From a corporate life to shaking up the adventure tourism market, alumna Camila Ramirez launched her startup, Overland Discovery, a passion project which has now become one of the key players in the camper van rental space in the US.
For Les Roches Crans-Montana alumna Camila Ramirez, sustainability and how businesses can impact society and the environment has always been a true passion. Following her studies, she moved on to work for various companies and industries; but the thought of creating her own business, one that could make a difference, was already in her mind.
Taking a bet on Overland Discovery
Camila and her husband, as outdoors lovers who enjoy camping and are constantly looking for new adventures, realized something was missing in the industry, that a gap could be filled. That is when the first thoughts of Overland Discovery were raised.
This was back in 2017, and to avoid completely pulling the plug on their careers, Camila decided to test her concept with just a couple of vehicles initially.
“We are avid outdoors people. We love adventure and we have both lived and traveled the world. But then reality sets in and you have a corporate job, a very busy lifestyle, and then it becomes less and less feasible not only from a time perspective, but also just comfort.”
As months passed, the business started to grow, and it was time for the alumna to decide whether she should stay in her current position, which she truly enjoyed, or take the chance and focus her energies on Overland Discovery.
“Do I continue to do what I’m doing in technology, or do I jump into what really represents my passion, which is not just a startup, but having my own startup, my own business? So I made the leap and continued down the path of entrepreneurship.”
Today, the Colorado-based business has grown a lot, with a current fleet of 16 vehicles. Now the alumna is in discussions to see how they could expand, but not only with car rentals! As we speak, Overland Discovery are starting a new digital journey, offering directories for camper rentals, hiring conversion specialists, and opening a marketplace for camper and campervan sales!
Your hotel on wheels
So, what is Overland Discovery really like?
It is basically a hotel on wheels that will accompany you throughout your trip. It isn’t your average rental car as you have rolling accommodations with you the whole time! Just like when you arrive at a hotel, you will check-in during the afternoon and check out at the end of your vacation.
“We try to take more of the hotel business model, as well as the business model of RV (recreational vehicle) rentals, but try to disrupt it. We offer all the bedding, camping and kitchen equipment in the vehicles, as well as other resources such as itineraries and tips on camping spots.”
Of course, customers do not have the Food and Beverage side of a hotel; but the company provides them with other small elements, such as offering to go to a certain shop to grab some local coffee, camp meals and more.
“We are really trying to pull things from hospitality and hotels, but then translate them to outdoor recreation and also vehicle rentals.”
Picking up during the pandemic
When Overland Discovery was founded in 2017, the business was really focused on an international market: tourists who wanted to go on the “epic American road trip” with a van. Therefore, more promotion was done on the international front.
Then, in 2020, the pandemic hit, bookings were canceled, there was no more revenue and the stress began. Or so they thought.
“It was really a blessing in disguise because we, of course, shifted our efforts and tried to market locally, not knowing if restrictions were going to be lifted. But it really was an eye opener for us.”
Of course, the business could not rely on international travelers only, also for sustainable reasons. Therefore, the team decided to rethink and change their marketing to turn it towards the local market. During the pandemic, more and more locals were looking to discover what was around them, visit their own region or country, and find adventurous ways to do it!
“Luckily, after restrictions eased up, we got a ton of local customers, which was also great. A lot of word of mouth, which was wonderful. And it opened up our eyes to, wow, this was just in our backyard this whole time. Of course, We’ve definitely worked really hard, but we are lucky to be in an industry that Covid has actually accelerated our growth.”
Making an impact on the world
Camila has been greatly focused on sustainability and believes that businesses can truly make an impact and change the world when they do the right thing. For Overland Discovery, that’s connecting people to the transformational power of outdoor adventure and respect for nature.
“From an overall umbrella. I’m just really passionate about entrepreneurship and business. I believe that business is a catalyst for good and for impact in the world.”
And her current way of impacting the world is through Overland Discovery, which is all about people, nature and experiences. Their mission is to make the outdoors and adventure accessible to all.
“If you’re someone from the local area who has never had the opportunity to travel overseas, how can I provide a service that’s very close to that? But here locally, I can expose you to new sights, new opportunities, new challenges, and then, hopefully, really create meaningful experiences for you and your family. It’s my overall mission and then the mission of the company just continues to drive me every day.”