As part of our March/April issue we spoke to six businesses with a Sheffield base who moved to the city because of the great outdoors.
Kirstie Grego – Tentsile
What made you start the business?
Tentsile was set up by my brother in law, Alex Shirley-Smith. After seeing a deforestation programme at six years old he thought that if people could live in the trees they wouldn’t be cut down. I guess this stuck with him and after becoming architect he started designing treehouses. Traditional treehouses tended to be heavy and stationary, but Alex wanted to create something that was affordable and accessible and so the portable treehouse was born.
How would you describe your product?
Essentially it is a portable treehouse but it’s fantastic because it allows people to be suspended off the ground either over water, over hard terrain and also get away from snakes and creepy crawlies! Alex’s design was inspired by the Ewok tree village in Return of The Jedi and requires three anchor points to suspend the tent between the trees. The name Tentsile is a play on word, as the tents employ tensile force to create space and the added ‘t’ represents the product type but Alex is also dyslexic.
The tents provide shelter with no ecological footprint, we are big environmentalists and so with every tent we sell we plant 18 more trees. We now have four types of tree tents on sale each have different weights, purposes, and specifications but the same concepts Alex first came up with apply to all of them.
The company is based in London and we also we have a couple of shops in Utah and Oregon in America with the tents manufactured in China. I moved to Sheffield really to be closer to the Peak District. I thought it was great that there was such a small distance between the city centre and the countryside, it seemed like the perfect outdoor city. From a personal point of view, working in the job I do it seemed the perfect fit, I think it’s a great city.
Do you have any plans to expand the business further in the future?
Absolutely, we have gone from strength to strength in the last five years since launching our flagship “stingray” design in 2011. We are a team of 15 people but now have more than 230,000 active followers from all over the world. We have been really lucky to win some great awards throughout the years including most recently being a ISPO Award 2018 winner, 50 Campfires Gear of the Year Award 2017 and The European Design Award 2017. In terms of expanding we would love to launch a few more stores in the US but also as a British company we want to focus on the British market.