Passion Project

Director of marketing for THOR Industries and RVWA chair, Denise Chariya strives to help women thrive and find fulfillment in an industry she loves.

Denise Chariya, director of marketing for THOR Industries, is not a fan of traditional networking. Making small talk in a big room with a bunch of strangers is not her idea of a good time. Yet, as a leader at THOR Industries, she was eager to join the RV Women’s Alliance, a network designed to accelerate personal and professional growth for women in the RV industry. Since she’s not from Elkhart, Indiana — where THOR is based — she hoped RVWA would help her make new industry friends in Elkhart and beyond. But she quickly realized that RVWA could help her with networking and so much more. No small talk necessary.

Recently, Chariya was tapped to be chair of RVWA, and she wants the organization to continue to be as helpful to other women as it has been for her.

“I definitely feel a sense of responsibility to deliver as much value to our members as possible,” Chariya says. “It’s critically important that all our members feel heard, valued and seen and that they learn and take away things that can help move them forward in their individual careers.”

Passion & Purpose


Before joining the team at THOR, Chariya worked in marketing for a variety of other corporations, including Walmart, Walgreens and Wilton Brands. Chariya, a graduate of Elmira College, also worked at a marketing agency right out of college. Fun fact: Chariya once had a side gig decorating cakes, making her time at Wilton, which sells cake decorating and bakeware products, particularly special.

“I have always wanted my career to align with something that I’m passionate about,” she says. “I feel like you just do more work when you’re really excited about the product or the service that you’re working on.”

That’s why THOR was a perfect fit too. Chariya’s fondest childhood memories center on camping.

“My family traveled with a pop-up camper for my whole childhood,” she recalls. “So the idea that I could bring my love of camping and the outdoors together with my love of marketing was one of those perfect marriages. I get to spend my day talking to people about how to get outside more and spend more time with the ones that they love. There’s not much better than that for me.”

She wants all women in the RV industry to enjoy the sense of fulfillment she has at THOR Industries. And she can play her part in making that happen through RVWA.

Networking Reimagined

Since its inception in 2019, the RV Women’s Alliance has been thriving against the odds. Despite a global pandemic putting in-person meetups on hold for a couple of years, RVWA’s membership has ballooned from 200 when it started to more than 2,800 members currently, representing more than 570 companies. RVWA members include men and women in the United States and Canada.

“RVWA offers a lot of alternative networking opportunities,” Chariya says. RVWA members who might want to skip awkward mixers can make plans to go to Camp Out this month — a weekend of food and fun that RVWA hosts each year. Attendees can bring tents and RVs or share a cabin with co-workers or friends.

People who are bored by typical conferences might opt for the RVWA symposium instead. This year’s symposium will be held in October in Chicago.

RVWA also hosts regular educational programs, both virtual and in-person. This summer, the group will host a discussion series exploring a wide range of topics, including leadership, internal communication, sales and negotiation.

RVWA believes in community service too. Members get together to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity. This is the kind of networking that Chariya is eager to sign up for.

“I think there’s a lot of power in learning together,” she says. “I think that bonds people and creates connections with people in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.”

From THOR Industries, left to right: Katelyn Krulek, Karly Anderson, Denise Chariya, Kelly Miller, Renee Jones.

Chariya didn’t expect RVWA to help her in the ways that it has.

“There is so much heritage and history in the industry that it can be a little intimidating,” she admits. “I started just over five years ago and coming in there’s so much to learn.”

RVWA helped her navigate the steep learning curve.

“RVWA has really helped me in that area because it gave me the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of people that do a wide variety of roles and work for a lot of different parts of the industry,” she says. “In my normal role, I don’t have the day-to-day interaction with dealers and suppliers, but through RVWA I am able to get to know those people and understand some of their struggles and things that are impacting them as well, which gives me a much better view of the industry as a whole.”

Representation Matters

Chariya believes that a lack of representation is one of the biggest challenges women face in the RV industry. And RVWA is striving to change that.

“When you see people like you in roles, that really helps to have the vision to attain those roles,” she says.

That’s why RVWA highlights women in the industry on the organization’s website and social media channels and through awards such as its Champion of Women Award, Leader of Tomorrow Award and Trailblazer for Lifetime Achievement Award.

Though Chariya loves camping, when asked what she loves most about working in the RV industry, she talks business.

“I love the entrepreneurial spirit of this industry,” she says. “Even though I work for a big player in this space, there’s still that small business mentality around making change happen and really looking at ways to innovate. That’s such a core part of what our industry does.”

Her love of THOR, however, is all about the people.

“I love that our leadership, even Bob Martin, our CEO, they really care about the people,” she says. “That value is very important to me, to not only think about our business and the numbers, but also to look at the people we’re impacting both by the product we make and the people that we employ.”

Kelly Miller, senior content manager at THOR Industries, can attest that this is a value Chariya lives out.

“It feels like I work for my big sister that always has my best interests at heart,” Miller says of Chariya. “She’s really concerned about my career and not just what’s happening right now. She wants to make sure that everybody that she works with has a long and happy career.”

Miller deeply admires that Chariya doesn’t have a “one-size-fits-all” leadership style.

“She takes a lot of time to understand how each of us works and then caters her managing style to each person individually, which I think has been such a game changer for our small but mighty team,” Miller says.

And like any good leader, Chariya pushes her team to be better, Miller says.

“I have learned everything I know about strategy and marketing from Denise,” Miller says. “She really has pushed me and challenged me to get really creative but also understand all the data that goes behind making decisions. Denise is really unique in that she’s able to blend creative strategy with analytical strategy in a way that I really haven’t seen before.”

Balancing Act

Promoting work/life balance — or at least a graceful juggling of the two — is something else Chariya encourages as a leader and is another priority of RVWA.

“The term work/life balance is a bit of a fallacy,” Chariya says. “But we can lean on each other to learn different tactics and different approaches.”

Her approach is to schedule time with family and friends.

“Because my job is demanding, it’s important to plan that time and hold myself accountable to it,” she says. In her free time, she enjoys painting, sewing, cooking — especially over an open fire – and traveling, particularly in an RV with her husband, Than.

Through RVWA, Chariya hopes to help women in the RV business see that they can have fulfilling lives and thrive in the industry.

“I know what we’re doing,” she says, “really is going to help support women within this industry for years to come.”


Javacia Harris Bowser

For more information, visit seejanewritebham.com.

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