Iowa RV Mom on the Adventure of a Lifetime
Brooke is the incredible woman behind @behappedesigns. Her journey led her to full-time RVing and running her booming small business all online and from the road. Simply put, she is an “Iowa mom on an adventure of a lifetime running a handmade hat brand while traveling the US in an RV with my family of 5.”
In this feature, Brooke shares her experience making the jump into full-time RVing, how she runs a successful product-based business from the road, and shares about raising her family from the comfort of her tiny home.
Deciding to be a full time RVing woman
Like so many other full-time RVing families, Brooke was motivated to spend more time with her family. Prior to becoming full-time RVers, she and her family were weekend warriors camping in an Imagine travel trailer. In addition to weekend getaways, they had taken longer trips in their travel – once spending 20 days in Florida over the holidays.
The weekend trips weren’t enough though. With her husband traveling the majority of the month – 3 to 4 weeks away – Brooke wanted to see and experience adventures with her family. This sparked the idea of selling everything and trying a full-time lifestyle.
In the midwest winters, Brooke experienced seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons… symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody”.
(It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, please see your doctor.)
In addition to wanting more family time, Brooke wanted to chase the sun. Their travel plans included heading south in the winter and then returning to the midwest in the summer to visit family.
In July of 2019, they sold everything. Brooke said that for her, the house was always an investment, so she was not super attached making it easier to sell everything.
In order to effectively run her business and ensure her family of five was comfortable, they needed something bigger. So they upgraded from their travel trailer to a Grand Design Solitude 3740BH.
Should you rent before jumping into full-time RV life?
Brooke and her family were not inexperienced RVers by any means. They knew full well what they were getting into when they started full-time RVing. So when asked if she recommends newbies rent an RV before jumping in head first, Brooke says “yes!”
There is a huge learning curve that comes with RV life. There are aspects to RV life that may not be considered until you have experienced them. Things like having limited water if you’re not at a campground, limited hot water, emptying your gray and black water tanks, and maintaining those tanks to prevent issues. All good reasons to rent before you buy.
Full-time RVing & running a business
From the outside, Brooke makes full-time RVing and running a business look easy. But getting her hat brand to where it is today took a lot of work – and didn’t happen overnight.
In 2015, she started crocheting when she was home with her third child as a way to keep her hands strong. Before being home to raise her children, Brooke worked as a Doctor of Physical Therapy. So while she had intended to go back to work, she needed to keep her hands in shape for manual adjustments.
Her first project was a slouch hat. She crocheted the hat as a way to help her feel put together when she couldn’t spend a lot of time doing her hair.
People started to notice her designs and started asking to buy her hats. Shortly after, she went to her first market and sold her products. In 2016, she started b.e.happe Designs. Her business really took off after the retail store, Younkers, started a local, handmade section. Suddenly b.e.happe was in over 20 retail stores!
Taking b.e.happe Designs on the road
When Brooke and her family decided they were going to try full-time RVing, she knew she had to pivot to make her brand work on the road. There were a number of logistics to figure out.
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Inventory & raw material storage
For inventory storage, Brooke has bins stored in the “garage.” She knows how many bins she can keep full and how much everything weighs to avoid putting the rig overweight. The number of bins depends on the style of the hat.
Raw materials are stored under the bed. Brooke buys material in bulk directly from her favorite companies.
Having an ever-changing address was a huge challenge for running her product-based business. For mail, Brooke uses Escapees, a popular mail forwarding service for full-time RVers.
Showcasing her products
Before the pandemic, Brooke showcased her handmade hats at markets and events. Now, she has really had to change direction in order to showcase a product that begs to be touched.
A big challenge has been learning how to grow her business without being in front of people directly. She says “It’s a lot of just figuring it out.”
Advice for small business owners
Over the years, Brooke has learned a thing or two about running a business remotely. She shared some advice for other small businesses:
- Keep it simple. Instead of trying to diversify too much, do one thing really well and focus on that.
- Create things that you love and that other people love. You can’t have a ton of inventory sitting in a tiny space. So make sure you love your product and can be around it in tight quarters.
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Learning is a family core value
Learning and education are something that the whole family enjoys. Education is a core value within the family. Her husband holds a master’s degree and Brooke has a doctorate. Just like their parents, Brooke’s three children love to learn.
Homeschooling is a part of RV life
Part of full-time RV life and constantly traveling is homeschooling. Homeschooling kids isn’t something new or only within the RV community, though.
In January 2021, the National Household Education Surveys program reported that there an estimated 4 to 5 million children being homeschooled in the US.
With the development of the global pandemic, many families had no choice but to turn to homeschooling their children. According to the NHERI, “It is estimated that over 9 million Americans had experienced being homeschooled as of February of 2020”.
Brooke’s family was ahead of the curve for homeschooling. Her oldest has just finished second grade when they started full-time RVing. In the fall of 2019, Brooke started homeschooling – just one month after moving into the RV.
Brooke said she “never thought she would be a teacher but now she loves it.”
Each of her children has a different way of learning. The oldest loves workbooks. Her middle child is very hands-on and doesn’t need repetition to pick things up. And her youngest is a sponge and is always listening.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has limited public resources that Brooke used to regularly use to enhance the homeschool experience. Places like museums, public libraries, and science centers were places they regularly visited to gain knowledge. Now, they focus on as much safe outdoor exploring as they can.
Homeschooling isn’t just for RV life, though. Brooke said that if they left RV life, they would still homeschool on some level; perhaps in more of a homeschooling community. “There is just so much growth that you see with the homeschool,” says Brooke.
Full-time RVing future
There is no slowing down the full-time RVing train for this “happe” family.
In terms of travel, there is no stopping point. Brooke says her family doesn’t want to feel rushed. However, she said that they always have their eyes peeled for a home base. One day they would like to have land somewhere that they can develop into a home base.
As for her business, b.e.happe Designs, Brooke wants to continue to grow, grow her team, and continue to give back. Giving back to the community has always been important to Brooke. In 2018, her son was admitted to the PICU and in isolation for nine days. Child Life Services brought him toys and movies to keep him distracted during his stay.
Now, a portion of all proceeds from b.e.happe goes to a wishlist for items for children’s hospitals. She and her children shop for the wish list items that will brighten the day for kids in the hospital.
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