Stylish RV Renovation for Full-time RVing with Alice Zealy – RVE #315

Have you ever wanted to renovate an RV with a more appealing design, or to better fit your full-time Lifestyle? Perhaps you’ve seen photos of some stylish interiors that don’t even look like RVs. Well, that just may have been the work of Alice Zealy, our guest for this episode of The RV Entrepreneur.

Since remodeling her first RV to better meet her needs when hitting the road full time, Alice has turned her passion for RV renovation into a successful business at Rain 2 Shine Ventures. With a background in architecture, Alice has a keen eye for design. And having traveled full-time, she understands the needs of clients living in their rigs. Her work has been featured on the cover of RV Enthusiast magazine and in numerous RVing lifestyle blog features.

Alice shares her RV renovation tips, including what to look for when considering and older rig to remodel. We discuss the challenges when taking on a DIY project, and what materials hold up best against the wear and tear of full-time living. If you’ve ever considered remodeling an RV, or hiring soemone to do it, don’t miss this episode.

Stylish RV Renovation for Full-time RVing

with Alice Zealy

Your Host: Jim Nelson


stylish rv renovations
Alice Zealy, Rain2Shine Ventures

Listen to The RV Entrepreneur Episode #315

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The RV Entrepreneur #315 Full Episode Transcript:

Stylish RV Renovation for Full-time RVing with Alice Zealy

JIM: Have you ever wanted to remodel your RV to make it a better fit for your full time lifestyle? Well, Alice Seeley did just that a few years ago, and now she’s managing her booming RV renovation business, Rain to Shine Ventures, with an incredible eye for design and a waiting list of clients with all sorts of fun remodel projects.

RV LIFE: Welcome to the RV entrepreneur podcast. The weekly show for nomads, work campers, RV ers and entrepreneurs looking to earn a living or build a business while enjoying the RV lifestyle. This week’s host is Jim Nelson. Let’s settle in and enjoy the RV entrepreneur podcast brought to you by RV life.

JIM: Hello again. This is Jim with RV life, and you’ve tuned in to another one of my episodes for the RV entrepreneur podcast. But you knew that. I’m sure and probably know that this episode is all about RV renovation, but it’s also about what it takes to turn RV remodeling talents into a lucrative business venture. Well, we have Alice Seely with Rain to Shine Ventures joining us to share how she’s done just that. In 2020, Alice remodeled her own rig to make it more comfortable for her new full time RV lifestyle. She’s completed more than a dozen amazing makeovers since then, and still attributes that project as one of her greatest achievements. Her clients have ranged from families and digital nomads to a dog rescue transport vehicle with its own mobile dog grooming station. With a background in architecture and interior design, Alice does have a keen eye and stylish aesthetic, but most importantly, she knows what it’s like living in an RV so she understands what her clients need. Check the show notes for links to her projects, or visit Rain to Shine, and we’ll be back for more fun conversation with Alice Ely right after this.

RV LIFE: This episode is sponsored by Wholesale Warranties.

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JIM: Thanks for joining me today, Alice. Welcome to the show.

ALICE: Thank you for having me.

JIM: Oh, it’s a pleasure. And I’ve seen some of your work and I’ve got all sorts of questions because it’s amazing. They don’t necessarily look like your typical RVs, and I want to get into that. But first, on my show, I tend to ask all my guests two simple questions. First, because we are the RV Life Entrepreneur podcast. So I like to ask people, it’s like, how did your RV life begin? When when were you first introduced to RVing and what does that look like now?

ALICE: So I first got into being with my ex-husband. We traveled to a lot of NASCAR races and rented and then ended up buying, and I really wanted to travel more outside of just racing. And we had a big house and, you know, house payments and house poor. So the traveling that I wanted to do never really seemed to happen. But anyways, when when we did split, I used the money from our RV to buy my own and I knew that I wanted to gut and remodel it. And so I’d had a little bit of experience. Not a ton, but had a lot of big life decisions and that stage of my life, and I just knew that I didn’t want another big house. I wanted a simpler life. I knew what was important to me, you know, and travel and experiences over material things has always been top of the list.

JIM: So fantastic. I can totally relate. And we’re going to get into all sorts of questions about your business. But as an entrepreneur, what does that mean to you? What is being an entrepreneur to you?

ALICE: Well, I get to work for myself, so that’s the best part about it. I actually did have a small company before this. I started a jewelry design company back in 2013. I’ve been making jewelry since I was a kid. I’ve always been into art and design, hence remodeling and interior design. But yeah, you know, I’ve been in a lot of different fields, from restaurants to retail to real estate, and being able to work for yourself is by far the best.

JIM: I think that’s one of the primary reasons we all do it. And it’s interesting you mentioned a jewelry business because I’ve done one, basically one major remodel or rather, you know, two small remodel projects on our second fifth wheel and one was ripping out a bunk house, two bunk beds, and building a jewelry studio for my wife. She’s a metalsmith. So, yeah, built a nice, sturdy bench workbench for her that she can get banged up. And I also put in a workstation for myself where the couch was after sitting at the dinette for years, sitting in front of a computer. And I can see why people tend to turn to the pros for some of this stuff. Yes. So I wonder, which came first with you? Was it the business idea or was it the remodeling? You kind of hinted at it there. Did you first work on your own first rig or like when did you launch this thing or really start to ramp it up? This RV remodeling business.

ALICE: Kind of a funny story going through that life change. And I really didn’t know at the time. I knew I was going to have an RV to travel in. I didn’t know for sure that I was going to live in it. So I went through a lot of, you know, big decisions and a lot of cost. And it just it just fit me, you know, I was going to have the RV. Why not live in it, especially once it was customized specifically to me. So it really wasn’t a business decision at that point. It was a life decision. And so, you know, I started renovating it and once it was completed, and even throughout, I showed progress to friends and family, social media, of course, and got into a lot of the RV groups through Facebook and other forums. And once it was done and I started sharing those before and after pictures and people just could not believe it. You know, this should be in a magazine. Oh my gosh, will you do mine? And the more people asked if I would do theirs, I went. I studied architecture and interior design. This kind of goes hand in hand. Maybe I should do something with it. And that’s how it was born. You know, I started building a website and marketing and, you know, I finished mine September of 2020. So I’ve been in it three years as of last month. Okay. Live in travel full time and then started working on the website December of 2020. And my first clients came March 1st of 2021, and we’ve been rolling ever since then.

JIM: Wow. So this is ramped up pretty quickly. I have seen some of that work. The before and after is amazing, and as entrepreneurs, it sounds like you’re pretty typically doing pretty much everything from the website to swinging the hammers. But where did you learn these skills? Both like the remodeling skills and like how to pick rigs, which ones to renovate because there’s some bad apples out there.

ALICE: Definitely. So for the remodeling side of things, I was very fortunate. My father was in property management, so he knew how to fix a lot of things. He was very handy. I grew up learning how to fix things and in those properties, and I also had a mother that had exquisite taste that redecorated our house. And then, of course, the homes I lived in. I did some redecorating and some interior design work, very different from a camper, but that’s kind of the background on the remodeling end of things when it comes to the rigs. Fortunately for me, most of my clients, because I do all client based work, they typically already have a camper. I do offer a service where I will find a camper for you and bring it here and renovate it, and I’m my first one we’re doing right now. A couple in Texas contacted me a couple of months ago, and obviously they’re not in North Carolina. So I did a little bit of hunting and went and inspected a few different RVs and brought one back, and we’ve started it on the demo.

JIM: That’s smart. It sounds like you have like a full spectrum of services where someone might need a couch replaced with a desk, and another person might need a whole rig. So could you walk me through this process? Like, how do people go from like getting an estimate to scheduling work? And then where does that take place if they’re nomadic or you are?

ALICE: Sure. So basically I have on my website, and I did this pretty early on because it kind of, you know, makes it just a simpler process. I have a remodel form on our website for people to fill out, and it covers a lot of the info that I need from make and model if there is one. If not, they might be looking and I do. I can help with that too. Their lifestyle, you know. Are they a remote worker? Are they doing this recreationally? Are they full time. You know, are they active or do they have pets? Do they have children? You know, just all the things. What space do you need for the function end of things. And from that, that information. Then I’ll set up a phone consultation and we’ll get to know the client better. And then typically we do ask for them to come to our shop. It’s the more economical aspect for them. But we can travel to you and we can do it virtually. I’ve done it both ways. Obviously virtually. The estimate is going to be a very loose estimate because without putting my hands on it and seeing and inspecting it, it’s based on just, you know, sight. But so yeah, from there the client will do the inspection. We’ll talk about what they need in the remodel from their wants, their needs, their must haves. And then I’ll do a scope of work. So our biggest projects paint, you know flooring I’ll break down everything that we’ve talked about into, you know, different price points. And that way they can look at it before we ever get started on the work and say, okay, this fits within our budget. This doesn’t let’s start with our top priorities and, you know, go from there.

JIM: So you mentioned virtually there. I’m just real go down a side tangent here. Is that just for like the inspection part, or will you walk people through virtually their own renovation virtually?

ALICE: Well, I do a lot of videos of our work. So, you know, we post all that stuff to social media. I don’t keep a camera on 24 over seven for for my clients to watch me. That’d be a little unnerving. But no, virtually. As in, you know, if they’re in California, across the country, which I’ve had clients from California, it has wills. It’ll travel. Right. But if I can’t, you know, it’s a big step to to decide to do this and to put that trust into someone like me. So they don’t want to just drive across the country and bring it to me. Let’s let’s meet virtually. First, show me your camper and show me what you know. The areas of the camper where you think a desk might fit best, or you want the bunks gone or whatever it might be, then I can kind of give them a very open estimate of what this work is going to look like. You know, assuming that we don’t have any repairs or damages along the way.

JIM: So the virtual part is usually more of a kind of getting an understanding. You can do the virtual walkthrough and tour. Everything you’re describing so far is a lot in certain ways, like what I do when I’m overhauling a website. Someone has built something and you go in and you pick it apart and you save the good parts and you rebuild the new parts, make it look better and function better. But often that opens a huge can of worms. And sometimes you get into a job and you realize, oh, there’s rot in the floor, or this axle is bent. Or have you ever had a project that you had to scrap or, you know, open up a can of worms like that when getting into a remodel?

ALICE: Fortunately, we’ve only had one, and we’ve done over a dozen in the last two and a half years. I had a client that they wanted to do a mobile bar. You know, this is not we do tiny homes for people, but we also do business business RVs. So they brought this old vintage camper. It was adorable. And we got in there and the whole walls rotted. I mean, the entire, you know, the entire side in front were completely rotted out, which is fixable. We’ve done it. We’ve done it many times. But I called the client and I said, hey, you know, here’s some photos, but I really think you guys need to come see this in person, and I’ll tell you how much it’s going to cost to fix it, which was not in their budget. So that’s the one we had to scrap. They ended up going and buying ready, ready for business newer vintage camper per se, but that’s that’s the only one. We’ve really been very fortunate to be able to finish almost every single project.

JIM: It probably points to your ability to identify the right types of rigs at the beginning. And what I was thinking is that all these jobs are different, you know, you never know what you’re getting into and what people want. You kind of described, you know, that whole initial process to screen people and you probably protect yourself with the scope statement saying. Right in there. As a businessperson, this is an estimate and the scope may creep, but are there any typical remodels that you’ve been doing, or is there a niche you specialize in?

ALICE: No. And that’s what I love about my work. That’s, you know, as an artist my entire life, being able to use my creativity. We’ve had clients, we’ve done a nonprofit for a dog rescue transport vehicle. We’ve started on a mobile bar. Didn’t get to finish that one. But, you know, I’ve done I’ve done a few for full timers. I’ve done a few for recreational use. And, you know, it’s just kind of across the board. I mean, everything’s becoming mobile nowadays and I think that’s a wonderful thing. So there’s a lot of opportunity out there. I’ve actually been speaking with a girl for a while, and there’s been some setbacks, but she’s supposed to be still coming and she won’t say Star Wars theme, so I’m open to it. All fun. Yeah.

JIM: So the wide gamut there. You mentioned mobile there and lots going mobile. So I got to ask if you’re going remote on a job and you’re taking all these tools. I mean, what types of tools do you pack and how do you store them all?

ALICE: So we’ve been approached many times to do this, and right now it’s just not it’s not economically feasible in any way. We have a workshop in North Carolina. My partner worked in NASCAR for 30 years. He’s an engineer fabricator, and he builds custom hot rods from the ground up. So fortunately I had a workshop to come to. I’ve got pretty much every tool known to man between my remodeling business and his fab business. You know, from welders, drills, Sanders, anything you can think of. And that being said, I mean, we have huge equipment in this workshop. We have breakers. We have, you know, so much stuff that we could not take with us on a jobsite. Right? Not to say that we couldn’t do it, but, you know, it’s like I have to explain to people. Number one, I work on 2 to 3 remodels at a time. So, you know, if we’re going to have to pause all that to come to just you, the fee’s going to go up because it’s just one instead of three. And I also have a team of people, and not all of us are full time Rv’ers. So there’s housing involved. There’s storage involved for the tools. I’d love to do it. And I’ve very much so thought about, especially in North Carolina, leaving, say, January 1st and coming back in the march to get out of the cold and go down to the keys and work on RVs. And maybe that’ll happen one day. Am definitely not opposed to it, but for right now it would involve way too many working parts. I mean, we have the trailers to take our tools with us, but he’d have to shut down his business. Well, he wouldn’t, but he would want to come with me, I would assume so. You know, it’s just there’s a lot of moving parts.

JIM: And even for the customer, it’s going to be much more cost effective for them to spend enough money on fuel and some time to get there, than it is for you to uproot your entire business and move it somewhere and have to charge accordingly. We were in absolutely desert in Quartzsite and we had a mobile service. People come and replace our brakes with, you know, electronic trailer brakes versus hydraulic brakes. That’s different. They had a minimal amount of tools. One little trailer. You’re not talking about, you know, table saws and rip saws and all that kind of fun stuff, but I digress. What do you look for when determining if a rig does have good bones? Like, what would you have gone back and told yourself when you looked at that one project? Or can you simply look at a rig and say, no, you really should start from scratch or do something else? What are you looking for when it comes to remodeling a rig?

ALICE: Well, there’s definitely telltale signs you know de-lamination water damage in general, but a lot of water damage is hidden, and I do. I have had a few clients that didn’t already have rigs that came to me and asked for my advice, which I’m like, Thank God, because, you know, you go out and buy something and you’ve never had an RV and you end up spending half the budget on repairs. It’s not a good feeling for any of us. But yeah, I definitely think when we do an inspection, we take moisture meters with us because, I mean, you pull down cabinetry, can’t pull down cabinetry, doing an inspection just to check the walls. You just never know what you’re going to get. The main thing is I do look at older models because they were built a little differently than the newer models are. My personal camper is a 2003 fifth wheel and it’s aluminum body never going to rust. It’s real wood cabinetry. It is solid, you know, and so it’s getting harder because now it’s 2023. But I typically look at 2013 and before when it comes to remodeling because number one you’re going to buy it for less. And then you spend the real money on the remodel and customizing it to fit your, your needs and your wants. The other thing obviously water damage in general, even if they say it’s a little water damage, water spreads. However, we did have a little water damage in our camper and it truly was a little. So I always say, just make sure you get inspected and you get it inspected by somebody that knows what they’re doing. And then the third thing would be like a good layout. You know, we are custom builders and we can completely gut and rebuild anything but economically budget friendly. If it’s got a good layout to start with, that’s a little bit less customization.

JIM: How do you handle? Steering the client in a certain way. For instance, if someone’s coming me to the website and they want a full blown e-commerce store and they’ve got a brochure website and their budget is X, you kind of need to work with them. I can see it coming to play in RVs when people want all sorts of heavy laminates and tile and such. And then there’s the weight issue. So it’s a 16 foot trailer with a gvw of only, you know, £14,000. And they want, you know, a tile shower. So is that just a part of the scope statement or an education process or, and do you even look into that the weight.

ALICE: For us, we honestly what we remove typically weighs more than what we put back in. Okay. The biggest thing is balance. You know, you don’t want to put all of your heavy appliances on the on the driver’s side of the camper and have nothing on the passenger side. Interesting to balance it out. I actually use real tile, and pretty much I think I’ve used peel and stick. One time my bathroom backsplash, my bathroom floor, my regular back, my kitchen backsplash all real tile. It’s such a small space. What you’re putting back in, it’s really not adding that much weight, especially considering think about furniture and how big and bulky and heavy it is, right? You know, when you’re removing those big recliners and the dinettes and everything else, what you’re putting back in is typically, even if we custom build it, and obviously sometimes we just buy from Wayfair or somewhere else, that furniture doesn’t weigh half of what we take out. So it really hasn’t been an issue for us yet. You know, when it comes to the business side of things, we haven’t had a business that’s had really heavy equipment, so that would be something to look for down the road. But as of yet we have not run into that.

JIM: So I know all these jobs are different and you approach each one differently. But how long does this process tend to take? If there is a typical type job where they want a new kitchen or say they want the entire trailer made over, is it just everyone different? Or how long does this process take if someone wants to get into this?

ALICE: Sure. It’s definitely the scope of work is all dependent on that. So, you know, we do anything from facelifts, which is, you know, paint, flooring, some backsplash, some wallpaper, you know, maybe a new sink or whatever to a complete gut. So a facelift is probably going to take to 2 to 3 months just because I do have multiple projects here. If it was just the one, I could probably knock it out in a month for a facelift. But one of the things is I’m outside working most of the time. So weather dependent, you know, if it’s too cold to paint, then I have another project to go jump on and that kind of thing. That’s why I like to have more than one project at a time. And it also helps my clients with their bills, you know, space them out a little bit more if I’m working on multiple projects. But yeah, I mean, it’s a it’s definitely all in the scope of work. And that’s something I’m very upfront about from the beginning. You know, here’s the reality of it. This is this is the cost. If you’re asking for this much stuff and this is how much time it’s going to take, you know, it can it can go very quickly. But, you know, I typically say 2 to 3 months unless you’re asking for the world.

JIM: So it’s a considerable investment in time and money for these people. And oftentimes clients don’t necessarily know everything involved. And they think it’s just a few keystrokes to build a website. And they realize, oh, it’s going to take months and that much money, then you just need to lay it on the line and say, this is the reality. What’s your budget? How much time do you have? And if you’re living in it at the time, I can see that being challenging for some people. But what are the primary reasons people tend to be renovating these days? Is it because of damage or they want it to restore a vintage thing, or are there particular reasons people are coming to you to renovate their rigs?

ALICE: So I think there’s a lot of things that go into this. Number one, our world is changing. There’s way more availability for remote work. You know, Covid did a lot of things negatively and positively. But, you know, a lot of people realized, hey, I can do this from anywhere. And if you can do your job from anywhere, why wouldn’t you want to wake up to the mountains one day and wake up at the beach the next day, or the next week or whatever? You know? I mean, most people just travel is a thing. You know, people like to travel, they like to have experiences. They want to see the world, or at least the country. So I think that that’s definitely made a huge impact on RVs. I see a lot of younger people that they don’t want the responsibilities of home ownership, they don’t want the hoa’s, they don’t want the yard work, you know, and they are all about those experiences. Why not do it while you’re young, you know? So there’s a van. Life has become a huge thing as well as the whole thing. And so we obviously saw a big boom with Covid and some of those folks that was not by choice. It was, you know, a lot of people were forced into situations they didn’t want to be in.

ALICE: But even then, everybody deserves to have something to call home. And you can always make it your own in some way, shape or form, budget friendly or paying a professional. I think the number one reasons people are coming to me is if they have an outdated camper, you know they’re dark in a small space. Dark makes it feel that much smaller, and if it’s got that 80s or 90s feel or even the early 2000, I mean, the RV industry. Design wise is a little behind, you know, residential. They’ve been making dark cabin like RVs for a million years. So, you know people, they want it lighter, brighter, and they want it customized to fit them, you know, whether it is recreational or, more often than not, full time living. I mean, you see people even in residential situations, it’s becoming it’s more and more accepted to not not treat your house like resale. Let’s enjoy it while we live in it. So why would you not want to do the same thing for your home? Or your home away from home mean make it enjoyable. Make it your own. Put your own touch on it. Put your own decor. Make it smile when you walk in the door, you know.

JIM: Do you think the newer RVs coming out today, the new RV manufacturers see that? Or are they getting designed more for the full time RV, or are they all still kind of recreational vehicle weekend type things? And then people move into them and they come to you?

ALICE: I think that they are trying. I definitely have seen that they are using lighter colors, lighter flooring, but the interior design itself is still very lacking, which is good for me because otherwise I’d be out of a job. You know, I’ve had people tell me you need to go work for the manufacturers. I’m like, no, I’m good. You know, I’ll keep doing this thing over here. You know, I hope that they get up to speed and there is a new company that I don’t know much about, so I don’t want to speak about it, but I’ve heard really good things about them. Brand new. Now who knows? You know, everybody knows mass production does not equal, you know, good quality work. So we’ll see how they fare in the long run. But yeah, I don’t think they’re getting it yet. I just don’t agree. Honest.

JIM: Sure. And it sounds like you’re kind of talking about the aesthetics. And so let’s go there. Your design aesthetic is. It’s, you know, I hate to throw the Martha Stewart term out there, but you’ve got nice bright white silver, but RVs get lived in and they get beat up and you live in them full time. And they were dark and dingy with kind of a brown camouflage wallpaper for the longest time. What are you doing or what products are you using to keep these pristine white interiors from getting filthy and banged up with kids and dogs?

ALICE: Sure. So the paint side of things, there’s a lot of people that have a lot of opinions on this. I know one surefire way when it comes to painting an RV, which is nothing like painting a house. It is a ton of work, and a lot of people don’t get that either. They think small space. Oh, you know, this shouldn’t take no, you have to sand every single inch of every single thing you’re going to paint. I’m talking cabinets, crevices, walls, ceiling, everything. And then you’ve got to clean it. And then it’s just it’s a lot of prep work. But we do all of the prep work and then we, we use Kilz for primer. And I’m a Sherwin-Williams girl through and through. So I use their paint semi-gloss on the cabinets most of the time and, you know, satin on the walls. And you definitely have to let it cure. I mean, it needs two weeks to completely cure. You’re going to scratch it up. Now for the whites. We have all white cabinetry. My my walls are actually a neutral. It’s hard to tell in photos. And I have dirty fingers I mean I’m I labor, you know, this is my my universe. I’m normally covered in sawdust by the time I get home and we’ve got two huge dogs. I don’t have a ton of issues with everything getting dirty, and I hear that a lot. And I’m like, how dirty are you people? Because I’m pretty dirty, you know? So how are you getting your cabinets so dirty? Granted, you know, if you’re using semi-gloss, they’re easy to clean. So there’s that.

JIM: I have seen like a couple DIY remodels in the past. And I see what you mean by the sanding every surface, because it looks like they just slapped paint over the cabinets, and then the drawers aren’t closing properly and things are sticking because they didn’t let it cure. So that kind of leads me to the next question. Is that what sets you apart from other renovators out there? Do you have this attention to detail, or what would you say sets you apart from the others?

ALICE: I think the number one thing that sets me apart from other renovators is that I live in an RV. I’m sure there are a few out there that do the same, but for the most part, most of the ones I’ve seen do not actually live full time in an RV. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know anything about RVs. That just means they don’t live in it. And so I think about function and small spaces a lot more than most people would just because of my living situation. I think the second biggest thing is that I do completely custom work. I’m a completely client based business and there’s a ton of RV flippers out there. I’ve never done a flip. I hope I never have to do one. Nothing against it. I think it’s great. I like working with clients. I like being able to use my creativity and reel in my clients when they get a little off the wall. I mean, that’s what I’m here for in the interior design department is, hey, you know, maybe we shouldn’t use three different patterns in one room.

ALICE: You know, let’s keep it toned down. Let’s make it aesthetically pleasing. So I definitely think number one living in one and this kind of number one and number two or both, number one is just that being a completely client based renovator, I don’t see a lot of people doing that type of work. And my standards, I mean, really my standards, not just aesthetically, but like, I know how to build furniture the right way. We’re not doing it like the RV manufacturers. We’re not stapling and nailing the stuff together. We are using wood glue. We are using routers. We are, you know, pocket holes. We’re building real furniture. And we also know a lot about RVs. You know, we’re not ever going to say, oh no, we can just let this slide. No, it’s got to be fixed and it’s got to be fixed the right way when it leaves here. The title might have my client’s name on it, but that bus or that, you know, whatever, it has my name on it. So we have standards. That’s just that’s the way it is.

JIM: That’s fantastic. And I’m laughing because as you were describing that, I was writing a note to ask you next, what about those people out there that are flipping RVs? And I see the renovators that make a, you know, take an old Airstream and turn it and flip it. You answered it. Those people are doing it for the money. You’re doing it for your clients. You know what it’s like to live in an RV, and they obviously understand that. But with so much of the content out there and how to do this and how to remodel and how to do that, why would people want to hire someone like you instead of going to YouTube and pick up a sledge hammer?

ALICE: Um, okay. Well, first off, I do think that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. I obviously have a lot more expertise. I’ve done a few of these and time. I mean, it’s like my clients that I’m working with now from Texas, they’re going full time in February. They both have full time jobs, you know, and they might not be handy. They might not know how to build things. But most of these people, unless you have an endless amount of time and you have every weekend to work on this, if you’re in a time crunch and you want something and you want to enjoy it, now you need me. I mean, it just it needs to get done now, sooner rather than later.

JIM: It kind of explains how my remodels went. They were definitely function over form and had no. Tools at the time, so was working on a ranch. At the time, I was in a position where they had all the tools and I was able to go fall a tree, mill it up, make a table top and build a cool table for myself, but didn’t have the tools, didn’t really have the time, but I was in a position to do it and I was handy enough to make it function for myself. But it isn’t the most beautiful job in by any means.

ALICE: I’ll have to see it sometime.

JIM: I’ll send you a link to that. We’ll put it in the show notes.

ALICE: One other thing I wanted to say about DIY is, like you said, the tools that we have out in that workshop, it would cost a fortune for somebody else to buy that kind of equipment to be able to do. Yes, you can buy a jig saw and a and a circular saw and get some stuff done. But the things that we have out there make it faster, make it easier. And that right there is is enough reason. You know, it’s like, hey, what do you use for this? Oh, I can’t afford that. Well, bring it to me. You know, on the other side of it with the DIY stuff. And I’ve actually written some DIY articles myself for RV inspiration and some other blogs and, and whatnot, and we do a ton of videos on my work and how to do things. I’m not afraid to share these things with people by any means, but I think there is a very false sense of hope or perspective, for I’ve had to deal with this with my own clients, you know? Oh well, so-and-so on YouTube said they did their entire van build for $5,000. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. You know, number one, they didn’t count the labor. They also went out and probably scavenged for parts and pieces. And it takes a lot of time to do that kind of stuff, you know. And we do van builds as well. And that’s a whole different beast. And than redoing a camper. So it gets frustrating for me at times to hear, why does this cost so much? Because you have to pay me for my time too. It’s not just your materials that you’re paying for, you know? So I just wanted to put that out there.

JIM: I get that, I totally get that because even after being on the road 16 years and doing this podcast, we were at a van expo and I had no idea the extent to which people are paying for these remodels 40, 50, $60,000 to build out a van.

ALICE: Oh, and more.

JIM: You know, you mentioned getting paid for your time. So a quick side story here. I heard about a major factory that shut down due to an electrical issue. So they called the contractor. She shows up and looks around a bit, then takes about two minutes to open a panel and turn a screw. She then hands them an invoice for $5,000. They complain that she was only there a few minutes. The contractor explained, you paid me $100 to turn the screw and 4900 for knowing which screw to turn. Yep. So when it comes to, say, the Nomadic Home Office, have you done any specific things tailored to, you know, content producers or web developers or, you know, the home Office type work.

ALICE: The one I’m working on now? They both work remotely, so we haven’t gotten there, but I have done. Two years ago, we did a fifth wheel for a family, and she works remotely and also had a two year old toddler, so we had to make space for the kid. They had two dogs. We had to make space for the dogs. But basically she does, you know, like the vinyl t shirts and sells on Etsy and stuff like that. So we completely remove their entertainment center, which was catty, cornered and a complete waste of space, and mounted the TV to the wall and opened that whole corner up. And that was her office area. You know, we put a multifunctional desk back there and that worked out really well for her. Also, with the dog rescue that we finished last fall, they yes, they have a they have a dog grooming bath station, but they also have the kitchen for dogs, medications, food. And they have a desk in there as well. So we built that into the kitchen and the countertop and whatnot. But yes, the camper we’re working on now, it’ll be interesting to see, you know, they like I said, they both work remotely, so they need their own individual spaces.

JIM: That’s what we did in our fifth wheel when I built Rene, her workstation studio, and then, well, I needed a desk too. So we finally had our own two separate spaces. And you might have just answered my next two questions here, and I’m wondering what project stands out as the most challenging or maybe the most unique that you’ve done?

ALICE: I’ve got two for these. Number one, any van build and we’ve we’re on our third. We just got into van builds last year. I believe our first van build was a 2000 GMC Savana. So that was a very small space to work on, much smaller than any camper we’ve done. The one we’re working on now is a 20 2022 Mercedes Sprinter 170 inch wheelbase, but with a van. The bottom line is a camper. You have things already in there, you have electric, you have plumbing, you have walls, you have a ceiling. When you bring me a van, it is a metal shell. We are putting your systems in. We are running the wiring. We’re putting in the plumbing. We’re doing it all, you know, and then with, you know, the doors and all the curves to a vehicle. It’s also not like a camper with 90 degree angles. Sometimes, sometimes 90 degree angles. But it’s a lot of curves and the walls are not. You’re not cutting out, you know, a square or a rectangle putting paneling up. You’ve got a there’s just a lot that goes into it. And then I’d say that would be my number one. Any van number two would be the dog rescue. We discovered immense water damage when they brought it here. As a matter of fact, I called them and I said, hey, guys, you know, if this was me, I would not even move forward with this. I would be happy to help you find another camper. But I think somebody had gifted them that camper and they stuck with it. And, I mean, we rebuilt almost the entire camper. The only things that were original in that camper were most of the windows and some of the siding, like we replaced every single thing besides the engine, you know, it was it was a lot.

JIM: So this may be the same rig, but is there a particular remodel you’ve done that you’re most proud of?

ALICE: So I think I’m getting better as I go. Hopefully that’s typically the way things work, and I am proud of a lot of the projects that we’ve done. But I’d have to say my first renovation, my own camper, you know, it brings me so much joy. And it’s funny to me when I share that camper versus some of the other ones we’ve done, which also get a huge amount of feedback, you know? I mean, I get thousands of comments on, on these, on these camper posts that I share to different groups, but my camper always gets the most recognition and people just love it. And I think it’s because, number one, I’m not a trend follower. You know, when it comes to I just have a good eye for aesthetics and I know what works together. And when we did our camper, I got to do whatever the heck I wanted because it was my camper. And it’s not the typical trends of farmhouse or modern. It’s me, you know? And for whatever reason, people respond to that. I, you know, I love color. Granted, yes, I have white cabinets, but I have plenty of color in my camper. And, you know, right now trending the trends are neutrals. No, we’re going to do color. You know, at least for me.

JIM: Well, you do have a great eye. You clearly had a good start with your own rig. And we’re going to share links to all of your work and your website and how people can find you. But where do people go to find the best examples of your work?

ALICE: Well, obviously my website has all of our before and afters and socials. My sister actually came to work for me last December and she her background is marketing. She was the assistant to the head marketer of Nat Geo when she lived in D.C., so she is helping me a ton. She’s an amazing photographer, amazing, amazing videographer. And so, you know, obviously we’re we’re doing as much as we can on socials from instructional to show it off to just us having fun. So that’s the stuff that you won’t find on our website.

JIM: This is the time for the shameless plug. What is that website and where do we find you on social?

ALICE: So the name of the company is reign the number two Shine Ventures. So Reign to Shine is my website. And then our handle on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, everything. And we have. We’ve also been featured in in news outlets and blogs and magazines. We were on the cover of RV enthusiast at the beginning of this year, which was a huge honor. So you can find our work at other places, but the easiest way to find us is the website and our socials.

JIM: Wonderful Rain to Shine Ventures and we look forward to seeing more of your work. Thank you so much for joining us today.

ALICE: Thanks, Jim.

JIM: Wow, Alice has done some incredible work indeed. As I mentioned, the only renovation I ever did definitely focused on function over form. Alice’s remodel work is clearly a bit more pleasing to the eye, so shall we say. Check it out at Rain to Shine and see the show notes to compare. But you know, I did mention how rehabbing an RV can be similar to overhauling a website. Well, I have much more experience there, so be sure to check out my latest renovation work. With the relaunch of our new and improved online home of the RV Life Entrepreneur at the RV, where you’ll find complete details about the RV podcast, all episode transcripts, extended show notes, the next summit, and many more resources to come. That’s at

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Jim Nelson