Bluffton native Ryan Pirkle, 33, spent two years trying to sleep without privacy or comfort and said he knew there had to be a better way. He started investigating the possibility of a bed tent that could collapse to fit into a pack.
Pirkle tried PVC pipes and other materials, until lifelong friend Tyler Smith suggested an inflatable design during a brainstorming session. After a few sewing lessons from his mother, using a $50 sewing machine, Pirkle went to work.
Still shooting for a bed tent, Pirkle set up a Kickstarter funding site and set a goal of $20,000.
“Military is a challenging market from a consumer perspective. Tents are very competitive,” Pirkle said. His fundraising campaign barely made it to the halfway mark.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” he said.
They scaled up the idea from bed-sized tents to 10-by-10 feet. Latching onto the inflatable components used by kite surfers, Pirkle found a “bladder man” in Florida.
Since the company changed its focus after six months, orders have poured in, both from companies to private customers.
Pirkle landed a licensing contract with Clemson and the University of South Carolina. Both schools use the tents on the practice sports fields, alumni events and recruitment days. Many are popping up at tailgate parties on football game days.
Airemos also earned business from Disney, MGM, DuPont, Verizon and ESPN.
Story by Lisa Allen + Photography by Lloyd Wainscott