RV Escape Couple: Chris & Jen Hudak of Escapod Trailers in Wanship, Utah, Part 1
We’re traveling to cow country in the greater Park City, Utah area to meet our first-ever manufacturing CoupleCo, Chris and Jen Hudak of Escapod Trailers. If you’re a skier or a fan of The Amazing Race, and “Jen Hudak” sounds familiar, that’s because she is that Jen Hudak: the multiple-medal-winning freestyle skier in halfpipe who took part in Amazing Race season 30 in 2018. If you follow mixed-martial arts, you might know her husband by his former name, Chris Moore. He has competed in mixed martial arts internationally, which qualified him for an equally dangerous task in turning around underperforming restaurants. Do not mess with these people. They are lovely—lovely and dangerous. They’re also a complete delight. Presently, they own a travel trailer business that started as a side hustle, and now produces a compact, rugged camper that is an object of desire in the mountain biking subculture. It’s a really good trailer and it’s affordable. We’re going to hear how this side hustle happened, and how they’ve made it work. They have serious business objectives that are less about building an empire and more about building a lifestyle. We’re also going to hear about the salad days and the all-nighters—and how they maintain a high level of cooperation amid potential conflict.
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Escapod, Part 1
We’re traveling into cow country, Utah (otherwise known as the Greater Park City area) to speak with our first manufacturing CoupleCo. Chris and Jen Hudak are the founders of Escapod, a company which builds teardrop trailers for outdoor adventures.
If you are a skier or a fan of The Amazing Race, the name Jen Hudak may sound familiar. She’s a multiple medal-winning freestyle and halfpipe skier and who also competed in Amazing Race Season 30. If you follow mixed martial arts, you might know her husband Chris by his former name, Chris Moore. He has competed in MMA internationally. He’s also had a career turning around underperforming restaurants.
Escapod started as a side hustle after Chris built a trailer for their own use. The compact rugged camper they produce has become an object of desire in the mountain biking subculture. And Hear about how this company came about, the struggles they had getting it up and running, and why their objective is not to build a business empire, but to build a lifestyle.
- What can happen when you're done with making someone else's dream come true
- The pros and cons of having a decisive personality
- The importance of trust
How they met in 2015 when they were both on solo soul-searching journeys (04:06)
Jen’s background in skiing, competing in halfpipe and how that part of her life was ending when she met Chris (08:26)
How Chris has reinvented himself several times (09:56)
Where they were in their careers when they met (11:48)
What led to Chris moving out to Utah (14:46)
That the path you decide to take now isn’t going to stop you from taking the next path (16:41)
What their travel trailers are like and the philosophy behind what their business (17:52)
How Chris initially built a teardrop trailer for their own use and how this became a business (20:02)
How, in the past two years, they’ve married, started a business and built a house (23:48)
The rule for handling disagreements that Honey and Blaine used when building their own house (25:17)
Jen’s involvement in the trailer business and how it has evolved (28:00)
Pulling a 36-hour all-nighter to complete a job and make delivery, and celebrating by going mountain biking (30:27)
How having a female voice in this industry has been an advantage (33:18)
How Jen and Chris work together (35:26)
How Chris and Blaine can both immediate action on things the women are just thinking about (37:19)
The way Chris and Jen work with a partner, and figuring out ownership of the business (40:01)
Why running Escopod is less about money and more about lifestyle (44:33)
Setting boundaries over your time, and how it’s always not possible to do that at first (47:16)
Some of their thoughts on managing money in the business (49:54)
Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz at Amazon
Blaine: 00:01 See, it's about as ready as you can get.
Honey: 00:04 That is ready.
Blaine: 00:06 Oh. Yeah. You know what I need?
Honey: 00:07 No.
Blaine: 00:08 Glasses.
Honey: 00:09 That's not ready, then.
Blaine: 00:11 Welcome to CoupleCo! Working with your spouse for fun and profit.
Honey: 00:14 It's business, and it's personal.
Blaine: 00:16 I'm Blaine Parker.
Honey: 00:17 Which makes me Honey Parker.
Blaine: 00:18 And as a couple in business together, we are coming to you from the Couple Coach, our compact trans-American land yacht.
Honey: 00:23 We are navigating the nation in search of standout couples in business together.
Blaine: 00:27 And we're bringing them to you so you can hear their inspiring stories of crushing it in business without crushing each other.
Honey: 00:32 The show is also brought to you by a couple-owned business.
Blaine: 00:35 Smokin' Mary's smoked bloody Mary mix.
Honey: 00:37 Made in teeny tiny little batches.
Blaine: 00:40 Here they are.
Honey: 00:40 Here come the batches.
Blaine: 00:42 Yeah, the teenies.
Honey: 00:44 The teenies. With no reconstituted tomato juice, only fresh, whole tomatoes.
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Honey: 01:07 Why do you say hate mail?
Blaine: 01:08 It's fun.
Honey: 01:09 No one sends us hate mail.
Blaine: 01:10 No, nobody has ever sent us hate mail. But anyway, any mail you want to send us, it's easy.
Honey: 01:15 We're online at coupleco.com.
Blaine: 01:19 Coupleco.com.
Join us today as we travel into cow country, Utah.
Honey: 01:25 Better known by some folks as the greater Park City area.
Blaine: 01:28 We are talking to our first ever manufacturing couple co., Chris and Jen Hudak of Escapod.
Honey: 01:34 If you're a skier or a fan of the Amazing Race, and the name Jen Hudak sounds familiar, that's because she is that Jen Hudak.
Blaine: 01:43 Yes, that Jen Hudak. The multiple medal-winning freestyle skier and half-pipe who took part in Amazing Race season 30 in 2018.
Honey: 01:52 If you follow mixed martial arts, you might know her husband by his former name, Chris Moore.
Blaine: 01:58 Chris Moore, yes. He has competed in mixed martial arts internationally, which qualified him for an equally dangerous task in a career turning around underperforming restaurants.
Honey: 02:07 That is a dangerous task. Do not mess with these people. They are lovely and dangerous.
Blaine: 02:13 And they're a complete delight. Presently they own a travel trailer business that started as a side hustle, and produces a compact, rugged camper that is an object of desire in the mountain biking subculture.
Honey: 02:24 But you want one, too.
Blaine: 02:25 Well, I'm speaking as a member of the RV subculture, and it's a really good trailer, and it's affordable. But we're going to hear how this side hustle happened and how they've made it work as a full-time business.
Honey: 02:35 They have serious business objectives that are less about building an empire, and more about building a lifestyle.
Blaine: 02:41 We're also going to hear about the salad days and the all-nighters, and how they maintain a high level of cooperation amid potential conflict.
Honey: 02:48 And this is a pair that seems truly happy to shine a light on each other.
Blaine: 02:51 Here now, Chris and Jen Hudak of Escapod Trailers. Recorded in Wanship, Utah.
This is terrific. We are sitting down in beautiful Wanship, Utah in what I believe is a converted garage, mechanic's shop, right?
Chris: 03:10 Yeah.
Jen: 03:10 That's right.
Blaine: 03:11 With Chris and Jen Hudak of Escapod. By the way, am I saying Hudak right?
Jen: 03:16 Yeah. And Escapod, so we're on a roll.
Blaine: 03:18 I was hoping it was Escapod.
Chris: 03:19 Two for two.
Blaine: 03:22 So, thank you for inviting us in. And let's toast.
Jen: 03:26 Cheers!
Honey: 03:26 Cheers.
Blaine: 03:26 ... To possibly the first manufacturing business in Wanship?
Chris: 03:32 Quite possibly.
Blaine: 03:34 You know, Wanship is cow country. And this is actually very close to where Honey and I used to live full time. And apparently the Hudaks were our neighbors and we did not know it.
Jen: 03:44 Yeah.
Chris: 03:44 That's right.
Blaine: 03:45 Which is disappointing, because we needed you at the parties.
Honey: 03:51 I know!
Blaine: 03:51 So, you have something to say. I can tell. You're making that face that says you're ready to unleash with glee and abandon.
Honey: 03:59 Wow, now I feel like I have to come up with something brilliant. But I won't come up with something brilliant. I will just ask you how you guys met.
Blaine: 04:09 The important question.
Chris: 04:09 That's yours.
Jen: 04:10 That's mine? I guess I tell the story better, so it's mine.
Well, in April of 2014 Chris and I were both independently on what I refer to as soul-searching journeys. I personally was on a two week solo mountain bike road trip in Moab, Utah. Well, in the southwest. So I was in Sedona and went to the Grand Canyon and then at the end of my trip ended up in Moab.
And Chris was there with a friend of his, also separately on a soul-searching trip. He was living in the Bay Area at the time and ending a long-term relationship and leaving a career that wasn't fulfilling for him anymore, and I decided by myself to ride Porcupine Rim trail, which is a pretty technical mountain bike trial in Moab. It's a 25 mile downhill ride.
Blaine: 05:02 Oh, man.
Jen: 05:03 And I'd never done it before, and quickly realized that I wasn't necessarily in over my head, but it probably would be good to have like, a trail ally.
Chris: 05:12 She was in over her head.
Blaine: 05:16 I think maybe we'll just touch on this now, because I think people probably need to know that you have a certain qualification for doing things like this.
Jen: 05:22 For doing dangerous things? Yeah, that's true. I was a professional skier for 13 years in half-pipe skiing, so I was doing the things that most people would consider to be crazy and daring.
Blaine: 05:33 Your head where your feet should be. Those kinds of things.
Jen: 05:34 Yeah, yeah. On occasion.
Blaine: 05:36 Okay.
Jen: 05:36 Yeah, so I liked mountain biking. And this was, you know, following the 2014 Olympics that I did not go to because I blew my knee out at the first Olympic qualifying event. So I was like, "Screw everything! I'm taking my bike and my car and I'm just going to go ride my bike for two weeks by myself and see what happens."
I really wasn't looking to meet anybody, but stumbled upon Chris and his buddy Jay, and we just kind of started chatting. Well, I guess, I ran into a rock, and then had a meltdown and started swearing, and looked up and realized Chris was standing there and oversaw the whole entire thing.
So, out of complete embarrassment, I just started talking a lot, because that's what I do when I don't know what to do.
Honey: 06:19 Like, while you were laying on the ground? You're like, "Hey, what are you doing?"
Jen: 06:22 Yeah, and we quickly realized we're both New England natives, we had similar dogs. He had really nice eyes.
Blaine: 06:29 He does have really nice eyes.
Jen: 06:32 So, yeah.
Blaine: 06:32 And so do you.
Jen: 06:34 Well, thank you. We complement each other well.
Honey: 06:37 So what did you think of this woman laying on the ground? In my mind you were laying on the ground. You never said that's what happened.
Jen: 06:42 Oh, yeah. I don't think I was quite laying on the ground.
Chris: 06:45 I don't think I saw the blowup.
Blaine: 06:46 There was probably a lot of walking around and making ...
Jen: 06:49 Yeah, there was a lot of walking of the bike and swearing.
Chris: 06:51 Yeah, it was a ... It's a technical trail. So I was really surprised to see anyone, let alone a female by themselves. I was like, my god. This chick is hardcore. And I think that we started riding together after we chatted for 10 minutes or so, and we're like going down this really technical section, and I knew that she was athletic, but I knew she wasn't a mountain biker. Like, a professional mountain biker.
But I could tell that she was athletic. So I was like, "What do you do again?" And she's like riding along and she's like, "I ski professionally!" And I was like, ah, yes. It all makes sense now.
But neither one of us at the time ... Like, I didn't think anything of it like, romantically. And then, you know, she ended up riding with us a couple days, extending your trip a couple times, and your sister was -
Jen: 07:36 He exaggerates that a little bit.
Chris: 07:37 Well, I don't know.
Jen: 07:38 I stayed like 12 extra hours, or something.
Chris: 07:41 Your sister was defending her -
Jen: 07:43 Thesis.
Chris: 07:43 Thesis, yeah.
Honey: 07:44 But in dog years, that's two days.
Jen: 07:46 Right. Yeah, exactly. Maybe even a week.
Chris: 07:48 That's right.
Jen: 07:49 But after that, we just stayed in touch. And very quickly realized that there was something more than just a friendship, and I don't know, it was like three weeks after I flew out to California to visit him, and yeah. Our whole relationship was built on mountain biking and adventure in the early days, so it's a common thread to this day, still.
Blaine: 08:09 Mountain biking and adventure. Well, I guess the adventure part and Escapod kind of go hand in hand.
Chris: 08:16 Absolutely.
Jen: 08:16 They do.
Blaine: 08:17 Before I get to the next question, which is -
Honey: 08:20 Which might be mine.
Blaine: 08:22 Huh?
Honey: 08:22 Might be my question might come before yours.
Blaine: 08:24 I think we need to look at your respective backgrounds, because they're unusual. Each of you. Both of you.
Jen: 08:31 Yeah. I grew up in Connecticut and started skiing when I was three years old, and sports -
Blaine: 08:36 Let's high five on that.
Jen: 08:38 High five!
Blaine: 08:38 Rarely do I get a [inaudible 00:08:39] high five.
Honey: 08:40 We won't tell you where Blaine's from in Connecticut.
Blaine: 08:42 That's okay. I think they might know. I've said it before. You can go look through the other episodes and find it.
Jen: 08:48 I grew up skiing in Vermont and the most difficult terrain out of Okemo, where I grew up skiing, was moguls and the park, or the half-pipe, which at the time, there was a sign posted that it was for snowboarders only.
Blaine: 09:03 Oh, really?
Jen: 09:04 Yeah. So I used to sneak in there after I would ski my mogul run and then sneak in there and ski the half-pipe and fortunately, by the time I was in high school, they started allowing skiers in, and that's when I started competing in half-pipe events all over the country and the world, actually. My first international competition, I think I was 16 or so. Maybe even 15.
But that kind of quickly took off for me. I ended up having a knack for half-pipe skiing and it quickly launched into a career, and in 2004, I moved out to Utah and I've been here ever since.
But when I met Chris, I was kind of the tail-end of that career, and making the decision to move into the next chapter of my life, and figure out what that was going to look like, and I wasn't really sure.
So he was a big part in helping me take that leap.
Blaine: 09:55 Right on, Chris.
Chris: 09:56 Yeah. You know, Jen has been focused on one thing her entire life, and do what she wanted to do. I have like, bounced around and reinvented myself ...
Blaine: 10:04 You are like, Captain Eclectic.
Chris: 10:06 Yeah. I can do a lot of different things. And you know, if we scroll through Facebook to look at the profile pictures -
Jen: 10:15 So funny.
Chris: 10:15 It's funny, it's like it goes through this mountain man phase, which is kind of like happening now, and then there was like a bow-tie phase, and then there was like -
Blaine: 10:23 A bow-tie phase?
Jen: 10:23 Yeah, this was when he was in restaurants. It was like suits and bow-ties and like, this slicked back short hair.
Blaine: 10:32 Oh, [inaudible 00:10:32] like a [inaudible 00:10:33] Paul Simon with a bow-tie.
Chris: 10:35 PeeWee Herman bow-ties.
Blaine: 10:36 Okay.
Chris: 10:36 Yeah. And then further back it's wrestling and fighting, so just kind of done so many different things.
Blaine: 10:45 Did you say wrestling?
Honey: 10:46 You were a professional wrestler?
Chris: 10:47 Yeah, I'm a ... Well, not that kind of wrestling. I actually coached the Park City High School wrestling team. I was assistant coach there.
Blaine: 10:54 Really? How long ago was that?
Jen: 10:54 Now.
Chris: 10:56 That I coached? I coach currently. Yeah, absolutely.
Blaine: 10:59 Oh, wow.
Honey: 11:00 It was yesterday.
Jen: 11:00 It actually was!
Honey: 11:01 I know things.
Chris: 11:04 And I fought professionally for four years.
Blaine: 11:07 Fought professionally.
Chris: 11:08 MMA and mixed martial arts and jiu jitsu, muay thai. Traveled through Thailand and Singapore fighting, and then, you know, before that I was Ohio State crew team, so I rowed boats for a long time. Managed restaurants. Done everything.
I just enjoy really dedicating myself to one thing 100%, but that doesn't mean one thing forever. So I get to like ...
Jen: 11:31 Very key distinction.
Chris: 11:32 Sorry, Jen.
Jen: 11:34 Yeah.
Chris: 11:35 No. So I get to totally do different things. That was what always turned me on was like, the process of learning and diving in fully, head-first in something.
Blaine: 11:44 It's fun, isn't it?
Chris: 11:45 It is. It's a blast.
Honey: 11:45 So, Jen, you said you were on a soul-searching trip and that Chris was on his own soul-searching trip. I mean, what jobs were you between or what ...
Chris: 11:55 Yeah, I spent my 20s into my 30s rehabbing and opening new restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area, which is kind of a high-pressure job in -
Blaine: 12:07 Yeah, I was going to say, sounds courageous.
Chris: 12:08 Yeah. It was fun. I had a blast. You know, I'm incredibly driven when I put my mind to something.
Blaine: 12:13 Were you doing this for yourself or were you working for somebody?
Chris: 12:13 I was working for other people.
Blaine: 12:13 Okay.
Chris: 12:17 Yeah, and you know, I always knew I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to open my own restaurant, at the time. And -
Jen: 12:24 Plans have changed since, just putting that out there.
Chris: 12:24 Yeah, oh my god. If you love your family, don't open up a restaurant. Because you'll never see them.
Honey: 12:30 Blaine has been approached a couple days. He cooks, and people ...
Blaine: 12:33 I cook because I enjoy it. Yeah.
Jen: 12:35 Right, exactly.
Blaine: 12:36 And it will stop. It will cease to exist if I ...
Honey: 12:38 He always says [crosstalk 00:12:41].
Chris: 12:40 I enjoy cooking way more now than I did when I was working in restaurants.
Honey: 12:40 I can believe it.
Chris: 12:44 Yeah. I didn't want to even think about it.
Blaine: 12:46 We interviewed, several episodes ago, Christian Hayes of Dandelion Catering in Yarmouth, Maine, and he talks about just the brutality of the restaurant business. And how they love the catering business because they're able to make people's lives better than the restaurant business does.
Honey: 13:04 But I also think because the two of them are in it together, and they really have a ... They just have such a fantastic approach. And they both like the exhilaration of, "Can we pull off this event?" This big wedding on an island in Maine, and you know, get everything there and make it there.
Jen: 13:04 Figuring out the logistics of it.
Honey: 13:26 They like that rush, and -
Jen: 13:27 That's cool.
Honey: 13:27 Yeah, they're in it together, for sure.
Blaine: 13:29 But I mean, is it one of those things that ... You know, the restaurant business, it becomes an obsession and you can't stop doing it? A little like skiing?
Chris: 13:36 Yeah, I think during my 20s, it was for sure. I was finding harder and harder tasks each time. You know, and just burying myself, like 17 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Not very much like Escapod. Kept really burying myself in my work, and I ... You know, I think that for me, I always treated something as I owned it. And that's why I put everything forth in doing it. It was because I really took pride in what I was doing.
And then at some point ... And I think this is probably working for a large corporation, which was my final restaurant job, was like, I was just done with making someone else's dreams come true and being a cog in the wheel, and at the end of the day, life goes on if you leave.
Blaine: 14:19 Done with making someone else's dreams come true.
Chris: 14:21 Yep.
Blaine: 14:22 I think that's one of the reasons a lot of these couple co.'s start.
Honey: 14:25 Could be a tagline for CoupleCo.
Blaine: 14:26 Yeah.
Honey: 14:26 One of the many. We keep coming up with that, but just that -
Blaine: 14:29 Note to self: re-write taglines.
Honey: 14:31 Yeah.
Blaine: 14:33 So, the professional skier and the combative restaurant renaissance guy.
Chris: 14:38 Yeah. That's where all that combativeness came from.
Honey: 14:41 Say, "We make sense together."
Jen: 14:42 Yeah.
Blaine: 14:43 Yes, and then somehow decide to do this, which is start a fabulous little travel trailer company.
Honey: 14:50 So how does that happen?
Blaine: 14:52 Yeah.
Jen: 14:53 So, the piece I think that ... Because it was funny, when I met Chris, I saw Chris, the restaurant guy. And you talk about like, scrolling through the photos and seeing all the phases of Chris, and the mountain man Chris didn't exist yet.
So, he's like, "You know I've really wanted to move back to the mountains," and I'm like, what are you talking about? Like, looking back in these pictures, I'm like, there was never any mountains.
Chris: 15:13 Does New Hampshire count?
Jen: 15:15 But he [crosstalk 00:15:16]. Yeah, and he grew up ... He mountain biked in his youth, and he grew up skiing, and all of these things that I didn't see in his current life, and had been very much dormant to him.
But he used to drive, you know, I don't know how many hours into the Sierras to go do some like, crazy back-packing loop and then drive a million hours back, and go straight into work.
So, he would still find these opportunities, but the dominant thing in his life was career. And I think that was particularly influenced by some of the relationships in your life at that time.
So when that was ending he went to Moab. He's really actually trying to think about how to get back to the mountains and exploring jobs in Tahoe and elsewhere, and when we met, I think it was kind of that final catalyst. I was living in Salt Lake at the time, and I think that was kind of the final straw to say, "Okay, I'm going to move out."
We had been dating for about three months, I think, when he left his job in California and moved out here. So it was like, a pretty ... It was pretty quick.
Chris: 16:14 Yeah.
Blaine: 16:14 Three months?
Chris: 16:14 Yeah.
Jen: 16:15 It was pretty quick.
Blaine: 16:18 Good on you.
Chris: 16:18 I dedicate 100% to everything.
Jen: 16:19 Exactly.
Chris: 16:22 One thing at time. Here we are. Exactly.
Jen: 16:25 Yeah.
Chris: 16:25 There's never any ... I never really waffle much. I'm never like, on the edge about -
Jen: 16:29 He's not indecisive.
Chris: 16:30 Indecisive, yeah.
Jen: 16:30 He just decides and does something, and if it doesn't work, then he'll decide and do something else. Which is a great way to be.
Chris: 16:36 I don't know if it's a great way to be.
Jen: 16:38 It's worked out so far.
Chris: 16:38 Infuriating to everyone else.
Honey: 16:40 No, I actually ... I think it's a good way to be. I've certainly talked to a lot of people that are starting out or just coming out of college, or just coming into college, and they're so afraid that if they make a decision to go down this path, that that's it. That's their path for the rest of their life.
And I try to tell people, nope. That's your path right now. And it will inform the next path you take, but it's not going to stop you from taking the next path. So just give it your all, and make a good impression, because you're going to see these people later, somehow, and you know, do that now.
Jen: 17:14 Exactly. Nothing's permanent. And I've learned so much from him in observing the way that he does make decisions and takes action in, you know, in being willing to ask for things that I would normally talk myself out of asking for, because I don't feel I'm deserving.
And he's like, "Well, if you don't ask, you don't get it, right?"
And just those little things that like, for me, takes a lot of mental energy to prepare for, and he's just over here making progress. And sometimes he gets told no but a lot of the time he gets told yes. So, it's opened a lot of doors in this business, especially.
Blaine: 17:50 Yeah. So, how did this trailer company come about? And by the way, the product is phenomenal.
Chris: 17:58 Thank you.
Blaine: 17:58 How long are they? 14 feet?
Chris: 18:00 Yeah, about that.
Blaine: 18:01 14 foot travel trailers. Tiny. They're great. They're little teardrop trailers. You've probably seen trailers like them. Except you haven't seen anything like this.
I've spent a lot of time in the marine industry, and these things are built to survive hurricanes.
Chris: 18:14 Yeah.
Honey: 18:15 Well, when Blaine first told me about this interview, basically what he was telling me was, "I think we need to get a travel trailer."
Jen: 18:23 We support that.
Chris: 18:24 I like that. Yeah.
Honey: 18:25 Out of the two of us, he's the shopper.
Blaine: 18:26 And just by the way, I went to the website and fully loaded one and saw the price and said, "This is a really fair deal."
Jen: 18:33 Yes.
Honey: 18:33 He's like, "Honey, we can do this."
Jen: 18:35 That's great.
Chris: 18:37 So, we used to have a model that was a bit smaller, that was a bit more entry-level, that we really ... You know, we just never stood behind. And I think that now we do one model that we do really well. It is extremely capable off the shelf, and you don't need to make any modifications to it.
I think a lot of trailer companies are like, "Oh, we can get you a new trailer for six grand, and then you get it, and it has one wheel and it's two grand for the extra wheel, and by the time you build up a capable trailer, you're deep into it, and we're like, listen. We don't want to play that game. We want to put our price down and stand behind that, and anything that they buy at that price is a fully capable trailer.
And that's the only thing we built. Because we want to build the best product that we possibly can. And that's kind of ... You know, like the way that I work, I just won't build something I'm not proud of.
Blaine: 19:25 Well, it's kind of a mutual intensity I guess you share.
Chris: 19:27 Yeah.
Blaine: 19:28 What makes you go, "You know what I need to do? Is start building travel trailers. You want to do it with me?" I mean ...
Honey: 19:32 Yeah, how was that conversation?
Jen: 19:35 So, that originally started because he wanted to build a teardrop trailer for our personal use, and this, again, reminds you is like, five months into our relationship. So, in my mind, Chris is still just the San Francisco Bay Area vino, foodie guy. And I have no idea -
Blaine: 19:35 Vino?
Honey: 19:35 Vino?
Jen: 19:53 Vino, is that the word? Someone that likes wine. That does ...
Blaine: 19:57 Yeah. You know, vino would be a ...
Jen: 19:59 Sommelier, and like, all these fancy words I didn't know existed.
Chris: 20:01 Wine guy.
Jen: 20:02 Wine guy.
Honey: 20:03 So, were you thinking this is the guy for the rest of my life at that point?
Jen: 20:07 Um ...
Chris: 20:08 Well, let me give a little backstory. When she came to San Francisco ...
Jen: 20:13 Oh, yeah. He total bait and switched.
Chris: 20:14 Yeah. It was a total bait and switch.
Blaine: 20:14 Oh! Okay, we're backing up with the bait and switch.
Jen: 20:16 He's like [crosstalk 00:20:16] fancy dinners ...
Chris: 20:19 So, actually, I grabbed a friend's dad's Ferrari, a Testarossa, and I picked her up -
Blaine: 20:24 I can't tell you how many times I've done that.
Chris: 20:25 Yeah, and took her down to Carmel. We did like, wine tasting, drove down the coast. The next day, we went up to a ... I had a friend who owned a winery, we did a private tour and a tasting. And of course, I'm like at the best San Francisco restaurants, so we're getting comped everywhere. And you know, this is just like, $300 meals were like no thing at the time. It was just part of time.
And now I don't ever drink wine or go out to eat. There hasn't been a Ferrari since.
Jen: 20:53 Yeah. Then he moved to Utah and became a full-on, like ...
Chris: 20:58 I surprised you with a pair of skis a couple years ago.
Jen: 21:01 That's true. But, so once he made ... And again, Chris goes 100% all-in in whatever he's doing. So, he moved to Utah and he's like, "I'm going to be a full mountain man. Like, everything in my life is going to revolve around adventure in the outdoors."
So, his first step was build us a teardrop trailer. And I'm thinking, okay. He came to me and he's like, "I want to build a teardrop trailer!" And apparently he said this to his ex at one point and she was like, "Absolutely not. No!"
Honey: 21:28 She was a very little person?
Jen: 21:29 She was little.
Chris: 21:30 And a lot of helium addicted.
Blaine: 21:34 It's hard.
Chris: 21:35 There's not a 12-step program.
Jen: 21:38 But he came to me with the same proposition and I said, "Okay. Sounds good." Like, cool. Build a teardrop trailer. I don't know what teardrop trailer is, but you can build one. Sounds great.
And kind of expecting it would be pretty rickety and we'd use it a couple times and then it would sit in the garage mostly unused. But that was not the case at all.
By the time this thing was done, I'm looking at it, I'm like, "Man, this thing is really structurally sound." And we just started taking all of our mountain bike trips in this trailer. And having a lot of people ask us about it. And a lot of mountain bikers that were curious about it.
Because the mountain bike scene had been very much penetrated by vans, but people weren't really using teardrop trailers. And I think it was cool for them to see an alternative. Something that you could set up and leave and then still have a vehicle to go travel around and go to different areas to ride your bike.
And then, I don't know, another year after that, he was sick of working for the man. And was like, "What if we just turned this into a business? I want to start a business."
So, the month before our wedding, we started Escapod.
Blaine: 21:38 The month.
Honey: 22:41 That might be a record.
Jen: 22:42 Yeah. We talked about different names and what felt cool to us about the whole thing is this idea about going out on an escapade and not really knowing what kind of adventure you're going to get into, and being able to have a little pod that traveled behind you to go wherever you were leading it.
And so then we kind of combined that into Escapod. We're like, "That's a pretty clever name!" And hit up our ... Chris' now business partner, Chris Eckle, about helping us turn a pencil drawing into an actual logo. And our company was born.
And then from there, we've never been able to own our own trailer, because as soon as we're done building one for ourself, someone wants to buy it out from underneath us. And we've just focused on really steadily growing the business and staying true to our core values and what's important to us in manufacturing these trailers, and it's just been a really organic and intense, but cool, process to be a part of.
Blaine: 23:38 None of this sounds surprising, really. The short amount of time we've known each other, "intense" seems to be just part of the page.
Jen: 23:46 Yeah.
Blaine: 23:47 But in a good way.
Jen: 23:48 Yeah, I mean, in the last ... A little over two years, Chris and I got married, started a company, and built a house. So, I think you're not supposed to do that in such rapid succession.
Chris: 24:01 Well, we don't have any kids, so you can do that kind of stuff.
Jen: 24:01 True.
Honey: 24:02 We've interviewed a few people who've said, "Yeah, we don't recommend doing this right when you get pregnant." And they say that because that's what they did. You know, so ...
Blaine: 24:13 And you know, you did something ... You guys mentioned something that people tell us, "Ooh, this is the true test of a marriage. Building a house together."
Jen: 24:17 Oh, yeah.
Chris: 24:17 Well, that was easy.
Blaine: 24:17 I go, "Come on."
Chris: 24:19 So, when we were building ... During this time, we're building a house, I was running Escapod, I was still working full-time at the resort. Jen decided that she wanted to go on Amazing Race and left for an entire month.
No contact, no nothing.
Honey: 24:31 You were on the show?
Jen: 24:32 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Honey: 24:33 Look at me, not knowing that.
Blaine: 24:34 Yeah. We actually may know the production coordinator that you worked with.
Jen: 24:34 Oh, yeah.
Chris: 24:40 So, it was kind of like one of those things, it was like, okay. We're going to hold this down. I mean, god bless her mother who's helped tons, but I'm like, we're going to hold this down. We're going to figure it all out. And we'll get through it.
And that was like the only rule I have, is if you leave for a month, if you come back and there's a decision I made in building the house, you cannot complain about it.
You know, she walks in, she looks at the tiles, she's like, "I probably would have widened it by like, a foot." And I'm like, grr!
Jen: 25:05 To this day, it's still the only change that I would make upon our house.
Honey: 25:05 That's not bad?
Blaine: 25:12 No, that's pretty good, actually.
Honey: 25:13 You can change tile.
Jen: 25:13 Yeah, and it's easier to widen tile than it is to shrink it, so we're good.
Blaine: 25:18 While this is not about us, I do think this is an important piece of advice for anybody who's doing a project like this, whether it's a business or the house. We had a rule when we built our house.
Honey: 25:27 Oh, yeah.
Blaine: 25:28 Honey and I had a rule. Unless we really cared about the decision, we just [inaudible 00:25:32].
Honey: 25:32 But we would go with option C. You know, if we didn't agree ... And we agreed on a lot. Option C was always our choice.
Blaine: 25:41 Yeah, she wants that, I want this, so there's got to be a better option.
Honey: 25:44 We always figured, you know, these can't be the only two options. And then we'd find something, and we would always like it more.
Blaine: 25:51 Yeah, our contractor took us down to pick out tile. And we're walking around, and he said, "You know, you don't have to decide now. You can come back." I said, oh no. Watch this. And I walked over and said, "What do you like?" She says, "This one!" She says, "What do you like?" I said, "That one!"
So, we went and found a third one. Took about 15 minutes, and it worked out.
Honey: 26:15 And we were done! Yeah. We don't argue about such things.
Jen: 26:17 I think we kind of had an unofficial similar rule, but there were certain things that were more important to Chris and certain things that were more important to me.
Chris: 26:17 I was structural.
Jen: 26:27 Yeah. He wanted tongue and groove on the ceiling in our kitchen, and he really wanted a gas stove, and so it's like -
Blaine: 26:32 Nice. Oh, yeah. Gotta have a gas stove.
Jen: 26:34 Yeah. I fully support it now. I've never had a gas stove, so I was like, eh. Whatever. It's fine. But great decision.
Chris: 26:41 It came with 2000 gallons of propane, so.
Jen: 26:43 Yeah.
Blaine: 26:45 [crosstalk 00:26:45]
Jen: 26:49 Yeah, so Chris basically ... We had our budget figured, like, set out, and he was like, "These are the things that we need to decide on," like design-wise. So I was the person deciding on all the tile and the finishes and the hardware for all the cabinets, and the light fixtures, and all that, and I was just like, alright, this is my budget and I have to make it fit in here, and I had my deadlines, and I just did my job.
And he trusted me, and I trusted him to do his job, and Chris was able to put a lot of sweat equity into the house too and laid the entire deck when I was on Amazing Race. Came back to that. He welded our railings in the house, and so, yeah. We made a good team building the house, too.
Chris: 27:31 Yep. Sure did.
Blaine: 27:32 This might sound like a digression, but this is absolutely critical anecdotal evidence for couple co.'s about the importance of cooperating and not just getting it your way because.
Honey: 27:45 Well, and the trust thing. The T word is a big deal.
Blaine: 27:47 Yes.
Honey: 27:48 That I ... I'm sorry, I'm going to keep coming back to the company.
Blaine: 27:52 That's fine. I was trying to figure out how to bring it back, so go ahead.
Honey: 27:56 How's that for a segue way?
Blaine: 27:57 That's a nice segue way. "About that company you run ..."
Jen: 28:00 Yeah.
Honey: 28:01 So, you've got this teardrop trailer that's the envy of all the mountain bikers, and you think, "Okay, we've got something here." You know, "This could be a company."
It sounds like Chris is kind of driving this train. So, Jen, what did you ... How were you going to be part of this?
Jen: 28:18 So, I think for me, the most important thing was seeing him do something that made him happy. And I had that in my ski career, this career that I was really passionate about and paid the bills. So, just knowing that there was ... That he had some semblance of an idea of what he wanted to do, I just wanted to support that in any way that I could.
So, when we first started the company, I built ... It was very rudimentary, but I built the website and was doing all the social media, and then all the customer interactions, when people would reach out. You know, handling all the email communication.
And then, he was primarily the one building, but you can't build a teardrop trailer entirely by yourself, so then I was also his, like, helpful assistant.
Honey: 29:03 Like a sous chef for travel trailers?
Jen: 29:03 Yeah, like a sous chef! Exactly.
Blaine: 29:09 Escapod sous chef, okay.
Jen: 29:10 Exactly. That sous chefery hung up its hat in January when Chris Eckle came on full-time, and when Chris was able to start doing this full-time. So, I haven't actually helped on a build for a while, which ...
Chris: 29:21 Yeah. You're still the voice of Escapod and always will be, but I think that one thing that's important to us, both of us, and I think your story is an example of that is that, you know, we're both multi-passionate, and when one of us has a passion ... Like, Jen would be an amazing addition to this team. Like, she could do anything here. Run the rental fleet, reach out to customers, be a hand in the shop.
But like, that's not her passion. And to force her to do that, to be like, "Hey, I really need you to help," would be kind of against what we both are, you know?
Jen: 29:53 I think that the most honest answer there ... Because like, I would enjoy doing any of that stuff because it is something that we've created. And so, there's this inherent -
Blaine: 30:03 It's your baby.
Jen: 30:04 Satisfaction in being a part of that, you know? Like, we pulled some crazy all-nighters to deliver on a deadline for a customer who's still, to this day, a valuable partner. She has a rental fleet in Moab called Red Rock Basecamps, and we just signed another invoice to build her next fleet of trailers.
Blaine: 30:04 Very cool.
Jen: 30:20 And she was critical in this company being able to grow and scale in the way that it has, and I would work all day at my job and then go down to Salt Lake. We were building in Salt Lake at the time. And, you know, and not sleep. And build trailers. And eat nuts from the gas station and coffee.
Chris: 30:40 My longest -
Blaine: 30:40 The old gas station nuts thing.
Jen: 30:40 Yeah, exactly.
Chris: 30:40 Longest work day ever, 36 hours. That was the deal.
Jen: 30:44 Yeah. We finished a trailer ... We pulled an all-nighter building a trailer, got in the car, drove the trailer to Moab. Don't try this at home, kids.
Blaine: 30:51 You drove -
Jen: 30:52 Don't try this at home.
Blaine: 30:54 After being up all night?
Chris: 30:56 So, we did a 36 hour work day, and it was amazing.
Jen: 31:00 Full adrenaline. It was amazing.
Chris: 31:01 And I don't want to do it again.
Honey: 31:05 So, I'm curious. From a relationship point of view ... I get this is work, and you had this work deadline, and the two of you dig in, and you get it done. How'd you celebrate afterwards? Besides passing out.
Chris: 31:18 I don't know, do you remember?
Jen: 31:18 No, because -
Chris: 31:20 I think we slept for another 36 hours.
Jen: 31:23 We did sleep, but we maybe ... We did go mountain biking with, um ...
Chris: 31:25 Yeah, we actually ... We went mountain biking.
Jen: 31:27 Oh, I was so tired. But that was the first time I rode the first part of the Snotch, which is actually -
Blaine: 31:33 The Snotch?
Honey: 31:34 That sounds good.
Jen: 31:35 I know, it doesn't sound very good. It's a line on Porcupine Rim, which is of course the trail that we met on, and it was when I first came up behind him and his buddy, all of us were walking our bikes down it, because ... And we looked at it at the time like, "Nobody can ride that. That's insane. That's just not even a thing that anyone could ride a bike down." That was at least what I was thinking.
So, after our all-nighter, once we finally slept, I think the next day we went for a mountain bike ride with Wendy and that was the first time I rode that line. So, that's cool.
Chris: 32:03 Absolutely.
Honey: 32:04 That was a celebration.
Chris: 32:05 So, we celebrated by going mountain biking on the trail we met on, so.
Blaine: 32:08 That's a beautiful thing.
Chris: 32:09 Yeah.
Jen: 32:09 But I think in the early days of the company, to make everything work financially, neither one of us was getting paid. But when Chris left his job and took the leap to do Escapod full-time, I couldn't leave my job to do Escapod full-time. There wasn't space for both of us financially to do that, plus we also just built a house, so you know. They cost money.
Blaine: 32:32 It's little things.
Jen: 32:34 Little things. So, I've been at my job, but also building my separate side business, but I think that -
Blaine: 32:41 Wait, we're calling this a side hustle.
Jen: 32:42 Oh, no. Another side ... We're both ridiculous.
Blaine: 32:46 You both have side hustles?
Jen: 32:46 Yeah.
Chris: 32:46 Yeah.
Blaine: 32:46 Okay.
Jen: 32:47 So, my other side hustle. My side hustle. Because this is actually his real job now.
Chris: 32:52 My full hustle.
Jen: 32:53 His full hustle. But I do see a future in which I'll be able to be involved in Escapod in a more official capacity, and actually get paid for my time. And we're probably getting close to that point.
Blaine: 32:53 Oh, very cool.
Jen: 33:05 It might not be the rental fleet manager, but in other ways. There's other ways I think I can lend my services to the company.
Blaine: 33:15 Well, obviously you have marketing acumen and you're a good front person.
Jen: 33:18 Yes. Those are handy. And I think that honestly, having a female voice in this industry, has been huge.
Blaine: 33:18 I'll bet.
Jen: 33:26 Huge to our success. Because most other companies it's predominately male-oriented and male-run, and when people are buying this for a family, to have that female ... Like, the thoughtfulness and thinking about how people are going to function with this thing and how it's going to feel for the whole family, has been pretty helpful.
Chris: 33:50 I think not to mention that we probably deal with 75% the ladies in the household, rather than the men.
Blaine: 33:56 Really? Interesting.
Honey: 33:57 That's ... [crosstalk 00:33:59]. Why do you think that is?
Chris: 34:01 I think that women spend money. Like, meaning that like, when it comes time to purchase something ... Not that the men aren't choosing to buy a trailer, but the women are actually writing the check and at least now and for us, it's the truth.
Jen: 34:13 I would be curious to know that statistic for other companies. Because I do wonder if there's even just such a subtleness in, you know, we have women in our photos on Instagram. You know? It's like, these weird things.
Blaine: 34:27 Yes, the power of having a woman instead of a guy.
Chris: 34:30 Yeah.
Honey: 34:31 Well, I mean, your product -
Blaine: 34:34 Or in addition to. Sorry.
Honey: 34:35 Your product is more rugged product than a lot of RVs that are mostly going to stay on the road or go in a parking lot or a parking space or things like that.
Blaine: 34:43 As soon as you said Moab mountain biking, I was like, "Yes. This is a -"
Chris: 34:43 Yeah.
Honey: 34:43 Exactly.
Blaine: 34:50 And look at the tires on that thing. That's an off-road trailer if there ever was one.
Honey: 34:52 Right. And to be in an active outdoor community as this is, have shots of women doing stuff. Because women do stuff here all the time, and why not? Why wouldn't you see yourself? But you don't all the time.
Jen: 35:05 Right.
Honey: 35:06 You know?
Jen: 35:06 Yep.
Honey: 35:07 And it's your lifestyle, too. It's just not seen anywhere. And often when it is seen, it's like, "Oh, that's cute. They put her on a mountain bike."
Jen: 35:16 Right. Right.
Blaine: 35:17 We've gotten past male myopia.
Honey: 35:20 Male-opia.
Blaine: 35:20 Oh, wow. I don't know if we can use that. Let's work on it.
Honey: 35:25 No, we should. I just wrote it.
Blaine: 35:27 We heard a little bit about this, but how do the two of you work together when it comes to the business?
Jen: 35:32 Sometimes better and sometimes worse.
Honey: 35:36 So, what's better look like and what does worse look like?
Jen: 35:38 So, when we were building in the shop together, that was challenging. I had to learn Chris' style quickly and kind of adapt to it, because I wasn't autonomous and it would have taken me a while to be able to become autonomous.
So, I had to just kind of like, fit into how he does things. And when he is in building mode, he's in building mode. So, he's not in communication mode. But when I'm there to help him, that makes it quite challenging. So, he's not a bad communicator across the board, but for Chris there's time to communicate, and there's time to build trailers.
So, it was very much like, okay, I just need to kind of watch him, and then I also only need like a brief description and then could go, but then he would come over, and he would try to like, talk me through it, but then he would just end up doing whatever the task was, and I'm like god, let me do it now! I get it!
So yeah, so learning. But then I think beyond that in the business side, there's a really healthy ... Like, in the decision-making part about the direction of the company and how we're going to design and all of that. There's a really healthy communication that we have.
Chris: 36:48 Yeah, absolutely.
Jen: 36:51 I think we work together well.
Blaine: 36:51 So Chris, is there ... Oh, there's nothing else to add.
Chris: 36:52 No. No, I mean, I think she nailed it.
The shop is definitely my sacred space, and even to this day, we don't -
Blaine: 36:59 Wow. That's big.
Chris: 37:00 Yeah, we don't talk about design in the shop while I'm building, because as you guys have learned, I'm like 100%, right? So, if somebody starts bringing up design, then I can't concentrate on what I'm doing currently. Because then my mind just takes off.
And like, if you plant a seed, then It just ... Yeah.
Jen: 37:18 We have a new diesel truck, by the way, five days later after saying, "Hmm, maybe we should think about looking at getting you a new truck," and it's like, he couldn't stop. Like, that happens ... It's a new old diesel truck ...
Honey: 37:33 I don't know if this will make it into the edit, but I'm married to a similar situation. Where I've mentioned -
Blaine: 37:40 You're married to a situation?
Honey: 37:41 Yes. You're my situation.
Blaine: 37:43 I'm definitely not "the" Situation.
Honey: 37:45 No.
Blaine: 37:45 I look nothing like him.
Honey: 37:48 No. But we got a car before we took off on the last trip. We bought a new car. New to us. But a Lexus, which typically is not what we drove. When we lived four miles up a dirt road, we had beaters and trucks and things that we could just pound, and we're like, "We're not on a mountain anymore! We can get a nice vehicle."
So we get this Lexus. I'm driving and I'm thinking, "I'm not a Lexus person. Maybe I'm a Jeep person. I should be in a Jeep." And the next thing I know, Blaine's like, "Okay, so I found some Jeeps."
Jen: 38:16 Nice. Yeah, exactly.
Honey: 38:16 "We're going to trade in the Lexus."
Jen: 38:18 Oh my gosh.
Honey: 38:20 "There's this one. So, do you want this one or that ..." I'm like, I'm deciding? You totally framed that debate.
Jen: 38:27 Yes! So, this was the conversation he brings up. He's like, "So, you know, it's unfortunate both our vehicles are right around the same mileage. We're probably going to have to replace both of them at the same time." Like, both of them have like, 130000 miles on them.
And so, I'm like, thinking about it, and I just casually mention, "Well, maybe we should think about ... Since you still have a payment on your truck and my car's paid off, maybe we should just get you a new truck now, so we don't have to get two new cars at the same time," and it ...
Yep. Now we have a new old truck that will last for like, 300000 miles, so.
Chris: 39:02 I'm good at researching.
Blaine: 39:03 Oh, you gotta love the 300000 mile engine.
Chris: 39:05 Yeah.
Honey: 39:06 You have to be careful what you say around -
Jen: 39:08 Yep.
Honey: 39:10 People like that. And that, you know, it's not an awful thing, because stuff gets done that I think maybe you or I would not do expediently.
Jen: 39:19 Well, it's also something you can exploit.
Honey: 39:25 I'm going to pretend I don't understand you.
Jen: 39:25 And I found a way ... I have found a way to use this to my advantage, which is if I want something done around the house and it's not happening, then I'll just start doing it, but I'm not going to be, obviously, good at doing it, because I don't have the building skills that he does, and he'll get really annoyed with it and he'll just step in and finish it.
Blaine: 39:42 Wow. You're never going to do that, are you?
Honey: 39:44 Well, our stuff is not with building, but it's tech stuff. And you just, "Let me look at that."
I'm going to ask a question, because we ask our listeners if there's something you want to hear, something you want to know about couple co.'s, let us know. And one of the questions that somebody asked us that they wanted to know ... And I think it's interesting with you two in particular because you now have another partner in the business.
How did you decide, or have you decided who owns what? What do you give to a partner that comes in, and what do you hang on to, and is it equal between the two of you, or ...?
Chris: 40:24 That's really difficult task that we're still figuring out the dynamics of currently. My partner, luckily, I've known for 15 years. We went to Ohio State together. We've been friends ever since. And so, it's really easy. There's definitely a lot of handshakes and a lot of trust.
Jen: 40:39 Yeah, I don't know if "easy" is quite the word.
Chris: 40:41 Did I use easy?
Jen: 40:42 Yeah.
Blaine: 40:42 Easier, maybe?
Jen: 40:43 There is trust.
Chris: 40:44 Yeah, there's trust. And luckily, neither one of us is ... Speaking to my partner and I, is driven by money or driven by fame or any of these other things. We're like, simply in it to make the best company we possibly can. And all the other -
Blaine: 40:57 Because I know that all those famous rockstar trailer builders you hear about.
Jen: 41:00 Exactly.
Chris: 41:01 You'd be surprised.
Jen: 41:03 But I think what Chris -
Chris: 41:04 I was in the Park Record.
Blaine: 41:06 So were we!
Chris: 41:06 Ah.
Blaine: 41:07 Doesn't it change your life? What's the circulation of that paper, 10000?
Honey: 41:12 It's at least the four of us. Anyway.
Jen: 41:14 But I think what Chris hasn't said is that there was a lot of conversation about it. And there was a lot of discussion they ... Have you finished? Have you signed your partnership agreements yet?
Chris: 41:26 No.
Jen: 41:27 There is a partnership agreement waiting to be signed, and I think ... It was just a lot of back and forth. Both partners, whether you were the founding partner or the joining partner, needs to feel comfortable with how you're being valued. And so, a lot of the conversation was just about a vesting process. So, he's not obviously going to come in with the same ownership level, but he can vest to almost equivalent ownership, but Chris will always own more of the company.
And I think the other way to look at it is, it wouldn't exist if we had never taken the leap to start it. So, you can't give away that. But he's also, I think at this ... Like, he's only going to hold onto 51% majority.
For us, the goal of the company is to be able to live a lifestyle that suits us and makes us happy, and that we can live comfortably on. We're not going in with this goal of building an empire and then selling it for millions of dollars and never working again.
Both of us love working. We get ... We enjoy working. We enjoy creating things. So if Escapod were to end, there would be something else after that.
So, the partnership agreement is largely handshake, but it's also recognizing the company wouldn't be what it is without our partner. So, we have a genuine appreciation and value for what that partnership brings, and would not have entered into a partnership agreement if we didn't believe that that person was bringing something that we couldn't bring ourselves.
Honey: 42:57 And do the two of you have an equal split of whatever your share's going to be?
Jen: 43:01 I'm kind of lumped in with him. And we also have a handshake agreement in the form of we are married.
Blaine: 43:09 Yeah, that definitely is ... Yeah. That's a contract.
Jen: 43:09 Yeah.
Chris: 43:11 That's how we solidified that one, was a handshake.
Jen: 43:13 Yeah.
Blaine: 43:14 Yeah.
Honey: 43:15 I believe we did something similar.
Jen: 43:16 And we made out.
Blaine: 43:17 I think ... Yeah, absolutely. We didn't even do anything similar. You own the company. Not CoupleCo. Slow Burn Marketing.
Honey: 43:24 Slow Burn Marketing, which is -
Blaine: 43:25 Yes, our advertising agency.
Honey: 43:26 Yeah.
Jen: 43:27 Cool.
Honey: 43:27 I'm the owner.
Blaine: 43:29 She's the one.
Jen: 43:29 Cool.
Chris: 43:30 I think without digging too deep into specifics, there's a couple reasons why you really want to identify what the true agreement is.
One is dissolution. Now, if it happens in a poor manner, like you know, you have to shut the company down because you can't make it work. But the second dissolution would be sale of the company.
For us, Escapod is a lifestyle business. We're not looking to sell this. You know, this would be really important for a tech company whose sole goal was to make $2 million off a sale in two years, but that's not what Escapod is.
So, the second reason that it matters is that we're an LLC, which is a pass-through company. So any profits or losses get passed through to the owners through a K2 at the end of the year, which is based off your partnership agreement.
So, that's really the major reason that we look at it, is the pass-through portion of it. My partner and I make the exact same take-home as far as our paychecks are concerned, which is owner's pay.
You know, we don't split that at a percentage amount or anything like that.
Blaine: 44:28 I want to circle back a little bit here, because both of you used a word that I think is really important in the context of couple co.'s. Really, across the board. I can't think of anybody we've spoken to since Valentine's Day, when this went on the air, who didn't use the word "lifestyle." Who didn't talk about doing this job for themselves to build a certain kind of lifestyle that makes them comfortable and lets them living a life they want instead of "working for the man."
Chris: 45:00 Yeah. Yeah.
Blaine: 45:02 I think that's significant. It sounds like, based on what I just heard, especially what you just said, Chris. That this could be it. You may never let Escapod go. You may just keep living this lifestyle.
Chris: 45:12 Yeah. You know, I think that for me ... And I can't speak for you, and you can chime in, but for me, creating a company, building my own house, having kids. This was like, my American dream or whatever the case is. And so, that's true success in my eyes. I'm not looking to be a millionaire. I'm looking to pay my bills, enjoy life, be able to buy some things that we want to make that more comfortable or more fun.
But that was always my dream. It was never to be driving the nicest cars, or the biggest house. You know? The fact that we can pay the mortgage and go on ski trips and go mountain biking. That was what it was all about, and that's what makes me happy.
Honey: 45:51 So, I have a question based on something else that somebody said recently to us. Because this is a lifestyle choice, do you think you're happier because you made that choice?
Jen: 46:01 I think happy is a word we could use. I think we could also use the word fulfilled. Because I think we are certainly more fulfilled, and I think particularly Chris at this moment is far more fulfilled than he was before.
But starting this business, while the first teardrop trailer we built so that we could go travel around and do all these adventures, we don't travel around and do adventures anymore. Let's be real. That is not a thing that happens.
We're going to go to Moab this coming weekend, which is the first weekend of November, and it's the first personal trip that we've taken this whole entire year. So, that is a ... It's a sacrifice that you make.
So, I think that the word happy ... Previously, when my ski career was ending, I was still getting paid to ski. I was going to a couple of events here and there, but I had a lot of free time to do whatever I wanted, and I was still making money. And Chris came out, and he was working a restaurant job, and he was getting paid, but he had a lot of flexibility.
So, we could go and do weekend adventures all the time and have a lot of happiness on those weekend adventures, but in the day-to-day life, we were not feeling fulfilled.
So, I think that perhaps the goal for us isn't necessarily that increased level of happiness, but having greater overall satisfaction in how we're living our lives.
Blaine: 47:17 Here's the thing, too. How old is Escapod?
Jen: 47:19 Two years and four months.
Blaine: 47:21 Okay.
Honey: 47:21 Happy birthday.
Jen: 47:23 Yep.
Blaine: 47:23 She's good at that stuff. Soon, within the foreseeable future, that will change. Because you're going to get to that level of success where, just based on everything I've seen, I have a hard time believing this will not be [inaudible 00:47:36].
Jen: 47:35 Right.
Chris: 47:35 Well, we've started taking weekends off.
Blaine: 47:39 Wow! This is amazing. This is something Honey and I haven't figured out in 12 years, is weekends off.
Chris: 47:43 Yeah, so like ... It doesn't happen every weekend, but for 10 months, it was at least six days a week. At least! And now, it's like, we're starting ... We're just starting to set boundaries.
If I come home and I've been at work from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, I'm not doing any more work. And that's like, the boundary, you know? And I think that setting boundaries is important and you're not able to do that at first.
Jen: 47:43 Yeah.
Chris: 48:09 At first, it's all consuming. As it should be. 100% should be. And I feel lucky that only, you know, 11 months into it as a full-time job, as the true full-time hustle, that I'm able to finally start setting some boundaries, you know, to ...
We hired our first employee. And that was such a big help, because what that does is allow my business partner, Chris Eckle, to come in to the shop and answer emails. Where he was doing that, you know, from 6:00 in the morning to 9:00 AM to when he had to come to work. And then he'd work all day with me in the shop, and then go home and answer more emails.
I'd go home, you know, run the QuickBooks until midnight. And so it's just the way it has to get done, because we're wearing so many different hats.
Jen: 48:56 And at a certain point, I think it's a matter of finding where everyone's genius zone is and making sure they're able to stay in that space as much as possible. And that first hire is so perfectly suited to be building with Chris in the shop. And our partner is much better suited in other roles, and he was great to ... We couldn't have done what we've done this year without him building alongside Chris, but there are ways for him to also have more fulfillment and use his skillset to help grow the business.
And then that allows ... We built 24 trailers this year, and next year we're going to go to 36 trailers. Well, at that point then, we need to be making sure that queue is filled. We need to make sure that we have enough sales. We need to make sure inventory is on point, and if both partners are building all day, there's no way you can scale, so to increase production by that capacity, a 50% increase in a year, is pretty amazing.
Blaine: 49:49 Yes, that's impressive and a little scary.
Jen: 49:52 Yeah! And all on our own dime, you know? We haven't taken any investing money, and that's been a tricky thing to balance, as well, but also something I think in the long run that really pays off, because it's forced us to be resourceful, and when Chris Eckle joined earlier this year, he brought ... He presented this accounting system called Profit First, and Escapod immediately adopted it.
And it basically ... You set aside your profit, and then you figure out how to pay for everything else. And if you can't pay for everything else, then you figure out how to not need to pay for those things, or make things more efficient and that whole process immediately makes you a profitable business.
Chris: 50:27 Yeah. So, without getting too much into specifics, we've done really well this year. I mean, we've built 24 trailers this year, average price being over $16000. You can do the math. You know, and we're still ...
We laughed. Last week, I asked Chris Eckle, I said, "Hey, this winter I'd love to not lay on the concrete, and so I'd love to buy one of those plastic crawlers that you know, mechanics use to go underneath cars." And he's like, "Alright, how much is it?" And I'm like, "It's $40." He's like, "Alright. I think you can get it."
You know? It's like this joke. We spent so long, so long just bootstrapping everything. You know, making it work with -
Blaine: 51:06 And by the way, I want to point out, you are from New England. That is a very acute example of New England Yankee thrift. Yes.
Chris: 51:15 Yeah. And you know, we've done it this whole time like, laying on concrete when it's 20º in the shop, you know? And that's the kind ... That's level in the scrutiny that we put towards everything. And so, when we choose to grow, it's a very specific thing. And you know, we're not looking to grow as fast as possible, as hard as possible. You know, taking all this money from investors.
And believe me, there are people that have come to us and said, "Hey, any time you guys need money, let us know." And we have done this -
Blaine: 51:44 Hey. We're ready to invest right now! I've got some cash in my wallet.
Chris: 51:48 What no one ever talks about is that you have to pay that money back. And we don't want to be beholden to somebody else. And that we've made this work and grown internally all on our own dime. And through -
Jen: 52:01 Resourcefulness.
Chris: 52:02 Resourcefulness, yeah. We built, you know, like every good company, right, we started in our mother's garage. You know? I'm talking like, Park Meadows, Park City. And I'm like, welding and grinding ... And God bless the neighbors, who never called the police on us. Because, you know, we're in this -
Blaine: 52:21 Well, Park City's a different kind of place.
Chris: 52:24 You know, and we did that for a year and a half, almost. Or a year.
Jen: 52:29 A year. Yeah, basically a year, until we got that order from Wendy and we had to build four trailers in one month, and this was at the time still a side hustle. We were like, "It took us like, four months to build one trailer. How are we going to do this?"
Blaine: 52:43 Just going back to Park City for a second. It's really impressive that you can do that in a subdivision filled with million-dollar homes and nobody cares.
Jen: 52:52 Yeah. They would just walk by, and then pop their head in the garage, and be like, "What's that? That's really cool. Can we buy one?"
Blaine: 52:58 "Can I get one?" [crosstalk 00:52:59]
Jen: 52:59 Exactly.
Chris: 53:01 There's a reason we are here. So, my neighbor, who was also an entrepreneur, was like, "You have an amazing name. You need to trademark it, and I'll help you." So we went through, he printed me out all the stuff, helped me trademark the name, which by the way -
Jen: 53:14 Is a good thing.
Chris: 53:15 Months later, somebody else tried to trademark a very similar name and it got blocked. That totally helped our business along. And then, you know, the neighbor that walks by every day, he was a lawyer and has helped me with my purchase agreement and, you know, just -
Jen: 53:29 And owned Moab Brewery.
Chris: 53:31 And owned Moab Brewery, yeah.
Jen: 53:31 So, he's also an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry.
Chris: 53:35 So, they see this ... They see these bloody knuckles and late nights and -
Jen: 53:40 Respect it.
Chris: 53:41 And have respect, and find a way to help out, and that's really kind of a cool thing about Park City.
Blaine: 53:47 This has been part one of our conversation with Chris and Jen Hudak of Escapod Trailers, recording in Wanship, Utah. You can find Escapod online at escapod.us. That's E-S-C-A-P-O-D, dot, U-S.
Honey: 54:01 If you've enjoyed this podcast and you think it would be useful or fun for other couple entrepreneurs, please go to iTunes and leave a star rating and a review to help them find it.
Blaine: 54:10 And join us next time when we return to Wanship to continue our conversation with Chris and Jen.
Honey: 54:15 Among other things, we're going to find out about that last name.
Blaine: 54:18 Yes, why did Chris Moore marry Jen Hudak and become Chris Hudak?
Honey: 54:23 Because it's a really cool name.
Blaine: 54:24 Well, that's gotta be part of it, and I have to admit that when I married Honey Cone, I probably wouldn't have wanted to become Blaine Cone.
Honey: 54:32 Wow. I never thought about that.
Blaine: 54:34 It's just not a cool name.
Honey: 54:36 No, I think we did the right thing.
Blaine: 54:37 Too many N's.
Honey: 54:38 And we're also going to hear about setting boundaries, managing expectations, and getting your time back.
Blaine: 54:43 Next time, here on CoupleCo! Working with your spouse for fun and profit.
Honey: 54:47 Copyright 2018, all rights reserved.
Blaine: 54:50 Love you, baby.
Honey: 54:51 Love you, too.
Blaine: 54:51 CoupleCo, out.