Innovation That Matters

Suburban Camping

Where Are They Now

We took a look back on the progress Suburban Camping has made since March 2011, and how they are looking to expand from their original experience-based packages.

We first wrote about Suburban Camping in March last year, at which point the company, started by husband and wife duo Chris and Kella MacPhee in New Jersey, was preparing to launch its first backyard camping experiences. Nearly a year on, we’re taking a look back on the progress that has been made since then. Officially launching in April 2011, Suburban Camping began by hosting backyard camping events in their customers’ gardens. Tents would be supplied and set up along with sleeping bags and lighting, and there was also the option to screen movies outdoors. The most immediate problem for the company, however, was spreading the word about their new service. Reluctant to hire new staff at such an early stage, Chris and Kella decided to market Suburban Camping themselves, utilizing social media, local media, and newspapers. Of all these avenues pursued, Chris MacPhee told us of the particular success they experienced through social media, commenting that it “has been a remarkable way to reach out to potential new business. Posting pictures of our successful campouts and having friends able to view our work has been great, word of mouth has been key our first season. Customers and friends have been able to share their stories around the campfire to friends around the world!” Looking to build upon this successful early marketing campaign, the pair decided to launch their own line of Suburban Camping branded tents, partly as a source of extra income, but also as a way to promote the brand nationwide. As Chris notes, “by offering our very own product line we will now have an opportunity to establish our brand name in the backyards of many homes outside of our typical service area.” Having already contacted a manufacturer, the range of tents are expected to be available for sale and rent for the 2012 spring season. However, this latest endeavour has brought challenges of its own. Introducing full e-commerce functionality to the website is an ongoing effort, as are the logistics of arranging delivery of the tents across the US. As well as expanding with their own products, Suburban Camping are also looking to expand the range of camping experience packages they offer. This summer they will be offering pre-pitched campsites at many of the music festivals taking place on the US east coast — complete with a shaded lounge area and a camp store stocking camping essentials. They are also reaching out to local beaches and parks to offer camping experiences there, and are planning to introduce their packages at larger events and weddings. Of course, a further natural expansion for the company is to widen the area they currently serve. Originally set up to operate in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, the pair now see the company growing across the country. Remarkably, until now Chris and Kella have not felt the need to hire any new staff, but to realize their expansion plans they have accepted that this is now going to be necessary. With the festival contracts now secured, the pair can begin to forecast financial growth, and are looking to assemble teams to assist with their festival operations this summer. When we asked Chris what his key learnings have been regarding the differences between starting a project and developing it, he commented, “Our biggest learning experience is that just having a great concept does not make a successful business. We have had to learn how to get the service out there and how to develop it to keep it fresh and innovative. The business has led us on a new path and really told us how it wants to grow.” Echoing the philosophy of Coffee Joulies in our last Where Are They Now? feature, Chris implies that the decision to face this first year without extra staff has enabled the MacPhees to get to grips with every aspect of their business. Expansion may be a necessary step to move a company forward, but it should be remembered that lessons learned and mistakes made when developing a company alone can prove invaluable later on. You can read more about Suburban Camping in our article here, or visit the Suburban Camping website here.