Written by The Business Journal Staff
Education: San Joaquin Memorial High School graduate, two years at San Diego State
Family: Wife: Aubrey Daughters: Olivia (4) and Gwen (2)
WHAT WE DO: Sportsmobile specializes in the conversion of vans. To the best of our knowledge, we are the oldest in the U.S. While we convert vans for all kinds of uses, our primary market has always been travel vans, also known as camper vans, Class ‘B’ motorhomes, recreational vehicles (RVs) and van conversions.
What got you into the family business?
I’ve always loved the outdoors and camping in a Sportsmobile. As a side job growing up, I would spend time cleaning vans or doing basic work at the factory like picking up screws or pulling weeds. My parents always believed in hard work so they kept me busy. When I was about 14, I started working at trade shows and could help in a limited capacity with sales due to my general knowledge of the Sportsmobile product. In 2002 I decided I wanted to leave SDSU and go a different route for education. At that point, the business needed a sales person so I decided to go to work for a bit and then figure out my next move from there. I didn’t need much training so I was able to get right in and help sell some vans. Sixteen years later and I am still here.
How has consumer demand for the outdoors experience changed over the years?
Recently we have seen a massive increase of interest in the outdoor experience. I tend to think that social media has been a huge driver of this phenomenon. People love taking and sharing photos and nature provides some of the most beautiful backdrops. Outdoor action sports are also growing at a rapid pace so there is more interest in activities such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, climbing, etc. All which lead people to spending more time in the outdoors.
How intensive is the investment required to keep up with demand?
Investment in quality employees is the most intensive. In our line of manufacturing, quality and skilled craftwork are paramount. Making sure we retain talent as well as properly training incoming workers proves to be the biggest investment at the moment with this growth.
How does location play into your business’ success or limitations?
Taking into account the horrendous business climate we have here in California, I think Fresno is an amazing location for our factory. We do tons of business in Southern California as well as the Bay Area, so being central to those markets is great. Having beautiful places in our backyard such as Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks doesn’t hurt as we often get visitors stopping by our factory during one of their trips to these parks. The cost of manufacturing in California, however, makes it challenging to stay competitive in terms of price compared to manufacturers in other states.
What are some of the more far-flung places we might find one of your vehicles?
You could find our vehicles on almost every continent from Chile to Russia to Germany, Hawaii, Alaska, Qatar… I could go on.
Who are Sportsmobile’s clients?
People often ask, “What kind of people are buying these things?” I used to answer that question by saying anyone who loves the outdoors. It could be camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, photography, etc. Nowadays it could be any one of those things, or just someone who wants a little more freedom. We have people who just want to travel and live in a van with limited material possessions. We also have clients in super high priced housing areas who use a Sportsmobile as an alternative to high rent. Others just think it is cool. Yes vans are cool again!
What is your plan for the future?
I think the future is bright for Sportsmobile. I plan to continue much of the same with steady growth. The entire vehicle industry is changing. Cars were once marketed as being attractive to drive, but before long bragging rights will be based on which vehicle is best to ride in. This fits in perfectly with Sportsmobile. When driverless technology is in full swing it will be awesome! Imagine, for example, visiting the Grand Canyon and being able to drive there from Fresno while you are asleep in the back!
What was your first job and what did you learn from it:
My first job was a camp counselor. I learned how to manage different personalities and keep people engaged. We had groups from 4-14 years old, so it was a challenge keeping things interesting for everyone and keeping everyone safe.
If you weren’t involved in the family business, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?
I would most likely have gotten into a sales or management roll somewhere as that fits my skill set.
What was the best advice you ever received?