It’s a Monday morning and Nathan Bonslaver is going camping.
But it is work related.
The 23-year-old, who graduated from Penn State Berks over the weekend, is celebrating his new business, CarToCamp.
Bonslaver, who was a mechanical engineer at Penn State Berks, never intended to start his own business, but after a cross-country camping adventure with a friend, he saw the value of having a sleeping platform when you’re camping out of a car, a trend that he said is becoming increasingly popular.
“It opened my eyes to how awesome it was,” he said. “You need a sleeping platform for both comfort and storage.”
But not everyone has a degree in mechanical engineering, or owns the tools to create such an amenity, so he set about creating one that he could sell to campers who could then install it in their vehicle with no tools.
With his partners Robert Miller and Kevin Gulick, both fellow Penn State grads, he set about starting CarToCamp, establishing manufacturing and creating a website, CarToCamp.com, to sell the platforms direct to consumers.
The platforms retail for $699, but Bonslaver said he recommends car campers also purchase a 3-inch memory foam mattress and storage bins to maximize the comfort and storage benefits the platform provides.
“If you’re on a long camping trip you can’t emphasize enough the importance of storage. Space is at a premium,” he said.
Bonslaver said he had a great deal of help from Penn State while getting the business started. He hooked up with Penn State Berks LaunchBox which helped connect him with mentors and potential investors. He participated in – and won – a number of venture capital competitions to help fund his goals.
Even though he’s now a graduate, he is continuing his work with Penn State. He is participating in the Happy Valley LaunchBox Summer Founders program, which is providing him money to work full-time on developing the business over the summer.
His partners are continuing to work on CarToCamp part time.
So, a nice car camping trip is the perfect way to start that summer.
“This is the first Monday post-graduation in the real world and I’m going camping,” he said.
Besides camping, he plans to work on product redesign to make it easier to mass-manufacture the platforms.
But he’s excited about all of the aspects of running his new company, which officially launched in March.
“I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur, but I found this was the best way to do all the things I love at the same time,” he said.