Mark Chamberlain has business experience. His wife Marcy’s childhood rooted her deeply in the camping world. Combine their pasts — and then factor in their access to, and connection with, a newly renovated beautiful Jellystone park just north of Columbus, Ohio — and they have one incredibly busy, RV-filled entrepreneurial opportunity on their hands.
While Mark’s youth included being outdoors on a farm, he didn’t begin camping until he married Marcy. He loved the experiences and time it gave him with his family, but as his children got a bit older and therefore their lives and Mark’s work a bit busier, less time was available to head out in their travel trailer.
So at the recommendation of a friend, Mark looked into RVshare. Bookings transpired immediately, along with the purchase and listing of three more campers. It didn’t take long for Mark to realize that paying off his camper was a moot point and that his RVshare business goals could be so much bigger. Further, he thought about his proximity to Jellystone, the sweet and family-friendly environment owners Rich and Nancy Felber created, and the potential that offers his RVshare business.
Here, he walks you through the evolution of his life as a camper and business owner, what he now wants ultimately to achieve through his RVshare rental business, and how Jellystone is involved.
Mark’s Quick Entrance into Camping and RVshare
Will you give us a brief overview of your RVshare rental business?
Mark: My name’s Mark Chamberlain and I’ve been renting at RVshare since January 2017. This is a side business for my wife Marcy and I. We have four RVs now, all travel trailers, on RVshare. We started the first one in January , and we started receiving bookings almost immediately. So I had my wife Marcy take a look online to see if we could get some other listings — some other trailers.
We listed two additional trailers in late February and again, immediately started receiving bookings on them. We just purchased our fourth trailer two weeks ago and it goes out for its first time tomorrow, which is beginning of September.
So, will you talk about your history as a camper and RV-er?
Mark: I did not grow up camping. I grew up on a farm, and we never had time for anything. My wife always wanted to camp. She tried to convince me for years to go camping because she could see it was one thing that would allow our family to be together and just spend real quality time together. Finally, she convinced me and we bought a trailer. We were totally ignorant of everything. Unfortunately, we bought a real lemon that only made it one season, because it had a lot of damage. We learned an awful lot through that experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because that is what kicked off everything that we’re doing today with camping. Our family, even with the problems we had on the first trip, just immediately fell into camping. It was something that was gonna be part of our family from then on out.
The next year after that, we purchased a brand new camper. We try to spend about a third of our summer, if we can, camping. That’s what led to the rental situation as well. We weren’t using it as much lately, because of some additional responsibilities at work, and wanted to try and get some extra income.
So let’s talk about Jellystone. Talk about your personal experiences here at this park we’re visiting and what your connection is to this location.
Mark: With Jellystone in specific, and this location, Dogwood Valley at Jellystone, is very close to our hearts as a family. My wife grew up camping here, prior to it being a Jellystone. And so, she’s got years and years of very fine memories that built that desire to be a camping family, long before we ever were a family. And honestly, our first experience here as a family cemented that long-term camping experience for us. Everything has just continued to be improved on and improved on; every year that we come here, there’s something new to make a better experience. Most recently, they’ve paved all the roads, so everything is so easy to get to. That’s just one example of many, many things they keep doing.
The owners, Rich and Nancy, have become like great friends to us. They know our kids’ names, and so many of the employees know us as repeat campers. It’s just so much more of a family than you would ever expect. I really couldn’t ask for anything [better] to be in our backyard, and we’d love to help other people experience that as well. So, with RVshare and our trailers, we will be doing a discount delivery to bring some more business in for ourselves and for Jellystone — just to help folks have that great experience we’ve been so used to these years.
What made you purchase this specific trailer?
Mark: We purchased the “Family Size on a Budget” camper, because we started with our large camper, and unfortunately that camper requires a large truck to tow. And so, we were really limited by the folks that were going to be able to rent that. This can be towed by any half-ton truck, so it opens up for a lot more families to use. We’ve since seen that campers even smaller and lighter than this, are even more popular with families, because even smaller vehicles like Jeeps and small SUVs can tow them anywhere they want.
When you bought your next three trailers, did you make those purchases based on rental experiences and feedback that RVshare renters gave you on the trailer you already had?
Mark: So, when we started out in the rental business, we have a fairly large camper with an extra bunkhouse and separate master bedroom and everything, but it’s also very heavy and requires a very large truck to tow. And, when we started renting, we realized that the more accessible campers — being smaller, lighter — were what people really wanted. So, we started by adding this camper, and then realized the smaller we went, the more business we received, so we actually have two smaller campers that can be towed by just about anything. And they’re very popular with folks for just weekend getaways or someone who wants to get camping and not have to worry about a lot of setup.
How has RVshare been a family experience?
Mark: It’s been interesting on the delivery side of things. My job is very intense, and so I end up working a lot. And when we have the opportunity to do a delivery, it’s actually become a really great bonding time with the kids. [This] is the first thing I think about when you ask me about how has this changed or improved our family dynamic. The kids are with dad in the truck, and we get there and they get out and they help get everything set up and some of the renters just go, “Wow.” And that’s been a wonderful thing because we lack those moments some of the time. So, I’ve really enjoyed that part; and the other side of it is they see places they really want to come to. And so it’s absolutely wonderful to have that time with them.
Was deciding to rent something that your family loved using hard to do?
Mark: The rental decision was a difficult one, because this was our new primary camper that our family was going to use. We really did have to take a look at it from a financial standpoint, as to what we could cover with the rental income. At first, we were just looking to have it paid for, so that we would be able to enjoy it at times that we wanted and then the payments would be covered the rest of the time.
How nervous were you with the first rental?
Mark: That first time that it rolled out the driveway with somebody else driving it, I had all these butterflies in my stomach, but it turned out just perfect. We had, of course, coverage with insurance. And RVshare’s contract ensured that we were gonna be in a good spot if anything did happen. When it came back in one piece and no issues, we were just ecstatic and couldn’t wait for the next one.