In late 2018, Shi Del Grosso's mom had moved into her already packed Las Vegas home, joining Del Grosso, her husband, and their five kids. Del Grosso, 38, who'd been trying to figure out how her family could spend more time together, thought that buying an RV would create some extra room for her mom and give everyone an opportunity to travel.
So, in early 2019, Del Grosso took out a $16,000 loan to buy an RV "in great shape" she found at a local dealership. She spent a couple of months fixing up the interior in her then-favorite color scheme, white and teal, and christened the vehicle Joey, "the name my husband and I have always wanted to name our baby if we had a son together." (A year later, when the couple had their first son together and sixth child overall, they named him Donatello instead.)
In 2020, Del Grosso earned an average of $750 per month from renting out Joey on peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace RVshare, and ended up making $13,000 in profit. Del Grosso is now looking to grow a rental fleet, adding two to three more RVs.
Del Grosso decided to document her RV renovation process in an Instagram account originally called Life With Joey RV that's since been rebranded as ShiDelRVs. The account quickly took off.
"I had a lot of people interested in renting [Joey the RV] out, because he felt really homey and he was cute," says Delgrosso. "They would ask, 'Hey, can I take him out for a weekend? Can I spend some time in him?'"
Encouraged by the interest, Del Grosso decided to try renting Joey out in 2019. While that summer brought in just three bookings, by April 2020, Joey was booked "back-to-back" for months at a time. Ultimately, Del Grosso quit her job in hospitality to focus on what had become a business.
Del Grosso's timing was good: Enthusiasm for RVs took off during the pandemic. The number of RVing households jumped from 11 million in 2019 to 13 million in 2020, according to Kampgrounds of America's recent North American Camping Report, with 6 in 10 new RV owners saying they viewed it as a safer way to travel.
When it came to remodeling Joey, Del Grosso kept costs down by doing a lot of the work herself. "I'm pretty handy," she says. "I like to tinker with things and fix things and figure out how they work."
The internet is filled with videos and articles about how RVs work and how to troubleshoot common issues. For more detailed advice, services like JustAnswer let people ask experts their RV questions directly.
Once she figured out what she'd need to complete Joey's remodel, Del Grosso shopped around for good deals on secondhand materials. "I would go and look at different pricing and purchase things on OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace," she says. "I'm really big when it comes to budgeting, and I'm superfrugal."
Altogether, the remodel cost less than $1,000, she says.
When considering which RV amenities will attract the most interest from guests, "you have to think about it as a hotel," says Del Grosso. "How comfortable is it going to be?"
Del Grosso focused on upgrading the sleeping arrangements. "When you get an RV, the bedding is so uncomfortable," she says. "The mattresses that they put on there are like thin little sheets. So we replaced all of those with 5-inch memory gel foam mattresses that were pretty cheap; you can get them on Amazon."
Since Joey's unique style is part of the RV's appeal, a lot of her budget also "went into the linens and the furnishings," she says.
Initially, Del Grosso started Joey's Instagram account to document her renovation process. Soon, however, she realized it was a way to connect with other RV owners and to spread the word about Joey to potential renters. So she started looking for other platforms that would help her tell her story.
At home, "my teenagers were always in the background doing dances" on TikTok, she says. She started learning about the app and realized that "every single account on TikTok has a niche. It's not just for kids for dancing."
TikTok's short videos were also a better fit for her busy schedule. "YouTube doesn't fit for me, because I don't have the time to sit there and make this long video with a huge voiceover," she says.
While Del Grosso started using Instagram and TikTok to share her family's story, she realized she could draw a bigger audience by answering their questions about RV ownership and repairs.
"People just want to know so much about it," she says. Whether she's using TikTok or Instagram reels, "it's a 15-30 second video, you can cram all of the information out there, and it's easy to access for all of the viewers."
Del Grosso's now a convert to the RV lifestyle. She has plans to both vacation in her RV and to live in one in the future. She believes many of her followers will one day feel the same.
"Once people get a taste of it," she says, "they can't let it go."
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