Van Conversion Creates a $65,000/Month Business
- Have you ever wondered what it's like to start a van conversion business? Well, Gretchen and Taylor, did just that. In 2020 their revenue was $800,000. And this year, they're projected to do 3 million. Stick around to find out how.
(Upbeat music) On this episode, we're featuring Gretchen Bayless and Taylor Hood who started Axis vehicles in 2020. Their first year, they booked three times the renters than they expected. So they needed to expand their fleet. So they started their own. Now, they build, sell, and rent these vans to outdoor enthusiasts. Tell us in a nutshell, the whole process of getting the van to having it completed.
How much does it cost to build a van like this? Should they do both, build and rent? On this episode, you guys are gonna learn how they took their love for the outdoors and turned it into a profitable business. We're gonna talk about marketing, starting the business how to reduce costs, and a lot more. So, I need your van, what's the expected profit. - We try to work on two vans at a time. Right now we have three vans in the Bay. 80,000 and 100,000 dollars of expenses.
Just kinda revolving. - You guys make sure you subscribe to our channel, throw us a like real quick, and let's go meet Gretchen and Taylor. (Upbeat music) Gretchen, tell us a little bit about you, Taylor and what led you to starting Axis vehicles? - Sure. So, what led us to Axis vehicles was, needing to build vans for our rental fleet, for America.
We needed durable clearly cause it was a rental. So it needed to be able to be beat up and still survive a rental season. So we started building our own vans.
We saw a need for it in the market to get into a durable high-quality rig at a reasonable price, especially for families of four or five. So we just started building our vans. - Outdoor. You guys are outdoor people. - We try to be. (laughs) - Did that play a big role? - Huge role, cause we're always in our van. We have two little kids, two old dogs, and the old dogs is a big one because they have to be comfortable probably more so than even our kids need to be comfortable and we have to stay sane.
So, we are in our van and outside as much as possible. And so we're always trying new things on our own van which leads us to put them in either into the rental fleet vans or the customer builds or not, depending on how they survive. - Let's take a look at your operation in the shop. Go ahead and show us kind of what things look like. - sure - And maybe we'll head on to the second phase of what the vans look like after they look like this.
- Alright (Upbeat music) - How many square feet do you have here? - This is 2,500 square feet. We try to work on two vans at a time. Right now we have three vans in the Bay. - [Paul] It's getting a little tight. - [Gretchen] Yeah, but they're just finalizing a couple of details on this one van. And then the van with the Colorado plates, that's just getting some accessories added on.
That was purchased from us last year. So now it's coming back for wrap, ladder, heater-- - Can we take a look? - Yap. - Just all the details you're talking about? - Yeah - Kinda how things are lined down. I guess since we're walking in Gretchen, what are we looking at here? Do you build everything from scratch for the inside of the van? - So it's assembled here. This is kinda like our assembly table.
So these have all been pieced together. So all this aluminum framing is built here. You know the 80/20 gets delivered, we assemble it and cut it to size. So this is the cabinet that goes in most of the vans, all the vans layouts. - Okay. - The customers get to pick the finishes.
This customer picked this nice black finish. And then as you see, these are placed right now, to just kind of line up the heater, the water pump, USB port, fridge. And then these are the kitchen drawers here. - This is pretty much the length of the van, right? - Exactly. - I guess we're gonna see any other vans that have this installed already.
- Yep. Come on back. - Do you do this as well? Is this for the van or? - That's for the van. Yep. - Very cool. - That's the kitchen countertop. You'll see-- - Makes you feel homey. - Yeah.
So this one's actually, Taylor's working on this right now, getting a heater installed. Again, this is an older build of ours where the customer brought it back. - Can I open it? - With a couple of things.
Yep. Just watch out behind you. - So you've got a bed up on top? - Yes - How many people does it sleep? - This one sleeps four to five. They have two kids. So they have two up top and then there's a bench seat. This guy here, that goes down below and with lap belts for the kids. And then the heater is getting installed there It's got a tire rack.
And then the spare tire will go on the back. (Upbeat music) - How much does is it cost to build a van like this in general? - Yeah. In general it's from about 80 to a 100,000 dollars. And that's van included and typically Four-wheel drive. - Gotcha. Okay. And do you buy them all Four-wheel drive or do you do some conversions? - So we do some. We personally don't do the four-wheel-drive conversions.
We partner with a company, Cloud Van in Portland for those. So we can buy a two-wheel-drive vehicle, ship it out to Cloud Van, and they do the four wheel drive conversion. Or we purchase all wheel drive for our customers. It's just kind of a customer preference. And we talk the customer through it. We walk them through all the options.
Find out their driving capabilities, what they wanna do with the rig. And then we kinda help, kinda guide them to the right option. (Upbeat music) - So if I want to come in and I'm not in a position to buy one of these vans, Can I rent an access van? - You sure can. - What's the cost and where do we go to do that? - Yeah.
So you go through our sister company for America and we offer access vans to rent. There are about 300 bucks a night and that's four-wheel drive. Totally kitted out, has all the gear that you'll need for a great camping experience. Again, seats is five. You can sleep that as well. So you can bring friends or your whole family.
Dog-friendly too. Which is nice. - All Vans? - All vans. - Extra charge for that? - Nope.
- Okay. - It's included. - A true outdoor set-up. - Yeah. We even have a little soft crate for the pop to travel safely. And then if you end up buying later on, we'll credit you those rentals. - Okay.
- Yeah. - For somebody looking to get into the van conversion business, how important is it to partner up or should they do both, build and rent? What's your take and experience so far? - Take is you have to have a lot of patience. If you're gonna want to get into the rental business. We love it. I don't know if it's for everybody. We love cleaning vehicles.(chuckles) I don't think everybody does love cleaning vehicles.
We grew up where we're both car families. And so we really, really enjoy working on vehicles and cleaning them and getting ready for customers. We also have kids.
And so we have that take on it to where it's like we know how to set up the vehicles for the families that are coming in to rent. Again, not everybody's in that position. So I'm not sure if it's for everybody.
Building the vans, it was just kinda a natural progression to do that. - I see. (Upbeat music) Gretchen, tell us in a nutshell the whole process of getting the van to having it completed.
Break it down in steps. - Sure. So, we pick up a van either from private party or a dealership that we work with. A van comes in and we strip the van on the inside. So usually they're cargo vans.
Sometimes they're new, sometimes are used but they get clean, they get stripped. - Okay. - They come into the Bay and there is a bill sheet attached to that van cause usually it's going to a specific customer. - Can we see an example of one, a bill sheet? - Let me see if I have one. Yeah.
- I figured that's why I asked. Let's take a look. Cause that's basically what happens once it pulls into the shop, okay? - Yeah. - Here's the bill sheet. - I have a few examples. And then we have vans coming in for maintenance.
We offer warranty on all of our vehicles. And so they'll come in for. We haven't had any warranty claims but, we have vans come back after 30 days or so or to get accessories added on. So they get a bill sheet as well. While the stage one is happening, which is that first stand there, so it's flooring, it's wall panels, insulation electrical, ceiling, fans, lights. That's the stage one.
From stage two, it's assembly of cabinetry and electrical, - Right behind you? - Yep. And then the end of stage two kinda looks like this even though this van's been taken apart. - Putting it all aside? - Yeah. Kinda the final assembly of everything.
And then the additional accessories such as the heater, roof rack, tire rack, ladder, awning, solar. And then the customer gets to pick up and take it for a ride. (Upbeat music) - Hey guys, just reminding you that this year 2021 we are releasing our hub UPFLIP.COM/HUB, where we're going to have all the information for you on how to start, build, and grow successful business. Make sure you check it out.
(Upbeat music) We'd love to know what your monthly expenses are, how many employees you have working with you and what does that look like for you at this stage. - So right now we have two employees full time. We'll be adding a couple more this month. Depends on how many vans are coming through the door.
Sometimes we buy a handful vans at a time. Like you saw up front. We have three vans right now that aren't being worked on, but we've purchased them. And we like to keep a handful of vans inventory in stock so that when the van does get pulled in the Bay, we have everything in stock. But you're looking at 80,000 to 100,000 dollars of expenses.
Just kinda revolving. - A couple vans and all the materials and stuff. - Yep. And then labor and payroll and insurance and stats add up (laughs).
- You got the overhead with the rental. This is lease space right here, okay? - Yeah. Exactly. - What do you pay for this? - This spot is about 80 cents a square foot. - 80 cents? Okay - Yeah. - It varies from market to market.
- It is. Yeah. Like Portland is twice there, right? Hood River County is a little bit less. (Upbeat music) And then if you wanted to see kinda the kitchen assembly... - Is that how the list actually works - So you'll see that cabinet.
That's on the table there, is the same here. Just different finishes. - Look at the finish up on top though. Is that your work as well? - Yep. The lights and the fans. That's a cedar panel that goes up top. - So what are the basic installs for a van? I see you've got a fridge.
- Yep. Fridge. And then all the drawers, the kitchen doors are all full extension, soft, close, super deep. You can house a lot of stuff in there, which is really nice. - Which have one, two, three, four compartments. - And then the water.
And then all the electrical. Everything's wired for solar roof or off the side. Again, should you ever wanna add solar later on, It's already wired for it.
You're not having to open up any walls or anything. It comes with the lights, it comes with the fans, it comes with everything you're gonna need to go camping with your family. - That's awesome. This machines are really really cool.
(Upbeat music) Gretchen what are the profits and expenses in this business? Let's just take year two for you. What are the profit margins you could expect that, you shoot for a win? - So each van costs a lot of money to build. We buy the van for the customer, we outfit it with everything that they're gonna want including the accessories. Our business model is we do take a down payment which helps.
But, we don't ask for the entire bill to be paid upfront. We want our customers to be happy. - How much is the down payment? - Down payment is usually about 10 grand.
- Okay. - So it's pretty small. Once we buy the van, then the customer purchases the van from us so they can get it registered, insured on their own end. And that does help cover some of the costs as well. - So I need to van what's the expected profit? - On average, per 20,000. - Okay.
- Yep. And then as a business we just turned that into the next build or you know upfitting our shop with better tools and hiring. - Gotcha.
(Upbeat music) How long does it take to, get the van to the completed stage from the moment it's standing in the parking lot or actually pulls into the shop? - Pulls into the shop? - How many man-hours are we talking about? - Taylor, man hours? - 270. - This is Taylor by the way guys. - Hey, how are you doing? - 270? - He knows man-hours. - You nailed it right.
- Just meant it roughly.. - Taylor is our numbers guy. - Four-wheel-drive, and heaters, solar panels, and racks, and all sorts of stuff. So it really just kind of depends. But, about 270 hours is about right.
For kind of our standard build. - I'm trynna divide down by weeks. Is always one man working usually on the van? - No. - Well that's, our team. So we've got Gretchen doing a lot of the front end work-- - Certain things - And kinda the project management, development and guiding at the install. We have Nick who's our lead builder.
And then we've got Chris who's not only our builder, but also our media guy as well. So, focusing just on the van, just on a standard build it's yeah. I mean, it's an easy 300 hours.
- Wow. Okay. - Divide that by I would say two. You have two people dedicated full-time building on the van and of course there's support. There's other things that go on there but-- - Roughly three to four weeks.
- Hands-on the van. Yeah. 250 to 300 hours, depending on the accessories and all. - Okay.
(Upbeat music) Let's talk about marketing strategies for Axis Vehicles. I mean, you use some creative ways to do that. What are you doing currently? What's working the best? - You know right now we're not putting any money into paid advertising.
We actually have never paid for any advertising in regards to America or Axis. What we like to do is just be a part of the community that we're in. So, Axis is in Hood River. We actually just moved here in November. We live here, we've actually lived here for decades, all of us.
So it was always a natural thing to be in Hood River, the shop. And so for us our plans is to just be able to support the community here. And then, hopefully we do a good job at that.
And people can then start talking about Axis and the shop and the fun vans that they get to see be a part of the community. - You've grown from eight to 30. So, what attributed to that? Just you being here, people knowing you or what else? - I think so. And I think it's just also because of, our business for America, being able to have the rental vans that builds the Axis vans be a part of the rental fate. People are able to try them before they buy them which is really nice.
And if somebody's hesitant about maybe a van, they're not sure if a van is gonna be a right fit, maybe they are also wanting to do an RV or a truck camper, they can try a van. And it's just a rental cost versus having to buy a hundred thousand dollars rig and just be like, oh it's not for me. Granted, we haven't had any customers do that. They always want a van afterwards. But, I think it's just a good relationship that we have with the business. (Upbeat music) - I'm curious about the cost of each van.
You mentioned 80 to a 100,000. - Yep - Do I, as a customer have options to customize things are you guys more custom, versus et cetera? - We are kinda in the middle. - Okay.
- So we offer three set layouts. And with those layouts, you get to pick your finishes. Which means you get to pick the color of your floor, your ceiling, your kitchen countertop, your cabinet tree color. For example, this van here in the back, it's a really nice green upholstery fabric.
- Check this out. - A black floor and kinda a gray cabinet face. And then a butcher block countertop which is really nice. It's pretty outdoorsy feel, which is nice. And then the Cedar panel on the ceiling. So it's really warm and inviting.
And you'll see kind of on the shelves over there, we have some maroon cushions, some gray cushions. So you definitely get to customize your van in regards to how it looks at the very end, the colors. But, we have put all the time needed and all the research into the layout of the van. So that's, what's gonna work best for the majority of customers. And then they get to personalize it to make it feel like their own - How many options for lamp personalization do I have? - So there's three layouts that we offer.
- Okay. - And then with those three layouts, there's typically three to five different colors you get to choose from. - Have you found one layout to be more in demand than the other? - Yes. (laughs) - What would be the front runner? - The number one layer is our evolver layout. It is the seat belts in the back.
So that way you can have passengers even if you don't have kids. Most of our folks are using these as their everyday drivers. - Interesting. - And so if you're gonna be picking up mom and dad from the airport, one time you have seat belts in the back seat for passengers, for friends if you wanna take them camping, two beds everything you're gonna need and all the storage too. - How many people would it seat then legally with the seat belts? - Five. - So five. Okay. - Yep.
- You've got two in front and three in the back? - Correct (upbeat music) - So in starting a van conversion business, what other services do you offer yourself and you would recommend to our viewers who wanna get in the same business? What are the services can you offer? - Sure. So a lot of our vans are meant to be added on to. So customer buys a van from us but they may not need a roof rack right now, So they'll come back in six months maybe when they're planning on taking a big kayaking trip this summer. And so adding accessories at a later date is really nice option to be able to offer customers.
- Is there anything else you do on top of that? - The four-wheel-drive conversions. You know just partnering with other companies that specialize in that. We don't specialize in four-wheel-drive conversions. We have the capabilities, but it's just not our specialty.
So being able to partner with other companies that offer that is really nice and being able to offer those warranties to the customers. So again, it's just kinda expanding your partnerships and your networks with companies that you work for or work with. So that way you can offer more services to your customers. So they're not having to do the legal work, you can do it for 'em - Yeah. So if I basically show up to your shop, it sounds
like I'm not going to get a no particularly no reason. You've got all the kind of partners lined up to do this, to do that, to do that. - We hope so. And if not, we'll find out for ya. - That's a good way to do business. (Upbeat music) - You guys, if we can get 5,000 likes on this video within the first month of its release, we will do an update on Taylor and Gretchen and their business.
So make sure you comment below. Tell us what else you want us to ask and we'll do that for ya. So make sure you like this video right now.
Only takes two seconds. (upbeat music) In terms of partnering up, What's your suggestion? Where do we go to find the right partners to be in business with? - For us, it was who we use. So all the gear that we use in our own van and our everyday travels, it's like we just reached out to the customers because we had already been using the gear for decades and it was still in our van and it had survived.
Taylor and I were adventuring together, our dogs, our kids and we're like, well this would make perfect gear to provide in the rentals. So just reaching out to companies and just having that honest conversation with them about how much you love their gear and how it survived (laughs) your whatever you've done to it. And yeah, it's really nice how encouraging just other companies in the outdoor industry are to get product into people's hands. - Yes. It's a pretty cool group of people. You know those fans for the outdoors. - Easy going - It's like your family.
- Yeah. It's nice. (Upbeat music) - Just curious. What are your favorite parts about the van? Features, things personally for you that you really ah, so cool. You know kinda deal? - Personally for me, it's the space.
It's really deceiving and I feel like from the outside it doesn't look like there's much space, but to get inside and-- - Come inside. Take a look. - Be able to stand completely at, I have all my cabinets. There're easy, soft close, like just nice durable. We can have everything in here. Oops!
- Good use of space everywhere. Not too clattered. - And then the sink, all the drawer, everything's just really easy to use, but it's super durable. So even to have our kids in here, this is like four kids which is really nice. And they can just go crazy.
Pops can be here but not in the way. Everything's also removable too, which is really nice. So it's just high functioning. I feel like - You've got this bed. I've seen the other vans have a second. - Yes.
- So this is just one model. - Different layout. - Gotcha. Interesting. Well, you can crib quite a bit of people with this and then the second. - Yeah. Six'11 by six feet wide. - Wow. - It is deceiving. They look a lot smaller
from the outside. And is the tire package, the wheels all part of what you guys do as well? - Typically. Yeah. We do give customers options on the tires. Again, it just kinda depends on what they're looking for.
(upbeat music) - Three words from both of you, to our viewers who are just excited about the outdoors, who maybe wanna get in the same business, three words four words. What's on your mind? And you can talk to them. Anything? - Start now, - start now. It's a good one. - Every hour wasted is an hour loss.
- I love that. - Yep. Just keep your foot on the gas. - Take the shot. You miss 100% of them. - Yes. - They you don't take. - They you don't take.
Just do it. Get started. - Okay. - Might as well. What do you have to lose? - Beautiful. - Maybe everything. But you can start over.
- That's a wrap. Thank you guys. It's been a pleasure. You've got an incredible story and I love your vans. Maybe one day, I'm gonna rent one and take it outdoors. That's a wrap with Axis vehicles.
Thank you so much for watching. Make sure you subscribe to our channel, like this video if you haven't already. That way you don't miss any of our revenue generating videos from UpFlip. Thank you again.