Matt Bulloch here, and this is my first blog post EVER. I’m the President of TentCraft. I’m obviously completely unbiased, but I think we have such a cool little company and I’d like to tell you more about it via this blog. There will of course be posts about custom tents, but I also want to talk about outdoor marketing in general, startups and entrepreneurship as I understand it. To put everything in context, I recently returned from a two-year leave of absence while I completed an MBA at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (“The GSB”). I absolutely loved my time at Stanford learning about new industries, management techniques and company success stories from professors and practitioners that are at the top of their fields. Every day, I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose. I was constantly inspired and amazed by my classmates. Did I already mention that I loved my time at Stanford? But I missed TentCraft, and I’m so excited to be back pitching tents. Wait, was that just a tent joke? Yes! No, they never get old!
While I was away at the GSB, the company almost doubled in size. Yep, we doubled. I like to think that my late-night ‘TentCraft-All’ email missives had something to do with our growth trajectory. I’m sure the team loved it when I sent articles that I had to read for class along with two pages of my commentary about how we should apply x insight to TentCraft. Team, did you love it? (Don’t answer that!)
Actually, funny story about coming back is when I met with one of my instructors, Peter Levine, a successful entrepreneur, sales executive and now a venture partner at Andreessen Horowitz. For those that don’t read TechCrunch every day, Andreessen is probably the hottest VC in the industry right now, and they’ve invested in some tiny companies like Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Groupon, Airbnb, etc. I talked to Peter at his office about my struggle between wanting to come back and grow the [heck] out of the company, vs. wanting to try something completely crazy and new. Side note: Can I swear in a blog? Probably better if I don’t, so I’ll stick with ‘heck.’ Anyway, Peter said something to this effect: “The company is doing just great without you there every day. Why would you want to go back and risk messing things up?” Good point, Peter. Good point. Another aside is that Peter’s office at Andreesen is pretty freaking sweet.
Well, there are a few reasons I wanted to come back to TentCraft. First, our team is just phenomenal. We have so much potential to sell and produce other products and services, and I think I can use what I’ve learned to help nudge us into some new markets. I write nudge because I can’t do anything by myself. All that we’ve done thus far and all that we will do is a team effort, and my hope is that I can empower team members to grab opportunities by the horns and run with them. I also feel a debt of gratitude to the entire team for holding down the fort while I was in California getting my edumacation.
Second, I really am interested in manufacturing.
I’m sure this will be the subject of additional posts, but big picture, I’m convinced that manufacturing is important to our country’s continued economic success. As far as I know, there has never been a successful economy that didn’t actually produce real goods. Not everyone can be a social media consultant; some people/companies have to actually process raw materials into things that other people want to buy. I had some great operations professors at school that taught me how much I don’t know about manufacturing, so I look forward to polishing and refining my skillset in this arena over the next few years. I want to make stuff. If I had any disappointment about my time at the GSB, it would be that so much of my classmates’ entrepreneurial energy focused around creating the next great iPhone app. This is great, and I totally understand that Stanford is smack dab in the middle of the tech epicenter. I also understand that the barriers to entry for consumer tech are much lower than hiring a bunch of people, buying equipment and hoping to sell enough to pay for it all. I get it, I think. For me, personally, I like production. I need a tangible product to get my head around.
Finally, living in Traverse City is pretty great. When I first moved here from Manhattan, I felt a little, well, constrained. But, to come back here with a wife and a newborn is just a completely different ballgame. Northern Michigan in the summer is just an amazing, special place. Again, this will probably be the subject of future posts.
Ok, I think this is it for my inaugural post. I didn’t even write about what I’d planned to write about, which was our teambuilding/training offsite a few weeks ago. So stay tuned…
Here is a final picture for your viewing enjoyment: The TentCraft team as we looked in the 2012 Christmas Card picture. Fun group, right?