Business on wheels: Couple hits the road, but keeps on working

Marc and Alowetta Terrien operate Thin Air out of a 40-foot long motorhome. The Terriens provide website design, software development and other services to more than 200 clients. The couple says the motorhome allows them to combine their passion for their business with their desires to travel and visit family. (Photo courtesy Joe Hendricks Photography)
Marc and Alowetta Terrien operate Thin Air out of a 40-foot long motorhome. The Terriens provide website design, software development and other services to more than 200 clients. The couple says the motorhome allows them to combine their passion for their business with their desires to travel and visit family. (Photo courtesy Joe Hendricks Photography)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Marc and Alowetta Terrien are like a lot of married couples who run a business together. They get up, grab some breakfast and head to work.

Here’s what’s different. They measure their commute in steps, not miles, and the view outside their office windows keeps changing.

For nearly three years, the Terriens have operated their website design, software development and digital marketing firm from a 40-foot-long motorhome even as they journey from state to state to visit family, check out parks and dine at local eateries.

The arrangement is anything but an extended vacation for a couple that puts in 8 hours most days and more some days. The Terriens still answer phones, meet with clients and deal with deadlines.

When the work’s done, though, they also enjoy the freedom to do and see things without cramming travel into two or three weeks a year — or putting off their plans until retirement.

“There aren’t enough weeks in a lifetime to hit all the items that might be on your bucket lists,” Marc says.

The Terriens run Thin Air, a company they purchased in 2007 and expanded from what was at that time a web development business based in Crested Butte. The couple moved to Grand Junction in 2010.

Thin Air offers a range of services that include custom and themed websites, business management and productivity web applications and location-based internet listings. The company serves more than 200 clients across the country, a diverse customer base that includes not only large and small businesses, but also organizations and nonprofits.

The extent of those services depend on what clients want, the Terriens say. Some clients want the company to do it all for them. Other clients want only sufficient support and training to help them do it themselves.

The Terriens have run Thin Air out of store fronts and their home. The nature of their operation affords them flexibility as well as the option to work remotely, the couple says. Given their desire to visit family and travel, they decided about three years ago to take their business on the road.

The arrangement works better, Marc says, than limiting travel to one or two vacations a year. “We didn’t want to wait until we retired,” Alowetta says.

The Terriens work out of a Travel Supreme class A diesel motorhome. Marc says the working space is small, but efficient, with one built-in desk that doubles as a dining room table and a second desk that adjusts for sitting or standing. Comfortable and supportive office chairs constitute a necessity, the Terriens say.

Over the past three years, the Terriens say they’ve traveled through 14 states, visited a dozen national parks and sampled countless local eateries. They usually stay in one spot long enough to see the attractions and become familiar with the area.

Meanwhile, work goes on, Marc says. “It’s not all beach chairs and sunglasses.”

The Terriens say they typically follow a traditional 8-to-5 schedule, although that varies with workload and deadlines.

Working remotely depends on good internet access. The Terriens say they plan their travel and stops based on good internet coverage, but maintain two cellular data plans as a backup.

The couple says their commitment to customer services remains unchanged. But it helps that people have grown accustomed to conducting business by email and telephone. When a client requests a face-to-face meeting — in Grand Junction, for example — they’re often surprised to discover the Terriens operate Thin Air remotely.

In one sense, the operation isn’t any different for the Terriens than other couples who run a business together. They get up, grab some breakfast and head to the office.

In another sense, the operation is very different, Marc says. “The view out the window changes.”