Kiwi tourism operator Jucy hopes its campervans will hit the highways of California and Nevada from early next year.

Starting as a second-hand car-rental service in 2001, Jucy has since expanded to include a hotel business, a campervan fleet and a cruise ship operation.

For the past three years Jucy has been renting out vehicles across the Tasman and plans to set up camp in the United States in early 2012. The company is one of six finalists in this year's University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge vying for a share of $1 million of business funding.

If successful, Jucy chief executive Tim Alpe said the challenge money would go towards the push into the US.


In North America, Alpe plans to use the strategy that has worked for the company in New Zealand and Australia.

'We are a tourism marketing brand fundamentally, that just so happens to run cars, campervans, hotels and a cruise business in Milford Sound," he said. "From the start we wanted to create an energetic brand and take it to different areas and 'jucyfy' different businesses. We take what we do very well, which is the brand and marketing side, to different [parts of tourism]."

Alpe said the company also still planned to list on the NZX. The possibility of listing was first mooted in 2007, but Alpe said market conditions had not been right.

Now in its third year, the Entrepreneurs' Challenge aims to help small-to-medium businesses expand overseas by offering winners a low-interest, three-year loan. The $1 million of funding can be scooped up by one business or shared by up to five.

The Dragon's Den-style challenge was founded with a $3 million endowment from New Zealand expatriate and former member of the Business Roundtable Charles Bidwill.

Allpress Espresso, a winner in 2009, put its winnings towards opening a cafe and roastery in east London.