TentCraft. They make tents. What could be simpler? Except the Traverse City company does far more than that. Tents of all sorts, yes, but also lighting, heaters, rain gutters and other accessories. Chairs, signage, marketing and training are also part of the package.
It’s an approach CEO Matt Bulloch embraces. “It’s tents and related products, and outdoor advertising support (like) flags, outdoor mobile marketing and other services,” he says, including a spinoff company, Gemba Marketing.
TentCraft originated as a tent company called MasterTent out of Italy, itself an offshoot of a metal manufacturing company that broadened its approach to include folding tables and other collapsible furniture before expanding into tents. Paul Britten, CEO and founder of Britten Banners, became interested in the tent world when he recognized that promotional, logo pop-up tents and their canopies could be a means to utilize his printers. He entered into an agreement with MasterTent and in 2011 MasterTentUSA changed its name to TentCraft.
In 2015, TentCraft was launched as an independent company. “It’s our first year totally separate from Britten Banners. Paul Britten conceptualized the company. He thought tents would be a good addition,” Bulloch says.
Ah yes, tents. TentCraft makes a dizzying array of tents, in multiple sizes and configurations: Big and small, with sides or without, supported by metal posts or inflated. Its Mastertent series comes in nine sizes, five more including the Storefront and Shop versions, while the MightyTent comes in five. That’s 19 versions right there, without mentioning the three types of inflatable tents (inspired by kite surfing technology), the frame tents, pavilion tents, tailgating tents—you get the idea.
And there are more accessories than you can shake a tent stake at, from custom sidewalls to countertops, lights (floods or LEDs), heaters, curtains, even scalloped valances that can be made to look like hanging icicles. The company doesn’t just have the ability to customize virtually any of its offerings, it practically begs its clients to challenge them, with come-ons like this from the website: “Bring us your napkin-sketches, custom printing projects and off-the-wall integration ideas. Since we’re also the manufacturer, we can bring those ideas to life.”
TentCraft has nearly 80 employees. “I’m proud to have created very good jobs,” Bulloch says. The company is also investing in the next generation through internships with college and high school students. Bulloch says the program is beneficial for both interns and employers by giving students exposure to and hands-on experience in a variety of settings while providing the company flexibility in scheduling and the ability to offer clients more options in terms of delivery and setup of products.
As an example of its ability to produce quick, quality work, Luke Mason, the head of marketing, pointed to the event tent it created for Beard’s Brewery of Petoskey. For the first day of the recent Microbrew and Music Festival in Traverse City, Beard’s used its traditional setup, and on the second, the new one from TentCraft. “It’s a custom built, fully branded tent. We’re going after more verticals,” Mason says, using a marketing term for specific industries or professions—in this case, microbreweries. TentCraft is hopeful that not only were patrons enthralled with the new design, but that Beard’s competitors noticed it as well.
While that’s a local example, the reach of TentCraft and its sister company Gemba Marketing is global. The companies have serviced and created events and programs for the likes of Home Depot, JC Penney and Wheat Thins and partnered with celebrities such as Kelly Osbourne and Rascall Flatts.
Bulloch said the programs reflect the increasing potential of the company and its growing workforce. As the manufacturing side grows, the company needs to increase its sales and marketing staff, and as its sales and marketing efforts increase, it fuels a need for more tents, banners and all the other items the company manufactures. “We’re growing organically as we create more outlets (for products),” Bulloch says. “With more capabilities, we sell more things, get bigger clients, and attract more new people.
“I’m most excited we’ve been able to attract more specialized people. They’re attracted by the caliber of people we’ve hired in just the past four years. It’s self-reinforcing. A great business needs great people. We want this to be a great place to work.”
TentCraft is located at 2662 Cass Rd. in Traverse City. For more information, call 1.800.950.4553.
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