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Life & Work with Thomas Bender

Today we’d like to introduce you to Thomas Bender.

Hi Thomas, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
We (my wife and I, Jess) founded Acme Overland out of necessity.

We were in the market for an adventure rig that would deliver an escape from routine, letting us travel, work, and play in an ever-changing variety of locations. We were discouraged by what was available at the time: a mix of poorly executed DIY builds and unaffordable high-end luxury campers. We wanted something in the middle, a well-built van with properly designed systems and a reasonable price tag.

We took our expertise in engineering, product design, interior design, unique materials, and an unwavering aesthetic and got to work fitting our own van. Very soon after we took on our first client (whom we are still very close with today).

We saw the potential in our first build, how we could improve, and more importantly, it showed us the opportunity in the market to create a new business around it. Vans are still a percentage of our business but we have evolved into larger ‘expedition vehicles’ that set us apart in an ever-growing industry. Our recent builds can be viewed in our gallery on our website.

We’ve literally gone through every emotion, high and low, in the 7 years since we started this business. Jess and I had our first boy, Wolfe, in August of 2020, and in October of the same year, I lost Jess in a tragic accident. This has drastically changed how I personally operate and has made what we built that much more special.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
What’s a “smooth road” in business?

I believe ‘struggles’ is perhaps the wrong word for what we’ve faced. I enjoy using ‘challenges’ more as it defines the ups and downs we’ve faced. And, yes, of course, we have faced them! Challenges can stress me out but they always end in something learned that we can benefit from and use as knowledge in the future.

More recently (2020+) we’ve faced challenges in the supply chain. Everyone has. It’s not that we’ve magically overcome it with our suppliers but we’ve gotten creative in how we approach our builds. It has forced us to think much further in advance. It forced us to get creative in how we approach a build and navigate completing something.

In some cases, there is simply nothing we can do and I just have to be transparent and open with our clients. Additionally, it has allowed us to create our own products that we might not have created if we had an “easy” off-the-shelf item ready to ship.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
ACME Overland specializes in complete vehicle up-fitting. This includes your weekend camper van to our expedition trucks that are livable for months (years) at a time.

We’re known for creating a complete product that includes just about everything under the sun. We source our expedition trucks from Europe, create the habitat, take our client’s ideas and execute them to their dream specifications.

This includes electrical, plumbing, cabinetry, upholstery, metal work, things as outlandish as A/C (multiple), radiant heated floors, slide-outs, hot/cold water, etc. The list is literally never-ending. It’s similar to building a beautiful mansion but with four-wheel drive and the ability to go anywhere.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I’m not sure that there is anything unknown about me. I’m a pretty open book… I love what we create for our clients, I love the process, and I love the end result.

I’m fortunate to have created a job/business that I think about 24-7. Life can of course throw challenges but that’s better left for another conversation.

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