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Life and Work with Nika Shneyder

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nika Shneyder.

Nika, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My family of four immigrated to the United States in 2002, with the total balance of our assets equaling to $5,000 cash. No one spoke a word of English and the money earning opportunities were slim at best. But I remember the enthusiasm that my parents had for getting the opportunity to bring their children to a country where anything is possible. Provoked by the slim budget for entertainment and the general love for the outdoors, we quickly developed a fondness for tent camping, and boy did we camp! We would drive up to Big Bear, Mammoth, Joshua Tree, and my personal favorite, camping in by the beach in Leo Carillo, California.

We are an entrepreneurial family. Although for the first few years my parents worked odd jobs, we were always thinking about business ideas and searching for opportunities. Eventually, we managed to open up a neighborhood café which grew into a farmer’s market business, and then led to us producing and supplying frozen yogurt to school districts and movie theater chains throughout California, Arizona and Nevada. Business was growing and we were camping more than ever.

In 2015, my dad got invited on a camping trip with his friends, except this one was different. A friend of a friend had just purchased a motorhome and brought it to the camping trip. It was a pivoting point in our family’s history. After the camping trip, my dad was set on getting a motorhome, except my mom, being the rational one in the family, told him, “absolutely not”.

However, my dad really wanted an RV, so he began thinking of a way to convince my mom to let him get one, and that’s when the idea for Chill RV was born.

My dad and I have a perfect combination of personalities and skills required to pursue a business of this nature. He’s an excellent businessman with many years of experience, he’s skilled with his hands when it comes to handy work and he understands numbers and cars well. I, on the other hand, am someone who’s creative, I have design skills, marketing knowledge and most importantly, I’m very good with people and building relationships.

After careful thought and discussion, we decided to just go for it and invest in our first RV.

What happened was phenomenal. We couldn’t believe our luck. We listed our one RV on a few different websites and people started calling! They say, build and they shall come, and in our case, it really happened just like that. So, when our one RV booked up for a few weeks in advance, we got a second! And then we got a third, a fourth, a fifth and they all kept booking up! It was spectacular.

My dad and I were the only ones working on the business, we were doing all the deliveries, the cleaning, and even some repairs when needed. Every single penny got reinvested back into the business and we kept building up our fleet and providing exceptional customer service to our clients. Every time someone rented with us, they would tell their friends and family and our clients would find us through referrals and word of mouth.

We’ve been in businesses for three years and have accommodated over 700 clients! But of course, nothing is without its challenges. We’ve had to learn to adapt to the changing market and learn how to take care of our clients even better than we did before, as new competitors emerged.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As a whole, it’s been a very positive experience, but of course, if it was “that easy”, everyone would do it. There have definitely been bumps along the road. Because our business deals with little apartments on wheels, things can get complicated, to say the least. It took us a while to get great at providing perfect support to our clients. We had to learn the RVs inside and out. From the plumping to the electrical systems, the liquid propane system, all the different ways to do resets, and also what resources are available if none of the standard troubleshooting works. In order to keep our clients happy, we need to have good solutions to their questions and problems! The most challenging part of this business was and still is, figuring out how to remotely solve technical issues should they arise. In the beginning, we would actually sometimes fly my dad out if no other solution was available, that’s how dedicated we are. Thankfully, over time we learned how to train our clients better so that there are less incidents. At this point, we know how to address just about every situation.

Then there’s the whole working with your family aspect. I’m lucky to have such a great mentor to work with, but we also have some opposing views. Things can definitely get heated at the office as we discuss. I’ve had to learn to take a step back, breathe and refocus on the fact that we’re both looking for the best way to arrive at the same destination. In the end, we love each other, we love our clients and we love our business.

I would have to say that for me personally, the biggest struggle that I’ve had to overcome, has been figuring out the work-life balance. It was especially tough in the beginning when I was working all the time. It’s funny, I thought that I wanted to have my own business so that I didn’t have to work a 9 to 5, instead, I got a 24 hour, no time off. It’s gotten better, now I have a team, but when we just started, I would constantly have to excuse myself from the dinner table to talk with clients. I’ve actually lost friends over it. Thankfully though, the people that matter doesn’t mind and the people that mind, don’t matter. My circle of friends got leaner and stronger as I learned who loved me enough to be patient while I handled work. I’m actually thankful things happened this way.

If I could give advice to anyone starting a new business, it would be two things: 1. Focus on your responsibilities and don’t worry about losing people who don’t understand. 2. Get to know everything about your competitors and network with the business owners or managers themselves. More than once, we’ve helped our competitors and our competitors have helped us. We refer business to each other, share information, and it’s actually a lot of fun to talk to someone who knows exactly about the kind of work you do.

Please tell us about Chill RV Rentals.
This is my favorite question to answer! We do something pretty unique to the RV rental world; we are the ultimate rental company for first-time RVers! The whole experience is tailored towards a renter who has never encountered a motorhome before but would like to travel in one. When a client makes a reservation, they gain access to the client portal which will teach them about the operation of the RV, from the comfort of their home or office. The basic video is only 20 minutes long and covers all the essentials. There are additional videos that are available depending on the clients’ level of interest that are divided into categories and systems.

Our clients don’t need to come pick up the RVs, we come to them! This is an important step for optimizing comfort. When we deliver the motorhome, we learn about the client’s trip and custom tailor the training to fit their needs. Someone going to a campground with full hookups needs different training than someone camping in the middle of the desert.

Of course, there are so many different buttons and systems in the RV, we can’t expect anyone to memorize everything on their first try! Our RVs are equipped with iPads that contain preloaded instructional videos, manuals with pictures and useful camping apps, as well as other awesome resources. However, should there be additional questions, we’re available 24/7 via call, text, Whatsapp, Viber or Skype. Our first-time renters feel at ease knowing that they will be properly taught and supported throughout their entire trip.

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that a lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
I’m very lucky that I get to work with my mentor every day. My father is one of the smartest people I know and a phenomenal businessman. In terms of networking, I found it to be very useful to attend seminars and shows in our field. It’s allowed us an opportunity to not only stay current on the market but also meet some of our partners and competitors. There’s an important idea, a specific world view that has allowed me to network successfully with my competitors, and that is, there is a way that we can all win. I think this is generally a contradictory idea in business as most people are conditioned to think that business is a zero-sum game, but I’ve found a way to collaborate with my competitors, share resources and clients and we help each other out. There is strength in numbers, and I genuinely feel that having that outlook on things has led me to build a stronger business.

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Nika Shneyder

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