How the Akron startup wants to change how you vacation
Once upon a time, road trips were one of America’s favorite activities. But over the years, families have found other modes of transportation, other places to stay and other attractions to draw their interest away from trips across the country. But what if families could have an affordable way to take the trip they’ve always wanted? Enter RVshare. The Akron startup offers rental RVs of multiple sizes, allowing families to take a dream trip without breaking the bank or staying in a cookie-cutter hotel and providing a safe, socially distanced travel option in the time of COVID-19.
“RVshare is the first and largest website that connects people who are looking to go on an RV trip with people who own an RV and want to turn it into a second source of income,” said CEO Jon Gray. “It’s called an RV rental marketplace. It works very similarly to how Vrbo or Airbnb works with vacation homes. We take groups and families and connect them with people who own an RV but may not use it all the time. We’ve grown quickly, and have well over 100,000 RVs on the platform with millions of visitors every year on the traveler site.”
Like any business, COVID-19 presented the company with a variety of challenges. Early in the pandemic, RVshare had to weather layoffs and furloughs, but quickly found a niche. In April, they worked with a group called RVs 4 MDs to place RVs outside doctors’ homes so they could see family but not cross-contaminate. They worked with utility companies to house infrastructure workers and did medical trips for immunocompromised patients. And as activities started again, the rest of the business returned, allowing the company to replenish its workforce and steer out of the pandemic skid.
“Basically, our business kind of pivoted in the month of April from a leisure business to an adaptable form of accommodation business,” said Gray. “When we got to the back half of April, you saw restrictions loosen at state parks, beaches, things like that, and we saw an almost immediate resurgence of bookings. Now, we have 1600% more bookings than we did in early April and three times more than last year. It’s been a pretty crazy experience to go from one end to the other like that.”
RVshare was the first RV rental platform and the company is confident it’s now the best, too. While others have created similar sites — Gray considers that a compliment — RVshare prides itself on its great user reviews and large selection of vehicles they’ve added since their founding in 2013. Based in Akron, the company expects continued growth, and they plan on doing so from northeast Ohio.
“Akron is our home — the business was started here and we’ve grown it here. We have a tremendous team of people who’ve been with the business for a long time and know our business better than anyone,” said Gray. “I like the fact that Akron is not on the coast and is obsessed with providing a wonderful customer experience. It’s about hospitality and customer service. Ohio is a really exciting consumer internet marketplace, which makes it a great place to work and hire really talented individuals.
For Gray and RVshare, the company isn’t just about business, it’s about bringing travel back to the forefront. Gray believes travel is important, and can help break down borders and build connections. He’s also passionate about the changing options of travel in the modern world, and believes RVshare is one of many companies providing important new ways to get people out and about in the world.
“I believe in expanding the definition of travel,” said Gray. “Twenty years ago, if you were going to go on a trip, your only real option was staying in a hotel. Now, you might still stay in a hotel in New York, but if you’re going to the beach, you may stay in a vacation home or an AirBnB. Well, if you’re going on the great American road trip, camping, tailgating or going to a music festival, all of those things are served better by an RV. Travel, as a whole, is made better because the option for that experience exists.”