This Entrepreneur Needed an Affordable Vacation and Wound Up Inventing a Thriving Business David Sodemann, co-owner of Boho Camper Vans, unveils his secrets to business success and how he maintains a close relationship with his customers even while they're on the road.

By Emily Washcovick

Key Takeaways

  • Great business ideas can come from experiencing obstacles as a consumer.
  • Boho Camper Vans started with co-owner David Soderman booking a trip to Maui and being shocked by hotel rates. His solution for affordable transportation inspired his entrepreneurial journey.
  • Soderman credits the company's success with maintaining constant communication with customers.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Courtesy of Boho Camper Vans

Sometimes, the best ideas for a small business can come from experiencing obstacles as a consumer. The idea for Boho Camper Vans started with co-owner David Sodemann's desire for a budget-friendly vacation. When booking a trip to Maui with his fiancée, he was taken aback by how expensive lodging was. His clever solution for affordable transportation would subsequently inspire his entrepreneurial journey.

"[We] ended up renting a camper van, and we spent five days traveling throughout the island in the camper van, and just realized this was a really cool way to vacation. Everything felt more real, the experiences felt longer, the trip felt longer. We were able to connect with each other because it was a very minimal way to travel," David said.

Related: How Reviewers Can Help Local Businesses Thrive

The business initially started off as a simple idea to build a single camper van he could travel in and rent out when he wasn't using it. He recruited Brett Ellenson, a friend who had experience in construction, to be his business partner. When they started receiving rental requests even before the van was completed, David knew they were on to something special. A few months after the first van rental, Brett and David decided to purchase another van, and the business took off.

While the pandemic posed many obstacles for small businesses around the country, for David, it was almost a blessing in disguise. Because COVID forced everyone to get more creative with how they could travel, camper vans started to blow up on social media. Their appeal came from a feeling of safety while traveling in a way that maintained social distance.

"When all the lockdowns started happening, we kept getting calls for cancellations. We weren't sure what we were going to do. But more and more people started realizing, 'Hey, we can travel this way. It's safer. We can go explore our backyard rather than taking flights to go visit a new city.' So everything started picking up, especially on the purchase side," David said.

"People weren't sure how long it was going to take to be able to travel again, and they said, 'I want to travel. This is part of my lifestyle. A camper van is a really great way to do it.' You don't have to be around a lot of people. It's just you and your loved ones."

During a time of fear and uncertainty, Boho Camper Vans became a way for people to continue to do what they love while avoiding illness. David understands that his business is a way for people to travel with their loved ones and build memories, which is why he wants to create a seamless and stress-free rental process.

Satisfied customer and Yelp reviewer David A. found Boho Camper Vans when searching for a more affordable alternative for his honeymoon. He was especially impressed with the way the owner was easy to reach with any questions or problems, even while he and his wife were on the road.

"[Communication] always matters because this is a business that's not just a one-hour or 10-minute interaction. This was something that stayed steady from the time we called until the time we finished, which in my eyes, they deserve a lot more than a 5-star review," David A. said.

Related: Expert Advice for Supercharging Your Business's Customer Service Training

"To keep that open communication with a consumer for so long and make them feel like they're valued is not an easy task as a business owner—to keep in constant contact, how are you doing phone calls, dealing with pricing, insurances—it's a lot to handle, especially when you're doing it not only for one consumer, but for several vans."

Owner David S. shared: "What we've managed to do is make it easy for everyone so they feel very comfortable the moment they leave our spot in Phoenix."

He also understands most of his renters have little experience with camper vans and prioritizes customer comfort by encouraging customers to come to him with any questions they might have. He does this in small but meaningful ways, like creating a memorable start to their trip with personalized details. For David A. and his new wife, this looked like putting balloons that said "Congratulations" in the van to celebrate the start of their honeymoon.

Other valuable tips small businesses in any industry can learn from Boho Camper Vans include:

  • Be proactive and ask for verbal feedback from your customers, or in the form of a survey. If they choose to leave a Yelp review about your business, use that feedback to create an even better customer experience for the next person.
  • Establish a connection with your customer from the beginning. This can help make them feel comfortable enough to ask questions or contact you if problems should arise. Building trust with your customers can also help strengthen your reputation and earn more potential customers.
  • Be available. Contact with your customer looks different in every industry, but what shouldn't change is the fact that your customer should know how and when to reach you. This can be as simple as providing them with a phone number to call if there are any issues.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from David, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud.

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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