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Woman sitting on the step and doorway of a teal coloured camper

The Happy Camper

Newsroom authorby Vitusha OberoiJul 21, 2021

Dominic Gallego (Accounting ’14), owner of Nomad Custom Trailers, used resources he had access to as a Sheridan student to get into business. That, and his entrepreneurial spirit, set him on a trail to success.

Actress Helene Joy of CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries found Dominic Gallego (Accounting ’14) on Instagram. “We met and then in two months’ time, my team and I converted Helene's vintage Boler into a place for her to live and stay in while filming on set,” says Gallego, owner of Nomad Custom Trailers which specializes in transforming campers into mobile nooks of comfort for folks looking for some glamping, or perhaps to add wheels to small businesses.

Gallego and his team restore vintage trailers looking for a fresh lease on life. So far, his list of happy campers includes Order of Canada awardee Chef Jamie Kennedy, for whom he customized a Trillium 1300 trailer, and CBC’s famed producer, Terry O'Reilly, who needed help with the restoration of his vintage Boler. Many a worn and tired Airstream, Trillium and Boler has checked into Gallego’s workshop and left refurbished and raring to go as a coffee shop, a backyard bar or a clothing store.

“We started with one employee in my backyard and we now have 16 employees and 10,000 sq.ft. of shop space.”

Gallego’s entry to the world of refurbished RVs started during his last year at Sheridan. It was the year he got engaged and went to a wedding show in downtown Toronto. He was looking to rent a photobooth for his upcoming wedding, but the ones available were built like boxes and weren’t aesthetically pleasing. Gallego wouldn’t call it quits and together with his partner, he built a photobooth of his own.

Fresh, quirky, creative and fun – the booth was a knockout success and requests poured in from friends and family who wanted it for their own special occasions. The problem was the booth could not fit into his sedan. Gallego then bought an old Airstream, restored it from the ground up, and turned it into a mobile photobooth. That was the launch of his mobile photobooth company Snaptique.

Gallego now has seven mobile photobooths – ranging from a 22-foot 1957 Airstream Caravanner to the cute, egg-shaped 1987 Boler. He calls them ‘portable studios in disguise,’ that roll into weddings and corporate events, helping people create memories. Before the pandemic, Gallego would get as many as 300 events a year from big-name companies such as Pepsi, Ubisoft and The Body Shop, and universities and colleges, including his alma mater Sheridan.

The entrepreneur in Gallego couldn’t stop there. Two years ago, he realized the relatively untapped business potential in refurbishing old campers, and set up Nomad Customs. “We started with one employee in my backyard and we now have 16 employees and 10,000 square feet of shop space. We began with restoration work but found out that it’s a very complex job. So we pivoted again this year and have now started manufacturing our own trailers,” he says.

portrait image of Dominic GallegoEntrepreneur in the making

The world of custom trailers is just the newest creation to come from Gallego’s entrepreneurial mind. Before that wedding show in 2014, he had been helping his mother’s catering business as a franchisee of the Lunch Lady, a service that delivers meals to schools. “I would go to work in the morning, prepare the lunches from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and then I would go for my 11 a.m. class at Sheridan,” Gallego recalls. He was studying Accounting at the Pilon School of Business, which gave him the business know-how to set up his ventures. He also had plenty of entrepreneurial spirit, fostered during his childhood in the Philippines.

“I remember wanting to start a pig farm when I was in Grade 6 in the Philippines. Whenever I did well at school, my parents would reward me with a piglet and get someone to raise it for me for four months. I could then sell it and keep the money."

“I remember wanting to start a pig farm when I was in Grade 6 in the Philippines. Whenever I did well at school, my parents would reward me with a piglet and get someone to raise it for me for four months. I could then sell it and keep the money. But I wasn’t a great student, so I would borrow money from my siblings, with interest, to buy my own piglets and once I sold them, split the profits with them,” recalls Gallego. By the time he immigrated to Canada with his parents, he had some savings from his little enterprise.

“I did not bring money because that would have shrunk in currency conversion. Instead, I bought fashion jewelry, pearls and such from local Philippine businesses. Once we were here, I sold that in the flea market and tripled my money. That was my first income in Canada,” Gallego says.

Sheridan nurtured spirit, gave tools

Gallego says Sheridan nurtured that entrepreneurial spirit of his. It also gave him access to the vast talent pool of its students, who were essential to launching Snaptique since he admittedly didn’t have many of the skills in photography or metallurgy he needed to get the trailers rolling. “For our first photobooth, I actually went to the metal workshop at Davis Campus to get a couple of students for help with the project. I had a student cut out a piece of brass, which we turned on the lathe to make it look like a camera lens. And then I went to the arts department and I hired a couple of students to make renderings and drawings of trailer interiors for me,” he says.

“So even while I was a student at Sheridan, I was already going across departments and divisions to find the skill sets I needed for my businesses. I found students to help build my first photobooth. I realized Sheridan’s students are extremely competent in the workplace as the College trains them for it,” Gallego says.

“The knowledge Sheridan’s students have is phenomenal and they are hands-on in the workplace. Everything I have in my shop right now, such as 3D printers, Sheridan also has for its students. The students train for startups in labs and it really makes a difference.”

“The knowledge Sheridan’s students have is phenomenal and they are hands-on in the workplace. Everything I have in my shop right now, such as 3D printers, Sheridan also has for its students. The students train for startups in labs and it really makes a difference.”

The last two years have been extremely challenging for Gallego’s business. His photobooth business dried up due to COVID restrictions on the number of people allowed at weddings and events, but then the entrepreneur in him saw new opportunities in people’s reluctance to share public transportation. He put his money on refurbishing old trailers by launching Nomad Customs and with the pandemic receding in the rearview now, the move is paying off.

Gallego is back in the swing of things and his workshop is humming with activity as he and his crew work on orders. The great outdoors are beckoning again, and campers are in demand as a stylish, more private mode of travel. At the same time, small businesses are becoming more agile, and shops-on-wheels are the perfect – and cost-saving – alternative to physical outlets.

“I have been building coffee trailers, mobile bars and mobile clothes shops for small businesses. I'm passionate about being able to help new entrepreneurs start their own ventures through our trailers,” he says. “I know from personal experience what a successful business can do for your family and the people around you. You can employ people, pay them good wages, help the economy grow and also be able to encourage good talent.”


Pictured at top: Actress Helene Joy with her trailer ‘Lulu’ which was refurbished by Dominic Gallego (Accounting ’14) and his team. Photos courtesy of Nomad Custom Trailers.

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