Never give up and don’t be afraid to defy the odds. Having worked for over 30 years in the exclusively male-dominated RV industry, I know how hard it is to be an outlier. But I never let obstacles get in my way. People told me I would never succeed. This was more than three decades ago, and I’m still thriving. After I lost my company, I just didn’t throw my hands up in defeat. I simply told myself that I would succeed again.
As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gigi Stetler. She created and leads the first and only female-owned RV company in the United States — RV Sales of Broward. As one of only a handful of top RV experts in the country, Stetler recently launched a brand-new endeavor — RV Advisor — an unbiased, online resource for outdoor enthusiasts. Stetler has had to overcome incredible odds and setbacks during her 30-year career — including a vicious, violent attack and the loss of her entire company — but with her unstoppable, entrepreneurial spirit, she always comes back and succeeds!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Actually, I never planned to work in the RV industry. But then, a friend asked me to help sell a couple of campers as a favor, and before I knew it, I was able to turn it into a full-fledged business.
At the time, it was an entirely male-dominated industry, which is still the case today to a large degree. I remember when I started working in the RV industry more than 30 years ago, my male counterparts told me: “This business is not for you little girl. You should be at home making cookies.” But I never let that type of language affect me. Instead, I worked twice as hard as all the other dealers in town, and soon my dealership became the go-to place for RV enthusiasts in South Florida.
Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
When I was 25, a homeless vagrant stabbed me 21 times, strangled me with an electric cord and left me for dead. Doctors predicted that I would be permanently disabled, but, despite the odds, I made a full recovery.
This determination and fortitude has served me well.
In 2008, I was on the receiving end of a faulty audit by my financing company. We were working through the details on a daily basis, correcting the errors in the audit and straightening out the misunderstanding when unexpectedly a fleet of tow trucks and sheriff’s deputies arrived and took my entire RV inventory. They also confiscated all files, computers, everything.
Within days, every bank that had loaned my company money called in the loans. Almost overnight, my business went from a profitable to one to one saddled with 11.5 million dollars in debt.
But I never gave up. For weeks, the company was barely holding on, but the lifeblood was the phone system. As long as we could answer the phones, we could make sales and start generating revenue again. There was only enough cash to pay the phone bills and not the power, so we opened the doors of the office so some air could circulate and hooked the computers up to RV generators on the lot.
I rebuilt my RV business — step by step, day by day. And now RV Sales of Broward is booming again!
What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
I view failures as simply stepping stones to success. I’m always positive and I always keep my eyes on the goal — no matter how far away it may appear. I just don’t give up. EVER.
Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
I just never stopped believing I would succeed. And I don’t let anyone push me around. I’m not afraid of anybody. I work harder. I work smarter. I just keep going. Three years ago, we moved our dealership to a new location in Davie, FL. RV Sales of Broward is now able to provide sales, rental, and technical services under one roof, which not only allowed us to improve customer experience, but also streamline the entire quality control process. So, we’re not just back in business — we’re doing better than ever! How’s that for a comeback?!
I’ve now written and published two books. My first book, Unstoppable: Surviving is Just the Beginning is about surviving the attack. And I recently published my second book The Coincidental Conspiracy, which details my publicized court battle with Marcus Lemonis, the host of the hit TV show The Profit.
No matter what life throws at me, I persevere. I’m determined to succeed as a businesswoman, author and industry thought-leader.
Based on your experience, can you share 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Never give up and don’t be afraid to defy the odds. Having worked for over 30 years in the exclusively male-dominated RV industry, I know how hard it is to be an outlier. But I never let obstacles get in my way. People told me I would never succeed. This was more than three decades ago, and I’m still thriving. After I lost my company, I just didn’t throw my hands up in defeat. I simply told myself that I would succeed again.
- Follow your passion. If you truly love what you do, you will always be successful. I didn’t plan on being an RV expert, but when I got into this industry, I knew that this is what I wanted to pursue, and I didn’t let anyone dissuade me.
- Be completely hands-on and understand every aspect of your business, but don’t micromanage your team. Instead, focus on the quality of your product or service and overall customer experience. I’m not just the CEO of my company — I’m also an RV salesperson, insurance and warranty advisor, and tech support. And even though I have a great team working in those roles, I understand every aspect of RV buying and ownership.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It might sound strange, but I have never really sought inspiration in other people. Although, maybe if I had, I wouldn’t have to learn so many lessons the hard way. However, there’s one person who I consider as my mentor — my first business partner Jerry Yavitz. He was the man who introduced me to the RV industry and who I had thought of as a father figure long before then. We’ve had our highs and lows, but he taught me many lessons, both in business and life.
He taught me that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and when one way doesn’t work — you try and try again until you find something that succeeds. He also taught me how to always land on my feet, and I will always be grateful to him for that.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! Last year, I launched a completely new platform for RV enthusiasts called RV Advisor. This site will serve as an “Angie’s List” for millions of RV owners and outdoor enthusiasts providing tips and recommendations on RV purchases, ownership, travel and repair, as well as a live helpline and roadside assistance for members.
With the RV industry booming, RV Advisor stands out because it’s the first truly unbiased advice and reviews platform. It is not designed to drive sales to any particular RV company or dealership. Instead, RV Advisor helps consumers navigate the network of more than 20,000 RV-related businesses across the United States, which can be completely overwhelming! It also offers unlimited free membership for all veterans.
I’m really excited about this new endeavor because it fills a serious vacuum in the RV industry and gives people the information they really need.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to start a movement on second chances to give our next generation a fighting chance to start over and make their lives great.I don’t believe individuals should be punished for the rest of their lives for making a bad choice when they were young. It seems that society gives up on young people before they’ve really had a first chance, never mind a second.
I believe if someone ends up in prison for a non-violent crime, that person should not have to be labeled when they reenter society. Carrying that label of a convict will never allow one the chance he or she deserves to get a good-paying job and, in some cases, to vote. I truly believe in a movement of second chances that gives individuals hope and a chance to turn their lives around.
Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
People don’t lack strength, they lack will. If you truly want something in life, just remember that failure is not an option.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.