Founded in New Zealand in 2001, JUCY’s super cool custom-fitted vans that seats five and sleeps four can currently be found in Los Angeles, San Francisco (Bay area) and Las Vegas. The green and purple brand is a household name in Australasia, and is continually adding more vehicles to their US branches to offer its customers a fantastic alternative to gas-guzzling giant RVs or sleeping on the ground in a tent.
We connected with USA VP of Marketing and Business Development Zoe Mcfarlane to give you the inside scoop on life at JUCY.
Q: In one sentence, describe who your company is and what you do.A: JUCY RV Rentals offers adventurous travelers from around the globe the opportunity to explore the great outdoors of the US, New Zealand and Australia in a mini RV/camper van. I manage the marketing and business development for the US side of the business.
Q: What is the problem you're solving?A: We fill the obvious gap in the market for travelers who want to experience the great outdoors and festivals, but they don’t like tents (and all the cumbersome packing required to camp outdoors), nor do they want the expense or hefty size of driving a big RV. JUCY’s custom-fit mini RVs offer great convenience at a low cost and they come kitted out with two double beds and a kitchen in the trunk, allowing our customers to simply bring their clothes and take to the road wherever they fancy!
Q: What brought your company to Los Angeles, and what do you like about the startup ecosystem here?A: We’ve been in business since 2001 in New Zealand, and we are a household name there, recently winning a ‘most trusted rental vehicle’ award. When we launched in the US, we opted for branch locations in LA, Vegas and the Bay Area as these all represent the key entry points for overseas travelers when they explore the US.
Los Angeles is our main hub as it has great direct flights to and from New Zealand, is a thriving business metropolis, and has a burgeoning innovation scene. The decision for me to be located from a coworking space instead of from our Lawndale branch was strategic, allowing me to network, find new partners and be inspired with greater creativity by the surrounding members. After exploring a number of coworking spaces, Cross Campus was the obvious choice both from the aesthetics of the space, but also the diversity in members and networking events.
Q: How has being a part of the Cross Campus community helped you or your business grow?A: We’ve already had a few Cross Campus members take a JUCY out on their own adventure, and it has been awesome to hear of their experiences in our vans. I find that I’m working harder and smarter than I ever have before (the Tim Ferriss event earlier this year was a great catalyst for some productivity changes), and I like brainstorming with the people that sit around me. I try and attend as many of the social and business events as possible as it’s a great way to share what we do but also to make new friends as I’m still only seven months into living in the US! I’ve jumped on the opportunities presented to us too – we hosted a Member’s Happy Hour and had the van parked up outside with everyone at the Santa Monica campus able to check it out. We have also been able to create a 15% member’s JUCY discount to give back.
Q: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?A: Being asked to relocate to the California was a great high. I started out as Head of Marketing in New Zealand, and it was such a coveted position due to the company culture and business profile my boss, Tim Alpe, and the company has in NZ. I had only been with the company for six months, so it felt like an honor to be given the opportunity to lead the business growth over here after such a short time with JUCY.
It’s been a huge learning curve to understand the nuances of doing business in the US, and I’m still learning, but it’s so satisfying to see the changes that we make have a steady impact in our evolution and sales figures.
Q: Tell me about a time you failed at a goal you needed to achieve.A: At JUCY we regularly have a ton of opportunities presented to us for partnerships and new business concepts which is exciting, although at times overwhelming. Often, these are new initiatives sound super exciting and come with some cool PR prospects but failing to recognize the additional work involved and whether it will actually drive revenue as well as brand awareness is where I have come unstuck in the past.
Last year we had an epic road trip adventure concept with a lovable international gym brand presented to us and we agreed to sign up. It ended up being significantly more work than anticipated with lots of weekend hours and late nights, and unfortunately in the end we had to pull the plug as not all the deliverables were going to come together. I learned a lot about prioritizing opportunities from this experience, and I have been focusing on the 80/20 rule to ensure that what we say ‘yes’ to for the US is really going to assist in meeting our strategic goals.
Q: What are some of the characteristics of people that have been successful at your company?A: We’re all about inspiring people to travel to discover the best in themselves and others, and we believe in sharing our fun, family, passion and pride in everything we do. We take the company culture very seriously, and for the past couple of years, we’ve been using Weirdly to assist in recruitment (their program allows you to ask a bunch of questions to potential candidates that help identify cultural fit before you even look at their resume). It’s all about attitude over experience, and Weirdly helps weed out people who look great on paper but aren’t a good match, and it’s awesome in identifying people who will bring the right vibe that we can train to get their skills to par.
JUCY is also supportive in giving the crew the autonomy to make decisions and to succeed or fail – though of course we have to be able learn from each experience and continue to develop. We’re expected to take ownership and to look for innovative ways to approach each area of the business that we work on, whether it’s a groomer who gets the vehicles all sparkly or one of the crew who answers our customer queries, we’ve all got a voice and we’ve had new business initiatives come from across the company. The courage to put your concepts forward and go for it is one of the key characteristics that I see from across the JUCY crew.
Q: If your company were a Hogwarts house, which one would it be? Why?A: Interesting question! I answered a Buzzfeed quiz as JUCY (surprisingly easy to identify the JUCYiest answers), and it came back that we would be sorted into Gryffindor! According to the quiz, we have the heart of a lion, give everything we do 100%, fight for what we believe in and get rewarded accordingly, and we’re natural leaders with our magnetic energy. Yup, we’re Gryffindor.
Q: Who do you respect the most, and why?A: Often cited as a most admired businessman, I’ve always had a lot of respect for the way that Richard Branson has conducted business – going up against the big guys in the early days and not being afraid to fail. The respect he has earned from his employees is admirable and hasn’t been whittled down as his empire has grown. His belief that employees are the top priority has been key to his success and filters down to the provide happiness for both customers and investors. Virgin employees are always proud to be part of his team and feel that he is approachable. I wish I felt the same as I was walking behind him on the Rugby World Cup fan trail to in New Zealand in 2011, and I was too fangirl to say hello!
Q: Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?A: We have some grand plans to expand across the US in the next three years, and beyond that we’ll be gearing up for new countries too, including Canada and parts of Europe. We are about to open our first pod hotel in Christchurch, NZ, in a few months, and I think the opportunity to bring these custom-designed pods to the US is too good to pass up when there are many cities that really lack backpacker style accommodation.
I believe we’re going to see a real shift in Americans traveling more and taking mini-breaks from school or employment, and we want to be there and grow as the enthusiasm for travel does. I don’t think it’ll be a fast route, but we’re already experiencing an uptake in longer trips from our American customers, and we’re going to be prepared to facilitate this change.