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Happy trails: RV franchisor gives road traveling enthusiasts a lift.


SANDRA WILLIAMS BATE MAKES MONEY WHILE SHE sleeps and helps others do the same.

As co-founder, CEO, and president of Bates International Motor Home Rental Systems Inc., a Las Vegas-based recreational vehicle rental company; Bate uses a business model that gives RV owners the chance to rent out their big-ticket purchases to others when they're not hitting the highway themselves.

Launched as a franchise in July 1997, Bates (the "s" was added because the founders thought it sounded better) International now has a fleet of 30 franchises across the country and eight employees at company headquarters. Revenues stood at a solid $1.2 million in 2007, and Bate expects to reach $2.2 million for 2008 because of a marketing initiative that will expand the company's presence in North America and other parts of the world. Much of the business currently comes from international travelers vacationing in the U.S. And it all started with the co-founders' own desire to travel the open road.

After financing a $23,000 recreational vehicle with her then husband, John, 35 years ago, Bate was frustrated by the RV's drain on the couple's finances, particularly since it stayed parked in the yard most of the time. So she put an ad in the newspaper offering to rent out the luxury RV when the couple was not using it. Her idea was an unexpected hit. "At that point, we realized this could be a business," she says.

With about $15,000 in savings, Bate launched a marketing blitz to reach potential customers and to entice other RV owners with the novel idea. Bate offered those other owners a 50/50 split of the profits if they would allow their RVs to be used in her fleet. Within six months, Bate had the use of 60 motor homes.

Shortly after the company took off financially, Bate started getting calls from business owners seeking advice about entering the RV rental business. The inquiries led to her franchising her idea. Depending on the location, a Bates International franchise costs between $20,000 and $35,000 for a startup location.

Besides RV enthusiasts, clients include home builders who use the RVs as temporary sales offices, and film, music, and TV production companies in need of mobile dressing rooms.

One of the company's largest deals was winning the contract to provide 200 RVs to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City--a deal worth more than $1 million.

Today, the company has more than 1,000 motor homes in service.

Though she has enough money today to finance her own recreational vehicles, Bate continues to look for ways to leverage outside capital and keep money in her business. "It's easy to make money," says Bate, who is nowhere near ready to exit her entrepreneurial journey. "But you've got to be innovative to keep it and to earn more."

Bates International Motor Home Rental Systems Inc.; 3690 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 220, Las Vegas NV 89169; 702-737-9050;
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Title Annotation:Bates International Motor Home Rental Systems Inc.'s services
Author:Holmes, Tamara E.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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