Pat openly communicate and talk through any disagreements they may have about their businesses. Wenxi believes that talking things through together and having both people align their expectations to make sure they are on the same page is crucial to make a business successful, but also maintain a healthy relationship. Plus, co-owning businesses with your significant other has its pros. They enjoy working at any hour of the day or night since they live together, that they can talk business any time one of them has a new idea, and being near if anything business related comes up. Working together has been going so well for the two entrepreneurs that they have yet to have a con at the top of their head. Whatever one person lacks, the other person will step up in.
Another upside about pursuing business ventures with your loved one is knowing that they know you inside and out – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Wenxi says it plain and simple, her and Pat are “just some kids trying to figure it out.” Like many others, they deal with depression, anxiety, ADHD – and Wenxi used to believe that she couldn’t be a successful business owner until she felt she was in control of her mental health. There are times when the bad days outweigh the good, but Wenxi wants people to know that it’s all about getting up each day and pushing extra hard on your good days. She believes everyone – no matter what you’re dealing with – can be a successful business owner. She fell victim to the misconception that all entrepreneurs have their lives together and have everything in their life under control. She knows now that behind every success story is endless stories and hours of personal struggles. The two businesses has definitely given Wenxi more things to be anxious about, but she appreciates Pat for being there and being her crutch if she needs him. As for depression, their businesses has helped them remind themselves that they have a wonderful opportunity in front of them, and VanVenture and SCVLE Management is giving the young entrepreneurs a lot to be happy about nowadays.
Dealing with her depression and anxiety is part of the reason why Wenxi is obsessed with traveling. She loves that it gives her the opportunity to witness different cultures, and see how different people live. She gets so fascinated by how every single person has a totally different experience than the next. She sees her life as “normal,” being a city girl and living the Bay Area lifestyle, and is intrigued by different variations of people her age in another part of the country / area / world. Traveling is Wenxi’s way of escaping every day life and experiencing something new. It keeps her on her toes and puts her on cloud 9. Long drives has always done that for her. It calms her, puts her at ease, and it gives her a chance to stop overthinking. She describes it by saying:
I love the idea of ultimate freedom- To be able to go as you please and not live life for anyone else but yourself and whatever you want to do that day. I honestly love a long drive. Its the only time I get to be at peace with my thoughts. I have so many anxieties throughout the day, always stressing to make the best decision and doing the right things. I feel like I am always multi-tasking and jumping from one thing to another, and I panic because I feel like I am not progressing enough in whatever endeavors. However, when I am driving, I put all those stressors away because for that moment I am just trying to get from point A to point B. I cannot do anything about my problems at that moment, so why stress? What good will that do? The only progress I am trying to make is the distance needed to travel to my next destination, and I am doing that. Plus, I have ADHD which means I am constantly jumping from one thought to another. However, I think the best when I am physically doing something else. Driving gives me something to focus on at the same time I can be in my thoughts and really sort my ideas out.Wenxi
The vanlife has helped Wenxi in so many ways, and she encourages others to give it a try. VanVenture is such a unique experience because you have the opportunity to live in a van and be on the go. It literally takes the phrase, “go as you please,” to a whole other meaning. Forget about check in and check out times, booking your flight, also booking a hotel for x amount of days and nights, and worrying about transportation. VanVenture takes care of all those tasks and checks off all the boxes. Wenxi describes the vanlife as the ultimate freedom. The converted van has everything and then some. It’s basically an apartment on wheels, since they have a mini kitchen set up that allows you to cook food. Now, waking up next to the waves on the beach is not too much to ask!
Wenxi and Pat’s goal for 2021 is to add at least two more vans to their collection to use for business. And they are already 50% done with that goal since they recently picked up their 3rd van. They have met with their contractor over Zoom to discuss the build of the van, and they are hoping to have it finished and put together in time for March – when business starts to pick up again. Their 3rd van is a little different from the first 2 – it is bigger, will have an indoor kitchen, an indoor shower, and a booth seat with a 360 view, perfect for people who work from home! They will also be including 2 additional detachable seats so families can rent the van, since their current vans can only hold 2 people. Eventually, Wenxi and Pat want to add a pop-up tent on the top of the vans. Another goal is to offer consignment services under VanVenture, where other people can rent out their vehicles when they are not using them.
The vanlife has definitely gained a lot of attention since the pandemic started. Wexi and Pat had a guy rent out one of the vans for 4 weeks to take a solo trip. The cool thing about VanVenture is that there is no limit to how long you can book a converted van. As long as they are available, it can be rented out for as long as long as you need. The original two vans that came with the business can only seat and fit 2 people. Their third van that is being converted from scratch will be able to seat 4 and sleep 4 guests. And the vehicle that they are obtaining through consignment can seat 5 and sleep 4. VanVenture is expanding their products to try to fit more people so families can start to try out the vanlife too! Customers can use VanVenture’s vans to travel anywhere in the United States, but they prohibit taking the van out of the country or to the Burning Man Festival. Interestingly, the Burning Man ban was a rule left by the previous owners, and Wenxi and Pat intend on upholding that rule.
Their back up plan and safety net made them content knowing that if the business went under, they would still have 2 converted vans for personal use. Now, they are booked pretty regularly, and ironically, have not used the vans very often. Since the vans were being constantly booked during the warmer months, the couple was left with only using the vans when they were not booked, which was during colder times of the year. However, Wenxi is excited for the new van to be completed and predicts that they will be using that van during the next winter season because it will have an indoor shower. The two “kids who are just trying to figure it out” are hopeful for the future. They found a business that aligns with them and their personalities.
“The plan is to grow and automate the business so we can build out our dream home on wheels and travel across continents with our dog, Tofu!” She shared.
Going into the business, Wenxi and Pat had no idea whether VanVenture would be successful or not. So many people were telling the couple that buying the company would be a big mistake. They bought the business because they saw the value in the existing company that stood for everything they enjoyed and believed in. The vanlife was their calling even before the business opportunity came about. It was their passion for the company and their willingness to step up to the plate and take a swing basically blindfolded, is what led them to be young entrepreneurs and successful business owners. They walked in as the new owners of VanVenture not even knowing if they could handle the business, run it properly, and make a profit. They want people to know that it’s okay to not know everything about the business side of things going into it. You don’t need to have x, y, and z under your belt to be successful, you just need to give yourself the opportunity to try.
“It is ok to not know anything as long as you are willing to make mistakes and learn,” is what she wants readers to take away from her and Pat’s journey. “Being an entrepreneur is as easy – and as hard – as making a choice, making the choice to do it regardless of your fears.”
Check out VanVenture‘s avaiability and book your next trip by checking their website: www.vanventure.co