Catching Up with the RVWA 'Drab to Fab' Project
I’m Melissa Vitali. I work at Graphics Unlimited. I am the CEO and I am here today to get my hands dirty.
Susan Carpenter: The project is full steam ahead on assembly. So we have put in the on-demand hot water tank, the furnace has been installed. It still needs to be finished wiring. The shower, all the plumbing’s done, most of the electrical, the interior lights are on, all the graphics on the outside of the RV are gone. Now we’re just kind of putting finishing touch so we’re doing some trim work today, we’re just doing- finishing up the plumbing and the shower for the surround that will show up Monday. And then we kind of take a pause at that point because we need cabinets. So we do have all the wood for the cabinets, but we need jigs and everything else to get ’em put together and because we’re kind of hoping the OEMs will help us out on that a little bit and because the OEMs are so slammed right now, they don’t have the time, we’ll just kind of take a pause, wait for them to help us with that. And once the cabinets go in, then the finish– all the finishing work is done.
Melissa: I was in sales for Graphics Unlimited for 16 years and about a year and a half ago I was promoted to the CEO role and I still need to get out in the industry. That is where my passion is. So I spend time in our own production facility and I love to still come out and get my hands dirty in the industry, whether it’s at a customer or here with the RV Women’s Alliance, working on this unit, and you know, it keeps me fresh. It keeps me connected with what is going on day-to-day.
Monica Lambert: I did just recently join the RVWA and I was recommended it by my boss, Melissa Vitali. She had signed up for it a couple of weeks or a prior to that and she had done some research on it, and she thought it was something that was really cool that we could get into, working with other women in the RV industry. She explained to me, you know, it was pretty much like women empowering women to build ourselves up in the industry that is predominantly known for men workers. So she suggested that I sign up with her, and then I did.
Melissa: I came across the RVWA and so it was intriguing. I was not aware there was a women’s alliance like this for our industry and I know that the women have, grown into higher positions and really put their best foot forward in the industry to make our place in a male-dominated, you know, work environment. But when I saw that, I was very interested in what all that entailed. And so I signed up to be a member and then I saw the Drab to Fab project and I couldn’t wait to work on it.
Monica: This is our first time coming out here. I did some research on it and I did think it was a cool movement that they were doing. Most of the time we spend a lot of time in our offices or, me, personally, I spend a lot of time in my car, driving from customer to customer, doing things like that. So I personally worked in the RV factory for 20 years, installing graphics, and last year I took this new position as a salesperson so it was something I started new, but coming here kind of takes me back to what I really know and what I’m used to. So we decided to do this so that we could do something other than be on the computers or, you know, on the phone, driving in our cars. We could actually come, kind of get our hands dirty a little bit and help out good cause.
Melissa: Part of this project that I really look forward to is meeting other women in the industry and the networking and being able to support each other and empower each other to continue our strides in the RV industry.
Monica: I think the most important part of this project is for us to, as women, in the roles that we have in the RV industry for–this is a good way for us to meet other women that may have similar roles or, you know, maybe even higher roles. I think it’s good for us to join together and there’s a lot that we can learn from each other, as women. And I think that’s a great thing, that it’ll open up some relationships for us, not–maybe not only professionally, but personally as well.
Melissa: The last year, dealing with COVID, I think at first we all were very nervous about the impact it would have. And as it turns out, the impact has been very positive. People had to look for new ways to vacation. They didn’t wanna fly, they didn’t wanna stay in hotels. One RV is the perfect solution to that problem. And it reinforced the fact that they can purchase an RV and still go out and have vacations with their families, spend time with their families, making memories, and I love being a part of that side of it as well. So I think that it brought in a whole new market that, otherwise, may not have been interested in the RV life. Susan: June 23 we have the reveal. And that’s when that goes to the Hall of Fame and we have a big party to celebrate. We invite everybody who’s worked on it and all of our sponsors and anybody else who wants to come. We get to come in, see it, and celebrate its unveiling. And then it’s gonna go to auction. So we’re hoping by May that we have this totally completed. But, as you can tell, the industry is very strained right now and there are certain products that you just can’t get a hold of too, so a lot of it is in limbo.