RV PRO

August '19

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24 • RV PRO • August 2019 rv-pro.com W hen RVIA leaders first approached Susan Carpenter about beginning a special interest group for women in the RV industry, she wasn't sure she wanted to commit. But her husband, Chris, helped her view the opportunity in a different light. The RV Women's Alliance (RVWA), he said, did not have to look like any of the women's groups to which she had belonged in the past. "He said, 'you have an opportunity to make it anything you want,'" Carpenter says. Several months later, RVWA launched to a standing-room- only crowd of men and women at RVX: The RV Experience trade show. "It quickly grew legs," says Carpenter. Today, the grassroots organization has more than 250 members and a handful of influ- ential corporate sponsors, including American Guardian Warranty Services, Coach-Net, Dometic, Creative Products Group, CWRV, Girl Camper, Global Link, Go Power, Samlex America, the RVIA, RV PRO, TOGO, Wells Fargo and Winnebago. Meanwhile Carpenter is an industry leader in her own right. Coming up in the RV aftermarket sector, she served in and even- tually led her father's aftermarket products firm, JR Products. For the past two years, she has worked as a director of business development at Creative Products Group (CPG), where she works alongside her husband. She also has served in a number of volunteer capacities, including as president of the former RV Aftermarket Association, as chair of the Specialty Equipment Manufacturing Association (SEMA) Foundation and as a SEMA board member. "I think I've have been very lucky, throughout my career, not to hit some of the roadblocks other women do," Carpenter says. "I never really understood until I began to speak to other people and to understand their struggles." Carpenter recently talked extensively with RV PRO about the organization, its goals for the future and ways it is already serving the needs of women in the industry. Her remarks have been edited lightly for clarity and brevity. RV PRO: What were some of the motivating factors for you in beginning the RVWA? Carpenter: It's been long overdue. A lot of it stems, not from women wanting guidance necessarily, but from them wanting safety and security to ask others how to advance their careers. It isn't so easy when you're in a work environment to ask a coworker or a boss, but you can ask friends that you know through a women's alliance like RVWA. RVP: How did RVWA get off the ground? Carpenter: One day, Liz Crawford and Chris Fanning from RVIA and Judy Schutz from Dometic asked me out to dinner. They said we really should start a women's alliance. The next step was to gather leading women in the industry from all walks of life – from dealerships OEMs, trade magazines and suppliers, The chairwoman of the RV Women's Alliances talks about the decision to form the organization and its goals moving forward. By Holli Koster Q & A with RV WA's Susan Carpenter

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