Meet Melissa Vitali in our Women in the RV Industry Series
I’m Melissa Vitali, Chief Executive Officer of Graphix Unlimited in Bremen, Indiana. We are a producer and design company for the RV industry. We design and manufacture the exterior graphics that go on the recreational vehicles. Graphix Unlimited is a full-service graphics company, and we work with our customers, whether it be the RV manufacturers, or dealers, or other industries. From the beginning of the concept all the way through to the end of the project, where we manufacture what we have created, and that covers exterior graphics, as well as interior graphics, windows, floors, walls, as well. Every project has its own interest, because every project is different, and we get to be creative for that particular customer and providing them what they have envisioned.
I started at Graphix Unlimited in 2005, and I started out in the sales department and was responsible for going out and getting customers, and creating relationships, and working with our design team to come up with designs that the industry liked and staying on trend with what was happening in the industry. The RV industry does not beat around the bush, if that makes sense. It is, you know, “Yes, I will talk to you today.” “No, I don’t have time for you today.” It’s pretty cut and dry. It’s very busy, and so it was much different than what I was used to. I developed some thick skin over the years, and I had to learn how to pick myself up and go back at it the next day.
I love to get my hands dirty. There is not a job here, except maybe design, which I’ve toyed with a little bit, but I’ve printed, I have cut parts, I have applied. I actually really enjoy applying graphics, when I get the opportunity, because it’s challenging. And then the reward at the end is that you have this beautiful unit to look at, and we did that. So, we could be very proud of that. Being hands-on helps me make good decisions, because I can understand the challenges and the issues that may arise for my employees and my customers.
So, by staying grounded, and being involved in every aspect, and knowing what’s happening, and it really helps to make good, valuable decisions when we have challenges. The creative side of it can be a lot of fun, but then we are confined a little bit to what the customer wants to see. And we have a great team of artists that help us create all kinds of ideas, and then we present those to the customers, and it’s always interesting to get their feedback on what their thoughts are, because we look at those designs and graphics every day. And so to get the feedback from our customers, or from retail, especially, on the retail side, to see what the feedback is really helps us to move forward and go with the next design, you know.And so one thing leads into another. And to watch color trends–we do get to have a lot of fun with what we do.
My early career, I began with a plastics company in Elkhart, and we did vacuum-forming plastics, and I worked my way up through that company, actually, and learned every aspect, and I had–my boss there was a great mentor, and he taught me a lot, and he taught me to work really hard, and made it so that I was very interested in learning all the different aspects of that business. From there, I went into interior design, and I spent a few years in interior design, which was probably my passion at the time. And then Graphix Unlimited reached out to me to work with them on sales, which I found very interesting, but I was a little bit intimidated by the RV industry. I had not worked in it prior to that.
So, in 2005, I entered the RV industry. And over the last 16 years, I have developed relationships, and met amazing people, and have learned to fall in love with the RV industry.
I think over the last, especially, 10 years, I’ve seen a lot more women coming into the industry and being very successful. When I first began, I would say it was–there was definitely more men than women. I think there probably still is, but the industry is welcoming to women or to anyone that wants to be a success in the industry. You do have to work hard, you have to be motivated, you have to be creative, and you cannot be discouraged by challenges. I think women are very good at that and very good at multitasking and overcoming the hurdles that are there for women in all industries. But you have a certain resilience in the RV industry. I have seen many women in the industry climb the ladder at their own companies, whether it’s the manufacturers or other suppliers, and I would say it has evolved over the last decade more than prior to that. Women are welcomed in the industry, and they’re hard-working, multitasking, and they’re motivated to make something of themselves in the industry.
Well, at Graphix Unlimited, actually, we employ a majority of women. We have great men that work here and contribute every day, but we do employ a majority of women. And the roles they play are all the way from the receptionist to our management team is actually 99% women. We have one gentleman on the management team. And our sales staff is three women, one man. And even downstairs in production, we have a majority of women. So, women play all of the roles at Graphix Unlimited.
I feel that’s what I love about the industry is that every day is a challenge and every challenge is different. Some days you just feel like, “How are we gonna overcome this?” And by the next day, we have it figured out. And the RV industry is definitely innovative and challenging, but I have seen this industry overcome some of the biggest economical challenges, as well as the pandemic last year, when everybody feared we were done, and we turned it around to actually be the biggest success story of any industry, I feel like, in the world, actually. And now RVing has become the greatest thing, because people don’t want to fly, or don’t want to stay in a hotel. Well, the RV was the perfect answer.
And so, the industry really marketed that, and has made us all very successful, and has continued to grow.I would say if any woman is looking for a challenging career, this is a great industry to get into. You’re able to be creative. There are so many various opportunities, whether it be in a production-type role or a creative-type role, or an office-type role, I do not think the industry cares anymore so much whether you’re male or female, but whether you’re a hard worker and motivated.