Located: London, UK USA Headquarters Ogden, Utah
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Tree Tents
A registered architect, Alex Shirley-Smith, owner of Tentsile, had a passion for a well-built, comfortable treehouse. "Being in the trees is a magical and adventurous experience. I decided to take the treehouse concept to a wider audience, and invented Tree Tents: treehouses that you can take with you."
After playing with different options and prototypes for several years, Shirley-Smith founded Tentsile. "I wanted to promote the love of trees and forests so that more people appreciate them and maybe more people will stand up to their continued loss," he said.
Coming up with an ideal prototype was just the beginning for Tentsile. Almost immediately, Shirley-Smith recognized that making tents in London in small batches was unrealistic for the growth curve Shirley-Smith had in mind. "Production costs were too high to sustain sales and too slow to sustain demand." Shirley-Smith invested in a factory in China which he refers to as "the land of tent fabric producers."
"We were very lucky to find a good tent manufacturer who agreed to help us produce batches of tents at a price that the end customer was happy with," he adds.
Finding that customer has been an ongoing process. When he first opened, he reached his customers online. "Luckily our products are pretty photogenic, and so once we had a few nice shots, they got circulated pretty quickly. Now we also sell through retailers who have increased our reach and our credibility."
Born in London, Tentsile calls Ogden, Utah its USA home. The Ogden facility serves as a customer service hub, warehouse, and showroom. "We have been lucky enough to find local employees who have had may years of experience in the Outdoor Industry and understand the product and the customer-type was are aiming at. Utah is full of wild lands, and this also suits our brand culture."
Challenges: Language and cultural barriers. Though there are benefits of manufacturing in China, Shirley-Smith experienced a harsh negative when his factory was shut down by the government. A rival factory accused Tentsile of stealing their designs. "And the local government believed them! It took us three weeks to put our case together and have those allegations dismissed, but it was a scary time."
Opportunities: Innovation. "We have a lot to be excited about in the very near future," Shirley-Smith says. "A few secret surprises will disrupt the current camping concept. We also have a few new products that people have been asking us to design. Keep watching us!"
Need: Education. "Tree Tents are a new concept," Shirley-Smith says. "The public needs to be convinced that they are safe, practical, and affordable. Even the people who have seen Tentsile products online and on Social Media still assume we are in the prototype stage. We're not! We are in full production and available to buy at affordable prices. People just need to realize that our Tree Tents are the most comfortable way to hang out in the wild."