An astute businessman once taught Ryan Pirkle an important lesson: not to be too wedded to his first big idea. Instead, consider it the starting point for metamorphosis.
Pirkle, a Hilton Head native, has been hatching business plans with his best friend, Tyler Smith, since the pair were kids. But it wasn’t until serving as a private contractor in Afghanistan in 2011 that he had a eureka moment he deemed ready for the market. The Discovery, an inflatable enclosure designed to provide privacy in dorms and military quarters, debuted on Kickstarter in November 2015.
When the product failed to generate the excitement the entrepreneurs wanted, their new company, Airemos, rolled on to the next idea: a self-inflating tent that weighed just 25 pounds yet withstood 30 mph winds. Since the “Endeavor” launched in 2016, Pirkle and Smith have sold hundreds of custom units to organizations including Disney, College of Charleston, and ESPN for use at outdoor gatherings of all kinds.
Their biggest challenge? Reimagining the word ”inflatable” for an adult audience. “People have this stigma about inflatables. They think of bouncy castles, pool toys, and novelty items,” Pirkle says. But once they examine the tents, they’re always surprised by their durability: “This is a robust framing system. There’s nothing to bend or snap or break,” he explains.