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Business Owner Shares Passion for Northern Arizona’s Outdoors

By Stacey Wittig

It was the perfect storm of events that launched Jessica van Zijll into entrepreneurship. The native Arizonan was living the corporate dream in San Antonio, Texas, as a salesperson traveling internationally when the pandemic hit. International travel came to a screeching halt.

I learned that doing sales over the phone from my San Antonio apartment wasn’t as fulfilling as traveling internationally to meet with clients,” the young business professional shared.

At the same time, a small business in Flagstaff found itself bulging at the seams because of surges in outdoor recreation participation during the shutdown. Van Zijll had a longtime family friend who operated a side business renting compact teardrop RVs, who decided the demand had become more than he and his partner could manage on their own.

I was already considering moving closer to home,” said van Zijll. “All my family is in Northern Arizona.” So, she moved to Flagstaff in summer 2021 and worked for her friend for a year. When another job assignment moved the friend to Hawaii, van Zijll was in the optimal spot to purchase the business.

The career change fell into place,” she said. “Now I do something I’m passionate about, which is sharing the beauty of Northern Arizona with people from all over.” The new entrepreneur rebranded the business as Elevated Camping Experience and modified the business model.

I started with his four travel trailers and expanded to the seven I currently have in my fleet,” she said. Five of the seven are teardrop campers, while two are a bit larger to meet the needs of families.

Elevated Camping Experience is the only company in Northern Arizona renting this type of big comfort with a tiny footprint.” She says guests enjoy warm nights in a comfortable queen-sized bed tucked inside a mobile shell that offers protection from the elements. Additionally, the camping trailer boasts ample onboard storage and amenities for added convenience and comfort.

She adds that the trailers’ small footprints are light on the land and campsites are contained with easy setup and cleanup processes. The small profile also offers the flexibility and maneuverability to fit into unique and remote places.

By focusing on Leave No Trace principles, our clients can have this kind of experience, and we make sure it’s done in a healthy and sustainable way.”

Trash bags, cleaning supplies and biodegradable toilet paper are provided. Each camper unit has laminated “Leave No Trace” educational materials, including instructions on handling human waste in the woods.

Besides “Tow It Yourself” services, van Zijll offers trip planning, delivery and campsite setup. “I walk the site and pick up any trash before the campsite setup,” she explains. “And then I do the same after I retrieve the camper. I want to leave it better than I found it. Small impact piles up, and it’s super important to me that my business doesn’t impact the outdoors.”

National Forest Campgrounds near Lake Mary and Mather Campground at the Grand Canyon are some of the most popular places for her setup services. “I like to keep things customizable and get a feel for what they want to see before recommending a campsite.”

To ensure customers have a memorable and comfortable camping experience, van Zijll asks for feedback and adjusts accordingly. “I’ve added amenity options such as fire pits, tables, chairs and games like cornhole and paddleboards.”

Van Zijll makes sure that customers know how to use the hitch and tow the camper before they drive away. “At only 1,000 pounds, they are lightweight and easy to maneuver. If you have a hitch [on your vehicle], you can probably tow it.”

Looking to the future, van Zijll sees Elevated Camping Experience evolving to add stationary units. She also aspires to expand by adding an employee beyond her cleaning crew. “I would love to offer a position to join me in this exciting business. Then, we could expand the number of people we’re sending out.”

Van Zijll says Northern Arizona is the perfect place for her business. “It offers incredible access to the outdoors.” FBN

Stacey Wittig is a contributor to Flagstaff Business News. 

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