Entrepreneurs

How a tech entrepreneur ran a 7-figure business from a bus he lived on with a wife and 3 kids

Brandon Trebitowski was living and working out of a 2,100-square-foot house with his wife and three young kids in a suburb of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Then the family sold, donated or threw away almost everything they owned to live out of a converted school bus for five months.

All the while, Trebitowski, now 31, was running his software development company, Pixegon. He launched his own software development company at 27 years old and, in 2015, he rebranded and consolidated as Pixegon. The software development company has hired 10 engineers and did $1.3 million in revenue in 2016.

The Trebitowski family on the bus they lived on for five months.
Photo courtesy Brandon Trebitowski
The Trebitowski family on the bus they lived on for five months.

Trebitowski grew up in a house where 9-to-5 office life wasn't the norm. His mom homeschooled his younger siblings while his stepdad worked remotely and was largely in charge of his own schedule.

"In retrospect, that definitely made an impression on me," the tech CEO says. "We did a lot of things as a family during the weekdays and things like that. Just really keeping a flexible schedule going camping, traveling, going to Phoenix or California or whatever."

Trebitowski's wife Ashley homeschools their children, who are currently eight, five and three.

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After a friend of the couple bought a bus and retooled it for taking long trips, the Trebitowskis were intrigued. They started scouring Craigslist and bus surplus marketplace websites until they found one in their price range.

They bought an old bus in February 2016 and started renovating it in March.

At first the idea was to renovate the bus for long-distance traveling. But the family, increasingly enamored with the bus, decided they wanted to try living small. They sold their house and lived full-time on the bus from October through February of this year as they traveled the Pacific Northwest.

Towards the end of the five months on the road, Trebitowski launched a second venture, Parallax Code Academy, a 12-week bootcamp to teach working professionals how to code. He's still in the process of getting it off the ground.

"We really went over the top minimalist"

The Trebitowskis took downsizing seriously.

"We really went over the top minimalist. We sold, donated, or gave away every single possession we had except for what we could fit on that bus so everything we owned fit inside of that bus we took on the road with us," Brandon says. "It was just a good fresh start."

And while living on a bus with three young kids isn't easy, the Trebitowskis learned a lot about living with less. Ashley went from an overflowing walk-in closet to one drawer of clothes.

With so little space, it was impossible to let chores sit. The laundry had to be done or there were no clean clothes to wear. The dishes have to be done and put away after each meal or the dirty dishes occupied the main living space.

"The bus really taught me that it is better to just get stuff done than have it as mental overhead for me. Laundry, dishwasher, things like that just are overhead," says Ashley.

"But then, also, the less things we have, the less chores I have to get done. It just put in perspective too that the possessions weren't important. The people we were doing life with were important.

"It was much more important to spend time cultivating those relationships rather than organizing, fixing, putting away things. Things just take more work," says Ashley.

A streamlined closet — and business plan

His embrace of what the kids are calling #vanlife influenced Brandon at work, too.

"When we returned from our trip, I made a few major changes to the business. The first being, I completely simplified the business model. I converted all of the W2 employees to 1099 contractors," says Brandon. That meant he was no longer paying employees when there wasn't work, and those who wanted to could take on work outside the company.

"Since the trip, I have also pared down the software services that the team was using. We were able to cut our monthly software costs in half without losing too much productivity."

Overall, Brandon says, "I feel like this clarity came from being able to take a step back from the day to day business and really look at the big picture."

Further, Brandon became more careful in picking customers.

"I also vowed to be more intentional when it comes to client selection. We have some incredible clients, but we also have some that are 'not favorable.' In the past, I may have taken on these clients out of the need to 'make quick money' or out of some level of desperation. However, these clients/projects almost always cause me more pain than they are worth," says Brandon.

"Now, I really try to be more selective when it comes to client work. This obviously requires much more planning and business development, but in the long run, the leg work is worth my sanity."

Every entrepreneur needs alone time

Living on a bus with four other people made privacy precious. Ashley found her peace and quiet in exercise.

"It was really important for me to find a way to have my own alone time, my own space to keep my sanity. So I ran a lot. I would try to implement quiet time for the kids where they would go read. The younger ones would take a nap."

Life

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Brandon learned he had to have quiet time with no distractions to be efficient. "I had originally set up a 'desk' in the back of the bus intending on doing most of my work there. However, after a phone meeting or two with kids screaming in the background, it became apparent that I had to have my own space to get anything done," he says.

To get work done, Brandon rode his bike to a nearby coffee shop wherever the family was parked.

"Having kids constantly barging in on you while you write code or talk to clients definitely takes you out of your flow."