How I Started A $1.8M/Year RV Rental Franchise Across 24 Locations

Published: December 7th, 2023
Garr Russell
Fireside RV Rental
from Florida City, FL, USA
started January 2021
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Garr Russell and I am the founder and CEO of Fireside RV Rental. Fireside RV Rental is the nation's first RV Rental Management franchise.

Our franchisees rent out privately owned RV’s to families wanting an epic RV rental experience. This helps the RV owners earn a passive income and the franchisees have a low overhead.

We take care of the deliveries, cleaning, insurance, contracts, and more. We currently have 24 locations, and just over 200 RVs under management and counting! Our annual revenue was just under $2 million last year and were hoping to close out this year around 2,500,000.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

As a brand-new RV owner, I was excited to surprise my wife with the gift of a brand-new RV on our 10-year anniversary, thinking she'd be thrilled about the prospect of camping adventures. However, it turned out that she wasn't keen on camping at all, and I felt terrible for not understanding her preferences. To make matters worse, I was struggling to figure out how to make the RV an asset, as it felt like a liability hanging over us.

That's when I had a lightbulb moment to rent out the RV, similar to how we manage rental properties. This idea not only helped me cover the payments but also connected me with friends, family, and neighbors who had RVs sitting unused, and it opened up the opportunity to create a business out of it. I decided to start Michigan Camper Rentals, offering a business model for others to start their RV management ventures.

Soon, we expanded and rebranded as The Camper Connection, serving entrepreneurs and RV owners nationwide. We later trademarked and franchised the business, becoming Fireside RV Rental, and established a supportive community of branch managers and staff.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

When I found how successful the RV rental industry could be, I started offering this business model to others who had similar entrepreneurial interests. So, I started creating our business-in-a-box offer (tools, templates, and coaching) that included all that was needed for them to start an RV Management business.

But we didn’t stop there. We then started selling branch opportunities to like-minded individuals and presenting our management service to RV owners. This meant that we allowed others to use my tools, systems process forms, and branding. My first sign-up was Kim Hill in Michigan who still operates his branch with us today. We met in a Facebook group for those renting out their RVs, and this was enough validation for us to go forward with the idea.

After that, we started to think bigger! We began marketing our new business offer to entrepreneurs and RV management owners nationwide, which is why we changed our name from Michigan Camper Rentals to The Camper Connection. We began to grow with locations popping up all over the United States, from Arizona to Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York.

We decided to trademark and franchise this unique business opportunity and rebrand to Fireside RV Rental. We celebrated by gathering all of our branch managers and staff together at my Okeechobee, FL home and I realized I had so much more than a business, I had a community, a tribe.

But there was still a problem. There are still many everyday business issues we run into especially now representing owners and new branch partnerships that were popping up. We ended up getting frustrated and putting a lot of energy into building out our training and support system. We thought if we could create something that would make it possible to best support other RV rental owners in their day-to-day, that would be awesome! We’d be really happy.

After months of building support systems, recording training videos, finding the perfect software programs, and setting up coaching sessions, we completed our first training program, Fireside FastTrack Framework, which would assist with training and onboarding our new franchisees. This system that we now have in place helps us seamlessly welcome new franchisees.

The building of our F3 training portal took about 4 months and cost us around $20,000 in time, software, and applications

Describe the process of launching the business.

The greatest asset you have as a business owner is your employees first in your database second.

Well, I'd love to say my launch was methodical and systematic but I mean honestly that's never the case. In a new business launch, you tend to learn, tweak, and course-correct as you go. You go where the money, customer, and energy take you.

I leaned heavily on the peer-to-peer rental platforms for rental leads and I went old-school grassroots marketing to find RVs to manage to reach out to friends, family, people on Facebook, and even some door knocking.

I am not scared of debt and risk (well the older I get the more that changes) so I used credit cards and short-term loans to fund building out my software systems and processes (things like customer tracking, calendar management, marketing, etc). I didn't really have anyone else to model so mistakes were made and one of my mentors said: you are either winning or learning!

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We leverage the major peer-to-peer platforms like RVshare and Outdoorsy that spend millions of dollars of marketing to rent out our 100 RVs that we have under management. We have an email list of 15K of past renters to whom we send a weekly newsletter with ideas for destinations, tips, and RV hacks.

We have multiple repeat customers who book directly with us through our website. We also have a few branches that have come together and sponsor Nascar races which gets them a lot of business and helps get the Fireside RV Rental branch throughout the nation.

We don’t spend a lot of money on ads, most of our leads are organic through building relationships with other businesses and online through different camping groups. We try to offer a lot of value to our customers which attracts them to us.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I currently work on Fireside on a day-to-day basis. I handle the sales calls for new franchisees and work to support our franchise owners. We are in a growth phase where we are bringing in new franchisees each month and we put all of our effort into getting them off the ground and succeeding in their business.

Our immediate goal is to reach a 10 million dollar valuation by January 1, 2025. We plan to reach that goal by adding 50 new franchises by the end of next year and helping our franchisees build their fleet of managed units

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

You know through starting any business as I've started skilled and sold a couple I think one thing we learn over and over is ups and downs are part of the journey obviously, we don't want to make a poor decision but we don't realize it's a poor decision until after we've made it and seen the consequences.

I was just reading the other day in a book and it said we should spend more time studying consequences than we do choices and I think that's true but on the other hand, experience is typically the best teacher so if you can learn through somebody else's experience great or sometimes you're the one that's going to lay the foundation to teach others.

Definitely, a lesson I've learned through my entrepreneurial journey is the greatest asset you have as a business owner is your employees first in your database second. You can actually have a crummy service or product and not even offer the best pricing or customer service but if you have a huge database to Market to and have Rockstar employees that can help sell your business will be financially successful.

Obviously the goal is not just financial success but to have a good reputation and product but those aren't the key ingredients to run a successful company in my opinion in terms of generating Revenue. I conclude that though I want a company that does all of the above, lol.

One of the big mistakes I think companies make is blowing through money and marketing ad spend when they don't understand how to present a clear message and create a simple opt-in funnel that allows them to build their database and then communicate properly with that database-building value and presenting them with offers that makes sense to them your energy is best spent in building successful referral partners and learning how to offer additional Services products upgrades to your existing customers.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Clickfunnels for marking funnels, email marketing, and to house our courses and training materials. We use Hubspot for our sales team and have recently switched over to Substack for our newsletter.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Man, I tell you what I love reading books so there have been quite a few but just off the top of my head after reading this question I would say the Book of Proverbs out of the Bible is number one for simply gaining general wisdom on life and business.

Think Rich Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a phenomenal book but I enjoyed another book of his called Outwitting the devil I became a huge fan of Tony Robbins over the last year and his books. These are both good for mindset and motivation.

And then in regards to marketing, I'd have to say Russell Bronson's expert secrets traffic secrets and Alex Hermosi's new book 100 Million Leads.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Yeah definitely love sharing with entrepreneurs who are just getting started I actually talk a lot about this in my new book My Real Estate Story where I share several of my entrepreneurial ups and downs and hopes to encourage others.

I'd say one of the biggest things to share is a quote from one of my mentors Myron Golden at least that's who I heard it from and he says that all work works. The work is either working on us or the work is working for us so I would encourage entrepreneurs to take the steps that they think you need to take to grow their business or run their business on day-to-day if the work you're doing isn't necessarily working for you.

As far as getting you the results you're looking for I can guarantee you that the work you're doing is working on you as far as it's changing how you think and how you act it's sharpening you it's helping you grow as a person it's helping you to think on new levels so keeping a positive mental attitude knowing that all the actions that you are taking are doing something either inside of you or something for your business is how much importance to remember.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yeah, we are always open to expanding our team we will need a full-time accountant by next year and more Key Management staff to help support our franchisees, and if it's the right area we're always looking for people to open corporate locations as well.

Where can we go to learn more?