From Job Loss to Rental Empire: Donna’s Journey of Empowerment

When life threw Donna a curveball by snatching away her job, she responded not with defeat but with entrepreneurial spirit, launching into the world of caravan rentals. 

In this candid chat, she shares the motivations behind her decision during a tumultuous time and the journey of growing from one caravan to a fleet that’s now expanding. Donna sheds light on her mission to inspire and support women in exploring the great outdoors, emphasising the empowerment and community found in hitting the open road.

Donna, the transition from losing a job to starting your own rental empire is both inspiring and daunting. Can you share what motivated you to start renting out caravans during such a challenging time?

I live in the small rural community of Deniliquin, and during COVID I lost my job and there are really limited professional opportunities in this area. I thought outside of the box and decided to dip my toe into renting out my caravan, although it was a challenging time, no one was able to travel overseas so more and more people were looking to stay within Australia, so maybe it was the best time to consider renting out my caravan!

From starting with a single caravan to owning a fleet of six, your growth is remarkable. Could you walk us through your journey of expansion and what strategies you found most effective in scaling your business?

Side note – it’s a fleet of seven now, with another on the way.

The truth is that I’ve sold two of my properties to invest in my business. 

The PR person in me would say that:I fell in love with the business and providing an opportunity for people to be able to travel around Australia at a reasonable cost. I invest most of my earnings back into the business, as I’ve had a clear goal from the start to grow the business to be able to run it full-time.

With a corporate background, I reviewed my figures, my ROI on each van, implemented a marketing plan (a vital part of the growth strategy) and developed a strategy to reach my goal. I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but I’m getting closer every day.

It’s fascinating that part of your mission involves empowering other women to explore and tour. How do you go about inspiring and supporting women in this venture, and why is it important to you?

One of the things I LOVE the most about what I do is empowering other women to go touring – most of the women hiring from me know that I have done it, meaning they trust me to give them the right advice.

The women who hire vans from me listen carefully during handovers and ask SO many great questions. To be honest, most of my inquiries are from other women, and it really creates a beautiful sense of sisterhood when we chat about their touring plans.

The pandemic has forced many to rethink their careers and lifestyles. How has the shift towards domestic tourism and the outdoors influenced your business model and outlook on work-life balance?

The shift was obviously beneficial for domestic tourist operators nationally, and in some ways, it was fortuitous that I lost my job when I did.

The trend toward international tourism is regaining momentum, but what I’m seeing is that there’s room for both segments in the market. Pre-covid, this may not necessarily have been the case as overseas travel still seemed rather exotic and luxurious. 

Since the pandemic, people have realised that Australia is a vast, diverse, amazing country that more than rivals overseas destinations. It’s also more accessible for families as it allows them to unpack once, and maintain their creature comforts while spending weeks or months on the road.

With International Women’s Day celebrating the achievements of women, how does it feel to be recognized for your success within the Camplify community, and what message do you hope your story conveys to other women?

I think it’s fantastic that women have an opportunity to share what they love with others. Traditionally, caravanning has been mostly male dominated – it’s been males who do the towing, hitching, maintenance etc. So it fills me with joy to see women succeeding in this role and showing other women that it’s not just possible, but enjoyable. 

I love supporting other women in the business and routinely promote other caravan hire businesses in other Camplify markets. 

Every business venture has its ups and downs. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in growing your rental empire, and conversely, what have been the most rewarding aspects?

The hardest part was starting a tourism based business during COVID, and introducing the concept of the sharing community to a small rural community who still relies largely on face to face purchasing. 

This, however, became my greatest strength and most rewarding aspect. Now that I’ve built a trusted brand, word of mouth is my greatest asset. The local community has really gotten behind this ‘new’ concept and are my greatest champions.

I’m so humbled by the support I have received from the community. At the same time, they know that their friends and family who choose to hire through me will be very well looked after.

Looking to the future, what are your aspirations for your business with Camplify, and what advice would you offer to those considering a similar path to financial independence through entrepreneurship?

I am currently in the process of buying two new vans for my fleet, which will allow me to leave my full-time job and fully focus on growing my business. I am also taking six weeks off in November and heading over to Tassie in one of the vans to tour around. I haven’t been back in twenty years, so I can’t wait to gain more experience to help future renters – all in the name of work!

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.