Gigi Stetler is an unstoppable business woman. She created and is the CEO of the only female-owned RV dealership in the country. The business has been thriving for 30 years despite many roadblocks associated with working in a male-dominated industry. And Stetler has written a couple books – one about surviving a vicious attack when a homeless vagrant stabbed her 21 times and left her for dead.
Driven by her entrepreneurial spirit, last year, she also launched an entirely new venture – The RV Advisor, an educational platform for RV enthusiasts.
Stetler is not only a full-time mom, author, life coach & CEO, she is also an active philanthropist. For nearly three decades, Stetler has been involved in hurricane relief efforts nationwide supplying aid and emergency housing to those affected by Hurricanes Andrew, Charlie, Wilma, Irma, Katrina, and others. She recently announced a philanthropic story contest to give away a fully equipped RV trailer to a family in need.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
I actually never thought about a career in the RV industry until, one day, a friend asked me for a favor. He bought a piece of property that had several RVs on it, so he asked if I could help him sell those RVs. I agreed, and I really enjoyed the process. I ended up not only selling the existing RVs, but also taking new orders. Before I knew it, I was able to turn my side-project into a full-time career, and, later, a full-fledged enterprise that continues to grow at a rapid pace. My business, RV Sales of Broward, is the only female-owned RV company in the country.
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
I love helping people, and I’ve always thought of myself as an advisor to others. RVs are complicated machines, and there is a lot people need to consider before buying one. Being a vital resource and helping people avoid costly mistakes while shopping for a recreational vehicle has always been very rewarding for me. Plus, RV owners are some of the happiest and friendliest people out there.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I learned on the job, and I’m glad I did. As a result, I now know and understand every aspect of my business, from sales to service to financing and insurance. I’ve always believed that being an entrepreneur is not about college degrees – it’s about passion and determination to succeed, and I have never had a shortage of that.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
Being the only female RV dealer in this male-dominated industry, I’ve definitely encountered my share of roadblocks. When I started my company – RV Sales of Broward – many people told me that I would never succeed. But I never let naysayers bring me down. I kept my eyes on the goal, worked twice as hard as my competitors, and soon became the leading RV dealership in South Florida.
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
No. When I joined the RV industry, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. Moreover, being an entrepreneur, I get to wear so many hats as I move my business forward that I don’t really need to change careers. Every week, I get to be a manager, sales person, consultant, website developer, and more! Every day brings a new challenge and new successes. It’s very gratifying.
When did your career reach a tipping point?
I’ve had many pivotal moments throughout my career. One moment was our decision to service our customers seven days a week and extend our operating time to 11 hours on weekdays. We made the move just over a decade ago, and, at the time, it was an unprecedented for an RV dealership to offer this level of customer service. But it paid off. The next year, we made more than $20 million in sales.
Another tipping point in my career happened last year when I launched a completely new venture called The RV Advisor. It’s an Angie’s List for RV enthusiasts, and it is now helping bring the entire industry into the 21st century.
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
When I was 25, I was nearly killed by a homeless person. He stabbed me 21 times with a knife and strangled me with an electric cord. When my body went limp, he left thinking that I was dead. It was a miracle that I survived. Doctors thought that I would be permanently disabled, but, despite the odds, I made a full recovery. I was so determined to get back on my feet that people called me unstoppable, which inspired the title of my book, Unstoppable: Surviving is Just the Beginning. The book is about overcoming this harrowing experience and other challenges in my life.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
It’s not about skills, it’s about grit and determination. When your entire business, career, or even life hangs on the line, it’s grit that makes a difference. Having the desire and motivation to row against the current in order to achieve your goals has proven to be the most useful quality for me.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am, of course, very proud of my business successes, including the RV Sales of Broward and RV Advisor. But even more so, I am proud of my company’s commitment to help those in need. RVs and campers serve as perfect emergency housing solutions for families whose houses get destroyed by natural calamities. As a result, I have been involved in hurricane relief efforts nationwide for nearly three decades. We have supplied aid and emergency housing to those affected by Hurricanes Michael, Irma, Andrew, Charlie, Wilma, Katrina, and others.
And right now, my venture, The RV Advisor, has pledged to give away a fully equipped RV to a deserving person. Folks have already started submitting their stories of some amazing, compassionate people, who despite helping others, have been left without roofs over their heads. Anyone can enter on our website. I am really looking forward to giving away this RV and changing someone’s life for the better. To give someone a home, when they have nowhere else to turn, is just incredibly fulfilling.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
Make sure you understand every aspect of your business. Focus on the quality of your service and overall customer experience. Always be positive and work towards your goals – no matter how ambitious they are. Opportunities aren’t going to be handed to you. You go out and work for them. And always give back to your community. We have to take care of each other.