The Best RV Event We’ve Ever Attended

The 2017 RV Entrepreneur Summit

Don Cohen Don Cohen  |  03.03.2017

In our four years and 75,000 miles of RV travel and attendance at numerous small and large RV rallies, we’ve had a lot of great experiences.  But our recent weekend at the inaugural RV Entrepreneur Summit was the over the moon best.

Even with the fanciest of prose I can muster, I meekly have to fall back onto the shopworn “you had to be there” trope.  Yeah, it was that magical.

Let’s start with GoLife’s Heath and Alyssa Padgett. Heath is now 26, and three years ago he and Alyssa spent their honeymoon over the period of a year touring the US in a beater Dutchman Class C motorhome as Heath worked an hourly job in all 50 states.  He was covered by CNN, CBS and People Magazine among many others. From there he received corporate speaking invitations by companies like UPS and Chick-fil-A.

Ever the entrepreneur, Heath created a series of podcasts on living and working full-time in RVs. Many of the episodes have 20,000+ downloads.  In the fall he cooked up the idea of an RV Entrepreneur Summit, built a website, and started promoting the event.  Early on Winnebago signed on as a sponsor and the plan was that my wife Terry and I would attend along with one of Winnebago’s product managers, Russ Garfin.

The Padgetts had hoped for 30 attendees, and the final count was 120.  Attendees came from across the country.  Some flew in.  Some had yet to buy RVs.  Most came in their trailers, Class A gas and diesel pushers, Class Cs, and vans.  The bulk of the age range was between 25-45, a few younger and a few older.  Some were true entrepreneurs with thriving businesses, others were simply (and happily) self-employed.

You would have thought that Heath and Alyssa worked for the Swiss National Railroad given their precise sense of keeping everything on schedule.  These rookies created a great balance of impressive speakers and plenty of attendee interaction.

All the sessions were streamed as videos (now archived) on Facebook Live.  At some points, there were over 2,000 people watching. You can visit the Facebook page and videos here.

Most of the panelists invited talked about life, career and moneymaking opportunities on the road.  The Padgetts had carefully screened every one of them, and EVERY presentation and presenter(s) were compellingly engaging.  But here’s the thing — even if you weren’t looking for advice on how to start and build a business in an RV — it didn’t matter.  The stories and experiences all these folks imparted were fascinating and amazingly inspirational.

We were blown away by the Royals, a winning family of six (plus two dogs) living full-time in a 2006 View.  I can’t fully fathom how that works, but it didn’t matter when you met the high wattage mom and serenely happy dad.  They downsized from a 39’ footer to get closer to the action with a smaller rig. The name of their website says it all CrazyFamilyAdventure.

We met a couple of owners of Winnebago towable products who LOVE their new trailers, starting with Shea and Erin.  Shea can work remotely in software support and Erin’s career in employment benefits is currently on hiatus.

Another Winnebago trailer owner was Drew who remotely runs a pet walking business based in Seattle.  I don’t think he ever needs hookups as he’s got plenty of excess energy to charge any get-together.

Then there’s Brooke and Buddy who are soon to take delivery of a brand new 2017 View.  Want to see what the faces of future RVers look like?  Click here to find out.

Joe Hendricks travels full time in an Airstream and is a professional photographer.  Joe did two fully attended sessions on nighttime photography.  His photos and presentation were fun, laugh-filled and accompanied by constant audience oohs and ahhs.

Jill Sessa travels full-time in a 1973 Dodge Travco.  That was incredible in and of itself, but Jill’s presentation defined the “mobile entrepreneur.”  She provides some very specific website support services with her woman powered staff spanning both the Philippines and Eastern Europe.  What was impressive was Jill’s story of how she has empowered many of her women employees to buy their homes and support their families.

There were other fascinating presentations by a family who raised their two teenagers on the road in a fifth-wheel, RV rentals by the founder of RVshare.com, how to operate a virtual Amazon store, maximizing optimization of Facebook, and the legal aspects of living virtually by the Escapees RV Club.

Kyle Kesterson’s Travato. Want a tour?  Click here for Heath’s interview of Kyle – one of the best videos to capture van living.

Inside Kesterson’s Travato and his wall of instant photo memories.

The final presentation was a riveting-you-could-hear-a-pin-drop one-hour presentation by Kyle Kesterson.  You can have a front row seat of Kyle’s moving, fun, startling and deeply heartfelt talk by clicking here.

The summit only lasted for two days, but by the end, people were hugging, laughing, and exchanging contact information as if we’d all been together at a summer camp for a month.  And that was what was so astonishing and different about this RV get-together.

It’s also worth giving a shout out to the Texas Wine Country Jellystone RV Park who’s meeting facilities were far better than what you find at most RV Park rallies.

Night photography and light painting with Joe Hendricks.

While there were rig tours and some great RV chats (especially by Winnebago’s Russ Garfin), there was an energy and excitement that completely transcended the advertised intent of the summit.  The Summit was a warm enveloping updraft of positivity gathered from a collection of people of different ages, incomes, and experiences, but all with a universal desire, curiosity, and passion for engaging in the world.  It’s a feeling that animates the majority of RVers, but it took a young Texan couple to rethink and re-stir these deep human drivers to make it all feel new and fresh again.  God bless ‘em.  It was wonderful.


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9 Comments

  1. Rosemarie Posted on 06.03.2017

    Tell me more about your club please…

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 06.06.2017

      Rosemarie,

      This was actually a first event specifically for people interested in RV entrepreneurship. You can connect with the Padgetts via Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rvesummit

  2. Tsi Posted on 04.08.2017

    how can I find who have or owned Winnebago RV in my areas because I have some questions need to ask to solve the problems. i just bought 2002 Winnebago 22QD model. thanks everyone….!

    T

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 04.09.2017

      There are several ways to find other Winnebago owners. Two good online options are to look for the various Facebook groups (search on Winnebago). Yahoo has some excellent forums for Winnebago owners too.

      There might also be a WIT club chapter in your area http://www.witclub.com. They are always open, friendly, and helpful.

  3. Pam Jaramillo Posted on 04.08.2017

    Is there another gathering planned for 2017??? I’d sure like to be on the mailing list!!!

  4. Chuck Borcher Posted on 03.07.2017

    How can Winnebago channel this energy into annual event. It seems to me that this is a great opportunity to show younger folks what our lifestyle is all about. It seems to me that our clubs and events, including GNR, are geared to maintaining the status quo rather than increasing our “fan” base.

  5. kevin Posted on 03.03.2017

    Is that a ukelele Inside Kesterson’s Travato? Looks cool!

  6. Brooke Baum Posted on 03.03.2017

    Don, thank you for beautifully describing how so many of us feel after such a powerful weekend! We really enjoyed chatting with you and Terry.

    Buddy and I appreciate the shout-out and look forward to fully joining the RVer community very soon! :)

  7. Lindsay McKenzie Posted on 03.03.2017

    Don what an amazing post! You captured it perfectly. It was such a pleasure meeting you and hope to see you again sometime in the future!
    -Dan and Lindsay McKenzie