Black Excellence

Vaughn Dabney: The Entrepreneur Building Homes Inside Vans

Every day presents us with a chance to inspire someone, whether through our talents, words, or actions. Vaughn Dabney uses a unique business to encourage people to think about how they can live a sustainable life by building homes inside vans. 

Vaughn Dabney wears many hats and is no stranger to entrepreneurship. From experience creating custom t-shirts in high school to starting a candle company in college to then learning how to code after graduating college, it shows that Vaughn’s destiny is to continue being a creator and building things from the ground up. 

But Vaughn’s work doesn’t stop there. Aside from Vaughn’s impressive work as a freelancer who builds websites and apps, Vaughn is also an author of the best-selling book “Finding One” and is known for creating a home inside a delivery truck (aka the Tiny Home Truck). 

After making a home on wheels, Vaughn decided to build houses inside vans for others, and in 2020, Vaughn launched Unoma Haus. Unoma Haus designs and creates high-quality, off-grid van conversions for their customers to live in and travel. 

Vaughn took some time to chat with me about Unoma Haus and designing a unique and sustainable place for people to call their homes.

How Building Homes Through Unoma Haus Began

BE: For some, building homes inside vans might be a new concept. When did you decide that you wanted to build vans for the ultimate living experience? What inspired you? 

Vaughn: I decided to build van conversions for other people after building my own tiny home inside a delivery truck three years ago. Having the ability to architect homes inside of vehicles for other people to travel and live in is powerful. It’s quite an old concept and has been around for decades, but it is quite a novel concept to the Black and brown community.

BE: How has building your own Tiny Truck Home and creating Unoma Haus Van Conversions changed you and how you look at living? 

Vaughn: For the most part, I’ve lived a pretty minimal life. Experiences are important to me, not possessions. I’m a creator. I can build, grow and create anything I want. That includes a life of happiness. Living in this tiny home truck has opened up a world of opportunity by removing the constraints of living a traditional life. Life can be whatever you want it to be, which has really been illustrated in how I live.

Unoma Haus’ Impact in the Black Community

BE: What do you think makes Unoma Haus and what you’ve created so unique?

Vaughn: Our company is unique in that I live in the same type of home with the same features we are building for our customers. I have a direct line of connection to the lifestyle we are providing. This allows me to speak firsthand on what a customer is getting from Unoma Haus. We also have a unique opportunity to provide exposure and representation to communities of color. We are the first Black-owned van conversion company in the world. 

BE: How do you want Unoma Haus to inspire people? As a Black entrepreneur, how do you want to help those in your community? 

Vaughn: Unoma Haus is more than a van conversion company. We are purveyors of the community and have an important mission to create safe, equitable spaces for our community to thrive in. Whether it’s with van conversions, container homes, community hubs meant to cultivate education and community, or anything else aligned with those verticals. I envision building community hubs, cities, and educational facilities to empower, connect and change the way communities of color look at the world.

The Important Lessons Learned and Growth That Comes from Building Homes

BE: Along your journey, what has been the most challenging obstacle you’ve had to overcome? 

Vaughn: I feel the most challenging obstacle is being heard. If my voice is not heard, how can I make an impact? What’s the point in raising my hand if I’m never called upon to answer? I sit with these questions daily. As a rule, I do not look at these obstacles as challenges but problems that need solutions. This is where I shine. I believe I can overcome anything and find a solution to any problem I’m faced with. That turns it into a game of sorts. What resources do I need? Who do I need to contact? What are the costs? Knowing how to identify what you need to solve a problem is more important than anything else.

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BE: What has been the most rewarding part of building homes for others? How have you grown, and what lesson(s) have you learned? 

Vaughn: The most rewarding part about what we do is the look on people’s faces when they see what we’ve built. Of course, our customers appreciate our work, but when you bring someone who knows very little about this world into one of our vans, minds explode. Possibilities are challenged, and minds are expanded. This is especially important for children and the younger generation to see this. What if someone told you anything was possible…and you believed them? That’s our mission.

The Future of Unoma Haus 

BE: In the future, how are you looking to expand Unoma Haus? What are some of your goals towards building homes and creating spaces for people to live a sustainable lifestyle? 

Vaughn: As mentioned, the vision for Unoma Haus is much bigger than van conversions. My bigger plan includes a community hub complete with parking for van lifers in our community, EV charging stations, co-working space, maker space as well as where we’ll build our vans–inside one warehouse space. In addition, we plan to acquire land and build container homes and regenerative communities. The idea is that we’re always providing something to the land, animals, etc., instead of just consuming or taking from the natural environment. This is for us, by us.

Kris Crews

Kris Crews is a writer from Columbus, Ohio. Writing was always something she had a knack for, but once she started her undergraduate experience, she found that writing was a passion of hers that she wanted to pursue more seriously. In 2017, she graduated with a B.A. in journalism and media communications. Pursuing this field allowed her to develop her skills as a writer, and with time and hard work, she sent out work that was then published by MTV, Huffington Post and Elite Daily. Currently, she is writing her first book.