By Margaret Jackson | Sep 22, 2020
When Lew was in architectural school, he wanted a more hands-on experience than designing all of his projects on a computer, so he set out to build a "room on wheels."
In 2017, he purchased a utility trailer and built a small wooden, polygonized orange capsule on. The trailer had to be light -- it weighed just 680 pounds -- so that Lew's wife's 4-cylinder Mazda could pull it.
Lew and his wife traveled around the United States in that first Polydrop prototype for a year. On the journey, Lew met a man who started asking a lot of questions about the rig and encouraged Lew to start his own company to make the trailers. And he invested in the project.
Since the company's inception in 2019, Lew has taken orders for 26 Polydrop trailers. About 10 of those have been completed and are what Lew terms "in the wild." Trailers start at $13,995.
"We're getting lots of calls and emails," Lew says. "There's lots of interest. We're in a really good time right now."
The interior design of the Polydrop Trailer was inspired by a space capsule, which enables its occupants to easily access its interior control panel for the hidden LED lighting, thermostat and charging ports. The 100-watt solar system charges the heater, USB outlets, and LED lights, as well as the optional refrigerator and roof fan.
Each Polydrop trailer is equipped with a kitchenette with a simple, modern styling of drawers and storage cabinet. Some models are equipped with a Dometic refrigerator, hand-pump sink and two-burner stove.
One of Lew's models includes a RoadShower that has a four-gallon tank that holds water for the sun to heat. Lew is working trying to incorporate toilets into the design because of the numerous requests he's had from potential customers.
"Right now, people don't even want to touch the doors of public restrooms, so we're developing new models that have a shower and a toilet," he says. "But our trailers are really small."
To make the trailers, Lew starts with the frame. He orders the raw materials, lays them down and welds them. He also lays down the necessary wiring before the frame is assembled.. Next he installs the brake system, tires and suspension.
The foam frame is then placed on the trailer and bolted down before gluing the panels on to strengthen the frame. At that point, Lew says it's like "a really huge ice chest." An aluminum skin is installed next, followed by the cabinetry and furniture.
Polydrops are being positioned as premium products for a specific market niche. "We're targeting people who want compact trailers, but they still want a luxurious option," Lew says.
Challenges: Polydrops is the first company Lew has created, so learning the ropes of running a business has been trying. "I didn't mean to start a company, actually," Lew says. "I had to learn by myself how to do everything -- hiring people and setting up the manufacturing line."
Opportunities: The RV industry is outdated, so there are opportunities to push it forward with new technologies, Lew says.
Big RVs are intimidating to drive, and more challenging to park than Polydrops' trailers. "Our trailers are small so you can park them in a garage at an apartment building," Lew says. "You don't always have to think of the RV as a house on wheels -- think of it as rooms on wheels. Fifth-wheel trailers compared with houses are still small."
Needs: Because Lew is the only person designing and testing the trailers, Polydrops needs to hire good people to build the trailers.