Over the years, customers ask questions about who we are and how we got started here at RVi. Ultimately they want to know if we're legit. We love these questions because we love our history and how we got here.
To talk about the history of braking systems for flat towing, you have to give a quick history on towbars. In the 1970's, towbars were designed for agricultural purposes. A farmer could now drag their truck behind their tractor into the field, and at lunch or dinner they could hop in the truck and be home quickly.
By the early 1990's it was starting to become popular to flat tow a car behind a motor home. Dan's dad (Dan Sr.) and mom bought a motor home and started flat towing a car. They LOVED it. One day they got in a panic stop and almost plowed into the car in front of them. This scared the Decker's enough, that they decided with a heavy heart to stop flat towing. The decision to stop flat towing bothered Dan Sr., and he knew there had to be a solution. He just didn't know how.
Dan Sr. was a machinist and electrician by trade and embodied the entrepreneurial spirit that makes America the country we love. Knowing that towed vehicles already have a braking system, he knew there had to be a way to harness that brake system to help in braking when being towed. Dan Sr. started tinkering around with different ideas. At this time, Dan had a successful machine shop business, a trade he and his brothers learned from their dad. Dan speaks of seeing his dad working on the early prototype,
"I saw dad tinkering with something bizarre looking and thought 'I'm not touching that.' But dad was persistent in his efforts and my curiosity got the best of me. So I had to find out what he was working on. When he told me, I was so intrigued that I had to jump in and help. That's how we created that first brake prototype back in 1992. It was so fun to get to create a new product market that didn't exist with my dad, but really it was just so fun to do that with my dad."
After the prototype was proven out, the Dans made a small run of what they called the Brakebuddy. They had no marketing money, and even a 1/3 page magazine ad at the time cost about $3,000. So, with a credit card, they bought their first magazine ad in 1993.
"We were just thinking it would be great to sell enough to pay for the ad. We had no idea what was about to happen over the next 10 years." says Dan.
They didn't know that the RV community was as ready as it was for the Brakebuddy. If RVers were the kindling, that first little ad was the spark that lit the RV industry on fire for towed braking.
Dan says, "We just sat back and laughed. We knew we weren't smart enough to make this happen. It was a total God-thing. Once the calls started, they just kept coming."
Within a few years after the launch of the Brakebuddy, competitor products started hitting the market, increasing people's awareness of the importance of a supplemental brake system for flat towing and driving sales. Dan and his dad enjoyed great success during their Brakebuddy days. Dan Sr. was bought out about 5 years into their 10 year run with Brakebuddy. He still enjoys coming to the shop and keeping everyone in check. =)
In 2004, Dan sold Brakebuddy not thinking he would get back into the braking game. After the sale of Brakebuddy, he turned his passion for innovating into developing several other aftermarket RV products such as RV EzLevel, RV Surestep, RV NightOwl and RV AwningClamp. These products debuted under his other label, RVinnovations.
After his 5-year non-compete was up, Dan looked around the industry and saw that no one innovating the braking segment. Having learned a lot from his 10 years with Brakebuddy, Dan got to work on a new braking system called RVibrake, which launched in 2011. This marked the first portable braking system to Auto Position itself into place by using the floorboard instead of the seat cushion.
RVi's customers are the best in the world. They have encouraged us, challenged us, and continue to push us to be better at innovating, better at customer service, and better people.
We're having lots of fun and the best is yet to come.
The RVi Crew