Where RVers Go to Build a Business & Community
The RV Entrepreneur Summit is part business conference, part non-stop networking event, and part family reunion -- if your family all had similar values and were totally supportive of each other's dreams.
Sounds kind of impossibly amazing, right? Well, after our second year at the summit, our beliefs around what is possible have expanded far beyond what we ever thought. Even the creators of this amazing event, Heath and Alyssa Padgett, would have never guessed it would be such a success and create so much value for everyone who attends. But as we've all learned, you should never underestimate the power of the RVing community -- these are some deeply passionate people.
As previous attendees, we were taken aback time after time with memories of how little we knew at last year's summit -- we didn't even have our RV yet! So, if you would have told us before last year's summit that we'd be deeply embedded in a loving community of friends (some of which we are yet to meet in person), actually gaining traction with our blog, writing and working with Winnebago, and asking things like "where do you want to go tomorrow?," we'd have had a really good laugh. It was especially exciting to realize we actually had insights and advice to offer others this time around!
Brooke & Buddy Baum. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
But that's what the summit is all about -- making connections to grow as a person, traveler and entrepreneur, all while generously giving any knowledge you've accumulated along the way.
It is so special to see how much value is added to everyone's life by attending: from returning RVE Summiters like ourselves, to newbies, to volunteers, to those capturing the moments, and even attendees from the RV industry. Everyone leaves inspired and with a ton of great new information swirling around in their brains.
Group photo from a small meetup with Winnebago employees and GoLife writers in attendance.
Since this event is just too amazing to explain from one point of view, we reached out to some friends and fellow GoLifers to get their perspectives as well:
Newbies: Kenny & Sabrina Phillips
These two are some of the happiest, most enthusiastic people we've ever met! Kenny and Sabrina began RVing last year in order for Sabrina to pursue a career as a traveling doctor (read more about them here). Since hitting the road, they also started a YouTube channel, Moving Forward Adventures, and began writing for WinnebagoLife.com. This was their first time attending the RVE Summit and both raved about it!
"What is the RVE summit you ask? Its pure magic in its rawest form! A group of amazing people coming together not only to improve themselves, but to help others improve as well. It's a place to set aside your ego and lend a hand to anyone who is trying to think outside the box and live a life where work and life are so blended that you're not sure if you are having fun or working hard.
This year was our first RVE Summit, we had no idea what to expect. But when we heard about it at the Winnebago Rally in July, we knew that we wanted to be there to see what all the buzz was about. We arrived three days before the official kick-off of the event and we were immediately blown away.
Kenny & Sabrina Phillips. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
We started making connections with other early arrivers and quickly found out not only did we need to be here, but we were about to embark on a journey of knowledge like nothing else before. With every new person we spoke with we learned something new. We would start to have conversations with people and have an instant connection with them. We would chat for a minute, then laugh for a bit then say, "Wait what did you just say about using Pinterest as a tool to grow our brand?" We were learning from people while just having normal conversation and we were receiving answers to questions that we did not know we had.
We couldn't believe how giving everyone was! They were willing to share their time and knowledge. They were sharing information that we thought would be secrets to their success.
I believe it was Camille Attell who said it best at the start of the week "Don't look at everyone in this room as competition, but look at them as partners." That set the tone for the rest of the event and sums up the attitude of the RVE Summit nicely. Thank you, Heath & Alyssa Padgett for an experience we will never forget." - Kenny Phillips
'Veterans': Jon and Nadia Bajuelo
There seems to be a trend around RVers who are out working for themselves on the road -- they all just exude happiness. These two are a great example of how much can be achieved with a positive mindset and determination! In addition to contributing to GoLife, they are fantastic content creators for multiple other projects and are always chatting about fun new skills they are mastering (like blogging and YouTube).
"We came to the RV Entrepreneur Summit full of excitement and energy knowing that we would be surrounding ourselves with fellow nomadic entrepreneurs, some of whom we met at last year's Summit. A lot had changed for us in the year following the first ever RV Entrepreneur Summit. We changed rigs, started working for ourselves, and actively engaged with the community throughout our travels. We were coming back to the event as "veterans", and we were so excited to connect with friends, old and new.
Jon & Nadia Bajuelo. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
The mix of main stage inspirational talks and the more tactical and actionable approach of the breakout sessions provided plenty of invaluable information. We will take with us many tips, ideas, and tactics that were shared throughout the event. However, our most prized takeaway comes down to why this event exists in the first place, community! The relationships that we were fortunate enough to cultivate at the event are the kind of long-lasting friendships we treasure. Knowing that, at a moment's notice, we will likely find ourselves near a RVE friend on our travels, is energizing, comforting, and quite special.
The community sits at the heart of this event. If anyone is out on the open road building the life they dream of and feeling like most of their friends or family just don't "get" them, the RV Entrepreneur Summit is the event they need to attend. We are inspired and energized to reach for more in the upcoming year. We are grateful for every soul that shared their story, and we are thankful to Heath and Alyssa for organizing such a wonderful event." - Jon and Nadia Bajuelo
Volunteers: Lindsay & Dan McKenzie
We had the pleasure of meeting this power couple at the 2017 Summit and are so proud of how far they've come. In addition to contributing to GoLife, they've also written for multiple other publications and grown their personal blog (FollowYourDetour.com) a ton. This year, they volunteered at the Summit to make sure others got to have the same magical experience they had the year prior. Lindsay also spoke at an attendee-led meetup about Blogging for Business. I wouldn't be surprised if the McKenzies were on the main stage at the 2019 Summit!
"This year's RV Entrepreneur Summit was special to us in many ways. First, it marked the one-year anniversary of us RVing full-time. Last year, we purchased our first RV the day before we flew to the Summit and then hit the road a few weeks later. Being back at Jellystone allowed us to deeply reflect on the journey we experienced in just one year. We hardly recognize ourselves because of how much we've grown personally, professionally, and in our marriage. Sometimes, especially at an event for entrepreneurs, we only look forward to the things we want to accomplish. So, it was powerful for us to take the time and look back at how far we've come.
Lindsay & Dan McKenzie. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
This year we had the privilege of volunteering at the RV Entrepreneur Summit. This kept us pretty busy all week long and when we finally had time to sit and review the experience, it hit us pretty hard and we were truly overwhelmed with gratitude. We didn't get to attend as many sessions that we wanted to, and didn't get to chat with as many attendees as we wanted. But, instead of taking pages and pages of notes in the sessions like last year or having hundreds of short conversations, we were able to observe a bit more.
We witnessed people building relationships that are crucial for this lifestyle and we got to see people walk in and out of the tent feeling inspired and motivated each day. Lindsay had a few deep conversations and shed some tears with people who shared their heart with her. We were just so touched by all the passion and talent that surrounded us.
It ultimately reminded us of why we started RVing and blogging in the first place - because of the people we wanted to connect with through our journey and story. We're so thankful for this event and the community it has introduced us to. We're feeling motivated and excited to see what we can accomplish in another year because we will, no doubt, be back to the RV Entrepreneur Summit next year!" -- Lindsay McKenzie
Speakers: Kathy, Peter & Abby Holcombe
Buddy and I were extra excited to meet this amazing family. They were part of the reason we decided to buy an RV in the first place! And they are just as sweet and inspiring in person as they seem in their photos, stories and videos. At this year's Summit, all three of them openly shared their stories on the main stage. Abby started off this year's main stage sessions with an amazing account of her Grand Canyon kayaking trip that left everyone in tears. Then her parents ended the day with an inspiring talk on how they built their dream life as adventure photographers, and they shared a ton of drool-worthy travel photos as well! Peter was also kind enough to do a side photo meetup where he shared some great tips.
Abby Holcombe getting her kayaking fix in the pool. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
"There is a certain energy that emerges when like-minded people converge and begin sharing ideas and experiences. It's that little spark that crackles during a meaningful conversation that we all experience from time to time.
Being immersed in a large group of people who are passionate about a common interest (like running a business while living in an RV), has the power to ignite each of those often minuscule and inconsequential sparks and fuel them into a profoundly transformational experience.
We came to the Summit excited to share our experiences shifting our brick and mortar photography business to a road worthy endeavor and hopefully encourage and inspire others to take the leap into full-time RVing. But we walked away with so much more, a feeling of a shift of momentum that occurs when a fire has been lit from within.
Peter Holcombe sharing photography insights. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
Every single conversation, with every extraordinary person there, left us not only encouraged and inspired to continue to pursue our wildest dreams, but also with an arsenal of new ideas to incorporate into our ever-evolving business strategy.
Thank you, Heath and Alyssa, for having the vision to create this incredible community of synchronicity where inspiration, education and innovation fan the flames within each of us to become our very best in this epic road trip we call life." -- Kathy Holcombe
Moment Capturer: Jeremy Scroggins
Jeremy & Melanie Scroggins set off on their RVing adventure shortly after attending last year's Summit. Although we didn't meet them then, we realized how similar we were through our interactions on social media and became great friends before even meeting in person this year. In addition to contributing to GoLife, this couple also excels in their own content creation. Which is why Jeremy was asked to capture some videos of this year's Summit.
"Whistles, hoots, cheers and the heavy rain patter of a thousand hand claps erupt from the crowd as they stand to marvel as the thirteen-year-old girl, Abbey Holcombe, who paddled the Grand Canyon two years ago delivers her last line and stands tall on stage, owning it with all the coolness of Elon Musk. I pretend like I wasn't stifling a sniffle and stare out beyond my camera at her in awe, then think, "Oh, I should really be recording this."
It is hard to anticipate how people, rather, insanely enthusiastic go-getters and life-livers, react to any given moment at this conference.
Melanie and Jeremy Scroggins with their Summit friends. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
I put on my sneakers, stretch, and run. I run everywhere as quickly and quietly as I possibly can, trying to be invisibly omnipresent capturing sweet moments of backstage speakers prepping or attendees breaking out into the tribe and falling in love with their new family. All the while I try to find unique and creative angles, movements and other amazing cinemagraphic techniques to woo viewers later. And to appease Alyssa Padgett who will be (possibly cursing my name) combing through the footage looking for workable clips.
By the end, I relax. I've gotten enough, I think. I still carry the camera. People don't actually know who I am, but they admit they saw me everywhere. Success." -- Jeremy Scroggins
RV Industry Attendees: Mark Lafferty & Rick Devries, Winnebago Product Planners
Winnebago has been a sponsor of this event from the beginning and this year they decided to be even more involved by setting up the 'Winnebago Lab.' Two Winnebago Product Planners, Mark Lafferty & Rick Devries, set up shop in a Winnebago Intent on site to take recommendations from attendees on how they prefer to work in their rolling homes. This was a huge success and the attendees loved getting to share their input!
"First: What a summit! Rick and I were amazed at the enthusiastic and friendly group of people we encountered. Thanks for allowing us to be a small part of this educational and encouraging event.
Our goal as Winnebago Product Planners was to come away with an understanding of how people might use their coaches as a mobile office, and what their needs and wishes were for a better working experience. We documented thirteen interviews at our home base (Winnebago Intent), and one personal coach interview. From these, we gathered some great ideas from perspectives we hadn't been able to explore before.
Mark and Rick in the 'Winnebago Lab. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
One thing that stood out is that many participants said they would like to stand as much as sit at their work areas. Also, the preferred location of the work area varied all the way from the front passenger seat to the countertop in the bedroom. Some liked private quiet spots, while most seemed to want their "office with a view" near the windows. More versatile spaces were also a hot topic.
Attending this event offered us the luxury of tapping into the desires of a growing mobile market- one that we feel will be even more important to our business in the near future. With the insightful, knowledgeable, enthusiastic nature of its participants, we hope to be invited to attend the RVE Summit again next year." -- Mark Lafferty
"With the feedback we received during our lab exercises, I feel very confident [that] in the future, Winnebago Industries can provide some of the primary needs and desires of these Working Road Warriors', as they travel, live, work and play." -Rick Devries
Our Tireless Hosts: Heath & Alyssa Padgett
These two never cease to amaze us, but they really outdid themselves with this year's Summit. They probably heard the words "thank you" a thousand times because of all the hard work they've put into this amazing event. It does not go unnoticed.
Heath & Alyssa introducing speakers. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
As the rest of us were sipping coffee, lounging in a hammock during a lunch break, or relaxing by a campfire with s'mores and wine until late into the night -- they were running around making sure everything went smoothly. Yet, somehow, they managed to also take time to stop and connect with their tribe as they hustled to make this event a reality.
One of the many campfire sing-along moments from the weekend, courtesy of Kelsey Henry. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
Here is a great synopsis of the summit from team Padgett:
"This week we've thrown the biggest work party of all time with the absolutely best people. I am so inspired by all of our speakers and attendees. I continue to hear amazing stories that leave me humbled and hungry and motivated to do big things in the world. A huge THANK YOU to all our attendees and everyone watching online."
And in true Padgett fashion, they didn't skip a beat. Only a few days after the Summit, they headed off to promote Alyssa's book (A Beginner's Guide to Living in an RV), have probably had a few dozen work-related calls since, and Heath has definitely come up with at least ten new business ideas (if you've ever talked to him in person, you'll know this is highly likely).
They really practice what they preach and are entrepreneurs through and through. I'm not sure what success looks like to them, but if it is enabling others to succeed, then they have already achieved much more at their young age than many people have in a lifetime.
Toasting to the end of another great RVE Summit. Photo by Joe Hendricks.
Thank you for showing all of us how much is possible with a community of supporters, Heath and Alyssa. And for creating a place where that community can truly thrive. See you next year!