Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Teardrop trailers
Wiltshire recalls the early days of his business with fondness, but not longing. Colorado Teardrops began in a north-facing, 500-square-foot facility in downtown Boulder with no heat. The saw and the space heater couldn't be run at the same time, so on winter days it was often colder in the shop than outdoors.
Wiltshire is now closing in on his hundredth sale. The company's 2017 models have been sold out since early September, and he expects to expand from the 4,000-square-foot space he now occupies into an adjacent 2,000-square-foot space. Of the 95 trailers sold to date, 38 were sold this year, and Wiltshire expects to sell 75 in 2018.
Colorado Teardrops, Wiltshire notes, is the only teardrop trailer manufacturer making structurally welded aluminum cabins and mounting them to steel trailer frames to prevent galvanic corrosion. A tiny lapse in quality control could result in a disproportionate liability due to the nature of the product. Trailers may be hauled along hundreds of miles of interstate at 80 miles per hour, then driven along 20 miles of "washboard" gravel roads in a single day. Then the extremes of Colorado weather must be taken into account.
The issue of structural integrity is something Wiltshire keeps coming back to. "You should always look underneath a trailer before you buy it because that's where the fabricator is gonna hide money savings from their point of view," he says. "If you look under a trailer at a trade show or an RV lot, you might see all the way down to chipboard underneath that trailer. So as soon as that trailer gets splashed wet underneath, you have erosion starting. We are in no way ever gonna be that company. We always fully shroud our Teardrop with either aluminum or steel underneath."
Each trailer has an aluminum exterior shrouded with high-density polyethylene plastic to prevent ice formation on the skin and 1.25 inches of foam insulation, separated by a quarter-inch air cavity. The insulation is foil taped in for airtightness.
At only 900 pounds, the lightweight and aerodynamic Basedrop can be fitted to nearly any car with a two-inch ball joint. The largest model, at 1,630 pounds, is comparatively lightweight for its class.
The two larger model trailers, Summit and Mount Massive, share the same cabin design, as do the two smaller models. The difference is the frame and suspension. The cabins on the Basedrop and the Canyonland models measure 8.5 feet by five feet, and the larger Mount Massive and Summit trailers are 10.5 feet long and five feet high (not taking the suspension into account). The latter two models are ruggedized for off-road use, with full skid plates, bigger off-road tires and off-road fenders.
Based on early customer feedback, Colorado Teardrops stretched the Basedrop cabin two feet longer, adding a bunk bed and additional shelves. Thus the Mount Massive was born, and the off-road Summit followed in short order.
The bunk bed drops down into "couch mode" and the queen-size mattress likewise folds into a couch. Between the two facing couches is a pole-mounted table that rotates to make ingress and egress easy. Campers can play cards, drink, eat, and socialize in comfort.
"I've done it with literally six adults, sitting around the table just comfortable as all get out while it rains at four o'clock in the afternoon," Wiltshire states.
All models have a 48-inch, curved galley door. The Mount Massive and Summit models have additional 18-inch folding doors. One side supports a stove and the other features a Yeti cooler. The main galley door provides cover for cooking/working space supported by two 100-pound pistons. The interior decor in the newest models is made of beetlekill pine and Baltic birch.
Maintaining a rental fleet allows Wiltshire to test new features and get extensive customer feedback. Rental season runs from March to October.
The optional solar package on larger models includes a foldable, 60-watt photovoltaic panel. It is easy to store and has a fabric exterior and built-in solar controller to prevent the 13.5-volt battery from being overcharged. A 20-foot cord is also provided allowing campers to place it where it makes the most sense. That's helpful for those who may wish to park in the shade on hot summer days.
"We want you to buy one teardrop from us, and we want your grandchildren to be able to pull it out from behind the barn in 30 years and go camping."
Challenges: "[C]ontinuing to educate and keep quality workers," says Wiltshire. "We've got a great crew right now, but as you know the economy's blowing up and there doesn't seem to be enough workers to go around."
Opportunities: "We're pursuing outward-facing consumer active lifestyle kind of companies that want to attract people their way," notes Wiltshire. "Teardrops themselves are a little bit like marketing eye candy. People are just drawn to them."
It follows that Colorado Teardrops offers several commercial models including Coffeedrops, Beerdrops, Snackdrops, and Juicedrops. Several brands including Made in Nature, Ozo Coffee, and Evolution Fresh have purchased custom trailers.
Needs: "We're actually seeking a round of investment so that we can modernize and streamline our manufacturing process, to increase our rental fleet, our commercial activity, and blow up our consumer work."
Wiltshire believes that with the new 6,ooo-square-foot space he'll be able to build 125 trailers a year. He says the company is seeking an investment of $500,000, which will also allow pre-production of teardrops.