TentCraft Takes Flight: CEO stakes future on American-made; online custom orders

After years of expansion, TentCraft is staking its future on reinvestment.

“The past three or four years have been huge growth years. Next year will tick up just slightly,” said Matt Bulloch, president and CEO. “It is going to be about reinvestment.”

The genesis of the company began when Paul Britten, CEO and founder of Britten Banners, recognized that promotional, logo pop-up tents and canopies could be a means to utilize his large format printers.

Britten entered into an agreement with MasterTent, an Italian company. In 2011 the name was changed to TentCraft, and in 2015 it was spun off as an independent company.

Part of the company’s reinvestment strategy means separating it into two divisions, TentCraft and LogoTent. LogoTent.com allows customers to design and customize their own tents.

“The majority of our leads are online now. No one else in the custom tent industry is doing it,” said Bulloch of allowing customers to do their own designing online.

And then there is MONARCHTENT. Bulloch said the company’s agreement with the Italian company expires June 18, and the focus going forward will be on a tent that is 100 percent American made.

“The MONARCH launch is mission critical for us,” he said. “It will be a true 10-by-10 tent – the Italian one is three-by-three meters. We’ve already applied for a patent for the wheel trolley system.”

TentCraft offers a wide assortment of tents: Pop-up tents. Inflatable tents inspired by kite surfing technology. Frame tents. Pavilion tents. Each can be customized in a variety of ways.

In fact, the company doesn’t just have the ability to customize virtually any of its offerings, it welcomes clients to challenge them.

“Bring us your napkin sketches, custom printing projects, and off-the-wall integration ideas,” says their website.

Beyond the tents themselves, there are all the accessories, which includes stakes, walls, counter tops, flags, curtains, banners … even heating and lighting systems. All the work is done in house; most is guaranteed delivery within five to seven days.

What once was a small, two-person offshoot of Britten Banners is now its own concern with 90 employees, Bulloch said, declining to offer current figures but projecting $20 million in revenue by 2020.

“I’m very confident,” he said. “I feel optimistic about our growth projections.”

This in spite of the fact, he says, the marketplace is catching up.

“The competition is getting better, getting smarter,” he said. “The quality of others is getting better, but we’re still quicker. We have great people, great training and culture (and) lean thinkers.”

TentCraft utilizes a lean manufacturing processes, which help a company reduce waste and become more efficient. Bulloch said the lean programs at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) have impacted not only TentCraft’s manufacturing processes, but its office procedures as well.

“NMC has been a phenomenal training partner. I learned more with NMC lean than in business school,” said Bulloch, who earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Although local, most of TentCraft’s customers are elsewhere across North America, Bulloch said.

“We bring money here,” he said. “One of our jobs is to import money that goes toward property taxes, local schools, people going to local restaurants.”

What’s ahead for the company beyond 2018? Bulloch said the company will continue to emphasize the craft aspect of its name, no matter where the market takes it.

“Maybe in 10 years tents won’t be our main business,” he said. “We’ve got a great group who could do a lot of different things.”