The Build Cycle Podcast #015 – Colorado Teardrop Camper’s Dean Wiltshire

Colorado Teardrops is a small camper manufacturer in Boulder, CO, founded by Dean Wiltshire. After starting in circuit board design and then app development, Dean heeded the call of the wild and launched his company. Over the last few years, they’ve quickly upgraded their designs and now offer one of the premium teardrop camper trailers on the market. Of course, Dean has to test his new designs, which means plenty of time outside the office!

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

  • 01:45 – Dean’s background in circuit board design…and boat building.
  • 05:00 – Initial inspiration for camper life, and desire inspired a new company.
  • 08:00 – Unintentional market research with his first homemade camper.
  • 11:30 – Obvious weaknesses lead to much better designs.
  • 14:30 – Using customers as guinea pigs & a self policing industry.
  • 20:30 – Unit sales and why they control their growth.
  • 25:40 – Why not sell through RV dealers?
  • 31:40 – Developing their pricing strategy.
  • 39:00 – His app idea is pretty nifty, too.
  • 43:00 – Where his startup capital came from.
  • 45:30 – Why rentals are more lucrative than sales…just slower.
  • 47:10 – Partnering with another brand to speed up production.
  • 49:45 – Supplier selection & inventory management.
  • 55:35 – How they market their products and why.
  • 1:02:00 – Challenges and advice for entrepreneurs.

POST GAME ANALYSIS

While Dean doesn’t specifically spell this out, his focus on creating the best possible product puts him in the premium category. And there’s always a customer for a premium product. Where he’s being even smarter about it is selling direct to consumer only. This lets him offer a premium product at a very competitive price, almost making it foolish to buy a standard teardrop camper. Keeping all sales in house also lets them control the message and the experience. The trick, of course, is getting the word out and putting them in front of customers without a dealer network.

Along the lines of building a premium product, they’re intentionally controlling their growth. This allows them to maintain quality while growing organically off revenue. Expanding too fast would mean new staff that may not have the same attention to detail, and might require outside capital to fuel that growth. Ultimately, Dean’s happy with the growth rate and, more importantly, the lifestyle it affords…which is the real reason we do what we do.

One thing he is doing to speed up production without compromising quality is partnering with another trailer company to manufacture their sub-frames, letting each company focus on the parts they’re best at.

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