Already featured in Outside magazine, Sunset magazine and other national media outlets, the Kirkland-based Homegrown Trailers company has only been in business for about a year. But their revolutionary design—allowing people to go completely off the grid in a comfortable way—has already paved a path in the formidable outdoor and travel industries. Reflections talked to Eric Gertsman, co-founder and chief marketing officer to get the scoop.
Reflections magazine: Your first year in business made a big splash in the outdoors industry. What has the journey been like?
Eric Gertsman: It’s been a wild year and a half! This all really started by my business partner, Corey Weathers, as a fun, family hobby, but he and I made a pretty aggressive decision in 2015 to build a business around it. After a lot of prep work, we incorporated in 2016 and were off to the races. We established a facility in Woodinville as a small base to start in. We pushed hard to innovate with the trailer and build a brand around what we represented and what resonates with customers. Once we started producing trailers and got the rentals going, we received feedback and started refining the product. It all moved quickly as we received interest from a variety of channels, including social media, the press and events. Now that we’ve moved to our new Kirkland location, we’re focused on manufacturing more trailers per month, not just the one or two that we were doing early on. But we’re still not pumping them out like an assembly line because these are handcrafted, artisan pieces.
RM: Why is sustainability such a large part of your vision?
EG: Sustainability is the cornerstone of the business. We were sustainability consultants to begin with, so it’s a big part of who we are personally and professionally. Any decision we make in the company, even how we set up our trash cans in the office, has to come from that place. Within our trailers, we use sustainably harvested wood, energy efficient lights and appliances, solar power panels and ultra-low VOC chemicals. This will always be our identity.
RM: Can you talk about the lifestyle the trailers provide for outdoor enthusiasts and travelers?
EG: To be honest, I was not a trailer person before, mainly because I wasn’t into big, boxy, plasticy RVs. Aesthetically speaking, it didn’t work for me, and it didn’t resonate with the Northwest vibe. Plus, there are toxic chemicals, tiny windows, and almost no insulation in traditional travel trailers. It just didn’t fit with what I’m trying to do when I’m out with nature. And I’m not the only one. We found a lot of people love being out in nature, but there are only a few viable options. You can camp in a tent, but the PNW ground can be damp and uncomfortable. It can get even more problematic if you have kids or pets. The other option is the traditional RV, but few people want to be the eyesore of the campground. Faced with these options, some people make the decision to simply not visit the outdoors. So, a big part of what we’re doing at Homegrown Trailers is helping more people commune with nature. We want to get people out there because nature is inspiring and people bring that energy, rejuvenation and happiness back into their home and work lives. We hope to be the pebble that sends ripples far and wide.
RM: What are some of your favorite places to take the trailer?
EG: I recently took a trailer to Crystal Mountain for a ski weekend. The trailers are insulated with wool, so quite comfy even though you’re in cold weather. I have also taken a trailer to Red Mountain in Washington’s wine country, the Gorge Amphitheater for a fun festival, and even done a quirky road trip through California. The trailers are aerodynamic and nimble, and when you’re driving you often don’t even realize it’s back there. I really like that the trailers are self-contained, so you don’t have be so worried about electric, water, and dumping services. You can stay in an on-grid campground or go find an amazing off-grid spot on public or private lands. We want everyone to create their own perfect getaways.
RM: What’s in store for the future of Homegrown Trailers?
EG: There are two big things coming in the near future. In three to six months we’ll be releasing a new model. It will be very similar to the current model, but it’s going to feature a fixed top (versus the pop-top) and it will be a little bit longer. This model will also have a couple more internal features such as an interior shower and additional storage, which makes it great for full-timers. This model was a direct response to our customers desires.
The second thing on the horizon is that we’re looking to expand beyond the Puget Sound region. We’d like to start rolling out sales and rental offices down the West Coast and maybe out to Colorado or other mountain states as well. We recently worked with a team at the UW Foster School of Business to identify where those markets could be.
RM: What are people most impressed with or surprised by?
EG: People are always surprised by our trailers. They are so unique that most people have never imagined that there was anything out there like Homegrown Trailers. I’d say that there are two specific things that most often surprise people. First, the exterior wood. Yes, it adds a beautiful design element, but it’s also weatherproof, durable and lighter than most people expect. Second, the solar panels and battery system is something unique. It can produce and store power when you are parked or as you drive from campsite to campsite. The system powers components like the lights, mini-fridge, water pump, induction cooktop, and all the power plugs for your phones and computers so you can be fully-functional when off-grid. The units we sell range between 200 and 800 watts, and use advanced lithium-ion batteries to store energy even when you’re not charging from the sun or the power grid. Even if you’re parked in a shady, remote spot, you’re still getting days’ worth of energy from those batteries.
RM: Anything else you want people to know about the trailers?
EG: Homegrown Trailers really are a great option for people yearning for a paradigm shift in the camping or RV arena. Whether you are thinking about purchasing or renting, our trailers are something outside of what people thought was available. We’re excited to be a resource for experienced outdoorspeople or the newbie camper!
For more information, visit homegrowntrailers.com.