You’re probably wondering why rooftop tents? How did you come to do that for a living? Why pursue it? This is the story of how our founder, Cody, started SMRT Tent.
“It all started in 2015 when I was working for a 4 Wheel Drive shop, learning about trucks and accessories. The shop I was working for brought in a few rooftop tents, and I thought it was the coolest thing that I could get a tent for the top of my Land Cruiser. I bought one. The first time I set it up, it was a big learning curve, but once completed I was stoked, and itching to go camping to try it out. I packed my fishing rod on top of my roof rack, some camping gear, and headed off to a nearby campsite for the weekend.
I climbed up into my bed and thought: this is the best feeling ever. I was so enthralled with it that I had a hard time falling asleep because of this excitement. I’d never had a feeling like that; it was like a childhood dream, climbing a ladder up to my bed. It was the tree fort I always dreamed about. I woke up in the morning, crawled out of the front of the tent onto the edge of the roof rack, and I threw a line into the water from the back of my truck. All without my feet touching the ground. It was blissful.
Fast forward 6 months and my time at the shop where I was working came to pass. I bounced around a couple more shops, but I couldn’t shake that feeling of adventure that I wanted to shared with others. I thought about what I could do – summer was coming up, and I thought maybe I could get some tents sold when I told people how fun this was. I bought 8 tents from my contact, and I ended up getting a storage locker where the tents got delivered. That summer, I armed myself with a Kijiji ad, a borrowed 8x10 trailer, and my dad’s borrowed truck. I would post up in parking lots and have the tent unfolded and wait for questions, meet people in parking lots of choice – any time of day. If they wanted one, I had a card reader and a little website. For 100$ cash I would install it for them right there or deliver it to their home. If they only had $50 – I would do it just to seal the deal for them. I sold all my tents that summer.
The summer of 2016 I proceeded in the same fashion. Keep in mind these tents had no brand yet – people would ask me what brand they were, and I would say No Brand. I realized that I should give them a name to talk about. I reached out to some friends and got lots of help, incorporated the business, and created the brand SMRT Tent. I flew to China to visit every manufacturing factory I could, to find one that could produce the quality of tents I was after in a good manner, with fair wages, and operated well. We created some longstanding relationships and trust that the designs would be well executed. The summer of 2017 we had our first logo’d tents ordered. In anticipation of a good year, I leased a shop to store the tents and some trucks. That summer we tried to get some pre-orders going on a newer website, but we didn’t get a single sale. In the end it was a blessing because our tents didn’t show up until October, and I had missed the entire selling season. I almost quit, but I had put all of my money into these new brand of rooftop tents. 2017 was LOOOONG winter.
Spring 2018 I was ready. I called and introduced myself to dealerships, posted Kijiji and Facebook ads, pursued individuals, corporations, anywhere I could fathom selling a rooftop tent. Slowly I started to get a trickle of customers. The greatest part was the conversations I got to have with them one on one. They would tell me where they were going, what they wanted to do with the tent, the people that were going to accompany them, and it seemed to make all my worry go away. They would call me after their trips and tell me how much fun they had. I then remembered I wasn’t doing this for the money, but to help people cultivate a feeling of adventure, and develop a lifestyle that was just plain fun. Once I focused on that, things started to accelerate.
By 2020 we had a full distribution centre in Canada, we had dealers selling our products, and photographer friends who turned into Ambassadors that helped us create high quality marketing content. Our following grew by 700% on social media, and were ordering container loads of tents that were getting sold all over Canada.
Now in 2021, we are lucky to have an entire team working on the moving parts of the company. We have distribution centres in Canada, The USA and New Zealand, more of a community than we’ve ever had online, and tons of amazing customers who often become friends. We work hard but we keep things fun, and never forget out adventurous roots. Even on the hardest of days, you remember that there is probably a kid out there getting tucked in to his rooftop tent after a campfire, and it reignites the why.
In the end, we strive to sell fun. We want to give everyone the childlike feeling of adventure. And we want them to Get Out More!”
Fun fact: Why SMRT?
Usually when people ask why SMRT, they Homer Simpson reference to “I am so smart, SMRT”, but it really means Small Mobile Rooftop Tent, an acronym that came to light after weeks of trying to decide on a good name. We think the acronym is pretty smart, or should we say – SMRT!